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!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013


The only certainty about change is that it will happen – regardless of what we do or say.  We can anticipate change – planning alternative reactions to the multitude of possibilities that might present themselves – but rarely can we predict with any degree of accuracy what we will be doing next year – or even tomorrow.  Change is far too elusive to be contained – its possibilities far too numerous to be compartmentalized within our finite minds.  In order to accomplish change we must act with purpose, refuse to accept the status quo – constantly identifying new possibilities through a process of screening or validating their potential benefit by measuring their rewards against the investment of time and effort required to bring them to fruition.

As we move from one year to the next, many make definitive resolutions of what they wish to change – proclaiming what will be different or what things in life they will leave behind – without ever taking the time to identify what must be changed BEFORE they move forward.  They often fail to realize their dreams because they do not identify and eliminate the behaviors that led to the need for change.  We cannot expect to see different results until we start doing things, thinking about our capabilities or reacting differently to the stimuli around us.  Change is as much about identifying where we want to MOVE FROM as it is about looking towards where we wish to be.  We need to establish goals and objectives in order to begin a journey towards change – but to accomplish change we must intentionally decide to move away from our past without becoming comfortable OR fearful within the “present” we find if we wish to embrace all the future might hold.

We must come to grips with who we are and what we do well if we seek lasting change.  We must embrace
our positive attributes while alienating the negative – and accept that where we wish to be IS an extension of where we are rather than a foreign soil or a different planet.  Change most often succeeds when it is gradual – when it builds from our strengths while minimizing our weaknesses – rather than proclaiming that things will be different without planning, preparation or self-awareness.  We can initiate and maintain change that builds upon what we do well – that does not require a complete transformation of who we are or what we portray ourselves to be.  It is relatively easy to change when we can alter a negative behavior or isolate a wandering thought to receive a greater reward than we would have had if we remained tied to what we did or where we were.  Self-directed change can be accomplished when the initiator of change is able to monitor progress, see results and continue to move forward because the positive benefits gained are greater than those received had change NOT been initiated.  Typically, resolutions that result in visible physical or behavioral change that others notice and comment upon passively feed one’s desire to maintain their change.  When obvious “positives” come from minor behavioral changes or altered choices, resolutions are often at least partially (if not fully) realized.

Other resolutions, however, while initiated through internal desires (one must WANT to change before change can occur) may need external oversight to keep the train on the track and moving in the right direction.  It is almost impossible to “resolve” to be something different or “wake up” as someone other than who we have always been without some kind of outside accountability.  Far too often when we make a personal commitment to alter our behavior we compromise our internal standards when “the going gets tough” by allowing ourselves to “stop going.”  We accept a level of “sameness” when we measure our results and answer only to ourselves.  While short-term change can be dictated, lasting change occurs ONLY when we internally formulate the “what”, fully realize the “why,” understand the “how” and are fully committed to the “what will be.”  Relying upon a trusted friend, partner or co-worker to discuss the distractions while holding us accountable to push forward will help us make significant and lasting change.  We must declare these resolutions publicly (even if the “public” to whom we declare them is but one or two) rather than keeping them secret IF we truly want help in our accomplishing transformational change.

As the New Year approaches, take the time to start fresh BUT hold on to those things that you do well –
that move you forward – rather than resolving to be drastically different.  Change is good – but sometimes choosing NOT to change can be just as rewarding.  Do not, however, accept mediocrity as a standard or find comfort in complacency.  When you resolve to change, do whatever it takes (internally OR with an external accountability partner) to initiate, monitor and maintain the change.  Resolve to make this year one of successful resolution so that you might be able to accomplish revolution in your life!

Monday, December 23, 2013


There are three ways we can try to change another’s behavior.  We can order someone to change, enforcing the altered behavior with penalties or threats (coercion).  We can provide a reward or some other external recognition that is of value to them should they change (motivation).  We can provide a path that will make them a better person or allow them to be something different than they are (inspiration).  Whether in a business or personal relationship – or any role in which we find ourselves interacting with another in order to accomplish a single objective – positive and meaningful change results from an intentional action (even if one intentionally decides not to act) rather than an accidental happenstance.

Supervisors often coerce individuals to change.  They issue orders, give directions and tell people what to do (and often how to do it).  Theirs can often be a world having few opportunities for independent action so they provide even fewer chances for people they supervise to act independently.  While supervision IS (thankfully) changing, many individuals leading work that can be accomplished without much training or preparation spend much of their time assigning work, reviewing processes and measuring results, leaving little time to invest on motivating or influencing altered behavior.  Rather than asking or laying the groundwork for
change, they direct and monitor activities so they can achieve.  We negate individuality when coercing change as responses become defined and expected rather than encouraged and supported.  In personal relationships, individuals who coerce others often tear them down to build themselves up – focus on “what went wrong” rather than celebrating “what went well.”  Coercive individuals tend to get what they want but may get ONLY what they want – and often find that their gains are short term and of limited value.  They find that telling may produce quick results but rarely does it produce the best result imaginable.

Managers often motivate individuals to change.  They identify alternatives, provide choices and give people reasons that make them want to alter their behavior.  Motivation to change can be as minimal as providing a tangible reward to induce action.  When combined with punishment for not changing, motivation can be a powerful means of producing results.  The problem with motivation, however, is that an external force must initiate the change.  In a working relationship, a manager often identifies what is best for the organization, the employee and him or her self then initiates action by spelling out what will happen if change does not occur (coercion) but also what will happen should favorable change occur (motivating the alteration).  As long as a manager is present to identify a suspect behavior and provide reason to change, good things will happen. Rarely, however, will an employee used to constant motivation see the need to change unless they continue to receive external impetus.  In a relationship, individuals who motivate often do so by first “breaking down” another (coercion) but then provide a reason that change would be beneficial (often benefiting the motivator as much if not more than the motivated).  Much can be accomplished when individuals are motivated to change – the problem with motivation, however, is that an object at rest (or an individual whom is content to do what he or she is doing) tends to remain at rest (or doing what has proven to be comfortable).  Until one is convinced that they must change their behavior if they are to receive different results, they will not experience growth.

Leaders inspire others to change.  Rather than telling people what must be done they show individuals a better way.  Rather than dwelling upon an individual’s negative behavior they reward positive efforts.  Leaders paint a picture of “what if” or “what could be” rather than one of “what is” or “what will always be.”  A leader makes people want to change in order to achieve something they wish to have, accomplish or become.  Inspirational change goes beyond telling (coercion) and past selling (motivation) – it leads another towards self-actualization.  Inspiration causes people to see why changes should take place, creating an internal desire to abandon who they are to become what awaits them.  Inspirational change is often caused by one’s desire to “be like” another or to achieve what someone else has accomplished – to make oneself (or another) proud of their actions.  In a personal relationship, inspirational leadership makes another want to join in (rather than follow) and to share the "road less traveled" (rather than taking the quickest, fastest route to nowhere).  Rarely will inspirational leaders tell another what must be done or how to do it – they allow their actions to speak louder than their words.  When we look to be that which has not yet been identified we initiate lasting change – which becomes the platform for continued growth.

Whether you choose to coerce, motivate or inspire change, recognize that an individual must see a reason to change before they will abandon their ways to pursue a new horizon.  We cannot CREATE change within an individual – we are only able to initiate it.  We cannot FORCE change within an individual – we are only able to guide it.  We cannot make another do that which they choose not to – we can only provide positive reasons to act AND identify negative consequences should they choose not to act.

Monday, December 16, 2013


Why are some people invigorated by a seemingly insurmountable task while others seem paralyzed by the same situation?   Some see the opportunity to make progress towards the completion of a project while others shut down unless they see an immediate conclusion well within their reach.   Other than the obvious propensity towards taking risks, there is one underlying characteristic differentiating the two attitudes – the ability to question “why not?” before acting rather than needing to understand “why” before formulating a plan and moving forward.

Everyone comes to a fork in the road – a decision point that forever changes what they have done, redirecting all efforts and activities towards the accomplishment of what they have yet to become.  Many attempt to “define” this moment through resolutions to change but find that shifting directions is a process rather than an event.  We cannot “will” ourselves to eliminate years of bad habits in one moment – it takes time to undo what we often do to ourselves.  “If only…” will never define “what is…”  When we trap ourselves within the world of excuses by asking what might have happened “if only” we had acted differently, we lose sight of reality.  Dwelling upon things NOT accomplished will never initiate change – it only reinforces your limitations (rather than celebrating your abilities).  

Some individuals act in accordance with established policy, practice or procedure whether or not that may be the best way to do something.  Others constantly question what they are asked to do as a means to test and temper the validity of an action prior to its being taken.  What good does it do to advance an idea unless it makes a difference?  One will never experience their full potential by seeking comfort within a world defined by other’s expectations.  Life is not a spectator sport – it requires careful consideration, intelligent planning and intentional action.  Most successful individuals establish basic tenants for their life – rules they use to hold themselves accountable for their own actions.  While everyone lives by some set of values and ethics, some of the rules that provide the “highest return on investment” would include the following:
  •  It is OK to make a mistake BUT do not repeat the same mistake.  It is OK to make a wrong
    decision – any well-thought out decision is better than no decision.  Learn from your errors, using them as a springboard to propel you forward.   People will usually work with you as long as you continue to show measurable progress or growth.  
  • Focus on things you can control.  Identify obstacles that are within your sphere of influence and actively seek to eliminate whatever hurdles you can by giving them up to someone who has the ability to influence them.  Likewise, seek to find the factors you cannot influence or control and give them up immediately.  
  • Lying, cheating, or stealing is intolerable.  If you are the best performer or individual with the highest results…but those results came through dishonesty or at someone else’s expense…you will not be respected, credible NOR working (or participating in an ongoing relationship) for very long.
  • Results are recognized – effort is merely a means to the end.  Seek not praise for working hard or contributing greatly – let recognition come your way through the results your effort achieved.  Do not begin your new year THINKING about change – take intentional actions to initiate change. 
  • All individuals may speak, question, and have a voice in any decision but that does not mean all votes are equal.  Life is not a democracy.  Input is valued but an individual responsible for the ultimate success of any endeavor must – and will - make the final decision.  Do not confuse “equal” with “equitable” as you seek to identify and establish new points from which you can leap forward during the coming year.  
  • There is nothing that “cannot be done.”  While some solutions may not be cost-effective, or are simply impractical or beyond our ability to implement, “I can’t,” “It’s not possible,” and other self-condemning attitudes are not acceptable.  Well thought-out solutions to issues you may encounter while doing your job (or during life in general) are not reasons for celebration, they are simply expectations of the way you should continually exhibit and utilize your abilities.

As the curtains of time fall on another year, focus upon the things you have experienced rather than the things that “COULD have been accomplished IF ONLY you had not run out of time.”  Somehow, building from a foundation of “what is” seems much more relevant to life than hiding behind “What could have been.” Seeking “what has yet to happen” provides a much better foundation upon which to build than does “Why try?"  The sands of time can either flow unobstructed to their logical end OR they can break out of their paradigm to become something never before imagined.

Monday, December 9, 2013


Have you ever met someone who sets a course in life based on how many others are doing the same thing? Rather than identifying problems, investigating their root cause and acting to resolve them they tend to take the path of least resistance and “go where others are going.” They often highlight the “wrongs” of others so
their questionable actions seem much more “right.”

The travesty in life is that far too many people diminish their potential by following the crowd.  They do what is popular rather than standing strong on their own values, judgments and decisions.  They choose acceptance by the majority rather than the criticism that standing alone often brings.  They accept the stagnation of “what is” rather that seeking the opportunities of “what could be.”  Their mantra might be “I am no different than anyone else” rather than “I am a unique individual whose potential is limited only by my own actions and behaviors.”

Following the crowd is easy – you do what others accept (and often what they expect), go where others are going, act as others act to blend in to their fabricated sense of community.  Only when one recognizes and acknowledges that much can come from seeking a different reality than that chosen by the crowd will he or she begin to realize that loss can become gain, failure can breed success, and the decision to stop can either be an end to an unfortunate set of circumstances OR the impetus to move forward.  It seems that each end is but a beginning, and every beginning concludes an end.  Followers of a crowd tend to accept the group’s vision as a final destination.

Those destined to be leaders gain confidence through training, affirmation, confirmation and acceptance by others whom they respect.  They seek strong mentoring from successful individuals.  They see the future as something not yet clearly defined – recognizing that as it is clarified and accomplished it will fade into the past, leaving room for more growth and continuous forward progress..

Had Fulton listened to “common wisdom” would he ever have invented the steam engine?  Would the Wright brothers have launched their dreams into the air had “the crowd” determined the way?  Is our nation stronger and more stable because our leaders make decisions based on polls that measure what the majority think they should do – taking the more acceptable route – rather than seeking potentially unpopular counsel?  Might we be in a better place if our leaders simply acted to bring the promises made to the people that elected them to fruition?

What might YOU be able to accomplish – what potential might you be able to realize – if you “marched to your own drummer” rather than listening to the tunes sung by others?  Make the most of your individuality in whatever you may say or do.  While many people try to be something or someone they wished they were or would like to become, there is only one you in the world.

As the “old year” winds down and the curtain is drawn on a new act, resolve to be yourself in whatever you
say and do – to seek your own answers to life’s complications rather than living as someone else might wish.  Claim your “wins” and admit to your failures – accepting (and sharing, when appropriate) the credit for things done “right” while assuming responsibility for mistakes (and resolving any hardships they may have caused) as you move towards the discovery of new opportunities.  When we misrepresent facts or exaggerate the truth we often find ourselves tangled within an inescapable web formed from our initial deceit (white lie or misrepresentation).  Rather than “living larger than life” during 2014, accept the life you were given and build upon it.  Leverage your strengths and identify any areas that might need to be improved.  Once identified, act to initiate necessary change so you can move forward.

Take a stand this coming year to do what is right REGARDLESS of the personal ramifications or pain that might result.  Remember that the hardest lie to live is one you have internalized as truth – particularly if those around you believe similarly.  Being true to yourself is one of the most noble and admirable decisions you can make – surpassed only by your being true to those around you.

Monday, December 2, 2013


We live in times of transition – of change from one existence to another.  Is it best to seek change at any cost OR approach it with caution, looking before we leap?  How much should we consider what we have before reaching for those things that have been outside of our grasp?  We may not know the road upon which we wish to travel or realize a final destination in advance of our journey BUT only by acknowledging we are not where we want to be will we ever become more than we currently are.  Until we actively and intentionally seek those things we have yet to achieve, we will never ever contribute beyond the level we have already attained.

Does the reason we change make a difference or should we consider any change positive?  Before leaping towards change, make sure you consider what you are leaving, why you are leaving it, what you wish to accomplish and how you plan to proceed.  Think about the positive AND the potentially negative ramifications of change.  Decide whether the unknown to which you gravitate is truly a better place to be than the comfortable place you have come to know and love before you jump as acting without passion is often worse than deciding not to act at all.  Consider the following when seeking personal or professional change:

LOOK TO BUILD UPON THE STRENGTHS YOU HAVE – THE THINGS YOU ENJOY DOING WITHIN YOUR PRESENT SITUATION – BEFORE TRYING TO ELIMINATE THOSE THINGS YOU SIMPLY DO NOT ENJOY.  When discussing change, many say their boss is intolerable, the environment oppressive, the work is not what they thought, a partner is not what he/she once was – the list is endless.  Unless one seeks to identify (and accept) his or her role in each negative, however, it is difficult to create lasting change by running from a bad experience.  Before blaming someone else for a bad situation, examine what role YOU may have played in its becoming tarnished and consider how YOU
might be able to help restore the luster.  Whenever you feel “the other side is greener,” consider that you once thought you were on “the green side.”  Identify not only “what changed” but also “what was right in the first place.”

IDENTIFY YOUR STRENGTHS WHEN CONSIDERING CHANGE.  Few people dwell upon what they like most about their situation – rather they carry on endlessly about what is “bad” about it.  If seeking a new job, people tend to seek positions having a similar title.  Individuals able to accomplish change tend to identify and build upon their proven abilities as they transition from one place to the next, leveraging what they HAVE rather than dwelling upon what they do not have or wish to achieve.  If seeking change, identify the strengths that have contributed to past successes then leverage them to create different opportunities or accomplish new things.

ISOLATE (AND ADDRESS) THE NEGATIVES WITHIN YOUR CURRENT SITUATION TO AVOID BUILDING THEM INTO YOUR NEXT OPPORTUNITY.   We often find the things we dislike most have little to do with our duties, responsibilities or actual day-to-day activities.  Many times the “things” driving us to distraction are environmental, people we work with, the level of responsibility (or lack of responsibility) we are given (or assume), the boss, the lack of attention we are receiving (without thought about the fulfillment we receive) – the list of “dislikes” could go on forever.  If these are the reasons for change, make sure to resolve them before transitioning to something else.  Before taking action to disrupt your existence, make sure that it needs disrupting!  A relatively minor issue should not force you into giving something up that you otherwise enjoy.

Change often requires you to take the “road less traveled” if you wish to arrive at a location with which you are unfamiliar doing things you have never done in order to complete something you have not yet accomplished.  We are often more comfortable doing what we have always done – and blaming others for what is not to our liking.  Those seeking change must act intentionally to do things in a manner that will allow for alternative results.

When seeking change it is important that we run towards opportunity rather than away from failure.  We tend to see the neighbor’s “greener grass” as we ignore our own lawn’s possibilities.  We see the results of another’s effort before fully investigating our own potential.  The precursor of change should be determining what you like most about what you are now doing and building upon that foundation.

When should we seek change?  ONLY when we are willing to walk away from the world we know to enter one we can only imagine by leveraging the strengths we possess rather than those we wish we had (or are only trying to find).

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Those who continually seek that which they do not have – who reach for the stars without knowing whether it is night or day – who always seem to want what others have because they feel their own gifts or abilities are somehow inferior – will probably always be lacking in some way or another.  They will never “arrive” as they are always “seeking to go” in a different direction.  They are like seeds drifting upon the winds – moving from one place to another without ever taking root so that they might grow.  They may enjoy many starts and stops in life – travelling upon a multitude of roads yet experiencing much frustration for they seldom remain on one path long enough to find its conclusion.  Rather than living their own life and experiencing the richness it might bring they seek those things others have accomplished as they skim their enjoyment from the surface of life’s ocean – plucking only the floating debris left behind rather than diving deeply to find treasures not yet discovered.

Those who feel they have all they could ever need – who do not desire any reward beyond what they have
achieved – who always find comfort in “what is” rather than being the least bit curious about “what could be” – will probably find contentment in their life but may never realize their full potential.  People finding happiness in the “here and now” without ever seeking to expand their horizons often live lives that are “safe” yet uneventful.  They find that travelling a familiar path to a known destination provides a predictable life – an outcome that may not excite but that will never disappoint.  They seek to avoid disillusionment by holding tightly to predictability – to eliminate defeat by seeking only that which will provide ongoing rewards (regardless of how large or small the reward might be).  Though many find comfort within the familiar walls of a predictable reality, few find the joy of discovery.  Though many find contentment within a predictable world, few find their dreams fulfilled or their future altered drastically when they seek shelter from life’s storms within their established safe harbor – when they forfeit any thought of the possible for a deeply rooted belief in the here and now.

The secret to being all that you can be – to balancing your abilities against your capabilities while blending the
comfort of where you are with the promise of what you might wish to achieve – is in setting realistic goals that stretch your reality from what is to what has not yet been accomplished.  Intentional action must be initiated if change is desired – for to see or experience new things one must physically, emotionally or perceptually alter their current situation so the confining walls of “what is” can be broken down and exchanged for the limitless sea of “what could be.”  While one may never fail if goals are not established, how can one measure progress unless an objective – or destination – has been determined?  How can one move forward if they do not know when to stop – or even when to start – doing something different?  While one rarely tastes defeat when they choose to live within their familiar world, they cannot savor those things not previously considered possible until they decide to do act differently rather than simply expecting altered results without changing their predictable behavior.

Life is not a spectator sport – it is an interactive opportunity to transform the present into the future (but does not do so on its own).   It provides us with the canvas upon which dreams may become reality (but we must
act if we are to create such a masterpiece for it will not materialize on its own).  Knowing the right answers to questions asked by another might help us overcome obstacles that could hinder our progress as we seek to accomplish defined things.  Leveraging our knowledge and experience to ask the right questions is much like planting seeds – if nurtured and cared for, our ideas will be brought to fruition.  When we act upon the information we receive from the questions we ask our dreams will become seeds ready for harvest. Recognize, though, that as much as it might wish to become an apple tree, a cherry pit will not grow into anything other than a cherry tree.  In the same manner, our ideas and dreams must be plausible – we must have the knowledge, skill and ability to act once a path to success has been identified – if we are to enjoy the things found through our seeking, receive the benefits of our asking and achieve the rewards of accomplishing the goals we intentionally and deliberately set.

Seek to find – ask to receive – act intentionally upon the information found and the wisdom received in order to achieve!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


Leadership and management are not synonymous.    Though some feel they must be “fully in control” if they are to be “in charge” of a situation – that to acknowledge challenge or criticism weakens their position of authority – they lose the power of leadership when they force others into being managed.  Living within the darkened confines of a box without windows, many feel that leading and managing are synonymous – that to lead they must actively and overtly establish themselves as being in charge – of managing and controlling the actions of another.  Managers need to plan, measure, monitor, coordinate, solve, hire, fire, and so many other things. Typically, managers manage things. Leaders lead people.  The definition of a leader is someone who has followers – people who believe in the leader’s values, abilities, and judgments enough that they are willing to support him or her as they are led towards a shared destination.  This is far different from managing someone’s actions or directing them to accomplish an assigned activity as no loyalty or belief is required when direction comes from a position of assumed power rather than one of sincere trust.

There is a difference between Wisdom and Knowledge.  Though some feel that knowing all the answers (even if they might not know all the questions) is tantamount to reaching for (and achieving) the brass ring as they ascend to life’s mountaintops, they fail to account for situational differentiation as one size does not fit all solutions.  They miss the subtle difference between wisdom and knowledge – failing to recognize that knowledge is a result of study while wisdom is the tangible result of one’s application of the knowledge they
have been able to accumulate.  They often feel that “knowledge is power” without thinking that false knowledge (or misinformation) might bring their empires crashing down.  We often find ourselves feeling sorry for the weak – those unfortunate souls unable to care for themselves.  Should we not be more concerned for those who live within the fragile shell of unearned success – for those living upon a foundation of insignificant effort and unwarranted accomplishment built upon the backs of those trampled into submission?  It is these seekers of wisdom who deceive themselves – who live on the surface of a bubble ready to burst – as they attempt to rise upon the wave of humanity they have put beneath their feet.  Wisdom implies a possession of knowledge – an understanding of people, things, events and situations – and the willingness to apply perceptions, judgments and actions in keeping with an understanding of what is the right course of action.  Wisdom is an insatiable need to move forward – to accomplish things – coupled with an unwavering ability to use good judgment.  Knowledge – information gathered through study or experience – is leveraged in the making of good decisions but without life experience and an understanding of how facts influence our decisions it can only point us towards a destination rather than leading us to a definitive end.

Those who cannot differentiate power from authority often diminish their ability to elevate themselves – choosing instead to raise themselves upon the work, effort and accomplishments of others OR minimize the
work of others so they appear to have risen without doing anything to advance their cause or purpose.  Individuals unable to accept success as a stepping stone rather than a destination – as a point from which to leap rather than a place upon which they settle – often find themselves chasing windmills rather than harnessing the wind.  They find that coasting downhill is easier than pedaling up and accept living in the valley rather than climbing to the next peak.  Those seeking power often do so at the expense of gaining authority.  Seeking power focuses efforts on the means rather than the ends – on how something should be accomplished rather than on what must ultimately be achieved – often inhibiting creative efforts that might exceed (rather than simply meeting) expectations.  Those accepting authority find themselves given more power than they could ever have imagined for when authority is assumed the responsibility (and reward) for outcomes is freely given.

Relationships fail when an individual tears down people rather than trying to lift them up.  I have seen otherwise successful individuals fail once they achieved their goal because they became content with the
steps taken (while looking in the rear view mirror) rather than looking forward to what might yet be accomplished.  I have seen people exert assumed power upon individuals to change them rather than influencing their behaviors through appropriate use of their authority.  To bring others along with us as we accomplish great things we must lead rather than push.  We must establish and demonstrate confidence in our own abilities before we can expect anyone else to have confidence in us.  Anyone can manage by imposing their will upon those around them – by forcing compliance through a position of power.  Only those willing to learn, to apply their knowledge and exercise their authority (by sharing successes and assuming blame) will become leaders – at work, at home or in their personal relationships.

Friday, October 25, 2013


We often overlook the fact that management catalyzes and nearly always epitomizes change. We create problems when we promote our “best workers” into leadership roles without providing them the tools needed to motivate others into doing the work they once accomplished. We continually move risk-averse “super-workers” into roles that require them to take ownership for (and lead) organizational change. We may inadvertently inflate one’s value while diminishing the value that others contribute to the team – a prideful condition that can render the new leader totally ineffective.

Pride can be good (as in the pride one feels when a team helps to accomplish a major goal and is recognized for its part in the process) or it can be bad (when it becomes the “me” driver of a “we” accomplishment). We must recognize the “good pride” and work to eliminate the “bad pride” if we wish to effectively motivate others. When making decisions that influence or control the actions of others, avoid the following:

• Prideful leaders devalue the work and efforts of others, often claiming individual ownership of the team’s results. When an individual consistently puts his or her own welfare ahead of their team’s, a self-centered blindness can keep them from hearing (let alone acting on) the suggestions of others.
• Prideful leaders have difficulty hearing others. Leaders need to know how to resolve what they can, recognize what is beyond their personal capabilities, and seek help (with humility) in order to initiate necessary change.
• Prideful leaders think they “know everything,” failing to see the need to “learn anything new.” Once a prideful leader feels they have “arrived,” unless they continue to seek life’s lessons from the people, places and things around them, he or she will begin a descent into obsolescence. When pride elevates one above needing others, failure becomes not a matter of “if” but rather of “when.”
• Deferral is an ally to a prideful leader, often shifting fault to others, often remaining silent (as if nothing had happened) if blame cannot be deferred. They often find it hard to say, “Thank you” or “I’m sorry” (as they are not truly grateful nor are they often reticent).
• Prideful leaders are not compelled to move on, up, or forward. They are often so content with “what is” they could care less about “what could be.” They often feel and act as though “above” the rules (which obviously control or apply to someone else).
• 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 a leader focuses more on results than worrying about who receives the credit, great things can happen. It takes intentional and deliberate action, however, if we want someone to become an exceptional, unselfish leader. We must encourage him or her to:

• 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.
• Allow yourself to be lifted “up the ladder” upon the outstretched hands of those around you – as they support you – 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 to what you see and what you hear. Give credit when it is due and provide guidance when change is required. Accept blame for the mistakes you make and help others learn from (rather than being destroyed for) their failures.

Remember to speak softly as you act loudly – praise generously while accepting accolades reluctantly – and you should be able to avoid the traps that pride places in front of you on your leadership.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

When Life Goes Softly...

Life is a gift – but we often feel we should be able to hold it in our own hands, unwrap whenever we want and play selfishly with it so that we might find gain when others feel pain. Anyone can steer a ship through a calm sea – it takes a master to find safety within a storm. We must learn that life provides us with a plethora of opportunities and a fistful of challenges – that there are some things we can control and others that will only frustrate us should we resolve to understand them. We tend to compartmentalize and restrict ourselves when we focus upon how many breaths we are given in life – opening up our horizons to a world of possibilities only when we seek moments that take our breath away.

I have been exposed to both happiness and grief recently – both the beauty of the Creator and the loss that accompanies His creation’s departure. I have seen incomparable power in the mountains, rivers and streams He created and experienced the hollow feelings that one’s unexpected death left behind. I was brought to the heights of this world when a loved one’s sickness was overcome yet brought to my knees when one far too young was taken away. As humans, we have an issue of control – wanting to control all things that touch our lives so that we can have what we want when we want it. As a point of reality, we must recognize those things we can control, those things that are out of our control, and seek the wisdom to know the difference.
I wrote a poem for a dear friend about both the hope and the futility that life provides. Several of my close friends are going through serious health conditions right now – and I recently unexpectedly lost a cousin who was close to me growing up. It is funny how reality strikes home when someone close to us – or even one our own age – passes on.

The Breath of the Night…

He came lightly upon the breath of the night…
Dancing with reckless abandon across the meadows of their minds…
Flying carelessly through the shadows of their souls…
Seeking only to bring joy to those who would know him…
Sharing himself freely with any who might care.

He came lightly upon the breath of the night…
Lighting but for a moment before moving on…
Touching down but long enough to hint of his presence…
Leaving those who missed him searching for meaning…
And those he touched during his brief stay wanting for more.

He came lightly upon the breath of the night…
Blending with the quiet whispers of the ocean…
Warming the cool, damp evening air…
Bringing the light of day to an oppressive existence…
Opening the eyes of those too blind to otherwise see.

He came lightly upon the breath of the night…
Dreams of his laughter filling the now silent air with music…
Thoughts of his smile making the brightest of stars seem pale…
His brief reality lifting the veil from a world of sorrow…
Shining brightly within a troubled night trying to hide dread within its darkness.

He came lightly upon the breath of the night…
His brightness a contrast to the world’s muted shades of grey…
His presence a member within the hearts of all who would have known him…
Forever changing a world into which he chose to only briefly enter…
Now looking down upon us cradled safely within the arms of God.

For he left as suddenly as he came…
Not given the time to accomplish all he had intended…
Not fulfilling the promise of his physical being…
Not touching the lives that may have thrived in his presence…
Leaving lightly upon the breath of the night.

Perhaps we could find purpose in each passing – find joy in each moment – rather than holding on so tightly to our losses that we are stifled and destroyed. Perhaps we should embrace the fact that we cannot control everything nor ever know the reasons that things happen. Perhaps it is better to ask the right questions – those that help us find meaning within (and because of) each moment – so that we can eventually move forward towards the hope and promise of brighter tomorrow as we, too, drift lightly upon the breath of the night.

Friday, October 18, 2013


People face crossroads throughout their lives.  Many stressful situations are caused by unavoidable circumstances within our daily lives.  While personal issues are frequently identified as being a major “cause” of workplace inefficiency and lost time, employers must also share the blame for creating crisis in people’s lives.  A realist might ask, “How much stress do YOU add to people’s lives?”  A pessimist might question if “you EVER enrich another’s life.”  An optimist could query, “How good are you at creating choices for people?”  However one looks at it, we are all major contributors to the happiness (or sadness) of others.  Take a moment to answer the following questions – all real examples of the things we hear every day – before you decide how “good” you are at providing a well-defined pathway to success for others.

  1. T   F I know what I want and expect others to do things the way I want them done.  I should not have to tell people how to do things or what to do – they should already know what is expected if they are to be successful.
  2. T   F People should bring experience and professionalism to the table.  I expect others to utilize their skills to identify issues and resolve them, not to ask me stupid questions that waste both our time.
  3. T   F A person is paid to perform a job.  Receiving a paycheck should be reward enough for a job well done.  When someone does something wrong they will know it – as they should know when they did something right.  People should not need senseless praise all the time!
  4. T   F I worry enough about the economy, my job, my friends, and my problems. I do not really need to trouble others with things that bother me that they cannot help me control.
  5. T   F In order to become successful we need to be in control at all times.  Listening to those around us can slow us down and “muddy the water” so we do not accomplish our goals on a timely basis.

If you answered TRUE to more than 4 of the questions you are probably rather autocratic in your approach to life – perhaps causing more than a reasonable number of moral and ethical dilemmas to those around you – forcing people to either accept “your way” OR take a pathway that leads from your influence.  If you answered FALSE to 4 or more of the questions, you may have a hard time imposing your will – and an equally hard time confronting (and addressing) things that really bother you.  Recognizing the “false” portions of each question – letting them override the “true” portions – could indicate a lifestyle waffling somewhere between leading and lagging…between paving the way and filling the potholes left behind by others.  If you were more “centrist” in your decisions – recognizing both true and false in each question – you probably share a number of “pathways” with others, allowing them to forge ahead on their own but providing them with a safe harbor to which they are comfortable returning when necessary.

Dealing with people is an art.  In order to provide a “safe passage,” people must look at most questions in
life as being partially true and potentially partially false.  Once done, clear and concise choices can be presented.  How might a true “road builder” look at the above questions?

  1. Knowing what you want is half the battle.  Expressing what you want WITHOUT stifling creativity by saying how to do it is the other half.  Question 1 is half-right.  People should not always be told how to do things but they MUST be pointed in the right direction (and allowed to “own” their choices and accept the consequences of their decisions) if they are to achieve fulfillment from their efforts.
  2. People often DO bring professionalism and expertise to with them.  All people, however, bring a different level of risk acceptance with them.  Exhibiting “hesitance” does not necessarily mean “inability.”  As soon as you express (or in any way indicate) that a question is “stupid,” you have lost respect for there is no easy way to recover from an obvious “dismissal.”  Do not expect people to do everything without some form of feedback or direction from you, however.  Allowing another to run blindly down their own path all the time, without direction, is encouraging them to chase rabbits  or grasp onto moving windmills – activities that might provide a sense of being busy with very few concrete results.
  3. People ARE compensated to perform their jobs but they must also receive appropriate praise and effective correction – targeted towards improved performance – in order to continue doing the jobs they are paid to do well.  They must receive rewards for their efforts but also be allowed to learn from their mistakes (without fear of losing not only the reward but also the opportunity to continue seeking it).
  4. Worrying about real concerns is a good thing.  Hiding those fears from others that could help you is not.  No man (or woman) is an island.  Everyone must resolve some issues on their own BUT helping others and acknowledging when others could help you (then accepting that help) will make you a healthier, happier person.  We can often find strength and support when we reveal both our vulnerability and our humanity.  Being “above it all” can often build barriers that interfere with the "approachability" we provide others.
  5. It is good to listen to be in control.  If being in control, however, is at the expense of other’s ideas and
    input – at the cost of allowing a “false start” that might ultimately accomplish a greater gain – then perhaps our road should be the “one less traveled” rather than a direct highway to a defined and limited destination.  Listening to others before setting a course often makes the path much smoother for everyone.

Sometimes a “definite maybe” is the best way to deal with people. Provide a pathway by looking back while moving forward…by reaching out while holding on…by running ahead while encouraging others to follow. Treating people as if their road were straight and narrow does nothing to help them choose the best paths in life.  Helping them to identify the best way to go, then potentially limiting their choices so that the path taken is the best possible choice (but THEIR choice) is the best way to provide pathways to success for those around you.

Thursday, October 10, 2013


Some live in the past – holding on to the accomplishments of the past far too long.  They value tradition (often to the point that they will not venture from the past into the present).  They may have pictures of old teams and outdated certificates on the wall – living within their memories – holding on to days gone by as if they were still the most important times of their life.  These people find comfort in knowing “what was” rather than thinking about “what could have been” or “what might yet be.”  People living within their past often hold on to “the old ways” because they worked – never imagining they may not continue to work in a changing world.  “Fiddler on the Roof” was a movie about these individuals.  Strong, value-driven and steeped in tradition, the culture of the times often held onto tradition to guide their daily lives – but the family depicted found that letting go of the past was an essential part of moving into a modern era.  Individuals holding onto “what was” as they live “what is” often seek obstacles that might prevent them from changing rather than actively seeking opportunities that might lead them to things not yet realized.

Most individuals live in the present – finding both satisfaction and a belief that they are achieving their fullest
potential by fulfilling their routines and daily activities.  They rush from one task to the next without questioning why, knowing only that one thing must be done before moving on.  These “present dwellers” are firefighters.  They see a problem, throw themselves fully and totally into its resolution, then move on to the next issue.  They are always on the move, often frustrated (and seemingly frenetic), frequently too busy to enjoy the beauty around them.  They often appear to travel well beyond the speed of light – buzzing through anything unfortunate enough to be in their paths – moving erratically towards what they are convinced is a well-defined destination.  While these people are valuable “doers,” they may be unable to enjoy the fruits of their labor because “so much needs to be done in so little time,” usually running out of month before their projects are done and losing sight of “the big picture” as they rush to accomplish the “means” without thinking about the “ends.”   They may find themselves too busy “doing for today” to ever “dream of tomorrow.”

A precious few live within the world of “what could be…if only.”  They do not limit themselves to “what must be done” for they would prefer to dwell within the realm of “why not try doing it differently?”  Rather than accepting that tasks and objectives must be accomplished in a prescribed order they live in a world that questions the reason behind every action they take.  While they consider the past, they refuse to dwell within it – or to limit their possibilities to the realities of others.  Rather than perfecting “what is”, they prefer to do what must be done to build towards what has not yet been fully formulated.  You can recognize these individuals by their passion – by their outward expression of the attitude that nothing is ever quite good enough because it can always be improved.  They cannot seem to stop themselves from saying things like “…that is really good, but have you thought about…” or “That is a great start…” when you present a solution for their consideration.  Accepting “what is” as a destination is not an option as they prefer to linger just long enough within “today” to gather the resources necessary for them to spring towards the next opportunity.  The movie “Field of Dreams” would depict this world.  Considered by many to be dreamers who not only fail to act responsibly but also fail to recognize reality – these individuals truly believe that if they build a dream, something will come of it (and if they accept the status quo, nothing will ever change).

Where do you live in this world?  Do you live in the past – anchored within the tradition that has guided
people to security for years?  Do you live in the present – seeking to accomplish life’s daily tasks and challenges?  Do you live for a yet to be identified future – seeking progress today so that you can move into tomorrow?  Not everyone can be a futurist (nor can we all be historians or content to accomplish daily tasks).  We do, however, need components of all these characteristics – people dwelling within the past, the
present, and the future – to have a winning team.  It is important that we identify “where we live,” however, then embrace it as move forward.  In order to contribute to a thriving organization one must recognize and acknowledge his or her strengths (values and beliefs) and add to the overall good of their community.  When we recognize and embrace individual uniqueness – actively making it a vital part of each relationship (whether at work or at home) we begin to define what could be rather than focusing upon what is (or has been).  Only when one is able to move past yesterday’s history, beyond the (far too often) mundane realities of today while seeking the unknown possibilities posed by an undefined tomorrow will he or she be able to move from “what is” to “what could be.”  By focusing more on “why not?” than “if only…” you may surprise yourself how nicely your little world fits into the universe around you!

Thursday, October 3, 2013


There are many reasons we fail to live up to our full potential but the most common are often tied to inappropriate (or unexpressed) goals, inadequate (or unstated) expectations, and a lack of accountability.

If you never set a goal or plan for an outcome you cannot know when you have reached a milestone – when you have achieved something truly meaningful – because you will not know when your beginnings should end nor when your ends should signal a new beginning.  Anyone can hit an unidentified target BUT claiming that a random result was an intended consequence creates minimal value in the big picture.  If we were to shoot an arrow towards an open field – hitting nothing but air – would we succeed because we hit the “nothing” we were aiming for or would we “fail” because we inadvertently hit the ground where our arrow came to rest?  Shooting an arrow at a target establishes an expectation that the bulls-eye is our objective (which, if missed, would represent failure).  Unless (and until) a goal or objective is established, no measure of success can be identified.  Far too many managers try to lead by projecting an employee’s current abilities forward without clearly establishing how their abilities contribute to an organization’s success.  Far too many relationships are built upon a foundation of “what might become” rather than one of “what is” projected to “what we want to become” through hard work and intentional actions.

If you wander aimlessly without having a destination in mind you may never be lost BUT you will not know when to stop seeking – when to abandon one path in favor of another.  Effective managers recognize the need to tell employees how their individual efforts fit into the “big picture.”  Until (and unless) one knows where they are going they will not know when they arrive – they cannot know whether to stop or continue moving forward towards a destination unless one was at least tentatively identified.  Without knowing how their individual contribution completes the whole one will focus more on the “means” than the “end.”  Strong leaders encourage employees to stretch their capabilities in an effort to bridge any gap that might exist before them while seeking to arrive at a pre-determined (and communicated) destination.  Make sure that employees know what is expected of them and what will result from their meeting expectations (OR what might befall them should they fail to meet expectations) and follow through on your promises.  Say what you mean and do what you say WITHOUT EXCEPTION to establish the ends you need and the means you are willing to invest to get there.

If one is not held accountable for the results of their actions – if neither punishment nor reward result from a
conscious action taken in response to a situation or set of circumstances – how can we expect an individual to exhibit exceptional performance?  When we allow someone to act in a given manner – whether it is appropriate and good or inappropriate and destructive – we effectively set the “bar” and cannot expect any more (or less).  We cannot change behavior without first drawing a line in the sand by saying what was once good enough will no longer be acceptable.  Declaring the need for change, however, is not enough.  We must set acceptable targets (for which to aim) and establish meaningful goals (for which to reach).  We must then COMMUNICATE these goals to all involved, holding them accountable for the actions necessary to implement the change or accomplish the objective.  The accomplishment of a defined objective becomes the basis for further growth – the springboard for ongoing activity – but unless we know that a goal was achieved we cannot know that one journey has ended so that another can begin.

One cannot easily leap from the ground to a treetop without either carefully climbing the tree or using a ladder to reach the top – one planned step at a time.  One cannot reach the fertile valley beyond a mountain range without either climbing to the summit or finding a pass that leads around the seemingly insurmountable object.  One cannot achieve that which they do not believe to be a possibility.  We can accomplish much more than we might believe possible when we establish realistic targets along the way – pausing to celebrate each accomplishment before we move on to the next.  Greatness comes to those recognizing each stop is but a respite rather than accepting it as a final destination.

Believing all things are possible opens the door to unlimited success.  To achieve this success we must give ourselves permission to “lose” along the way (learning from our losses so they are not repeated) and move steadfastly forward (even if we begin to slide back) – celebrating progress rather than waiting to acknowledge only the end result.  To some, “good enough” is all they wish to achieve.  To those who truly believe that all things are possible, however, the ability to achieve is defined by what has yet to be done (rather than what has been accomplished) and success is measured not by the number of goals reached but rather the number of accomplishments achieved along the way as they ultimately reach (and re-establish new) objectives.

Friday, September 27, 2013


Many of the decisions we face everyday will be made based on “what feels right” rather than a well thought out “cause/effect” response to a defined set of facts – a definitive “cookbook” recipe of right and wrong. Good decision makers see a high percentage of their “judgment calls” result in successful outcomes – often because they listen to the facts available, make a decision ONLY AFTER considering not only what could go wrong but also what could go right, and anticipate alternative directions and responses prior to their becoming necessary. People who fail to thoroughly think through the potential results of their actions BEFORE initiating them often create more negative or “questionable” results than they do positive and should probably avoid roles where making sound decisions is an essential part of their daily routine.

Good judgment is the basis of all positive outcomes when making decisions and is truly an experience-based characteristic. In order to make more “good judgments” than bad we must actively seek a variety of experiences upon which we can draw to make good choices – we must learn from failure or we will fail to learn. Rarely can we assume a position of authority without having first experienced many different roles and responsibilities that allow us to win and to recover from our losses. Visualizing how one situation applies to another – dealing with the practical application of situations rather than just the theoretical facts – is a transition that many find difficult. (Probably the TWO exceptions to this rule are being in a personal relationship or being a parent. No experience or prior knowledge is typically available and there are no “proven methods guaranteed to work.” Reading a book will give you one person’s perspective. Reading many books will provide multiple perspectives. LIVING THROUGH the situation is the only way to gain your own perspective! Perhaps that is why so many people feel at a loss when sharing a relationship or raising children!)

Good choices are more often the result of many small decisions – seeing and reacting to how they impact
each other on the road to a major decision – than the infamous “ah-ha” moment creative and innovative trainers attempt to reveal. Great decisions are the result of careful analysis, thorough investigation, and a conscious, willful implementation of an action plan intended to initiate cautious forward movement. We never have all the answers – nor should we assume we have even asked all the right questions – but when we choose to move it MUST be with a sense of confidence that inspires others to follow.

We must continually expose others within our sphere of influence to new and different situations as we apply our knowledge – allowing them to grow by failing and feeling safe in doing so – if want them to develop their own breadth of experiences from which future decisions can be made independently from our own. Until another is developed and ready to carry on for us we cannot ascend the “ladder of success” as we will never make it past the first rung. When we make ourselves irreplaceably valuable at responding to and putting out fires we find our skills and talents cannot be “spared” to do anything else. The best “doer” in the world often fails as a leader because he or she fails to release what they did well when trying to assume new responsibilities – serving two masters rather than mastering one.

Making good decisions is part of a process rather than an event. As situations change, so should our willingness to shift direction. Once decisions are made we should move on to other challenges rather than dwelling on the action taken and agonizing on those not taken. Time does not stand still nor rest on its laurels - Do YOU?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


Life is full of opportunities, challenges, suggestions and directions – all working to guide our paths as we accomplish our daily activities.  While many have adopted “gems of wisdom” handed down through previous generations to help guide their actions, influence their decisions and help establish their sense of values, over the years (along with the “golden rule” and other biblical principals) I have developed several concepts that help mold my personal decisions (that I have listed below).  When we feel we “have arrived” and know it all – when we can stop learning and coast through life with the knowledge we have accumulated – is when we actually stop living and begin only to exist.
  • If given the option of doing something right or doing it quickly, choose doing it right. 
  • Do not make a decision until (and unless) you are willing to accept the consequences of your actions.
  • Newton had it right – every action results in an equal and opposite reaction.  Do not act
    without considering what will change, who will be effected and whether more good than bad will be brought into play.
  • Life is not an isolated event having one beginning and one end.  It is a series of starts and stops
    – of new beginnings arising from short-term plateaus rather than of abrupt endings without thoughts of continuation.  If you do nothing else in life, enjoy what you do.  If you seek nothing else from life, seek what you wish to accomplish.  Should you ever feel that “all has been said” and “all has been done,” run quickly from where you are – get back onto the circle of life where every end is but the beginning of something new and different.
  • Spending time to improve ourselves often provides an immediate return.  Spending the same time to improve others pays dividends in the future that are incalculable to us today.
  • It is better to live life without fearing death than to fear death so much that you fail to live life. 
  •  Life is full of activity and of rest – of visions and of voids.  Refresh during times of rest so you
    can accomplish much during times of activity.  Perhaps more importantly, make sure no void ever goes unfilled.
  • When you say things without worrying about how they will affect others you build a ceiling that limits how far you may rise.  When you say things without caring how they affect others you reduce others so that you might easily rise above them without having to elevate yourself.  Only when you rise with the help and assistance of others will the sky be your limit.
  • Turning out the lights indicates closure on things we have accomplished.  Reaching for the stars exposes new opportunities we have not yet seen.  I would prefer spending my time looking into the light than staring into the darkness.
  • When reaching out to help others, make sure you provide the tools they need to accomplish great things rather than only the great things they want.  All your help and efforts become but a disservice if an individual receives “the world” without learning how to achieve (and maintain) greatness through their own efforts and abilities.

Please feel free to reply to this list with additional insights and “rules of engagement” you rely upon to help develop your actions, interactions and attitudes.

Monday, August 26, 2013


Many individuals seek to make a difference – to become an integral part of the solution rather than a major part of the problem – but fail to recognize that personal credibility (the key to being integral) is established through the quality (rather than the frequency) of contributions.  Credibility is determined not by what (or how much) we say but by what HAPPENS when we act on our thoughts, concepts or directives.  Implied by this statement is that to establish credibility we must:

  • Hear issues with an open mind
  • Analyze each situation to identify potential solutions
  • Consider both positive and negative implications before implementing a solution
  • Initiate change by acting on our ideas, and 
  • Accept that changing OR staying the course are both intentional actions that produce consequences.  

Information is rampant in today’s society.  Electronic communications, on-line searches, business magazines, newsletters, and “wiki how-to’s” are available to anyone opening their mail or turning on their computer.  There has been a proliferation of “personal coaches” seeking individuals needing to be led down the narrow road to success and “cannot fail” solutions to everything from the stock market to personal relationships.  The market is flooded with “self-help” books written by “world-class experts” attempting to impart their infinite wisdom to a searching public.  With all this data available, why would an individual seek credibility by simply FINDING information that someone else could use to develop a solution?  Merely finding material, or referring others to where it can be found MAY establish you as a resource but WILL NOT add to personal or professional credibility in today’s information age.

In order to become an integral part of the solution we must take proactive steps that transform information into action by advancing thoughts and ideas to reality.  We must also accept not only the responsibility for taking action but also accountability for the results that our actions produced.  Far too many individuals are happy to give suggestions AS LONG AS someone else assumes the risk while providing them the rewards.

Anyone can find data and figure out what to do once a problem has materialized.  To become integral we must learn how to ANTICIPATE NEEDS for solutions by knowing enough about them to predict what might go wrong BEFORE the train derails.  Just “doing” your job or “avoiding conflict” in a relationship rarely provides the insight needed to become an integral partner.  We must delve deeply into the inner-workings of an operation (or a relationship) to understand the “why” rather than simply accepting the “what” of a situation.  The first step towards “becoming integral” is a self-initiated one of becoming knowledgeable – and having the courage to act once we come to an understanding of the situation.

In order to establish credibility we must learn how to INTERPRET not only the situation but also the available data so it that can be transformed into relevant information that allows us to take intentional actions to resolve a problem or improve a situation.  If the world needed ONLY data and information, why would it need you?  ALWAYS seek to add value to the data you find or the information you acquire by interpreting it and communicating it in a way that can be used by the audience – whether at work or in your personal life.  Recognize that this communication will vary based upon the audience – and that your conversation must be sincere and believable (rather than shallow or patronizing) to be seen as “credible.”  Gains (or losses) of credibility will be determined by:

  • The value you add to those that HEAR your communication and
  • The ACTION they can take because they believe your solutions to be:
    • Practical (or realistically innovative)
    • Feasible (or strongly possible)
    • Understandable (rather than beyond their understanding), and
    • Relevant (providing something of value “in return” for the risk they take when acting)
You must show how the information you provide can generate solutions (or positive change) if you seek to
become an integral part of a team (or a relationship).  Information without application is like a tire without air – it exists but is not nearly as useful as intended.  A tire becomes a valuable tool when we pump air into it – a worthless foundation should it remain flat.  We will never become a part of the solution until we establish our credibility with others by their seeing us as a valuable, viable and essential resource.

We become integral by imposing our own will rather than waiting for permission from someone else – by taking action rather than waiting for instructions or assignments.  We will never become more than others perceive us to be if we limit our contributions through an aversion of risk or an avoidance of independent actions (and the acceptance of their consequences).  To fully realize our potential by becoming an integral part of the solution rather than a replaceable (and expendable) part of the problem we must allow our thoughts, ideas and the consistently positive results of our actions convince others we are what we seek to become.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


Birthdays tend to bring with them a certain nostalgia – perhaps more as we experience “milestone” days growing older than when we were more carefree (and definitely invincible) during our youth.  Some see a birthday as a time of celebration – of having achieved another year of wisdom, maturity or success.  Others see them as signposts along the road to life – as bumps in the road.  A minority see them as mile markers counting down to “the end of the line.”  (Most probably view birthdays as markers that tend to grow closer together as we age but that are simply sign posts along life’s highway – a winding road with a definite beginning that has not yet been mapped to its final destination.)

While are not all given the same number of days, all ARE provided the same number of hours each day.  Some seem to find limitless ways to spend their hours while others seem to invest their limited hours in ways that seemingly waste their days.  We are not promised anything in life other than change itself – nor are we guaranteed any level of greatness other than what we establish by leveraging the talents and gifts we choose to nurture and grow.

It seems that this summer has been one of darkness – one in which far too many individuals have been plucked from this earthly journey to begin the next – leaving us sooner than we might have wished (or anticipated), often without finishing all they had started or starting all they had hoped to accomplish.  While we prefer the light of day, it is often the threat (or realization) of darkness that awakens us to the reality of our fragile existence – that makes us recognize that our days may be numbered but that does not mean that our accomplishments must be diminished or our contributions to life reduced.

How do you use YOUR gift of time?  Are you a productive and contributing part of life’s solutions or a disruptive part of its problems?  Are you a dreamer seeking new roads that have yet to be traveled or one content to rest on the laurels of past success and accomplishment – stifling all desire to identify new horizons? Are you a seeker of opportunity or an opportunist awaiting the next windfall?  Our perspective on life will color our reality, establishing the backdrop for all that we are AND a launch pad from which those we influence are able to move forward.  It is not the “falling” in life that is most significant; rather it is the “getting up” and the “moving on” (or the staying down and awaiting attention) that makes us who we are.

We tend to fulfill our potential – to establish and maintain control over where we are and what we do – when we intentionally act upon a thought or idea.  We allow ourselves to be controlled by another (thought, idea, individual or situation) when we choose NOT to act (either intentionally or inadvertently) upon the opportunities a new challenge might provide.  We choose to seek or to stand – to climb or lie down – through our responses to the opportunities we pursue.  We do not live upon the surface of a smooth and tranquil sea swept clean each night by a warm and welcoming  wind but rather within a mosaic built from the choices we make (or choose not to make) – formed by the experiences we choose and the relationships we have experienced.  I reflect, on this birthday, and thank those who have had a part of making me what I have become as I continue to seek what has yet to become of me.