The Employers' Association

The Employers’ Association (TEA) is a not-for-profit employers’ association, formed in 1939, with offices in Grand Rapids serving the West Michigan employer community. We help more than 600 member companies maximize employee productivity and minimize employer liability through human resources and management advice, training, survey data, and consulting services.

TEA is in the business of helping people. This blog is intended to address human issues, concerns and the things that impact people - be they self-perpetuated or externally imposed. Feel free to respond to the thoughts presented here, for without each other, we are nothing!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

WATCHING...WAITING...


He stood on the edge of his world…
Watching and Waiting.

He watched as life passed him by, as it played out its hand, as it ran its course…
He watched as painted people lived their pictured lives…as hollow forms moved through empty existence.
He watched as metallic voices cried out to deafened, unhearing ears...as cold hearts pumped lifeless blood into the vacuum of their souls.

And he waited for love to touch their world...and for peace to enter their chaotic existence.

He turned from the scene that lay before him, facing away from their tortured souls, as they played out the life they had been given - acting out the roles they had been assigned.

He sought others to join him…others who waited…others who recognized the futility of life without feeling.
He sought those refusing to accept existence without purpose…relationships without love…reality without dreams.
He sought those who found reality living within a world of possibilities…rather than being satisfied to exist within the confines of their circumstances.
He sought those who existed within a world restrained only by the limitations of their dreams…
rather than being limited by the reality of their troubled worlds.
He sought those who would challenge the life they had been given…rather than accepting the burdens they had convinced themselves were real.

Searching desperately for those who would share his watching…his waiting…his dreaming…of a perfect world filled with love and laughter so that he would no longer simply watch…merely wait…endlessly dream…but begin to truly live…

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

STRONG VALUES DRIVE THE BEST DECISIONS


Life is not a spectator sport – it requires careful consideration, intelligent planning and intentional action. Most successful individuals establish basic tenants for their life – rules they use to hold themselves accountable for their own actions. While everyone lives by some set of values and ethics, some of the rules that provide the “highest return on investment” would include the following:

• It is OK and natural to dislike parts of your job (or your situation or relationship). It is NOT OK to avoid, refuse to do, or ignore the parts you dislike – or to discuss openly your dissatisfaction with others not having a need to know your opinion.

• It is OK to make a mistake BUT do not repeat the same mistake. It is OK to make a wrong decision – any well-thought out decision is better than no decision. Learn from your errors, using them as a springboard to propel you forward. People will usually work with you as long as you continue to show measurable progress or growth.

• Focus on things you can control. Identify obstacles that are outside of your sphere of influence and actively seek to eliminate the hurdles by giving them up to someone who has the ability to influence them.

• Lying, cheating, or stealing is intolerable. If you are the best performer or individual with the highest results…but those results came through dishonesty or at someone else’s expense…you will not be respected, credible NOR working (or participating in an ongoing relationship) for very long.

• Results are recognized – effort is merely a means to the end. Seek not praise for working hard or contributing greatly – let recognition come your way through the results your effort achieved.

• All individuals may speak, question, and have a voice in any decision…but that does not mean all votes are equal. Life is not a democracy…input is valued but the individual responsible for the ultimate success of any endeavor must – and will - make the final decision. Do not confuse “equal” with “equitable.”

• There is nothing that “cannot be done.” While some solutions may not be cost-effective, or are simply impractical or beyond our ability to implement, “I can’t,” “It’s not possible,” and other self-condemning attitudes are not acceptable. Well thought-out solutions to issues you may encounter while doing your job (or during life in general) are not reasons for celebration, they are simply expectations of the way you should continually exhibit and utilize your abilities.

Everyone comes to a fork in the road – a decision point that forever changes what they have done, redirecting all efforts and activities towards the accomplishment of what they have yet to become. Do not walk blindly upon an uncharted path or you may end up missing a turn and becoming helplessly mired in a ditch. Establish the rules YOU choose to live by then keep them close to you, guiding your steps and actions as you reach for the stars!

Monday, October 18, 2010

E-COMMUNICATING – A BLESSING OR A CURSE?


Having grown up in an era where a telephone was a device that transmitted voice communications from one person to another (and even occasionally shared the conversation via what was then called a “party line”), I sometimes have a hard time understanding the way individuals “talk” to each other today.

We once verbalized our thoughts – we now reduce our discussions to a series of keystrokes. Raising one’s voice was “shouting” in times gone by – now one needs only raise the case of their typing from lower case to all capitals. “Community” was where one lived – now it is a space having no boundaries that houses those with whom we communicate.

News, once seen on television, heard on radio and read in newspapers, is history by the time it reaches these “traditional” media sources. We have 24/7 access to breaking news over the internet (or through portable handheld devices) via our electronic mail boxes. Some have said that today’s news is created through analysis and interpretation of available information rather than through investigation and reporting of facts – an observation I cannot totally discount. Good news does not sell – negative news, rumor, innuendo or articles that focus on the fallibility of people capture our imagination.

Electronics are making our world a smaller place – where “breaking news” seems to be available almost before it “breaks.” Providing a “surface look” at the truth has become sufficient for many. Privacy, once valued and respected by individuals, is but a temporary obstacle on the path towards full disclosure. We authorize agencies to take funds directly from our accounts based only on an electronic transaction statement and freely reveal our identities (and credit information) to strangers whenever we purchase something online. What does it profit us to abandon conversation in exchange for communication?

Though the road upon which we travel is one we cannot easily exit, what ultimate price will we pay when “communicating” displaces socializing – if it has not yet done so? Before you reach for the computer (or the Blackberry or phone with a retractable keyboard) to fire off a memo, think about the art of communication (rather than the process of e-communicating). Make an effort to return to the era where words could paint a picture and the mind’s eye could see a masterpiece – you won’t regret the effort as you make a difference in the lives of those around you!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

OFFERING YOU A VALUE PROPOSITION


What do YOU think about the “if you are at least two months behind in payments…” or the “if you have at least $30,000 in credit card debt…” ads that dangle the “it’s OK if you get in trouble” carrot in front of us IF ONLY we call now? There seem to be dozens of “escapes” available to consumers (mostly at the expense of producers) – but what about an honest to goodness opportunity for business to save money while trying to grow and remain viable?

To paraphrase one of the “personal debt” pitchmen, “If your business wants to become more profitable – to become more competitive within a global market – DO NOT miss The Employers’ Association’s Vendor Open House on October 21, 2010 from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m.”

Put into practice the lessons learned these past few tough years. Work smarter (not harder) to create growth. Leverage every opportunity you can to add value to your organization – it will improve YOUR value within the organization. Move towards the future rather than dwelling in the past. NEVER pay full price if you can get the same quality service for less!

Our Open House will feature refreshments, information, and many of the partnerships we’ve established with members to help make YOUR BUSINESS more profitable through discounted offerings, features available only through The Association, or programs bundled in a manner that makes “doing business” almost as easy as “calling 1-800…” to get out of personal debt.

Contact us today (616.698.1167) to learn more about our partnerships AND how The Association can help you by “providing practical Human Resource Solutions to West Michigan employers that promote operational excellence and sustainability.” We ask only that you tell us you are coming AND you bring an open mind willing to exchange “the way things have always been” for new and different ways that will allow you to experience business success “the way you’d prefer it to be!”

Friday, October 8, 2010

EXPERIENCE SUCCESS...


Motivational posters inspire us by linking a strong visual image with an appeal of greatness to our inner selves. The profitability of organizations such as “Successories” validates our craving for external inspiration.

Sports quotes often inspire and motivate to greatness by linking individual ambitions to the accomplishments of others. “We don’t lose – we just run out of time.” “It’s not the getting knocked down that counts – it’s the getting up.” A plethora of these quotes are used in business today to build teams AND self-confidence.

Rarely has one of these inspirational pieces captured my imagination, however, as one I received recently for my birthday (nor has it so succinctly stated what it takes to thrive within uncertain times). How would YOU finish this partially expressed thought?

Risk more than others think safe, care more than other think wise, dream more than others think practical, expect more than others think possible…

If, indeed, you were to do these four things, where might you be today? What might you have accomplished had you risked more than others thought was safe or expected more than others thought could have been possible? How great an impact might you have had on someone if only you had cared more than others thought was wise? Would your “station” in life be different today had you dreamed (and lived out that dream) more than others thought practical?

There are many things in life that motivate – inspirational quotes…powerful images…captivating thoughts – but the greatest motivators in life are experiential. We will grow, accomplish and succeed only when we accept risk, express care, dare to dream, and know all things are possible.

As inspirational as quotes and posters may be, stop linking yourself to the success of another. Be unafraid and begin to experience your own!

Friday, October 1, 2010

THE THREE “C’s” OF EFFECTIVE MANAGEMENT


A good manager must operate as if propped up by a three-legged stool balancing firmly upon a foundation of Capability, Consistency, and Credibility.

While many can express a thorough knowledge of products, systems or sets of facts, one is not deemed “capable” of managing until that understanding is applied to a situation or set of circumstances in such a way that employees experience positive (and sustainable) change. Capability cannot be “claimed,” it must be demonstrated through every word spoken and action taken.

Though many feel that to “be a leader” they must initiate change, employees must understand the “why” before they will respond to the “what” of fresh starts. Alterations to the pre-determined course of action can create untold fear and anxiety within a workforce when managers drift aimlessly upon the winds. A manager seeking to lead effectively must be consistent and predictable in his or her thought patterns (but NOT hesitant to try new things or walk in new directions).

Unless one’s judgment and integrity is established – a basic understanding of people, their needs and their preferences clearly expressed – a manager may command but will never motivate. Lasting change cannot be born through fear – it must emanate from inspiration. A manager that knows the right things to say but chooses to act differently – that can “teach” but cannot seem to “do” – will never be an effective, inspirational leader.

A good blend of capability, consistency and credibility allows us to say what we are going to do, to do what we say we will, and to take responsibility for the outcome of our actions. Make sure you maintain a firm foundation upon all three legs of your management stool when leading those that depend on your direction!

Monday, September 27, 2010

LISTEN AND LEARN BEFORE YOU EXERCISE YOUR RIGHT TO VOTE THIS YEAR


One of the greatest freedoms our country offers is the unrestricted right to express our opinion within the voting booth. Many feel that their single voice does not make a difference so they chose to muffle it by not voting – but when we do not speak, how can we claim victory (or complain when what we want is not implemented)? Choosing not to vote is a blatant disregard for the freedom we have to express our views within a system that all too often closes out the opinions of private citizens.  Many individuals living elsewhere would (and are currently) fighting to have the rights we are freely given - yet many prefer to let others make decisions for them by failing to exercise their right to vote.

This November offers us the opportunity to participate in an election that might truly make a difference in our daily lives. Both parties are running on the plank of "change" this year.  The fulfillment (or failure to fulfill) past promises does not seem to weigh heavily in this election.  Newscasters seem to be creating news through intense analysis of what is being said and discussion about polls trying to form public opinion rather than simply reporting on what has happened.  A lack of fact-based accomplishments are minimized while a plethora of opinion-based accusations and empty promises are maximized by the media - a group seeming to want to write history through strategic projection rather than report on what has happened.  Whether a candidate speaks for the people or for the party seems not to matter this year – it is a year of transition in which opinions based on nothing but words and whispers might carry the day UNLESS we take our responsibility seriously and listen to what the candidates are saying this year as the elections near.  As you approach this opportunity to express yourself, do not take it lightly

Regardless of political affiliation, we all have the right to express our personal opinions within the voting booth. Far too many, however, forfeit their right to voice an opinion by withholding their vote in a form of “silent protest.” Of those voting, many act on the recommendation of a reporter, newscaster, friend, union, church or past history rather than upon solid information gathered through intelligent research. Look into each candidate’s accomplishments to verify their ability to deliver on campaign promises. Understand and make sure you can embrace their values before you support them as your elected official. Vote with your head this year – looking into each candidate and issue thoroughly for yourself so that you can make an informed decision.  This year's election offers two distince choices - one being more emphasis on an individual's ability to create prosperity with less government support and programming, the other focusing more on increasing societal support through more and bigger government programs.  The paths are as divergent as they can possibly be - built upon two drastically different visions for what our future should look like.  Consider not only the hope and change promised this year by both parties but also how the words you hear can be brought to fruition - and whether the sacrifice needed to make them a reality makes sense OR is simply dust in the wind.

Your vote CAN make a difference (as can your NOT voting!). Rather than continuing to suffer in silence, let your actions shout from the voting booth! You may (or may not) end up being part of the solution but at least you will no longer be part of the problem. Do not remain a passive spectator to the action that is unfolding in front of you this November – be an active participant in the formation and implementation of life-changing agendas.  Make sure you can make an informed choice on our leadership options and on our ballot agendas.  Our country was built upon these unalienable rights - do not allow them to languish within a sea of neglect!

Friday, September 17, 2010

THE SLIPPERY SLOPE OF UNEMPLOYMENT


I spoke to a company recently about the difficulty they are having finding entry level manufacturing help. Much has been said about the lack of qualified candidates having the requisite job skills to perform specialized positions available within our region – but it seems strange that no- to low- skilled positions are difficult to fill, also. Another testament to our times would be the employer heard on the radio saying that a job fair to hire 25 employees for $10.00 per hour (as long as they tested negative for drugs) resulted in 10 applicants.

While it is difficult to find work during these economic times, and there are individuals looking long and hard to find jobs that would utilize their abilities, it seems our unemployment system might be de-motivating some in terms of a job search by paying too much for too long. When the last unemployment extension passed Congress, the temporary service that this organization uses could not find qualified employees to fill their entry-level positions (someone actually told the firm that their unemployment benefit had been extended so they no longer needed to work!).

Michigan has a high level of unemployment (which understandably causes a high level of frustration to those legitimately seeking work) but it is very disconcerting when one hears that it is more economically advantageous to access the government system than to accept a position that does not pay very much money. Our country built upon the concept of free enterprise – the belief that a consumer-driven system whose ability to supply should meet or exceed its demands.

When did our country become so adept at giving to individuals according to their needs (or wants) while taking from individuals based on their ability to pay? We tread upon a dangerous path when we choose the one offering no resistance. Do not allow a third party (the Government, in this case) to remove your desire to taste the feast of success by filling you with cheese and crackers before the main course. While snacks are always welcome, they often cause us to lose sight of the meal to which we are entitled.

It is a slippery slope upon which we tread when we embrace the concept of getting something for nothing – for often nothing ventured truly does result in nothing gained!

Monday, September 13, 2010

WHAT RIGHTS DO WE HAVE TO WORKPLACE PRIVACY?


While our Constitution grants us certain freedoms and unalienable rights, do these freedoms extend into the workplace? There was once an understanding that individuals are accountable for what they do and say – has this accountability been lost over time? What ownership does an individual have (or expect to have) over personal materials found on his or her company computer – or does use of a workplace computer for personal reasons constitute a misuse of corporate resources? Does an organization have (and expect to retain) ownership to all thoughts, ideas, communications or activities that are generated “at or as a result of work”?

Our world is changing. Where once we worried about “unauthorized removal of company property” we must now concern ourselves with “e-communicated” thoughts, ideas, trade secrets OR the inappropriate use of company time due to potential misuse of the tools that we use to make us more efficient.

Does a worker have a “right to privacy” when at work? What is reasonable “personal use” of a computer (if any), of a copy machine (what is too much), or of the company phone system (is a personal conversation ever acceptable)? Conversely, if an Organization allows “limited use of company time and equipment” (as many do), does the Company retain the right to monitor any personal communications or examine any files marked “personal” if they stored on the individual’s assigned terminal or system?

We tend to create onerous rules and laws that are difficult to enforce as we attempt to protect worker privacy, workplace sanctity, and insure that employment discrimination has not occurred. Perhaps we should put as much time and effort into accomplishing the core objective of the workplace – to produce exceptional goods or services – as we do to insure that individual freedoms are retained. A return to the tenant that each individual should receive “an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work” might go a long way into eliminating the need for workplace privacy issues. What do YOU think?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

LABOR DAY REFLECTION


Labor Day, the creation of organized labor meant to recognize the social and economic achievements of American workers, has become an annual tribute to the contributions our nation’s workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

New York City workers celebrated the first Labor Day in 1882. The first governmental recognition for the Holiday came through municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886. Oregon became the first state to enact a law recognizing the Holiday in 1887. By 1894, 30 other states had followed suite in honoring workers. Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday shortly thereafter.

A street parade exhibiting to the public "the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations" of the community followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of workers and their families were focal points of the first Holiday. As time passed, speeches have placed more emphasis on the economic and civic significance of the holiday than on the labor organizations at its roots.

The character of the Labor Day celebration has undergone changes in recent years. It has become associated with the end of summer and a return to “business as usual.” Children return to school (delayed until after the Holiday by many states until the “vacation season” is done). With private sector union representation declining in our country, it has become a day to celebrate the American worker, his or her lifestyle, and the contribution our workforce has made to making ours one of the highest standards of living with the greatest rate of productivity the world has ever known.

At issue as we celebrate another Labor Day is whether or not the values of our past will carry forward into the future – whether the impact that generations of independent, hard-working individuals have had on our country and its wealth – will survive.

We should pause to consider that Labor Day recognizes and celebrates the American Workforce –the spirit that anyone can succeed if he or she is willing to identify a goal, to work hard towards its accomplishment and to sacrifice much for its fulfillment. Do not allow Labor Day to become simply another day off from work. It has grown beyond being a “worker’s Holiday” to a time meant to recognize the work we have accomplished and to celebrate the work that must still be done.

Friday, August 20, 2010

A DAY IN THE LIFE?


A Human Resource Professional must address tough situations every day. Many times he or she is called upon to make decisions that are "right" for their company but could be uncomfortable for someone else - possibly even to the point of jeopardizing their own job. Making the "right" decision isn't always easy BUT it is all a part of the day for HR Decision-makers. How would YOU handle THESE situations (all really happened) if they were to occur under YOUR watch?

A business owner, strong in sales, walked through his shop talking to employees along the way. He promised to fix this and repair that - but didn't really have the resources to do anything about the problems. His Plant Manager followed in his wake attempting to "undo" the damage his President's hollow promises had done. What would YOU do if you were in a position to make a recommendation to this business owner?

An employee with a poor attendance history had to be let go when her car broke down on the way back from visiting her mother in the hospital. You must enforce the company's attendance policy, greeting the popular, long-term employee at the door with her termination notice. It seems like everyone in the company wants to give the individual "one last chance" though she has clearly abused the system (even though she is portraying that she was fired for visiting her mom in the hospital). What would you do - and how would you handle the termination (if you choose to go that route)?

An employee complains about harassment in the workplace then says he “wants nothing to be done about it – that just talking to you made him feel better.” When you pursue the matter a bit, the employee tells you that if you talk to anyone about his complaint he will never speak to you in confidence again AND he will tell everyone that you cannot be counted on to keep a confidence. What would your next steps be in such a situation?

While most HR Professionals ARE NOT attornies, it seems that we are asked to be "judge and jury" many times in our daily lives. Send me a comment describing how YOU would handle these situations...and feel free to share a situation or event YOU'VE HEARD ABOUT (for others to respond to) when you reply!

Friday, August 13, 2010

RANDOM THOUGHTS ON LIFE AND LEMONADE…



The sun was shining bright that day,
The skies did seem quite cloudy…
Spring's silent promise filled the air,
While thunder rumbled loudly…

Success within his grasp was sweet,
But failure fell upon him…
The nightmares of past losses clear,
Life’s dreams fought to supplant them…

Lemons were all ripe for harvest,
Though apples were abundant…
With lemonade his specialty,
Thoughts of cider seemed redundant…

These senseless thoughts and wanderings
Must quickly reach an end…
For life is not the things we’ve done,
Its hopes still ‘round the bend…

I hope you are having an enjoyable summer - and taking the time to make lemonade from any bitter fruit that passes your way. We often find ourselves beneath a fallen house of cards when we let troubles get the best of us – buried by life’s circumstances as they crash down around us. If we consciously chose to conquer just one thing at a time – even if we seem to fall two steps back for every step taken forward – simply making progress brings us closer to realizing the hopes and dreams awaiting us just 'round the bend...

Monday, August 9, 2010

BUILDING UPON A FOUNDATION OF "WHAT IS"


Why are some people invigorated by a seemingly insurmountable task while others seem paralyzed by the same situation? Some see the opportunity to make progress towards the completion of a project while others shut down unless they see an immediate conclusion well within their reach. Other than the obvious propensity towards taking risks, I would venture that there is one underlying characteristic differentiating the two attitudes – the ability to question “why not?” before acting rather than needing to understand “why” before formulating a plan.

“If only…” will never define “what is…” When we trap ourselves within the world of excuses by asking what might have happened “if only” we had acted differently, we lose sight of reality. Dwelling upon things NOT accomplished will never initiate change – it only reinforces your limitations (rather than celebrating your abilities).

Some individuals act in accordance with established policy, practice or procedure whether or not that may be the best way to do something. Others constantly question what they are asked to do as a means to test and temper the validity of an action prior to its being taken. What good does it do to advance an idea that does not make a difference when implemented – or to act without benefiting either yourself or another? One will never experience their full potential by seeking comfort within a world defined by other’s expectations.

As the sands of time fall to the bottom of summer’s hourglass, focus upon the things you have experienced rather than the things that “COULD have been accomplished IF ONLY you had not run out of time.” Somehow, building from a foundation of “what is” seems much more relevant to life than hiding behind “What could have been” or “Why try.”

Thursday, July 22, 2010

TIME...


Time is seemingly in abundance when we have nothing to do – yet it flies as if on the wings of eagles when we would prefer it to stand still. Some tend to worry more about when they will finish the race than they do about the pleasure found along the way or the satisfaction of simply crossing the finish line. Many worry needlessly about things outside of their control rather than acting upon things over which they do have influence. Others feel they never have the time to appreciate the things around them so they dare not “stop to smell the roses.” Those individuals will often find themselves slaves to the very clock they so desperately sought to master.

Far too many people complain about their lemons rather than celebrating the opportunity to make lemonade. Instead of embracing their own individual gifts and abilities, they dwell upon the fact that others possess the things or attributes that they would prefer to exhibit. Rather than finding satisfaction in all they have accomplished, they see only what has not been finished due to a lack of time.

Whenever I become lost in time, chasing maddeningly after the tip of second hand as it races around the clock face, I remind myself that life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the number of moments that take our breath away.

Spend some time during the waning moments of summer to immerse yourself in the beauty around us – seeking solace in the cry of a gull or finding joy in the laughter of a child – then take your life back from the clock as it ticks relentlessly on. Then you, too, may find that time is but a measurement rather than the measure upon which we must base our lives.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

IMAGINATION...


Imagination is the ability to challenge the world of “what is” by relentlessly asking “why not?”

I was splitting wood for our furnace several years ago. A neighborhood child joined me and began asking questions with every swing of my splitting maul. “Could you hear that if nobody was here to listen?” “Why can’t you burn the wood without splitting it?” The one that struck home was “Why didn’t you start at that log?” as I finished the job. To a child, starting at the end made a lot of sense. He saw my work as having been completed with the splitting of that particular log – and had I started there the job would have been finished almost before it began.

A person can show great proficiency without ever exhibiting imagination. Conversely, an individual will never demonstrate imagination by simply accomplishing the work assigned without asking “why not…?” Accepting a standard response to a “why” question often satisfies those willing to do nothing more than the minimum. An understanding of what must be done as well as a verbalization of what might yet be accomplished is demonstrated when one researches enough – or is interested enough – to ask “why not?”

Given the choice between a “doer” and a “dreamer,” I would prefer to live within my imagination than within my reality. A realist accepts only what can be defined and demonstrated – content to accomplish the dreams and desires of others. I would prefer to live amongst those who imagine what has not yet been proven – has not yet been established – for they will accept nothing less than the great things they are destined to accomplish in this world.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

MEMORIES AND DREAMS

Many people live within the memories of their past, dwelling in thoughts of the safe places that bring them happiness and security rather than seeking new beginnings - living comfortably within a sheltered world of accomplishments. When life is contained within established thoughts and dreams of “what is” and re-enactments of “what has been,” can one ever realize his or her full potential?

Some dream of what could be, casting off the limitations of “what is” or “what was” in defference to the promise and possibility of what has yet to be - of how things might be different than they have shown themselves to be - establishing that nothing is impossible. Can one live within a world defined by everyday reality when continually seeking one of unlimited potential and possibility?

We need but our eyes to see but casting a vision requires our imagination. We need but our ears to hear yet understanding the cause and purpose of a sound requires our mind.

While our memories are necessary to remind us of what we have accomplished –of the things we can do, our dreams provide an indication of what has yet to be – leading us to places not yet realized. As we bring today’s dreams to fruition, they become yesterday’s memories.

If one ceases to dream, can he or she continue to grow – or to even exist?

Friday, July 2, 2010

CELEBRATE INDEPENDENCE


The Fourth of July…Independence Day…is once again upon us. We should pause to consider the leap of faith that others made to establish this country AND the sacrifice that our fellow Americans continue to make to preserve the freedoms we all enjoy.

Founded on the belief that an individual has the fundamental right of freedom, our country (and the concept of Democracy) has changed much over time. We have seen the rise (and fall) of many governments during our nation’s relatively short lifetime, yet our flag – and all it stands for – still waves proudly above us.

Many complain about our Government, its policies, and its practices – yet we are the only nation in the world to allow such open and honest dissent, objection and discussion. Rally behind the flag and all it stands for!

We recognize the poverty, oppression and lack of freedom that others experience and seek to offer equality to those held captive by an unequal world. Rally behind the flag and all it stands for!

We offer the lives of our sons, daughters, families and friends to preserve our way of life – a burden they readily assume as but a small price for maintaining the freedoms we enjoy. Rally behind the flag and all it stands for!

This year, let us put aside partisan politics, self-serving opinions, and criticism of individual leaders doing their jobs to the best of their abilities. Let us celebrate the greatness that our country has achieved rather than pointing out the flaws, faults and inadequacies of others. Let us foster and encourage our continued growth and prosperity rather than waiting for the world to catch up.

This Fourth of July, let us honor the memories of those that came before us whose sacrifice provides us the opportunity to bring our dreams to fruition and the possibility to build a future for those that will follow.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A CLEAN SWEEP?


Our nation faces the potential for unprecedented political change during the coming year. Regardless of the actions taken by those currently holding office – be they good or bad – a groundswell of emotion is sweeping the country crying out in a voice that demands “out with the old – in with the new!” In our rush to change, however, I fear much may be lost in the process.

Many candidates are relying on the platform of “replacement” to carry them through rather than one of solutions and substance. Change, promised several years ago, is coming to fruition – but not as anticipated. Healthcare reform, while necessary, may have moved in too quick (and costly) a way to gain support. A shift in military priorities from Iraq to Afghanistan – along with the replacement of our military leadership in that effort – has not reduced the price paid as we promote freedom in the world. The BP Oil Spill has replaced Hurricane Katrina as this Administration’s crisis point – yet those needing assistance are receiving little more than was provided to Hurricane survivors. While we need change in actions, electing individuals who demonstrate personal responsibility and integrity may be an important (and necessary) precursor to change.

Listen to the candidates before casting your vote this summer. As you vote for new leadership in the fall, listen to the substance of each candidate’s campaign. Do they take accountability for what has been done in the past or simply blame others for “breaking” what they intend to fix? Do they accept responsibility for making things happen in the future or are they riding the wave of change – promising “different” without defining what that might be? In order to forge lasting change, YOU must help to make a difference by voting for candidates that actively seek the truth within each promise they make and listen to the people they will represent rather than to their affiliated party.

Change is inevitable but only controlled change can be by design. Help to make change anticipated and sustainable by getting the facts before you act – then by voting with your head rather than your emotions!

Friday, June 11, 2010

UNLIMIT YOUR OPPORTUNITY


America was built upon the belief that individuals can realize unlimited opportunity through hard work and the effective utilization of resources if a superior product or service is produced that appeals (and sells) to a consuming public. Implied within this basic tenant is that while we ARE created equally, we possess different gifts, abilities and competencies so we ARE NOT presumed to be equal in our ability to produce or achieve results. Not everyone can be a professional athlete, a teacher, a counselor, a leader, a writer, or an innovator…or any of a score of other occupations that require specialized skills or unique temperaments. While we all taste success, life is an environment of equitability rather than of equality. Our efforts do not create EQUAL results - they produce results that reflect EQUITABLY against the abilities we have developed, the intelligence we apply, and outcomes we achieve.

It is with sadness that I read of attacks on these basic principles. Schools tend to teach to the middle – spending far too little on creating opportunity for the less gifted and failing to advance the talents and abilities of those towards the top. Labor unions (though far less prevalent within private industry) flourish within government entities by bringing concepts that “everyone is equal” and “pay equality for all based on time in grade” (rather than for performance) into the workplace. Field days are disappearing from elementary schools because some children are not able to compete with others (often due to their own lifestyle choices) and we do not want them to feel “badly” should they not win or taste the same success as others. I recently heard of a competitive soccer league that installed a “five goal difference” rule to eliminate embarrassing losses – but rather than ending the game early (as is traditionally done), a team winning by more than five goals would be declared loser of the contest.

Our country has survived many challenges from outside our borders – as we were able to reflect upon during the recent Memorial Day Holiday. If the greatness of our country is to survive, we must brace ourselves to overcome attacks from within – attacks on an individual’s ability to demonstrate excellence, the opportunity to reap the rewards of individual efforts, and the belief that one is limited ONLY by his or her own shortcomings – by embracing the freedoms and unlimited possibilities we currently share.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

SEEK RAINBOWS...


When you see a storm coming, do you think about the destruction that it will bring – the ways that your daily activities will be inconvenienced – or do you think of the beauty and power that will be displayed and the sense of freshness that remains once it’s passed? When someone tries to bring you down so they can feel more important and self-assured, do you accept the mantle of subservience or do you rise above it by recognizing (and acting upon) the reason for the attack rather than allowing yourself to be diminished by it? When life hands you lemons, do you wallow in your misfortune seeking comfort and support from others or do you set up a lemonade stand to profit from the troubles that have originated through no direct fault of your own?

While “bad things happen” in our lives everyday, they often cannot be attributed to any direct action we consciously take. We can grow from adversity only if we accept challenges as but temporary set-backs that attempt to block the path we’ve chosen while seeking our planned destination rather than allowing ourselves to be stopped dead in our tracks by their very presence. Summer brings with it a sense of new beginnings and new perspectives. Internalize this fresh start by looking for the “silver lining” within each cloud that passes your way. Seek the rainbow at the end of every storm. Rather than projecting only what others would have you to be, radiate all you have to offer to those around you as you intentionally seek to make a difference.

Friday, May 21, 2010

THRIVING IN A NEW NORMAL



What is the “new normal” to you? I’ve heard the term linked with the different values each generation brings to the workforce. I’ve heard the “new normal” as being anything replacing that which is old or outdated. The new normal has been used to address ongoing high unemployment, periods of continuing inflation (or recession), or an unexpected change in work schedule that extends beyond a short period of time.

Increased hiring activity within certain occupations is viewed as being the new normal, while individuals working outside of these “preferred” occupations might be considered headed for extinction. Longer (or shorter) work schedules? Those, too, fall into the catch-all category of being the new normal – the industry in which you work defining whether the new normal means more (or less) work during these boom (or bust) times.

It seems that things once viewed as being “different” or “unique” have lost their luster, being replaced by a continuous wave of sights, experiences and instances that become the “new normal” regardless of how long (or short) their existence. An individual lacking focus and direction was once thought of as being a dreamer who “tilted at windmills.” He (or she) is now considered to be “multi-tasking,” unwilling to be constrained by the traditional confines of time and space as higher goals and aspirations are pursued.

Whatever your “new normal” might be – or the term might mean to you – don’t forget to reflect upon the past, embrace the present, then seek to clearly differentiate your dreams, goals and imaginings before bringing them to fruition as you build towards a brighter tomorrow. Allow each day’s sunset to bring closure to your life – so that each and every morning might offer a new beginning - a “new normal” in which you might truly thrive.

Friday, May 14, 2010

ACCEPT THE "PERSON" WITHIN EACH PERSONALITY


It has been written that variety is the spice of life BUT it seems many seek to homogenize the world by establishing their own values as the standard to which others should be measured. To these short-sighted souls, walking a mile in another’s shoes means that others would be wise to follow the path they have chosen, and the thought of sharing the lifestyle of another (and possibly growing from the differences) would be but an effort in futility!

Why is it so hard for some to accept that all have value and worth in the world just as they are, choosing instead to either pull those that “have not” up OR to drag those that “have” down? To those seeking to change the world – have you ever considered that not all wish to change? To those seeking equality for all – have you considered that equity might be a better alternative? Why do some make their lives more difficult by trying to change all things rather than only those that can (or should) be altered?

As summer approaches, take a step back and accept the “person” within each personality you meet. Elevate each individual without reducing their individuality to but a reflection of what you think they should be. Accept life as it is and others as they are – perhaps you can share the happiness they’ve found within a less complicated existence!

Monday, May 10, 2010

MOTIVATING A FLOCK...



Geese are structured and protective birds by nature – much like many supervisors and teachers that I’ve met. Leaders, trainers and educators tend to establish clear and concise expectations that must be followed in a defined manner to achieve anticipated results. Much like the choreographed motion within a flock of geese in flight, there tends to be a “time and place” for everything when others are led towards a common objective – a structure that produces results without allowing much individual variance.

What if we approached leadership more like motivating a flock of hungry gulls along an ocean shore, seeking to focus a “flock” mentality by providing immediate rewards for seemingly uncoordinated effort? If we were to concentrate more upon the goal (or the end result) than the road upon which we must travel, might not we be able to accomplish great things while orchestrating the seeming chaos of individual effort into an activity that satisfies the needs of the whole?

While some people will follow a leader in order to reach a goal, preferring the safety of the flock to mask their individuality, others would prefer to reach the destination through their own initiative. To lead effectively we must recognize this variance by charting a path and monitoring progress for the “geese” we lead that need direction and structure while providing an unlimited horizon for our “gulls” seeking an outcome through their individual efforts. A good leader often succeeds by accomplishing one or the other – a great leader accomplishes both!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

DRAWING A LINE IN THE SAND


We often hear the phrase "draw a line in the sand" in regards to putting one thought or course of action to rest before moving on to another. The drawing of such a line, however, tends to emphasize the end of something old as much (if not more) than the beginning of something new.

In an ideal world of "what if" (rather than our reality of "what is") I'd prefer to think that drawing a line in the sand signals the beginning of something new, different and challenging - being the springboard towards a reality that exists but within your imagination - rather than as the end of something negative. The craftsmen shown in this vacation photograph are clearly drawing lines in the sand to transform a vision that could only be imagined into a reality for the rest of us to experience.

The next time YOU decide to draw a line in the sand, think more about where you are going...about what new reality can be experienced because of the actions you take...than where you've been or what you'd prefer not to repeat. The future is made up of dreams becoming reality, not of actions taken to avoid negative consequences.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

MAKE YOUR OWN REALITY


Some people teeter on the edge of their world – watching and waiting – as the reality of life passes them by. They join the throng of painted people living pictured lives moving through an empty existence, melding with other tortured spirits playing out a life they feel was given them without option or choice. They act out assigned roles – existing without purpose – immersed in a bleak reality of doing without dreaming.

Others seek reality within a world of possibilities – an existence restrained only by the limitations of their dreams – watching and waiting for what might be but has yet to become. They challenge the reality of the life they've been given rather than being held captive by their daily routines - refusing to blindly accept the burdens others would have them believe are reality. They celebrate the unfathomable while living life on the edge – always ready to plunge headlong towards a not yet determined destination.

For those who find fulfillment within the status quo, travel obediently upon the straight and narrow path to your destination – for the world needs individuals that will “do without questioning.” For those unwilling to be contained by another’s vision - refusing to be satisfied with another’s explanation of “why” when you’d prefer to seek “why not?” – the world is filled with endless possibilities that have yet to be imagined as we set the course for those unwilling to dream.

Monday, April 5, 2010

CHOOSING TO SOAR OR TO FLOCK



I recently observed an eagle circling his nest. Seeing the ease with which he captured the power of the wind beneath his wings, soaring effortlessly through the evening sky – made me understand why our forefathers chose the eagle as our national symbol. The eagle demonstrates the strength one can find in solitude – and the power of individuality that can be manifested when one lights out on his or her own, seeking success and independence while remaining above (rather than lost in) the crowd.

Upon my return to the office I saw another rather large bird that hesitates to venture from its flock, rarely (if ever) demonstrating independence or individuality. Even during nesting and visible displays of dominance, the turkey remains a flock bird – travelling through the fields seemingly without purpose or focus. Turkeys seek whatever sustenance becomes available to them – but often fail to see the benefits of individualism or the reward that singular risk may provide.

In life, we can choose to be either an eagle (soaring independently in search of our dreams, hopes and aspirations) or a turkey (travelling among friends to a common destination seeking security and comfort in what we find).

I’m glad that Benjamin Franklin was overruled in his choice of the turkey as our nation’s symbol. We can only hope our leaders demonstrate the independent agility of an eagle (rather than the flock mentality of the “other fowl” we chose to avoid) as they make decisions that define the future course of our country!

Monday, March 29, 2010

WORK TO ACCOMPLISH YOUR GOALS


Have you ever heard a competitor say, “I’m glad to have lost that game!” rather than being excited to have won? What would you think if an “I tried hard and almost won the last game” cup were awarded to the second place team rather than crowning a national champion at the end of a season? We tend to reach for the top rather than being content to simply stand on sidelines of success.

If we admire success, why do we accept “average” within our schools, our workplaces, and, at times, our own lives? Why do we accept “good enough” rather than striving for the best that can be? Why do we seek to reward all individuals equally rather than acknowledging that some are just “more equal” than others?

While one may focus on a goal and work hard without ever winning the ultimate prize (just ask the 64 teams that will not emerge victorious from the NCAA tournament), greatness is earned (it is rarely simply given) when one focuses intently upon the goal, fully develops the abilities they have been given then works relentlessly to become a champion (ask the team that ultimately wins the title).

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

EXPRESS YOURSELF...


When people choose to take the path of least resistance, they often diminish their ability to establish individuality. They suffer in silence rather than identifying and addressing the issues that most concern them. Peer pressure drives decisions, many times creating a “flock” mentality that leads individuals towards an ill-conceived destination. Saying “no” to the crowd – and in doing so establishing one’s own hopes, dreams and reality – should never be viewed as detrimental to the whole.

Would the steam engine have been invented had Fulton listened to the crowd? Would space exploration have been possible had the Wright brothers listened to their critics? What might YOU be able to accomplish – what potential might you be able to realize – if you “march to your own drummer” rather than listening to the tunes composed by others?

Many people try to be “something they are not” by burying their own values. Rather than trying to be what everyone else may wish you were, make the most of your individuality through the expression of your thoughts through words and actions. In the long run it is easier to build upon the firm foundation of truth and reality than to construct life upon deception's shifting sands!

Monday, March 15, 2010

LIFE IS A BEACH...



It has been said that “life is a beach,” but we often frame our reality (and define our personal beach) by the perspective we choose. Depending on our perspective, a safe harbor can provide either a place of refuge or a place of renewal. Our quiet shores can be either an idyllic place upon which sand castles are constructed OR much more, depending upon the perspective we take. Look beyond the obvious to experience all that life offers – seeking the possible rather than the probable. You may be surprised what could rise from the quiet beach of your existence if perspective were to become limited only by your imagination…

Monday, March 8, 2010

SMOKE AND MIRRORS


You've heard the phrase "smoke and mirrors" when referencing something that isn't quite as it appears to be. It's been used (perhaps appropriately?) when talking about both our Nation's and our State's economies in recent months. Saying something is improving doesn't make it so - nor does generating wealth through the creation of debt stabalize an economy. Perhaps our elected leadership should step back and look at the true beauty of "smoke" then look hard into a mirror to discover reality.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

PERSPECTIVE




We often base our reality more on what we see that on what truly is. If we stand outside a tunnel and look in we see a dark empty void that offers little hope. If, however, we stand in the tunnel and look out we see a new horizon holding unlimited possibilities. Perspective is a choice - choose your's wisely!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

BE A BEACON


Today’s world is fraught with danger. If knowledge could be considered our sword and truth our shield, understanding – the application of knowledge – would become a suit of armor surrounding us with wisdom. Don’t be lost in a fog, or let those around you be shattered upon the rocks. Life is not a spectator sport. Rather than simply watching and waiting, allow the light of your wisdom to shine through as a beacon, guiding others too busy to study and learn through the dangerous passages we all face.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A WINTER'S VISION


I was looking out my window this past weekend and was struck how perfectly our icy set of wind chimes described the recent legislative actions of our government. I feel that the “sounds of silence” coming from reasonable voices in Congress must be akin to a wind chime blowing restlessly in the breeze as a single unit, frozen solid, waiting for spring to awaken it so that it can once again perform as designed. It’s sad that solid actions and opinions expressed “by the people” cannot thaw the cool relations between our political parties enough to have them making beautiful music together!