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, 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.