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, July 23, 2013


A fellow Board Member on a local non-profit organization recently sent me a list of axioms he uses to help guide his life. The dictionary tells us that an axiom is “A self-evident or universally recognized truth; an established rule, principle, or law; a self-evident principle or one that is accepted as true without proof as the basis for argument.” While Don provided me with nearly 100 bits of truth, several caught my attention:

“INDIVIDUALS UNABLE TO SPEAK POSITIVELY ABOUT WHAT THEY DO ALWAYS RESORT TO SPEAKING NEGATIVELY ABOUT WHAT ANOTHER DOES.”  Far too many individuals find it easier to bring someone down to their level than to bring themselves to a higher plain. We cast stones without thinking that our own glass house could be easily shattered. We console ourselves by justifying that “everyone else does it” so it should be OK (even when we know what we are considering is wrong). Though elevating yourself is often far more difficult than pulling others down, we gain far more by lifting ourselves up – bringing others with us – than we could ever achieve by immersing ourselves within a pool of mediocrity.

“IF YOU CANNOT BE KIND, AT LEAST HAVE THE DECENCY TO BE VAGUE.”  I think of a saying from the classic Disney tale, Bambi, when I read this one. As Thumper’s father told him, “If you don’t have something nice to say about someone, it is better to say nothing at all.” It seems that our society revels in the “details of the fall.” We do not seek answers to unfortunate situations so that we can avoid them ourselves – rather we seek all the sordid details so that we can validate our own standing as being better than that of those around us. We do not seek details so that we can help – rather we seek them so that we can embellish them as we talk to others. Perhaps we SHOULD try to help more as we hurt less – seek to provide a cushion upon which others might land rather than an open abyss into which they will fall.

“EVERYONE BRINGS JOY TO MY OFFICE, SOME WHEN THEY ENTER, OTHERS WHEN THEY LEAVE.”  OK, so this one is tongue in cheek – but so appropriate! How often has someone interrupted you during the middle of a thought – as you were just about to solidify an epiphany that would surely change the world forever? Sure, we need others to live life to its fullest, but we all have times when it seems that others might “do more good” talking to someone else than they do disrupting our thoughts! Enjoy the variety that people give the world around you – if everyone thought and acted as you do it would be a terribly boring (or an extremely predictable) world!

“HEALTH NUTS ARE GOING TO FEEL STUPID SOMEDAY WHEN THEY LIE AROUND IN HOSPITALS DYING OF NOTHING.”  We all have a time and a season – a beginning and an end. It is good to maintain a healthy lifestyle, a positive attitude, and to avoid many of the known dangers present in life BUT avoiding all risk and minimizing every hazard we face serves only to delay the inevitable. All must live a balanced life to enjoy the gifts we have while securing as healthy a future as is possible BUT sacrificing joy in the present for the possibility of a prolonged future IS NOT a healthy (nor reasonable) solution. Maintaining our sense of reality (and of humor) during these times of Affordable Care and other Healthcare solutions might serve us all well.

Several axioms I have used as guiding principles include these “self-evident truths” penned by Ayn Rand – all mirroring the thoughts sent to me by Don (but from a slightly different perspective):

“A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve – not by the desire to beat others.”

“The hardest thing to explain is the glaringly evident that everybody has decided not to see.”

“Achieving life is not the equivalent of avoiding death.”

What about you – do you have any baseline “truths” upon which your lift has been built? Share them as a comment to this BLOG – perhaps a new thread can begin from the “best of the best” axioms gathered here. As a starter, one of my favorites (that I have not yet listed) is one of removing limitations we place in our own path: “The question is not who is going to let me – it is who is going to stop me?” Do not become your own worst enemy by becoming a roadblock – by believing a dream to be impossible, abandoning it before the journey towards its realization can even begin. Remember that all things are possible – some take a little longer to accomplish as they require more creativity, thought or planning – improbable does not equate to impossible!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


Today’s world is afloat with facts, data and information yet it seems that problem-solving skills are slipping through our hands like an ice cube melting within our grasp. We read newspapers (sometimes), watch news (occasionally), page through magazines and check out our electronic resources constantly – knowing what is happening (almost before it happens!) throughout the world. We know if a disaster has occurred, if the price of gas is about to rise, what is happening in Washington (though a “still shot” could probably capture political activity as well as a news clip!) and who just won a ballgame BUT we have difficulty readily applying our wealth of knowledge to un-related circumstances.

Many can memorize facts but far too few can ask the “right questions” that would allow for the formation of a “best” solution when presented with a new challenge. We often seek answers before fully formulating a question. We want answers – NOW – without a moment’s hesitation. We seek stories with tightly wound endings rather than events that have yet to unfold. We find interest in other’s problems – reinforcing the fact that “good news does not sell.” We accept another’s interpretation of the facts as being “gospel truth” rather than digging into a story and coming to our own conclusions. It seems that a “good newscaster” must now CREATE a story rather than REPORT on it. We want to be entertained (rather than informed), agreed with (rather than challenged) and provided for (rather than providing for others). It seems that the application of information to create a viable solution – taking the risk required to make a difference by being different – is no longer a desirable characteristic. Impatience and intolerance have become the driving factors in “effective” communication with the analysis of data and deliberate actions due to those findings but afterthoughts in the creation of reality.

There is no such thing as confidentiality anymore. People prefer to “share openly and honestly” everything they know (have heard or have gained knowledge about in private conversation) rather than exhibiting a “discretionary silence” in regards to conversations that could do more harm than good. Discretion was once the rule – it is now an exception to the rule. Integrity was once an integral part of an individual’s make-up – it is now but an insignificant backdrop to life’s everyday drama. Relationships once rooted in honesty and nurtured by unconditional love now seem built upon circumstance and fed by individual desires. In order to regain credibility we must recognize and consistently honor the privacy of others – their values, their likes, their dislikes and their preferences – rather than holding them open in every aspect like a book without a cover.

Our senses seem overly stimulated by details, information and opportunities yet we far too infrequently take the time to identify issues before moving forward with unthinking (and untenable) solutions. We run before we walk – seemingly oblivious to the fact we might fall – our impatience ruling the day. We fly rather than run – oblivious to the fact others have come before us – relegating their experiences (both wins and losses) to a silent history rather than including their insights into our ongoing thought processes. We pursue the impossible (or at least the improbable) rather than finding comfort in the reality of “what is” and extrapolating it into that which has not yet become – far too often leaping ahead without thought or direction rather than moving slowly (and steadily) forward.

It really does not matter which path you take when you are lost – when you do not know where you are going nor from what you are moving – as any progress is better than no movement at all. In order to transform knowledge into wisdom we must take the time to analyze the plethora of information around us – to make decisions count by anticipating a destination before moving from one situation to another and planning where you want to be before leaping from the frying pan into the fire. One will rarely fail if they do not establish goals – yet success hinges upon the creation and attainment of targets and the accomplishment of individual dreams. It is nearly impossible to make a poor choice or move in the “wrong direction” when
one does not care where they are going nor worry about how they will get there, yet little credit can be taken for unanticipated results generated through unplanned actions.

Study, learn and apply before charging headlong into an appointment with disaster. When you analyze the information around you and apply it to your circumstances, you will be able to leverage your knowledge to make wise decisions rather than blindly following the thoughts, suggestions or considerations of others.

Reach up as you reach out – the world is awaiting your curiosity.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Achieving One’s Potential Requires More than Luck

Sometimes, because of a unique thought, appropriate timing, or plain good luck an individual is able to succeed, grow and prosper in spite of (rather than because of) the things he or she does. More often, however, much planning, analyzing, forecasting, modeling, and “sweat equity” go into making a venture successful. A successful individual must selflessly invest his or her time, money and effort to bring a dream to fruition. Before accomplishing anything, however, one must envision the desired future, determine what must be done (and how much one is willing to risk or sacrifice) to reach it, then steadfastly advance towards its realization. Along the way, progress must be monitored to identify obstacles that could hinder the accomplishment of goals AND to justify warranted changes to established plans. An individual will never reach his or her full potential should they focus too intently upon the path rather than the prize at its conclusion.

In order to grow, one must envision the future. What does one WANT to be, WANT to accomplish, can realistically EXPECT to achieve? One must start with a conclusion – a goal or set of expectations – if he or she is going to accomplish exceptional things. Without an end point, one will never know when one chapter
has been concluded so that another can begin. Without “a beginning”, one will never know when progress has been made or change has been initiated. Life without purpose can be eventful but is rarely satisfying. It may be full of new beginnings but is strangely at a loss for “ends.”

Once a goal has been established, one must determine how it can be enacted. What knowledge or ability must be attained to achieve the goal? Who must be brought into the solution and who should be excluded from its execution? Must the power of a team be brought into play or is the goal more individualistic? Too often, training is an afterthought to the accomplishment of a dream. When we start “doing” without thinking we may taste limited success but it will be realized in spite of ourselves rather than because of anything that was intentionally done or could be repeated.

To achieve greatness, people MUST steadfastly advance towards the realization of their dreams (those without dreams rarely achieve greatness). In order to continually move forward, systems must be put in place to identify obstacles that could hinder progress AND to justify warranted changes. An individual will never reach their full potential should he or she focus too intently upon the path rather than moving towards the prize at its conclusion.

Summer is upon us. Take the time to “refresh your batteries”…to chart your path…to set your targets high…so that you can be an integral part of a well planned solution RATHER THAN simply a piece of the puzzle…a part of the problem. Only by choosing to envision the future, to enact a solution and to steadfastly advance towards self-actualization (while keeping your eyes on the goal) will one achieve their true potential.