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, June 28, 2012


What forms a boundary for you? Is it your life experience? Things you did (or did not do) as a child? Your respect and reverence for the past – for the way things have always been? Perhaps you find comfort in predictability – or find your actions driven by the fear that would accompany a new and unknown path. Far too many people live within the comfort of their “known worlds,” excusing their inability to reach beyond that security by claiming satisfaction with “the way things are.” Do you live inside of your boundaries – safe from all those that are different from you – or do you seek to experience life as it could be by wandering “outside?”

We sometimes steep ourselves in heritage, immerse ourselves in history and surround ourselves with the accomplishments of those who came before us – but this comfort often comes at the expense of people and things not yet imagined. What new realities might we discover if we intentionally stretched our boundaries by stepping out of our defined limitations – if we turned from what we were (or even what we have become) towards what has yet to materialize? We do not need to explode the walls that surround us to experience change but we do need to open the windows and doors wide enough to escape the room that restricts our actions. We do not need to destroy the bridge that spans our moats but we should keep it operational!

People should cherish tradition yet continually seek new and better ways to do things (that may become someone else’s tradition in the future) if they are to move beyond what they are to become all they could be. How can we inject fresh perspective into the things we do, the thoughts we think, and the way that we approach our future? We must determine the course that sets our direction – that defines the ultimate destination to which our paths lead – by considering those that came before us while bringing to fruition the reality that sets the stage for those who will follow.

Tradition can be the basis for action taken but should never become a destination in and of itself. Far too many individuals mask their hesitation to advance beyond their present reality – or to even face the reality of their present situation – by hiding within the richness of their traditions. Holding on to the past is not necessarily a bad thing. When holding on becomes holding back, however – when retaining traditions and deep cultural heritage becomes the goal rather than the historical perspective – we keep ourselves from moving towards what “could be” by hiding ourselves within the comfort of “what was.”

Paying attention to lessons learned in the past helps pave a smoother course towards the future. We must understand why things were done and actions taken before we can leverage their results into our yet to be realized accomplishments. Individuals must know the basics before they can be refined and enhanced. They must understand “why” things work the way they do (basic math facts proceed the use of a calculator, spelling skills proceed the use of a word processor with spell check, motivational techniques that work for themselves prior to being able to lead or motivate others, etc.) before they can be expanded into new and meaningful experiences. (We should not, however, focus so much on the “what” and the “how” that we fail to apply our discoveries to the resolution of new and different opportunities.)

One must continually give in order to gain. While knowing we often receive back much more than we give, such a return should be a bonus rather than an expectation. We should, however, give more than we ever imagined possible when asking for more than we thought might be attained if seeking to step beyond the boundaries of a defined past into the unlimited world of future possibilities. Our pride may originate in our heritage – from the accomplishments of those coming before us. The greatest possibilities that have yet to be accomplished in our lives, however, arise from expanding our sense of past into an unlimited tomorrow by applying the lessons we have learned from every action we have taken towards the resolution of problems not yet defined. Only when we begin to realize our potential will we be able to live out the pages of a book not yet written – to bring to fruition all those things not yet imagined.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


The worst parts of letting go of something with which you have become familiar are watching it pass through your fingers and worrying about whether it will ever return. When something that has become more important to your life than the very air you breathe floats away upon the wind – dancing just out of reach but never out of mind – you need to work relentlessly to retrieve it or seek intentionally to replace it. Regardless of how much you try to rationalize that what once was may never be again – that perhaps it should never have been in the first place – does not fill the emptiness growing within your heart when that which was is no more. Life drifts freely through the meadows of your soul seeking a return to its comfortable past when what you had slips through your hands – yet such a return is often an improbable dream.

Until you let something go – knowing that you will never again experience the stability it provided nor the comfort you found within the place you had found – you will never understand the emptiness that comes from letting go of a dream. Hope will remain, however, within the heart of a visionary soul. The emptiness that engulfs an individual when separated from a dream – or from a present reality – allows for the celebration of moments when reunited. When Hope is gone, life takes on the deathly pallor of a spirit drifting aimlessly with the wind. Without Dreams, reality can become a millstone holding you down – a weight keeping you from realizing your potential or moving towards the accomplishment of unfulfilled goals.

When you must move on – which is a reality we all face within this life (whether it be personally or professionally) – we must look to where we are going rather than dwell upon where we have been. We must seek new horizons rather than finding comfort in the dark of our past. We must embrace change as an opportunity to excel rather than seeing it as a blockade that makes our “comfortable path” impassable. Though a job change may not be what we wanted, accept the opportunity that “downsizing” presents should it come. One should retire “to” something rather than “away” from it – never running away from what you have but rather reaching for that which has not yet materialized. An empty nest should be filled with freedoms rather than with the knowledge that something “that was” will be no more. Life “as it was” should become a springboard into the future rather than a place to hide from “what could be”.

Whether they be voluntary or out of necessity, life provides us with many opportunities to create new realities. Accepting these challenges as inevitable – recognizing that the only constant in life is change – will allow us to let go of “what was” in order to grasp “what will be.” Until you are able to truly take control of your destiny by walking from what was in order to run towards what has yet to be – your past that will control your life and you will never reach the dream that holds your future reality. Let go (of your past) as you hold on (to your dreams) so you can reach out towards a future that has yet to be realized.

Friday, June 1, 2012


When you think about “new horizons,” where does your mind wander? Far too many individuals think about tomorrow as being their “distant future,” with far too much reliance upon “what is” than faith in “what could be.” People tend to predict their next steps based upon those they just completed rather than seeking destinations not yet considered. When we react and respond with measured predictability we will rarely find ourselves surprised by where we have wandered nor unfamiliar with where we have gone. When we travel upon familiar roads, we rarely arrive at unexpected destinations – regardless of the good intentions that may have guided our journey.

Speaking of travel, when we travel with others, we tend to rely upon the comfort they provide – the sense of acceptance that comes from walking beside those we know and that know us. When those that we love travel with us, however, there is often no one to go home to when our travels end – nobody to hear of our adventures or feel the passion of our words as we retell our stories. We may share new horizons with others as we travel with them but far too often slip back into our regular routine if we do not recount our discoveries with those we return to – those that welcome us home.

When our horizons are but projections of our experiences we tend to live where we are rather than where we could be. We look behind us intently to avoid returning to where we were BUT fail to look ahead to see where we might be able to go. We tend to find comfort in where we are when we feel we “have arrived” after tasting success – see it as “an end” or a reward for our efforts – rather than viewing it as a new beginning from which we might start a new adventure.

Our horizons can be limitless ONLY when we look beyond our present circumstances to opportunities that may not yet have materialized – when we open our eyes to see what we might be able to accomplish rather than basking in our past glories. There are rarely guideposts along the way to tell us we are moving in the right direction when we enter uncharted waters – only the faith we have in our instincts and the hope we hold that any forward progress is better than standing still. Think beyond tomorrow in whatever you say and do – for tomorrow is but one day removed from yesterday and living within the comfort of our past will do nothing but shelter us from the successes our new horizons can hold.