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, November 12, 2012


Most people have met inspirational leaders during their lives. These individuals tend to be understated – rarely seeking attention for what they do as they prefer to celebrate what has been accomplished rather than worrying about who gets the credit for accomplishing it. They are typically the first to accept responsibility for failure, among the first to praise others for success and last to blame another – even if the “other” may have been at fault. They tend to go through life as the base of a pyramid, providing support for whole rather than seeking to be the stone elevated to the top in view of the world.
Inspirational leaders are not necessarily the captains of industry – they can often be the power behind the throne, making things happen through their subtle influence rather than their obvious demands. They are typically great communicators – be it through the written or spoken word OR through a poignant pause, a raised eyebrow, a strengthening smile or an encouraging nod of the head. What drives such individuals if not the external recognition? Recognizing that we all react and respond differently – and that we must learn from each other in order to grow – should be key factors in each of our own developmental process.

Everyone is encouraged to grow by something. Whether it is money, success, comfort, praise, attention, or accomplishment, everyone is motivated by something that is significant or inspirational within his or her own life. It is imperative that we identify what motivates those we influence when we manage people. Recognizing that “mature” workers prefer rules (and their consistent application) to an individualized approach of employee discipline helps us understand why they might react differently than a worker just out of college to the absolute interpretation of a rule or procedure. Understanding that some people prefer public recognition, freedom from structure and broad measures of accountability while others need enforceable standards of conduct and measurable objectives helps to clarify the friction that often exists between administrative and sales professionals. Values, experiences, socio-economic status, learning styles, and “stage-in-life” all strongly influence behavior, but there are several less objective, harder to define characteristics we should always examine if we are to succeed within (and contribute to) society.

There are many subtle motivational influencers we must acknowledge when managing people. These less obvious characteristics include:
  • What kind of recognition does one need for their thoughts, ideas and accomplishments? Must they receive public praise or are they content to see the results of their initiatives – preferring to work behind the curtains rather than in front of the crowd?
  • How much freedom does an individual seek within his or her daily work life? While some prefer to stretch their limits and experiment – learning from their successes AND their failures without fear of reprisal – others would prefer to avoid such learning opportunities by knowing exactly what to do and how to do it.
  • Does an individual gain more from the confidence that someone is there to “pull them along” or from the knowledge that someone will “push them into unchartered waters,” sometimes allowing them to sink or swim on their own?
Leveraging these subtle characteristics helps us to motivate others into acheiving their highest potential.

Good managers often praise some behavior while punishing others in order to foster measured growth while avoiding repetitive failure. Great managers anticipate pitfalls so they can leverage individual personality characteristics, confidence levels and risk tolerance when allowing others to succeed without inhibiting their growth. A good leader demands respect – a great leader receives it without asking. A good leader is able to accomplish change – a great leader initiates change exponentially greater than anyone might anticipate by leveraging the creative power of each individual working for him or her and channeling it towards the accomplishment of a common goal. A good leader pushes his or her people to perform – a great leader creates a vision then gets out of the way so that his or her people can move forward towards its accomplishment. While a good employee may accomplish assignments as instructed, a great employee moves beyond stated expectations to achieve what is possible rather than being content with what is probable. A good person recognizes who they are and what they can do – a person moving towards greatness recognizes (and accepts) their strengths and weaknesses (applying the one while working to eliminate the other). Recognizing our own motivators AND those that motivate others will help us to be better leaders. Understanding them – learning and growing from them – will help us to become better individuals.

Inspirational leaders put others ahead of themselves, lifting the wants and needs of those around them high upon their shoulders rather elevating themselves by placing them beneath their feet. They become the wind beneath the wings of those soaring to great heights as they rise to accomplish their dreams. They allow themselves to be pulled up by the accomplishments of others rather than climbing upon them as if they were rungs on the ladder to personal success.

Honor the great leaders you have observed in your life – those that have made a difference to you – by taking intentional action to strengthen and improve your own interpersonal skills so that you might be an example to someone else. Learn from your mistakes then communicate the lessons to those working with and for you. Grow from your failures then help others avoid them so they need not suffer needlessly. Seek strength from those able to provide it so you can encourage others less fortunate. Lead when you can, follow when you must, and ALWAYS seek to understand (and acknowledge) when you must simply “get out of the way” so that someone else can assume the responsibilities – someone that you may have encouraged and nurtured – to venture towards greatness.