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!

Monday, July 25, 2011


Business needs strong, unwavering leadership more than ever. Parents want to be their children’s friends rather than their spiritual and emotional leaders. People overlook critical issues within their relationships, preferring to avoid confrontation and resolution by staying away from each other or being too busy to talk. Partisan politicians are more committed to identifying who is at fault than to recognizing the problems and acting to resolve them. An equal sharing of “the burden” seems to be the rhetoric as a disproportionate helping of “cure” comes from job creators while a more than equitable share of “spoils” go to those not seeking to contribute. I fear that our leaders have taken leave – or are at least staying so far below the radar screen (and out of fire) that their effectiveness may be compromised Where have the leaders gone…and how can we bring them back?

While managers can be (and often are) appointed, promoted or anointed, leadership is expressed through an individual’s actions and revealed through his or her character. A manager assigns blame – a leader assumes it. A director deflects criticism – a leader addresses it. Far too many individuals seem to be looking for excuses as to why something happened rather than accepting the present as reality and intentionally moving towards a resolution. It seems that everyone ELSE did things wrong and nothing is anyone’s own fault. Far too many are seeking someone or something to rescue them from financial ruin rather than taking charge of their own situation and finding a long-term solution. The government tries to “bring up” those having less by “taking from” those that have more – but in so doing the motivation, desire and ability of those able to make a difference is reduced. While life-long learning is a good and desirable thing, learning from books does not provide the experience that learning from one’s past failures does.

A Manager can lead but:

• Often gains a following through false or misleading promises
• Creates a sense of “having to do work” through fear of the consequences
• Could care less what others think as long as his or her needs are met

Leaders can be identified by their ability to:

• Influence by example gaining the support of others wanting to follow
• Pull others along as they rise to the top
• Understand his or her “audience” when speaking or communicating

Our region AND our nation needs confident, competent leaders willing to take risks and to grow from their consequences. We need fair and honest leaders willing to lead by example rather than by edict – seeking to motivate rather than intimidate. Are you a part of the solution or are you a major part of the problem? Do you lead by example or by manage through edict? Do you anticipate “what might happen” and prepare for it or react to “what has happened” by blaming others and accepting the consequences? Do your actions inspire others or encourage them to conspire against you? A society that expects others to “do as I say rather than as I do” is one that may “get by” but will rarely thrive.

Where have the leaders gone? Look in the mirror – we all lead someone or something, be it a business, a family or simply our own existence. Don’t let your mirror be clouded with the promise of something for nothing. Step out of the shadows and let your intentional actions reflect positively upon someone else as you fulfill your own destiny. When individuals are given the tools with which to work (education/knowledge/mentoring) and the environment in which to operate (honest, open, accepting and forgiving) with leadership that encourages growth, there will be no limit to our possibilities.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


I once held many thoughts as gold within my hands - more precious than the air that I breathed...
I watched my accomplishments shine - rivaling the sun with their brilliance…
I hid behind them – holding them up to the world – to hide my shortcoming and inadequacies.

While we all face distractions and disappointments throughout our lives, holding onto what “once was” rather than reaching out for “what could be” is a recipe for disaster. Things once held as valuable slip from our grasp as we grow older. A bright and shining future put on hold because of “global competition.” A secure job ripped from us by the economy. A relationship tarnished by an unanticipated action (or an uncontrolled reaction). Life happens…how we react to it can either advance or stagnate our existence.

I reach out blindly, searching desperately for and grasping onto what once was but shall never be again…
My memories became as but water running through my hands - unable to be contained as they flowed through the grasp of my fingers…
My thoughts provide but a flickering light within my darkened world – a dim presence incapable of providing the fire that once filled me.

We can become absorbed by “what used to be” rather than seeking out “what is” or “what could be” when we live in the past. Far too many individuals seek comfort in the belief that they will “be called back to work shortly” rather than seeking a new beginning or that “things are bound to change” rather than initiating actions that will make change happen. We stagnate ourselves (and those around us) when we establish our value within the things we once did that were successful rather than in what might be possible from this point forward – when we create our identity from “what we were” rather than “who we are.” Seeking comfort in what once was may not be a fatal flaw – but finding shelter from our present reality within the confines of the past will prevent us from ever reaching our full potential.

Life has but birth as a beginning and death as an end - forcing us to travel upon an endless circle of circumstance as we seek meaning to the existence flowing through our fingers…
We must build upon (rather than clinging to) our accomplishments if we are to identify possibilities not yet realized…
We must acknowledge the security our past once provided is gone as new opportunities flow from our hands like a river’s water into a never-ending sea…
We must sail into the unknown horizon leading those willing to follow as we wait for those not yet willing to let go of their past…
We must open our hands to let go of all that has been so we have room within our grasp for what has yet to be.

Though our parents and grandparents may have found security within the four walls of one company or had one home their whole life, few of us will experience life without unexpected or unplanned change – with change being the only certainty in life. People anticipating change intentionally set their course knowing that much time will pass and many considerations will flow through their fingers before anything if accomplished. Since you cannot hold back the waters as they flow through your hands – hold onto the hope that your dreams provide!

Thursday, July 7, 2011


Far too often people determine “what is possible” by defining what cannot be done based upon what they have (or have not) done in the past. They set their goal just below what they think MIGHT BE accomplished as they determine where they are going by extending where they have been.

Individuals often close their eyes to what could be, preferring to focus upon those things that have already been. They are often far too concerned that the ends justify the means – doggedly pursuing the destination rather than considering the journey – to think about celebrating progress or enjoying new beginnings along the way.

There are those, however, who find themselves reaching for the sky without thinking about falling to the ground. They focus upon the sun without looking towards the shadows cast behind them by their current realities. These individuals often chase their wildest imaginings without regard to the practical limitations life places upon them. They rarely base their comings and goings upon what has been, choosing to follow a path that takes them where they have yet to go so they can accomplish those things they have not yet attempted. Rather than wallowing in hardship and adversity, these individuals often use trouble as a springboard to opportunity. One can bring dreams to fruition when refusing to accept the negatives of reality. Had history’s creators and innovators been content to seek inspiration from their past rather than reaching out to an undetermined future, where would our world be today?

Looking forward rather than back, seeing the light at the end of the tunnel as an opening on the other side rather than a train bearing down upon them, and seeing “the possible” in a situation rather than focusing on its inherent realities are signs of an optimistic leader. Strong leaders rarely accept a single, concrete solution – they seek several workable options, implementing the one that not only provides the best answer but also garners the most support. Though it is human nature to take the easy road, the people of whom I speak typically seek the road less travelled as it eventually leads to longer-lasting solutions.

Personally, I would prefer to surround myself with people who live for today, dream of tomorrow, and run swiftly from yesterday. They seem to laugh more often than they cry – to smile more often than they frown – moving forward more swiftly than they fall behind. I would prefer to be in the company of those seeking solutions rather than offering excuses – taking ownership rather than placing blame. These seekers of the possible are whom I seek to become part of my life – hoping they will allow me, in return, to become a part of theirs.