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 30, 2012


We celebrate individual accomplishment every four years during an event called “The Olympics.” While national pride is important and camaraderie seems to be the “glue” holding athletics together, individual training, hard solitary work, unwavering dedication and selfless sacrifice – along with God-given talent – elevate the individuals competing for gold, silver and bronze from “the rest of the world.” In a world too often filled with “appealing to the masses” and “elevating the whole,” rewards for “pulling yourself up by the bootstraps” have been minimized – a sad testimony that the voice of the individual has succumbed to the shouts of the people.

Business leaders have the ability to leverage the talents of others – bringing together diverse thoughts, abilities and cultures – to generate success by focusing individuals to accomplish a single goal. Coaches have the ability to maximize the contributions of individuals – highlighting their strengths and compensating for their weaknesses – in order to bring the team glory. Politicians are able to motivate the majority – identifying and speaking to the needs of a diverse electorate – as they seek to carry out their Party platform (often to the detriment of their individual beliefs). Teachers must bring enough of the class to a minimum level of proficiency so that test scores reflect grade-level expectations. Few, however, develop “the gifted” to their full potential because they are too busy bringing up those not yet meeting standards to reward those exceeding them - too busy focusing upon the needs of the whole to satisfy those of the individual.

While “the power of team” is an important component within today’s world, I would venture that the “power of the individual” is far more critical. Teams carry the burden but individuals often identify the path upon which they must travel. A group can come together to identify a workable solution but an individual often states the problem needing resolution. A team can win a war but victory would not be possible were it not for a multitude of individual “wins” and a similar number of personal “losses.”

It is refreshing to land upon an island of individuality when sailing the seas of mediocrity – to find a venue that acknowledges and rewards the achievements of a dedicated individual facing insurmountable odds rather than making excuses for his or her failure to compete. The Olympics focuses upon ideals we once held true – that hard work and dedication will pay off in the end. We see the dreams and aspirations of individual athletes either brought to fruition OR dashed upon a rocky shore – either celebrated in victory or shattered beyond all recognition.

We celebrate individual accomplishment during this event, but why should we stop when the Olympics have concluded? Refuse to believe that someone else is responsible for your success. Every individual makes a conscious decision to apply their unique talents and abilities towards the solution of a problem OR to let them lie dormant, becoming a part of the problem themselves. Refuse to accept that you must give more just because you can. We are a society founded not upon “from each according to their ability, to each according to their need.” Rather we were told that anyone could become anything - the only limitation being our individual abilities and how hard we worked to apply them as we sought to support our individual needs.

Celebrate the Olympic spirit this week as you immerse yourself in the individual accomplishments of a unique and talented group of people – then reach deeply into yourself to identify that same individual quality. Work selflessly to bring it to fruition in all you do and say and you, too, will be considered a champion.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


When we are satisfied with what we have and where we are in life, we tend to cling tightly to who we are and what we have become. We find comfort in the familiar without feeling the need for change. Should you be so fortunate, this Deliberation is not for your consideration. You have attained what you sought by choosing carefully the roads you travelled. You have arrived at the destination you planned, surrounded yourself with people that support your dreams, and found happiness where you landed. Many, however, would seek to change. Not knowing how or where to begin, however, they choose to do nothing – living life in the fringes rather than fulfilling their true promise.

If you could do anything you in the world – be anything at all – what would you chose? Would want to be what you now are if you could re-do the decisions that formed your life and values or would you make different choices that might lead to a different outcome? Would you study the same things or choose a different career path? Would you prefer to be a teacher, a doctor, a lawyer, a professional athlete, a business manager, a politician? Would you be a laborer having to make few decisions, finding fulfillment in hard manual efforts that let you leave the worries of the day behind when your work was finished? Would you want to make a fortune or live a meager, earning only enough to satisfy your basic needs? Would you live in a larger home or seek a smaller residence? Would you seek to live in an urban community or a rural neighborhood? Would you keep the friends you have or would you seek a different support group?

We all make decisions – whether they are calls to action or an unconscious choice of inaction. Our lives are a result of the thoughts we had and the choices we made in the past. What we are results directly from the choices we made when we were growing up BUT it does not mean we cannot change or alter what we might wish to become. A train does not go from one station to another by standing still. Likewise, our station in life will not change until we take intentional action to move us from where we are towards where we wish to be.

If we recognize what we are and acknowledge what we prefer to be or do, what stops us from moving towards our dreams? For some it is a fear of the unknown. For others it may be a fear of succeeding and the responsibilities that success brings. Many fear change, somehow feeling that what is “known and comfortable” – though perhaps not the most desirable – is better than what might be ahead should they seek something different. Unless you seek an outcome that you are not physically or mentally capable of bringing to fruition (change MUST be realistic!), a fear of something or someone is what usually keeps us from being all we can be or doing all we can do.

What keeps you from changing – from moving beyond where you are to a place you would rather be? Are you afraid to leave the comfort of “what is” to face the fears of an unknown “what could be?” It is true that if we do not set goals we will never fail. Should we fail to understand what must be changed in order to transform ourselves into something different, however, we will never become what we might wish to be because we will remain what we always were.

Recognizing and acknowledging who we are is a good thing – but accepting that reality as an end rather than a beginning can stifle any growth you might wish to experience – can relegate you to the life you have rather than what you might prefer. When one actively seeks what they wish to find – without fears or apprehensions – they will realize what they seek – without restriction or limitation.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


There are several ways to react when opportunity knocks. Some will seek to shift the blame, excusing themselves from any responsibility for the challenges that life placed before them. They prefer the “easy road” to all the destinations they might choose to visit, finding that “taking the hard road” might be OK – but for someone else. Rarely will you find a risk taker within the ranks of those wishing to travel but paved paths. You would not often find an individualist willing to embrace the bad as a precursor for the good among those seeking “all gain with no pain.” Often those seeking to rise to the top upon the backs of others want all they might ever need without working for it – expecting the same fruits that others enjoy simply because they share the same space and breathe the same air.

Those who seek to accomplish much without giving any are often dreamers whose great expectations and plans are not destined to be realized. They refuse to put forth more than minimal effort to achieve exceptional rewards. They are unrealistic in seeking all that is good without extending from “what is” to “what could be.” Should opportunity knock upon their door it most likely would be turned away rather than embraced. Should it beckon it would be considered a wrong number rather than accepted as a legitimate call.

Others seek to immerse themselves in the issue – becoming an indispensable part of the solution rather than an integral part of the problem. They move forward with measured abandon – seeking paths not yet imagined as they travel upon roads not yet improved. They seek to live out their being as more than simply existing.

These are the gentle giants of this land – accomplishing much because they sacrifice all, seeking all because they hold nothing back. Should opportunity present itself to these they would ask “why not?” rather than focusing upon “why?” They see a hill rather than a mountain. They see a temporary detour rather than a permanent closure. They not only see where they wish to be and envision what they wish to become, they INVEST themselves in making those things become reality. It is these whom are responsible for not only their own growth BUT for the growth of others – not only for their own accomplishments but also for the success of many.

When opportunity knocks, you can ignore it, consciously turn it away or proceed with a resolution. You can embrace it and work diligently to answer its call or hope that it will simply go away – or that someone else will invest the time and energy needed to resolve it. Reach out and open the door when opportunity knocks for you may not be given a second chance should you turn a deaf ear upon the first.

We often see but the surface of opportunity when reality it is a deep inviting pool awaiting our entrance. Take the plunge – you will find that awaiting you is far greater than what you currently enjoy. Reaching the goal may be an accomplishment of huge proportion BUT “getting there” is often more than half the fun.

Thursday, July 12, 2012


We often receive an unexpected boost from motivational quotes. Many originate within the world of sports BUT life is more than playing games – it is about dreaming what could be if only that which is could become more than anything we could imagine. It is about reaching beyond our wildest expectations to grasp a slice of reality from a pie not yet created. It is about setting goals beyond what is achievable so that we force ourselves outside of the box in which we are comfortable and move towards things yet to be considered. We all stumble and fall while travelling through life – the difference between success and failure being whether we stay down or we get back up.

Dreams take time, patience, sustained effort, and a willingness to fail if they are ever to become anything more than dreams – Brian Linkoski

It may be that those who DO the most, DREAM the most – Stephen Leacock

We are here to add what we can to life, not to get what we can from it – William Osler

It's the sides of the mountain that sustain life, not the top - Robert M Pirsig

The greater danger for most is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it - Michelangelo

We know what we are, but know not what we may be? - William Shakespeare

When the winds of change blow, some people build walls while others build windmills - Chinese proverb

There is no limit to what we can accomplish when we seek results and conclusions rather than recognition and credit. We can find ongoing satisfaction when we claim success during the journey – acknowledging each step taken as we run the race – rather than waiting until our quest has ended. We accomplish many things not yet imagined and bring to fruition countless things not previously realized as we seek to fulfill our dreams. Celebrate each accomplishment along the way rather than looking past your journey to find fulfillment only in reaching your destination.

While there is no “one size fits all” motivational solution, we cannot allow our eyes to wander from the prize if we seek to move from being “good” to being “great.” Though it may not “take a village” to raise our self-awareness, it DOES take commitment, determination and intentional action to move beyond the storms that often darken our lives to the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Think about how these thoughts might help change YOUR life – might make a difference in your perspective – then “like” this BLOG and comment by adding a favorite guiding principle of your own.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


We need others in our lives to challenge, validate and support our direction, decisions and aspirations. While most of us are able to move forward through much of life on our own, we can find encouragement to keep moving when we might prefer to rest if others are walking beside us along the way. Before we can expect others to accept us, however – to care enough about us to invest their time in making us better – we must first accept ourselves as we are THEN accept others as they are rather than as we think they could (or should) be.

The first step in this acceptance is to discover our own potential – fully accepting and assimilating the beauty of that reality into every aspect of our lives – before we could hope to have another see value or worth in us. We must identify our individual strengths and weaknesses, realizing the role that each plays both in our development AND to our detriment, then apply the positives while addressing and correcting the negatives.

When one looks for weaknesses, assigns fault, or emphasizes failure they tend to focus more on what “was not done” than on celebrating success. They often attempt to change behavior by identifying deficiencies that need altering (thereby becoming important as the identifier of another’s problems) rather than by encouraging the “cloning” of healthy behaviors they choose to exhibit themselves.

People acknowledging only their strengths often enter relationships to “fix” those around them – never fully exposing themselves to the scrutiny that true friendship brings. Those that limit themselves by accepting shortcomings as ceilings rather than floors often seek friendships that mask their deficiencies by making themselves feel “much better” than their friends.

Conversely, some people set low expectations to avoid ever being disappointed should they fail. What kind of a meaningful relationship could develop from the premise that what “is” will never change – that wherever a relationship began is as far as it will ever go? A relationship serves no valuable purpose if the melding of beliefs, values, ideals and accomplishments advances one individual more that it enhances the other – or the group to which each may belong. If one can benefit from the input of another, think how much could be accomplished when several come together to openly share thoughts and ideas without fear of reprisal as they seek to advance the interests of the whole.

Dreams are the destinations found at the end of the roads we choose to follow. If we set no expectations – fearing the pain of failure more than we anticipate the rewards of success – we survive but will rarely thrive. Those using failure as a springboard towards implementing a solution are more likely to succeed. In order to assimilate dreams into daily relationships we must ALWAYS believe that the “light at the end of a tunnel” is a door opening to opportunity not yet realized rather than a train heading towards you on a collision course.

Relationships are the foundation upon which life’s accomplishments are constructed. A relationship becomes successful when “we” becomes a given rather than “me” being the rule. While one man (or woman) may think he (or she) is an island, they will not experience all life has to offer until accepting the fact that others matter – that to live we must share life – and that we are only as strong individually as is the group of close friends we have around us. We lose much that life has to offer when we focus only upon where we want to go with no consideration of how to get there OR with whom we wish to travel. If we merely acknowledge our deficiencies as bumps in the road that disrupt or delay the accomplishment of dreams – without allowing them to forever detour our progress or derail our momentum – we will inevitably find a way to make anything happen.