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!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Pride becomes a driver for many as they seek to bring to fruition their internal perceptions while de-valuing the thoughts of others. Selfless actions can become the impetus for monumental change if performed unconditionally without anticipation or expectation of personal reward. As you interact with others, learn from those that act selflessly in their pursuit of success, not those that pursue success through their self-serving acts. Make sure the friends you keep will work unselfishly in keeping the friendship you share – you can give unconditionally when you know that another will protect your interests as deliberately as you protect theirs.

One can be morally and ethically strong when they act with selfless sincerity. When driven by the whims of pride it is much easier to portray moral and ethical weakness to those around you. We tend to become more like those we associate with than those we wish to be – reflecting the values of those around us while keeping the attitudes we might wish to portray hidden deeply within the shadows. These considerations apply not only to the way we lead and live but also to the decisions we make regarding the individuals elected to represent our interests. Consider what drives your thoughts to action as your intentional actions bring to fruition the thoughts and dreams you have established for yourself.

Pride can destroy relationships. When one “loves (or finds great comfort in) him- or herself,” there is often very little room left for anyone else. The feeling of self-advancement caused by caring for “number one” can cloud what might otherwise be an obvious choice – blurring an otherwise clear organizational direction. When pride elevates one above needing others, failure becomes not a matter of “if” but rather of “when.”

Strong, unselfish leaders learn how to resolve what they can, recognize what is beyond their personal capabilities, and seek help (with humility) in order to initiate change when it is beyond their personal control. When a leader focuses more on results than worrying about who receives the credit, great things can happen.

When we seek true leadership, consider the following:

Prideful leaders:

• Devalue the work and efforts of others

• Claim individual ownership of the team’s results

• Consistently puts his or her own welfare ahead of their team’s

• Have difficulty hearing others when they make suggestions or try to initiate change

• Think they “know everything,” failing to see the need to “learn anything new”

• Will begin to spiral towards obsolescence once they feel they have “arrived,” unless they continue to seek life’s lessons from the people, places and things around them

• Use deferral is an ally – if unable to shift fault to others they often remain silent (as if nothing had happened)

• Find it hard to say, “Thank you” or “I’m sorry” (as they are not truly grateful nor are they often reticent)

• Do not feel compelled to move onward, upward, or forward. They are often so content with “what is” they could care less about “what could be.”

• Often feel and act as though “above” the rules (which obviously control or apply to someone else).

Unselfish leaders:

• Act with consistency and reasonableness – treating everyone equitably based upon their contributions to the whole (as opposed to equally where everyone is the considered to be the same)

• Speak with sincerity when giving directions, suggestions or comments – taking the time to explain not only the “what” but also the “why” of each request

• Explain both the rewards of accomplishment and the results of failure – then help those working for them discover the road to success

• Allow themselves to be lifted “up the ladder” upon the outstretched hands of those around them rather than “climbing over them as if they were the rungs of a ladder on the way to the top”

• Watch and listen attentively to others, acting appropriately upon what is seen and heard

• Give credit when it is due and provide guidance when change is required. Accept blame for the mistakes for which they are ultimately responsible while helping others learn from (rather than being destroyed for) their failures.

If you claim credit individually while shifting the blame or deflecting criticism towards others, you may find yourself alone at the top – but will be standing precariously upon the unwilling backs of those you stepped over while rising. If you speak softly as you act loudly – praise generously while accepting accolades reluctantly – you will find yourself pulling others with you as you rise to the top.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


I recently heard a speaker tell his audience to “be who you are because everyone else is already taken.” While he was speaking more to the tendency that individuals tend to blend into the environment in which they work and support the ideas expressed by those around them, I began to think of the ramifications his statement might have should we apply it to all aspects of our daily lives.

Would the world be different if transparency truly replaced the guarded face we typically present when interacting with others? If we were to transform the tolerance we often painfully exhibit when others are “not like us” into unconditional acceptance, would the world become a better place? If we could be more comfortable with who we are – readily exhibiting our strengths, acknowledging our shortcomings and intentionally acting to bring about positive change – might we more readily embrace the similarities and accept differences of those around us?

Accepting “who we are” does not imply we do not need to change. An individual is not a static point within a sedentary world. Rather, life “happens” and we must anticipate, respond and reply to the challenges it presents. Being “who you are” today does not mean you should be the same tomorrow – nor does it assume you are the same as you were yesterday. It means we should accept our skills, abilities, values, ethics, standards and persona as they are today so we can build upon them as we move towards a better tomorrow. While we can express happiness for another’s accomplishments we should not seek to establish our own sense of worth through their successes. We can learn from the experience of others but should not claim their success as our own nor seek to avoid all personal failure. Much growth can come from overcoming a personal defeat or shortcoming. While we can seek to be like those we respect, we must never reject who we are by attempting to become that which we are not by trying to transform into someone that exists only within our own imagination.

To become all that we can be we must first accept all that we are so we can move beyond the limitations of our present reality into the unlimited realm of possibility. We cannot fulfill our own potential when we are so busy immersing ourselves in the accomplishments of others that we have no time to enjoy our own successes. Do not dwell upon the things you do not have – carefully weigh your true needs (rather than "wants") then take intentional action to acquire those things that are truly important. Rather than worrying about the things you cannot yet do or the ideas you have yet to express, celebrate those things you CAN accomplish and the value of the thoughts you routinely bring to fruition. When we truly accept ourselves as being able to initiate change while acknowledging there are some things we are not yet to be able to accomplish – refusing to be content until we have done all that is possible to fulfill our own potential – we will find that "being ourselves" is not a bad thing. Perhaps it is good that "all the others are already taken" because our world needs them to compliment who we already are and to support who we have yet to become!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


With September’s arrival, we face a “return to reality” from the “lazy, hazy days of summer” to an abrupt re-entry into the working world. As we transition from what was once a slower time (though we have seen more work and less play making many people a bit touchy the past couple of years) to a more active fall, some thoughts that might help you transition from “personal time” to “corporate commitments” might include:

Never try to be someone you are not. Many individuals return to work with fresh “resolutions” to do something (or be something) different. Unless there is more gain from the change, however, than pain from NOT changing, such mid-stream corrections rarely prove effective. People change very little once they have established their basic values, patterns and thought processes. It is often easier (and more effective) to leverage an individual’s strengths than it is to try to change their shortcomings.

One must first imagine something as being a possibility before it can become a probability – yet "Dreams take time, patience, sustained effort, and a willingness to fail if they are ever to be anything more than dreams." (Bryan Linkoski). While “failure” is not usually a desired outcome, dreamers often focus their DESIRE to change around the real possibility that they may not (at first) taste success. Robert F. Kennedy said, "Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly." Individuals whom have truly made a difference in this world understand that failing to try is far worse than trying but failing. Much intentional thought and deliberate action is required to succeed at any endeavor. Failure is allowing a mistake to become a destination rather than a stepping-stone. If thoughts and dreams are to become reality, the word “impossible” must not exist.

Life is a series of starts and stops – of closed chapters and of new beginnings. If we are to see change as we move from one season to another, it is important that we not only recognize the need for altered behavior but that we also intentionally ACT if we expect behavior to change. Knowing facts and understanding how change happens does not insure transformation. Will Rogers appropriately stated, "Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there."

As summer ends – and the seasons of life begin anew – perhaps we could gain from the wisdom of Mark Twain who said "Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first." We are not “owed” success – we must first seek it then INTENTIONALLY ACT to make it become a reality. Make this the season of change by thinking big and acting audaciously without fear of failure – then incorporating the lessons learned into the inevitable success that will follow.