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, January 2, 2013


I have often heard that nothing unexpected will ever happen in your life until you plan on doing something (obviously, you may be just as surprised by something happening if you do not expect or intend for anything to happen). You will never be lost If you do not care where you are going (nor will you ever arrive at an anticipated destination). You will never learn to stand for your own principles if you expect to rise to the top on the backs of others (though you may learn to react and respond to the unpredictability of others). You will never be disappointed when you fail if you have not established any expectations. In order to initiate change – another name for “resolution” during this time of new beginnings – we must keep an eye upon our destination as we intentionally seek direction along the way in order to achieve positive forward growth. A simple guide to use as we set these objectives could be the acronym S.M.A.R.T. Being smart about our choices, alternatives and options is probably the best way to insure that our resolutions come true during the coming year. Expanding this simple acronym, remember to:

Be SPECIFIC about what you want to accomplish. When we say specifically what we need to do, how we want to change, what we seek to accomplish, and what we expect because of our actions, we have a far better chance to succeed. If we enter a process having poorly conceived expectations and an inadequate definition of what constitutes success we will never know when we are done so we will be unable to bring closure. Being specific means knowing WHAT you want to do, WHY it is important, HOW you will address it, and WHO else should be involved to bring your specific goal to fruition. Resolving to “be a better person” is a great statement but what does it mean – and who would you have determine the success (or failure) of the change?

Utilize MEASURABLE STANDARDS to monitor progress and identify completion. While you might be able to accomplish much in spite of yourself, you must be able to measure progress in order to manage the process. Accomplishing an objective without relying upon landmarks along the way is like sleeping through an open-ocean crossing – you might make it to the coast but may not end up in the proper port unless you have measured your progress (and made decisions based on that progress) along the way. If you want to lose weight your goal will be more attainable if you say that you “want to lose 10 pounds in the next thirty days” than if you choose to “lose a lot of weight” without establishing when it will be accomplished or how much you wish to lose.

Set ATTAINABLE goals. Individuals setting New Year’s Resolutions often fail within this area. Too often people set their sights on the destination rather than focusing upon each individual step along the way. When we focus only upon the destination we may lose sight of trail we must take, potentially losing track of the twists and turns that might otherwise simply slow our progress. Should we wander from the path by focusing solely upon our objective (rather than thinking about the road we must travel) we may become lost in a swamp, never returning to the right course. Set goals that are just beyond your reach. One can fill a basket with apples from the ground beneath a tree (though many will be bruised and damaged). Reaching just above the lowest branches – just higher than is comfortable – will assure a much better harvest. Wanting only apples from the top of the tree might produce great fruit but the risk of falling might counteract the gains in quality.

Be REALISTIC with what you want to accomplish. Typically we must avoid the use of absolutes when establish goals. Saying things like “I will never break the speed limit” may be an admirable objective but probably not a realistic goal. Saying that “I will never eat sweets” may be commendable but cutting down a bit at a time – using measurable steps and definable markers along the way – is a much better way to accomplish your overall objective. (A friend once said that she was going to “give up purchasing chocolate for Lent,” an objective that DID NOT keep her from eating chocolate that someone else purchased.) The best way to run a race is one-step at a time – trying to cross the finish line before you have run the course is not terribly realistic.

Establish TIMELY parameters for the accomplishment of your goals AND for each step along the way. Once you have established specific goals or stated actionable resolutions that are measurable, attainable and realistic you must set a timeframe for their accomplishment. If you try to look too far down the road while travelling you will invariably lose your way amongst the clutter of everyday life. If you embark on your trip without a map, a compass, a set of instructions (or a Garmin), you may never make it to the end on time unless you define when you will be at each juncture of your journey. Keeping track of time keeps us on track most of the time. Do not be swept up in the “we will get there when we get there” mentality – intentionally seek results in order to finish the race in a strong manner. As a final timely note, do not make quiet resolutions. Shouting them from the rooftops (or at least sharing them with at least one other person) can lead to accountability and insure they are accomplished.

Be S.M.A.R.T.when establishing goals and making resolutions, S.M.A.R.T. when moving towards their accomplishment, S.M.A.R.T. when monitoring progress and S.M.A.R.T. by bringing closure to one goal before immersing yourself in the next. Utilizing S.M.A.R.T. process control truly ensures success – step forward by demonstrating your “S.M.A.R.T.(s)” today – both in your professional AND your personal life!