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!

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.