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!

Friday, October 18, 2013

PROVIDING PATHWAYS

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.