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, December 30, 2014


With January’s arrival, we face a “return to reality” and an opportunity to start anew.  The Holiday season has ended and we must get back into the swing of things quickly – our feet hitting the ground running lest we be left behind by an ever changing world.  As we transition from what was once a slower time (though we have seen more work and less play making many people a bit more frantic coming out of the Holiday season) to a more active New Year (full of hope, promise and the realization of dreams), we should think more about what really matters AND how we can ensure it becomes reality than spending our time focusing on frivolous resolutions or insignificant change. 

We must never try to be someone we are not – or do something ONLY because others are doing it.  Many individuals return to work with fresh “resolutions” to do something (or be something) different BUT do not adequately prepare themselves to address and accomplish the transition.  Unless there is more gain from the change than pain from NOT changing, such mid-stream corrections rarely prove effective.  People change very little once they have established their basic values, patterns and thought processes UNLESS they are equipped with the tools needed to initiate change AND internally motivated to maintain it once accomplished.  It is often easier (and more effective) to leverage an individual’s strengths than it is to try to change their shortcomings.  As Dr. Seuss aptly proclaimed, "Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."

The Holidays are a great time for people to sit back and dream – about what they have (or do not have), who they are (or who they might wish to be), and what they want to do differently (so that they can achieve an altered results).  Stephen Leacock stated, "It may be that those who do most, dream most."  One must first imagine something as being a possibility before it can become a probability – must see the need AND the potential for transformation before it becomes a “need” rather than a “desire” but must also remember that “Dreams take time, patience, sustained effort, and a willingness to fail if they are ever to be anything more than dreams." (Bryan Linkoski). 

While “failure” is not necessarily a desired outcome of change, it is often the initiator of transformation.  We rarely change unless our current circumstances dictate that we move on.  We are more willing to run from life’s storms than we are its sunshine – to seek comfort from misfortune rather than to risk leaving a comfortable place.  Dreamers often recognize that just because they DESIRE change does not mean they will achieve it without tasting failure before they feast on success while those living within the “here and now” may not be willing to risk what they have for the possibility of gaining something greater.  Robert F. Kennedy said, "Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly."   Individuals whom have truly made a difference in this world understand that "Failure is not the worst thing – the worst thing is not to have tried."  While much intentional thought and deliberate action is required to succeed, those who are most successful recognize that "Failure is the path of least persistence."  Further, if thoughts and dreams are to become our reality, the word “impossible” must not be a part of our vocabulary (replaced, perhaps with “improbable” or “difficult” but couched in the grey of possibility rather than the black and white of perceived finality).  While facts, information and well-considered alternatives are often the building blocks of change, Dexter Yager described the essence of change by saying, "If the dream is big enough, the facts don't count (nor really matter)."

Life is a series of starts and stops – of closed chapters and of new beginnings.  Insanity is doing things the way they have always been done but expecting the results to change.  If we are to see change as we move from one year to the next, it is important that we not only recognize the need for altered behavior but that we intentionally ACT to make it happen.  Knowing the facts and understanding how to make change happen does not necessarily ensure that our resolutions will be accomplished or our transformation made complete.  Will Rogers appropriately stated, "Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there."  As our seasons change – accompanied by our actions and our attitudes – we should embrace the thoughts expressed by William Osler ("We are here to add what we can to life, not to get what we can from it").  If we seek only what is handed to us we will never realize a life that is unique, self-directed and independent from those more than willing to direct our actions and determine our course.  Sadly, many seem to seek equality rather than equity in the world.  They pull down those who are successful, taking from them the fruits of their labor in an effort to narrow the gap between “those who have and those who have not” rather than providing “those without” the tools necessary to narrow the gap through their own productivity.  While good, hard-working individuals seeking employment often find they do not have the requisite skills to perform available jobs (and seek the training needed to bridge that gap), far too many jobs remain unfilled because the sting of not working is more than sufficiently salved by an ever-expanding system of safety nets, entitlement programs and “social reforms.”

As the “old year” comes to an end and a new beginning presents itself, perhaps we could gain from both the wisdom and reality of Mark Twain when he said "Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first."  We are not “owed” success – we must first seek it then act to make it reality.  Make 2015 a year of successful transformation by thinking big and acting audaciously without fearing failure – then incorporating the lessons learned from each temporary setback into intentional actions that result in long-term success.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


Change, like life, happens with or without any help from us.  Growth, however, comes only through our intentional actions.  People love and hate change at the same time.  While wishing for things to remain the same in our lives (comfort, security, job, environment, friends, relationships), we really want them to get better (rarely wanting discomfort, negative change or inconvenience in our lives). Wanting it “both ways,” we often refuse to invest the necessary “sweat equity” to make change happen.  When handed to us, we are more than happy to take it.  We are less likely to actively identify areas needing change then intentionally acting to put them behind us while moving forward in a different direction – leaving behind what is comfortable (and holding us back) while hoisting our sails to capture the winds of a new tomorrow (venturing into unknown territory holding not yet realized opportunity).  Though we may not always know where the winds will lead us, simply catching hold of their endless power will help us to move from our current reality to a future possibility without becoming caught in the calm between what was and what could be.

Some random thoughts to help maintain focus along the journey from what we know to what we might only imagine – from what is to what could be – would include:
·         The only way of finding the limits of the possible is by going beyond them into the impossible. (Arthur C. Clarke)

When we restrict our actions, reactions and responses to the ways and methods we have always used, nothing will change.  Only when we dare to act in ways we have never before acted – to think in ways we have never before thought – will those things that were once beyond our reach become possible.  In order to maximize the likelihood we will succeed, however, we must acknowledge the resistance we will face, respond to the concerns our detractors will present, and present a plausible, acceptable alternative (which is more desirable, beneficial or providing of more opportunity) than the status quo.  To move from where you are to where you wish to be, and perhaps even beyond to where you have not yet imagined, tear down the walls that limit you to what you have always known or you will end up doing what you have always done and being what you have always been.

·         Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome.  (Samuel Johnson)

Allowing an individual to learn from failure is possibly one of the best learning techniques we can use.  When a person must turn back due to unexpected rapids after charting a course and setting sail, two things happen.  First, the individual will (hopefully) learn form his or her mistake by recognizing the signs of turmoil and acting to avoid them before venturing into the unknown again (recognizing the need to continue as being the critical component of learning).  Secondly, though, and perhaps more important, we must identify the reason success was delayed and correct the error, mistake or poor judgment in a way that allows us to overcome the obstacles that kept us from progressing towards the accomplishment of our goal.  Learning by experience is much more beneficial than listening to someone else say which way to go or what road to take.  We should plan, anticipate and think of reasonable alternative approaches prior to starting any task BUT avoid “analysis paralysis” (refusing to move forward if there is ANY chance that something might go wrong allowing our fear of failure to diminish our chances of success).  When we never leave the blocks we cannot compete and it becomes impossible to finish the race.

·         The only person who never makes mistakes is the person who never does anything.  (Denis Waitley) 

Life is not a carefree path we take while moving towards an idyllic destination.  Life is fraught with pitfalls, traps, snares and impossibly steep embankments.  It would be nearly impossible to go through life without making a mistake so quit trying to be perfect!  Some of the world’s greatest inventions have been the unexpected outcomes from failed experiments.  Our greatest presidents frequently tasted defeat before they were elected.  Many business owners have failed in an endeavor before experiencing success.  Once a path has been taken that leads to a dead end – a process selected that results in set-back – learn from it so your next steps can be successful.

  • Knowing is not enough; we must apply.  Willing is not enough; we must do.
    (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)
Value is established not by what we know but rather by how we can apply it.  Wisdom is the result of applied knowledge.  Knowing that a car needs an engine, a transmission, an electrical system and a variety of other mechanical parts does not make you a mechanic.  You must apply what you know to be of any use to anyone.  I could THINK about fixing a car all day long but nothing would happen until I pick up a wrench (then without proper education, training and knowledge my efforts might cause more harm than good).  Any action creates an opposite and equal reaction, both in physics and in life.  Intentional action is a prerequisite to change.  Plausible and acceptable actions – often outside the normal realm of reasonable and expected responses – are the precursor of success.

·         Risk more than others think is safe. Care more than others think is wise. Dream more than others think is practical. Expect more than others think is possible.  (Cadet Maxim)

As you dive headlong into life, remember that you will get from life only what you put into it.  I have seen individuals slide through life expecting (and receiving) very little.  Some say they set low goals so they will not fail – that when the “bar is low,” nothing will keep them from crossing it.  I choose a different path – and so should you.  Take calculated risks in order to increase your chances of success.   Choose to care more about others than you care about yourself.  You might be surprised how rich and free you life will be in return. Choose to dream enough so that you can experience new horizons when bringing dreams to fruition.  You cannot fulfill another’s dream (no matter how hard you might try), only your own.  As for expectations – you will never rise higher than you expect yourself to rise, nor fall lower than you allow yourself to fall. 

·         Focus more upon “what has yet to be done” than “what has been completed” when seeking change.  Acknowledging and recognizing your weaknesses helps identify the causes of problems – developing and leveraging your strengths produces long-term solutions.  (Dave Smith)

Do not focus upon what cannot be done – continually stretch to achieve those things that have not yet been attempted, reach outcomes that have not been previously accomplished, or choose paths that nobody has yet dared to travel.  Do not seek an escape from reality – embrace the potential around you.  Do not dwell upon what has been done – seek what has yet to be realized.  Always expect more than may seem possible – refusing to accept anything previously accomplished as anything more than a resting point as you seek yet to be discovered destinations – and you will surely taste success during the coming year!

Monday, December 15, 2014


Many individuals establish resolutions they hope to achieve during the New Year – bold expectations of accomplishment that will propel them from who and what they are to who and what the wish to become.  They put together their “wish list” of things imagined in an effort to validate their ongoing efforts to achieve the greatness that should be theirs but (for some unknown reason) has yet to come to fruition.  PERHAPS we should pay more attention to the list of what we must NOT do before we begin to focus on what we would PREFER to do if we truly want to change.

How can one change their direction by simply declaring it so – determine a course of direction that will lead to a new way of doing things – until we identify what DOES NOT WORK so it will not remain a barrier to change?  Perhaps we should spend more time “making our list” of things being done erroneously and “checking it twice” to make sure the things we are ineffectively doing will not be repeated than we do developing a new list without addressing our old habits.  Far too many individuals fail to advance because they continue to rely upon the “old ways” that have resulted in failure.  Rather than seeking new methods based on anticipated results they prefer to find comfort in the familiar – thinking that different results can be “resolved” rather than logically concluded.  A moth will drive towards light – whether it be a bulb that attracts it or a flame that might kill it.  A frog will struggle if introduced to boiling water but will remain complacent within a cool pot brought to a boil – lulled into a sense of security because the need for change was not clearly and concisely defined. 

Until we identify “why” we did something (and what it produced) it is difficult to understand “why we should not continue doing that same thing” (while anticipating a different result).  Unless we truly accept that what we are doing MAY NOT produce the results we seek – come to grips with (and understand that) something we have done forever and wish to continue doing MAY NOT lead us where we might prefer to go – it is nearly impossible for us to “walk away” from “what is” to embrace what “could be.”

To realize change we must “make our list and check it twice” – once to identify what has not worked that must be altered and a second time to identify alternative actions that might produce favorable results – if we wish to realize change.  Remember to resolve NOT ONLY to the accomplishment of new things during this Holiday season but also to eliminate the behaviors, actions and attitudes that may have prevented change in the past.  We can move forward ONLY after we have closed the door behind us – shutting out the “tried and true” while plunging into the “not yet realized” world of possibilities – seeking what “could be” from life rather than accepting only “what is” as a final destination.

Initiate change by listing what you do, identifying why you do it, validating its relevance then measuring it against what must be done as you move forward.  If something works, keep it – do not change for the sake of changing.  If something is not working, identify why it is failing – then take intentional action to leave that process behind.  Fill this coming year with limitless possibilities by leaving behind what does not work before embracing that which does – by seeking what “could be” rather than simply accepting “what is.” 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


My sister recently asked me to look at the world through a black and white filter (literally) by challenging me to a Facebook Photo Contest.  Normally a “shades of grey” person that can find more fulfillment in relative comparisons than absolute positioning, looking through such a filter was outside of my typical paradigm – but it gave me a great opportunity to realize that such an approach to life reflects our daily reality quite well.  Some of the pictures I chose – along with the life lessons they represented – are included herein.  The first came to me easily – a gateway to the world through a restrictive tunnel.  Taken along Lake Michigan in winter, the wonders of the world seemed to open up to me when seeing a tunnel as an open window to the world (yet it could easily become a sanctuary to those seeking refuge rather than opportunity).

Once through my portal to the possible, a winter storm greeted me with its harsh reality AND its majestic beauty.  While striking as a colored photo, the lake seems frozen in time (figuratively as well as literally) when viewed through a black and white lens.  We often judge people, situations and opportunities by the “color they wear” rather than the depth of their essence.  Perhaps we should all take the time to filter our
initial impressions so we can identify and apply the value hidden within that sense of clarity.

Other pictures (more obvious) were of animals within the San Diego Zoo.  A panda within a tree provided a black and white perspective often lost within the green and brown foliage of its reality.  A resting tiger, majestic within its normal orange and black, became a powerful image of stark contrasts when stripped of its color.  If only we could do the same within our world today – to see others for what they offer rather than losing ourselves their differences.  (I avoided using the zebra that stood perfectly still for me – the reality of his world being black and white enough without being viewed through an altered filter.)  Ask me for my Facebook link to see these specimens.

We all must establish goals for our life (see a past Deliberation for expansion) if we seek to accomplish anything more than we are currently doing.  We came upon a neglected path in Kentucky during a visit to my “challenging” sister and her family.  The leaves along the path were changing colors and the grass fading to brown – the contrast providing a beautiful distraction to a winding path that could lead to most anywhere IF one chose to take it.  We followed a similar path during a trip to Oregon and found a hidden treasure – a waterfall near a wooden bridge.  We all must choose which road we will travel during this life.  Though many will follow highways that make their trip easier and their choices more defined, I would prefer to seek opportunities that may be lost to many by taking the road less traveled – by seeking the beauty hidden behind the colors we see.

Giving a new definition to “peer pressure” were pictures taken in Maine and Virginia Beach.  OK, so you might have to be a bit convoluted to link “pier” pressure with “peer” pressure but seeing a sturdy platform project into the ocean always provides testament to what can be done if we persevere – of what power and might we can harness when we seek to transform “what is” into “what could be.”  I see a pier and think of the storms it has weathered – of the view it has of each sunrise – and how it greets each new day (on the East coast) or welcomes the night into our lives “out West.”  Too often we see only the surface of each situation we face – only the “practical purpose” of things rather than the possibilities not yet defined or determined. Painting with our granddaughter recently opened this door to reality – as she worked to combine colors and fill her sheet with paint I had her close the book on her drawing then open it to see the reflection of her work on the other side.  She was amazed at the transfer and sought to create “mirror images” for the next half hour.  More of us should look beyond what we see in life to uncover the opportunities hidden IF ONLY we could close the book on what is and open it to see what could be.  A pier can be a dock or a window to a
new world – its reality limited by our minds rather than its functionality.

As I continued to look through my traditional pictures of a colorful world, I found waterfalls, rivers, seascapes, sand sculptures, bridges and birds (my wife tells me I have some kind of addiction to birds – perhaps it is the freedom their world presents or the limitless opportunities their flight provides them).  I found myself seeking the subtle differences that a black and white world produces – the shades of grey that exist between “what is” and “what could be.”  I discovered that my vacation pictures could provide a different perspective when the “color of reality” was filtered from them – a perspective we do not often use when living our lives.
Perhaps we could all gain from looking at the obstacles we face, the people we work with and the challenges we wish to overcome through a different filter.  We could take a different path to reach an unconsidered destination.  Life is what we make it to be.

Thanks for the challenge, Sis.  We all share a common earth but look at life through vastly different filters – allowing us to look at the same object or person and see a variety of values, beauty and worth.  I invite anyone who reads my Deliberations to attach a black and white picture with your comments – or better yet, post one black and white picture a day on your Facebook page for five days (then invite a friend to do the same).  Perhaps we can make a difference in the world if we all change our perspective and filter our results!

Monday, November 24, 2014


A recent Wall Street Journal article reported that walking in an upbeat way could improve one’s mood – and that swaying from side to side while walking would cause one to be more depressed and sad.  Resisting temptations such as chocolate, fats, and “indulgent” foods elevated one’s self-perception while succumbing to those temptations created an attitude of failure.  Talking to a total stranger while travelling rather than isolating yourself within your own thoughts and sitting with good posture rather than in a slumped-over fashion also caused individuals to be more positive in their reaction to life.  It seems that many of the “right things” we do have a positive affect on our health and demeanor while the “wrong” or “questionable” things we do lead us to more unhealthy destinations.  While these conclusions are the result of observations made during controlled, scientific research, think about some of the corollaries we could take from a “living the dream” rather than an “enduring the nightmare” attitude.
I knew a very capable individual who tended to think more about what might go wrong than what could go right.  He focused on the possible – making sure that he would be able to respond to any contingency imaginable – often missing the opportunity to “strike while the iron was hot” due to his deliberate nature and his over-thinking each situation.  I knew another individual that considered a situation, thought about several of the more obvious ramifications of his actions, then decided to act rather than continuing to “posture” himself to avoid all risk or minimize the chances of failure.  He often acted (intentionally) knowing what would likely happen, what could possibly happen and what had a small (but realistic) chance of happening – but his actions often put him ahead of his competition and in front of “the crowd,”  able to hold his head high in discovery rather than hanging it low in compliance.
Many people begin each year with resolutions to change – an expressed thought of altered behavior and significantly different results.  Most resolutions tend to be short-term in nature – like going to the gym (for 1 – 2 months), exercising at home (for a week), driving safely (until you are late for a meeting) or spending more time with friends and family (unless there is a major project at work).  Resolutions tend to be immediately achievable transitions rather than long-term transformations.  If “walking with confidence” and “eliminating a back and forth sway” help people become happier, think what the accomplishment of an expressed goal (even if for only a short time) might do to their demeanor!
Rather than “resolving to change” this year, why not commit to transform?  Do not accept only what is attainable – rather reach beyond the probable to experience the possible.  Set your targets boldly where people have previously feared to wander – not as a means to ensure defeat but rather as a way to break through to destinations not yet discovered.  When you accept the things that others have already accomplished as your benchmarks, critics (and cynics) will always point out what did not work in the past while predicting your demise.  When you seek new frontiers – look forward with anticipation rather than backwards in fear or dread – others are less apt (or able) to criticize because they have no basis (or experience) to support their predictions of failure. 
Sincerely believing that you will succeed – when supported with appropriate training and resources – will contribute greatly to success.  Anticipating failure almost always becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Setting the bar high keeps your head up and your attitude will follow.  Failing to set a goal will allow your head to drop as you drift aimlessly without a plan or a target. 
Act happy if you seek joy in life.  Establishing your destination before you determine your route will help you accomplish things nobody has yet done.  Predicting success (rather than assuming failure) will help you to succeed.  The experts tell us to “walk happy to avoid depression?”  I would say that is a great start…but only a start…to becoming a more successful “you.”

Thursday, November 6, 2014


Every organization must have a mission – a vision – a reason for “being.”  Unless an organization exists to fulfill a specific (and necessary) purpose – to produce a product or provide a service – it will not survive. Unless consumers or a market segment needs a product or service (it has, creates or enhances value), the best or largest “supply” in the world will not be “in demand” enough to justify its ongoing presence.  Though a business can (and does) impact society by providing jobs, work is a necessary part of the process of producing results NOT the result of an organization’s efforts to create meaningful activity.  Work without purpose may keep an organization busy (for a time) but will not produce the income needed to sustain its activities.  An organization will not be able to attract and retain employees unless it can clearly and definitively communicate what kind of work is expected to be done, how “success” will be measured and how results will be rewarded.  Without a mission, an organization cannot focus its resources towards the accomplishment of an identified purpose, choose the direction it should go or qualify the decisions it must make as it establishes itself as being a vital and contributing part of the business community.

In order to be effective, an organization’s mission statement must clearly (and concisely) define why a business exists, what it does, and (sometimes) who it serves in a way that can be easily remembered and communicated by all involved in its accomplishment.  Nike has established the phrase, "To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world" as its mission statement – implying what it does by who it serves.  "Our mission: to inspire and nurture the human spirit one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time" is the stated purpose of Starbucks Company, never mentioning coffee but referring to the inspirational experience it hopes to provide.  Coca Cola’s mission, “To refresh the world - in mind, body and spirit; To inspire moments of optimism - through our brands and actions; To create value and make a difference everywhere we engage” states what the company does without ever saying what it produces.  Kohl’s mission, “To be the leading family-focused, value-oriented, specialty department store offering quality exclusive and national brand merchandise to the customer in an environment that is convenient, friendly and exciting” says what it is without limiting itself to any one particular product or brand.  The Employers’ Association’s mission is “To provide practical Human Resource solutions to West Michigan business promoting operational excellence and sustainability,” defining what we provide, to whom it is provided and what our service is intended to accomplish.  While no two mission statements are the same, each successful enterprise must be able to state why it exists by communicating what product, service or value is being provided in a way that people understand – and can hopefully easily remember when a need materializes.

Individuals often accept that business needs a mission – a purpose and reason to exist – but fail to transfer that essential reality to their own lives.  In order to establish value in ourselves, everyone needs to establish a PERSONAL mission statement to guide individual actions, efforts and activities.  A personal mission statement is a bit different from a company mission statement, but the fundamental principles are the same – it provides clarity and a sense of purpose.  It defines who you are and how you will live. When we drift without purpose towards an unidentified objective, we will take a long time to accomplish nothing.  While we cannot miss a target unless it has been clearly identified and posted – cannot fail unless we establish goals and objectives – life without purpose becomes meaningless.  A sailboat needs a sail (to capture the wind) and a rudder (to set a course) if it is to move forward.  It needs a keel to stabilize its journey and an anchor to hold it in place during times of rest.  Though there are many parts and pieces that work together to make a sailboat move ahead, unless a destination has been identified and deliberate action is taken to move towards it, the best wind, the most favorable seas and the mildest conditions will be wasted unless a “reason to sail” has been established.  Unless we (personally) know what we wish to accomplish through the actions we take and the decisions we make, we will never learn what we need to know (do or understand) in order to add value (to ourselves, our friends or our society) as we seek to make a difference in this life.  We must dedicate our actions, our efforts and our thoughts towards the accomplishment of SOMETHING if we hope to accomplish ANYTHING.

Writing a personal mission statement offers the opportunity to establish what is important, often allowing us to make a decision to stick to it before we waste energy and resources without knowing where we might want to go.  As we establish a personal mission statement, we should seek to ask the right questions rather than trying to provide the correct answers – to expand our horizons to regions we have not yet explored rather than limiting them to our “known and comfortable” universe.  An individual mission may be as simple as “I will make a difference in all I say or do,” or “I will live everyday with Integrity and vow to make a positive difference in the lives of others utilizing my knowledge for the good of all people.” It may a “short term” objective like, “I will complete my education so that I can pursue a new career.”  It may be as complex (and convoluted) as, “I will pursue knowledge that can, through intentional actions and experiences, be transformed to wisdom.  I will apply wisdom to advance myself (and others around me) while seeking and establishing new opportunities that add value to my life and my community.  I will never give up (though I may occasionally give in) while realizing all that I might hope or imagine myself to be.”   Make your dreams become reality by “memorializing” them in writing – by telling another about them so they can hold you accountable for their fulfillment.  However you wish to establish a personal mission statement, consider Steven Covey’s reference in First Things First – that it must connect your own unique purpose with the profound satisfaction that comes from fulfilling it.  Life fulfilled is life worth living!

Monday, October 27, 2014


As we approach this year’s general elections – listening to the negative remarks, innuendo and just enough truth to make an exaggeration believable – it might be time to consider what makes a leader great.  It IS NOT bringing others down to make someone else appear better – it is being saying what one plans to do then doing whatever it takes to accomplish what was promised.  It IS NOT blaming others for a situation or unfortunate event – it is taking responsibility for your own involvement with a problem then moving forward to resolve it.  It IS NOT doing what is popular – it is doing what is right.  Sadly, more deflection and avoidance tends to happen during this time of year – more scary negative images painted than positive solutions developed.
A great leader should be able to shine as a beacon of truth through the storms of discontent to bring others to safety.  He or she should be able to stand upon his or her own accomplishments without needing to highlight them for they should serve as self-evident truths.  When a great leader speaks, others listen – not because they “have to” but because they “choose to.”  Great leaders make a difference because of what they do (consistently and without hesitation) rather than what they say (publicly OR privately).
While many think their one vote will not make a difference, only one fact can be absolutely guaranteed – that a mute voice will never be heard above the din of an emotional crowd.  A “silent protest” allows others to speak for you, minimizing your ability to determine your own destiny.  For those who take this time of year seriously – who see it as a chance to initiate change where necessary and “stay the course” when warranted – several thoughts to help cast your ballot most effectively (by choosing an exceptional leader to help chart the course) would include:

  • Great leaders are often deliberate and measured in their response to situations. They are not
    slow nor overly focused in their thinking processes - they typically consider the “pros and cons” of most decisions and formulate several alternative courses of action should their initial direction prove untenable.
  • Great leaders are not prone to bursts of temper or extreme reactions. They are thoughtful in how they sift through and process information, rarely acting until they have considered thoroughly what might happen when they act – and what might have to be “done” to “undo” anything that goes wrong. 
  • Great leaders think analytically. Their “comfort in their own skin” helps them to become expert at finding their way through reams of data quickly and reaching the core of the matter. 
  • Great leaders are decisive (not derisive). Subdued in words and actions, a great leader spends as much time “thinking” as they do “acting.” Perceived delays in action usually result from the need to view issues from all sides rather than a fear of failure or “losing face.”
  • Great leaders are good listeners. They let others do most of the talking (soliciting and eliciting ideas) then meld diverse suggestions into workable solutions. Great leaders act on what they hear after filtering “what will work” from “what will not” so their direction is more likely to be accepted by “the team” than rejected as being a “top-down” or “mandated” decision.  
  • Good leaders are risk averse – great leaders willingly take calculated risks if they advance the cause and accomplish the mission.  When we do things as they have always been done we cannot expect to produce results that are different from what they have always been. Great leaders take risk wisely when others depend on the decisions they make while trying to grow – for to remain “as they are” will prevent them from becoming “all they could be.”
  • Great leaders often become the voice of reason within any situation or environment.  While a great leader’s voice may not be the loudest or most convincing, it often becomes most clearly heard and persuasive as it reaches out above the noise of a crowd. Influenced more by rationality than charisma – by self-confidence than the need for external validation – a great leader is “heard” because
    people know something reasonable is being said in a rational and thoughtful way.

Do not let this year’s election results become more of a “trick” than a “treat.”  While we “fall back” this time of year to implement daylight savings time, do not allow your political leadership to become a “fall back” candidate elected through default, apathy or emotion rather than careful consideration.  Consider (thoughtfully and carefully) the kind of leader you prefer to follow in your daily life – then do everything within your power to put that kind of individual into office when you are given the privilege

Monday, October 20, 2014


Fall seems to be passing quickly, burying the memories of summer under a blanket of colorful leaves that have become but a wet and slippery slope towards the coming winter.  The lake has taken on the cold hues of winter – covered with black migratory birds quietly seeking food and rest during their long journey south. Gone are the joyful sounds of children playing upon the beach and the throaty rumble of “go fast boats” as they glide across the surface of the early morning or late evening lake.  The mornings arrive later than before – and the night earlier – obscuring the beauty of the lake beneath a shroud of darkness.  The eerie sound of cool breezes moving the naked branches of trees having lost their leaves and of whitecaps crashing upon the shore replace the desperate cry of gulls swarming for food.  This time of year is hard for a “lake lover” for the cooling water serves as a reminder that a time of frozen life and suspended dreams is just around the corner.

Looking out the window this past weekend reinforced the reality that summer is behind us – a hard frost left
the ground blanketed beneath a delicate white sheet – far too thin to be snow but a harsh reminder of the transformation about to begin.  Plants that once thrived begin to wilt and trees that hid beneath an emerald green coat appear thoroughly dead rather than simply dormant.  Fall signals a time of change within our lives (for winter enthusiasts perhaps a happier tone than for me) but transition is in the winds and transformation will not be delayed.

Along with the weather, autumn signals another opportunity for individual change.  One of the greatest freedoms our country offers is the unrestricted right to express our opinion within the voting booth – an opportunity that presents itself on November 4 this year.  It seems that every time we turn around there is an election, whether for local, school, state or federal issues, giving us the opportunity to express ourselves often in this country.  Many feel their single voice does not make a difference so they chose to silence it by not voting – but when we do not speak, how can we claim victory (or complain when what we want is not implemented)?  Since our nation was founded on individual rights, freedoms AND responsibilities, perhaps we should make a concerted effort to be responsible this year by voting for individuals we deem qualified to lead our state and country rather than simply going dormant like the plants and trees of summer.

The opportunity we have to vote allows us to endorse the direction that our country (or state) is moving OR seek to change it.  This November offers us the opportunity to participate in a rare “mid-term election” that might truly make a difference in our daily lives.  Primaries throughout the country indicate that “the people” want change they thought they were getting in the last general election.  Whether an incumbent speaks for the people or not seems not to matter this year – it is a year of transition in which being in the right place at the wrong time may result in a “clean sweep” of those in office.  Advertising has become more negative than positive as candidates from both parties provide information that “has been approved” by the person seeking your confidence.  Truth seems created (rather than reported) during campaigns – with responsible advertising a hope rather than an expectation.

In order to participate in this opportunity to create intentional change, study to reveal reality rather than simply reacting to an emotional appeal.  Do not act on the suggestion or recommendation of another – be it a friend, a union, a church or a newspaper article.   Do not take your responsibility lightly – the power of individual opinion can still establish the course of a nation when concerned and educated people base their actions upon solid information gathered through individual research, voting with their heads rather than their hearts!

Whether you consider yourself Democrat, Republican, or Independent – Liberal or Conservative – we are
provided the right to express our personal opinions within the voting booth.  Far too many of us, however, choose not to exercise our right to voice an opinion.  Choosing not to vote is not a “silent protest” – it is a blatant disregard for the freedom we have been given to express our views within a system that, in many parts of the world, all too often closes out the opinions of private citizens.  When given the opportunity to speak this November, shout with your vote.  Do not remain a passive spectator to the action that is unfolding in front of you – be an active participant in the formation and implementation of life-changing agendas.

Monday, October 6, 2014


Society tends to minimize the importance of learning from failure, encouraging positive self-esteem and equality within all individuals, in order for them to be confident in taking the risks required of success.  Unfortunately, life is not always fair – and people should look to receive “equitable consideration” (based on their individual needs) rather than “equal treatment” (as “one size does not fit all”).  What is good for one IS NOT necessarily good for all – we must focus on what will help each individual with whom we interact rather than what is good for the majority.  Rather than making everyone feel good by trying to meet the lowest common denominator in all that is said or done, we could gain far more by focusing on the development of strengths rather than holding back our leaders until the followers catch up.

Schools have elevated “self-esteem” to one of the more important aspects of a student’s education, wanting students to feel better about their self-concept than about what they can accomplish.  An elementary teacher once said it was her job to make everyone an equal contributor to the classes’ success – leaving nobody behind.  While there is immense value in helping those who do not understand, perhaps the system should provide help to those that need it without holding back those that might be able to perform at a higher level.  Having seen some of the work students perform today only reinforces the need for transformation.  Little attention is paid to proper spelling (“spell check” will handle that) and basic math concepts are not emphasized enough in the lower grades (“that is what calculators are for”).  Some high school teachers retest multiple times (allowing students to study their test so the right answers can be found) in an effort to have students pass rather than focusing on their learning.  In sporting events, schools tend to focus on the equality of playing time (regardless of an athlete’s ability), effort and sportsmanship rather than on winning.  In moderation, these are not bad concepts.  In practice, however, our future leaders are being rewarded for simply trying rather than for actually achieving.

Business often tends to reward “the masses” through the application of inconsistent employment policies and practices.  Many employers avoid confrontation by giving performance reviews that establish “average” work as being proficient.  Giving an “across the board” pay increase minimizes friction but rewards mediocrity.  Adjusting an employee’s work schedule to “meet their situation” does not necessarily address their inability to show up on time or work as needed to accomplish the job.  We tend to reward the good that people bring to the organization but ignore their negative characteristics until they become more hurtful to the group than they are helpful – at which time it is often too late to salvage any positive value.  Allowing everyone to participate in each decision-making process is a noble intention – but the tactic could cause unnecessary delay or the adoption of workable solutions that may be popular but not the best possible.

Our fervor to make people “feel good” often removes the motivation for individuals to achieve their full potential.  In order to constructively establish and maintain an individual’s self-esteem – whether in business, education or personal relationships – we should always try to create situations that maximize the chances of another’s success if we wish to reward and build upon results.  Things that often stand in the way of recognizing accomplishment include:

  1. Rewarding efforts, good intentions, hard work and/or the willingness to accept new responsibilities
    rather than the actual work accomplished
  2. Placing unqualified individuals into a positions they want or think they can handle without providing the tools required to accomplish their new expectations – a move often made to reward an individual’s past performance that will potentially breed frustration and failure
  3. Praising an individual for “trying hard,” hoping that such attention will encourage better performance down the road.  In reality, recognizing effort as a result tends to establish progress (rather than results) as the driver of success
  4. Providing equal pay adjustments to all rather than paying for individual performance in an attempt to minimize confrontation with employees.  “Across the board” pay adjustments actually help to retain under-qualified workers (who may not be able to achieve elsewhere) by rewarding mediocrity while demotivating high achievers (who can easily find recognition from someone else)
  5. Treating all people the same in any given situation or expressed expectation.  Each of us have unique and individual skills, abilities, aptitudes, attitudes, strengths and weakness – to maximize contributions we must recognize our differences
  6. Distancing ourselves from all associations with failure rather than acknowledging and recognizing them while growing from the experience.  When we live upon a pedestal – whether intended or inconsequential – we spend so much time and effort maintaining the expectations of others that we have little left to bring to fruition our own realities

Some would say that a good self-concept breeds success.  I would offer that success creates a good self-concept.  We have been told that students (and workers) need to work as equals within teams to accomplish anything.  I would offer that all teams need a leader – a collector of ideas or champion – to accomplish change.  We have been told that rewarding the process will enhance creativity, thereby minimizing the fear of failure.  I would offer that rewarding accomplishment, while constructively addressing sub-standard effort, fosters creativity and encourages risk-taking behavior that can eliminate the fear of failure.  Some might say that failure should be avoided at all cost – that we should catch others before they fall so they can focus on all things positive rather than having to face negative consequences.  I would offer that seeing failure as a new beginning rather than an end result allows us to achieve much (Edison never failed while inventing the light bulb – he simply refined his attempts by recognizing why something did not work and correcting it until he reached a satisfactory conclusion).  Some say that individuals involved in a relationship must contribute equally to its success or it will fail.  I would offer that each individual must contribute equitably – based on their individual strengths and abilities – and the ability (or inability) to communicate expectations, hopes, dreams and desires predicates failure more than equal contribution to results.

Which is more critical – self-esteem or success?  This “chicken or the egg coming first” conundrum has been around since the beginning of time.  While we should acknowledge the work needed to achieve results, we must reward successful outcomes.  Rather than praising each attempt – regardless of its significance – sustainable self-esteem emerges when we reward accomplishment.  All organizations need willing and capable team members, good interpersonal relationships, and an adaptive learning environment BUT they also need leadership.  We should recognize and support effort but NEVER should it be rewarded at the expense of results!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

TRICK OR TREAT – Do YOU Hide Behind a Mask of Mediocrity?

People are sometimes “marginally competent” when their benchmark is the work and results of others rather than the goals and expectations they establish for themselves.  People living a life of “good enough” or “better than another” usually meet their minimum expectations but do not excel in what they do – often disappointing themselves as much as they do those depending upon them.  Unfortunately, many individuals hide behind a mask of mediocrity by trying to be better than others (or have more than someone else, or do something faster than another) because our society has come to rewards efforts rather than results – to praise “beginnings” rather than recognizing successful  “ends.”  In order to realize our full potential we must discard the masks we wear to hide our insecurities, apprehensions and fears of being “different” so that others can accept us for who we are (rather than for what we think they might wish us to become).
People are often identified as being capable of “growing into” something they have not yet become, accepting the recognition of potential as being the end of a journey rather than the beginning of a new adventure.  Unless an individual is given time to develop (and tools to help them succeed), they are often incapable of transforming their current reality into a potential future state.  Until we recognize what we wish to become (through our own individual efforts) we will be nothing more than an empty vessel hiding behind the mask of another’s expectations.  When we cover-up our deficiencies by adding others into a “performance mix” for comparative purposes, our justifications mask our role of “pretender.”   We shift the responsibility for results onto the overburdened shoulders of achievers – competent individuals who WILL seek recognition elsewhere for their contributions if is not fully and freely provided within their current world.
Whenever we avoid competency issues rather than resolving them, we “mask” our problems without eliminating them.  We reward effort and intent but compromise our expectations for positive results each time
we accept a “mask of good intentions” rather than looking behind it to see what talent (and desire) truly exists.  We may accept children hiding behind masks and costumes knocking on our doors calling out “Trick or Treat” but should not allow ourselves to live within a world that encourages and rewards similar efforts without accomplishments or results.  When we portray ourselves to be something we are not, we may be able to fool those freely distributing meaningless rewards but will not be able to transform our lives into what they could be until we learn our lessons from failure – until we leap forward after falling back.  When we accept others at “face value” without investing anything into them, we can expect to receive back what we have invested – nothing of value.
Children hide behind a variety of masks at Halloween while seeking treats in an effort to camouflage their identities from those around them.  Acceptable child-like behavior, however, should not set the course we find ourselves following.  If we consciously and intentionally seek to become something not yet realized or achieved – to become what we WISH to be rather than being what others might accept as being acceptable – we will celebrate true success.  Unlimited possibilities abound when reality is set free as extraordinary investment ALWAYS provides an exceptional return.
Do not give yourself the choice to accept mediocrity in life – expect “treats” rather than “tricks” by seeking the tools and support necessary for them to become a reality.  Acknowledge, accept and reveal yourself to those around you – refusing to accept anything less than your all or reaching lower than the sky.  You can achieve your full potential ONLY when you remove the mask (that is so tempting to hide behind) and quit pretending to be something you are not.  Then, and only then, will you be able to bring to fruition all that you could be – to realize the dream of an unrestricted, uninhibited and unmasked future as you move from “pretender” to “contender” within this race we call life.

Monday, September 8, 2014


Their aimless wanderings lay behind them…
     Their paths weaving desperately through the wilderness…
          Coming near then veering away…never quite crossing or becoming one.  
They stood at a crossroads…
     Looking back in an attempt to see how their lives had unfolded...
          Looking ahead towards a future not yet defined.
Increasingly tired of their struggles within a thankless world…
     They sought a path that would lead towards truth…
          An obscure trail that would carry them to a brighter future...  
Deliberately they turned, moving forward into the vast unknown…
     Leaving behind the comfort and security their past once held…
          Intentionally embarking upon a path that would change their lives forever…
                    An excerpt from Life’s Path to the Promise of a Dream, a book of poems by Dave Smith

Why do people seek change?  What makes us decide to do things differently – particularly if the things we are doing provide us comfort or bring us success?  What makes us wander from “the familiar” in search of unknown opportunities?   With summer’s passing and a new, hectic fall upon us, we all tend to seek different ways of doing things - resolving to change in ways that will allow us more free time, success or tangible rewards.

Several factors come into play as we move beyond “where we are” to “where we might wish to be.”  We must recognize that before we can move from “what we have” to “what we hope for,” one journey must end before another can begin – that before we can wrestle with new opportunities we must free ourselves from the constraints (and restrictions) of the old.  We must acknowledge that before we can take a new path to an unknown destination we must abandon the old and familiar roads that have taken us safely to the places in which we have found comfort.  All change begins with the deliberate consideration of an intentional action
that, if acted upon, will forever alter where we are as it redefines where we are going (one cannot do the same things they have always done and expect different results).

Success often follows change.  When we are able to produce results that were previously thought to be impossible by doing things not previously considered, those around us often view us as being “successful.” Everyone desires success BUT an individual must work to accomplish something not yet done, dreamed of or considered if he or she seeks to claim the results as a personal achievement.  We cannot grant success to another because it is different for everyone – one person’s idea about a “logical conclusion” could be another’s definition of a “good starting point.”  Unless (and until) we determine where we wish to “end” our journey, it is difficult to know how far we have come (or if, indeed, we have even begun to initiate a transition).  Holding on to past success, however – riding a single success beyond its effective lifespan by thinking “our way” is the only way – will almost always force us to change (by revealing the shortcomings of our established approach) or disrupt our stagnant but comfortable existence (by offering a more exciting option).

We must actively appraise the things we do if we wish to remain vibrant and relevant.  By continuously analyzing our strengths and weaknesses – leveraging those that pull us forward while addressing those that hold us back – we will remain effective.  Recognizing that the only constant in life is change will allow us to accept the possibility of failure (and the learning it brings).  Success does not come, however, from frantic movement without direction or purpose - we must intentionally stop what we are doing if we wish to start something else!  To initiate change (and achieve PERSONAL success), we must intentionally address three major issues:
  • WE MUST ACT by acknowledging where we have been, recognizing what we have done, and wishing to be (or achieve) something different before we can start travelling upon a new path.  How can we better serve our customers?  What can we do to improve a relationship?  Must we alter our behavior so that we can remain relevant within a changing world?  When our goals change we must step from our original path onto a new (perhaps uncharted) trail – must leave our comfortable surroundings in search of a new place of shelter – if we are to achieve success through refocused and redirected efforts.
  • WE MUST STOP DOING THE THINGS WE HAVE ALWAYS DONE – no matter how effective they may have been in the past – if we seek something different results.  While identifying what must be done to create meaningful change, paths (and methods) needing abandonment will inevitably be revealed, but they will not lead us anywhere until we choose to step forward.  Can a worker that values time off from work (new life balance issues) be effectively disciplined with suspension (old “rules are rules” mentality)?  Can an individual communicate effectively without embracing technology and learning how to “entertain” using Power Point?  Can two people maintain a meaningful relationship if neither is willing to “walk a mile” in the other’s shoes – or to talk about what the other might need?
  • WE MUST IDENTIFY AND ABANDON THE THINGS THAT HOLD US BACK while we continue doing things that initiate change (while producing growth).  We all have personal strengths – characteristics responsible for the successes we have achieved.  Everyone can celebrate a “peak of accomplishment” in their past but far too many choose to dwell within the quiet valleys surrounding their peak rather than seeking new heights that rise all around them.  In order to realize meaningful change we must continue doing the things that brought us to our heights while discarding those that bring us to our knees.  We must seek alternative paths that will lead us forward rather than continuing to fall back upon the “safe roads” that lead to places (activities and relationships) we have already achieved or established.
People must change more than their outward appearance if they expect their path to shift significantly.  We often hear about “new and improved” products only to find nothing but the packaging has changed. Television networks frequently move a failing show from one night to another in order to gain viewers from a less competitive offering.  If we are resolved to change we must consciously decide NOT to “stay the course” by intentionally seeking a new path into an unknown wilderness.  While we must acknowledge our past (both the wins and the losses) before we can define our present (from which we must move forward) if we harbor any expectation of creating a different future, we must choose to move from the safety that our current situation provides if we are to experience anything new.

Monday, August 11, 2014


Great leaders develop practices and communicate expectations that allow them to manage fairly and consistently as they motivate people to contribute their proportionate share towards the success of the team or the stability of relationships.  Unfortunately, there are many insecure and unprepared leaders seeking to claim all of the “gain” while accepting none of the “blame.”  The road to success is not a highway built by a single individual – rather it is a precarious path paved with the sacrifice and hard work of a team allowing individuals to share both setbacks and successes as they grow together towards the accomplishment of a goal.

We maximize the potential for success when a group develops and discusses mutually beneficial objectives then takes the actions necessary to bring them to fruition (leveraging their strengths while compensating for their individual deficiencies).  Poorly thought-out initiatives, reactions without consideration of repercussions and a general misdirection of otherwise worthwhile effort will result in failure.  A successful leader determines a direction, communicates a potential course of action then monitors progress – stepping in to redirect effort only when necessary.  In order to accomplish much with others, a leader must:
  • BE ACTIVELY ENGAGED IN BUILDING APPROPRIATE RELATIONSHIPS.  Successful leaders are actively involved in making the decisions that affect themselves, those around them and/or their families.  Poor leaders often allow others to direct their actions (then complain when things do not progress as they might have wished).  Good leaders make decisions then move forward while monitoring progress so a detour does not become a dead end.  Poor leaders lose track of the “big picture” while making isolated decisions – tending to live within silos rather than on an operational farm.  While a stated objective becomes our final destination, the relationships and decisions we make build the path upon which we will travel.  How you lead (or relate to others) ultimately determines whom you lead (or are in relationship with).
  • DELEGATE RESPONSIBILITY AND AUTHORITY TO THOSE AROUND YOU.  Good leaders analyze strengths when assigning projects to maximize the potential for successful resolution – they recognize what others can (and cannot) do, then work within those parameters to optimize the chances of success.  If an individual has the ability to perform a task, knows when it must be completed, and is not overloaded with interfering assignments, much will be accomplished IF the leader avoids micro-managing activities while remaining available for questions and monitoring progress.  Individuals must have the desire and feel the need to contribute – must feel empowered to identify alternative actions and enabled to act independently – before they will risk failure (or taste success).
  • ACCEPT THAT FAILURE IS AN EXCELLENT TEACHING TOOL.  Far too many leaders feel that “winning at any cost” is the only way to be successful.  While winning more often than not is desirable, if an individual never makes a mistake he or she will not know how to deal with adversity.  Repeated failure should never be tolerated but if an individual can learn from a mistake – which is not dangerous, destructive or damaging to the organization’s (or the individual’s) reputation or ability to perform – embrace the shortcoming (rather than hiding it) and move beyond it (rather than dwelling within it).
  • DEAL WITH ISSUES PROMPTLY AND APPROPRIATELY.  If something needs correcting and discipline is required, administer it specifically and immediately.  If an individual does something exceptionally well, celebrate as soon as possible.  It is important to stop (or clone) the behavior rather than avoiding or ignoring it.  Address and discuss issues that bother you BEFORE they become insurmountable.  One will not create mutually beneficial relationships if “everything is always wrong” and “nothing is ever right” in the actions, attitudes or behaviors of others.  Focus on modifying the behavior to achieve different results rather than addressing the individual and expecting personality change. 
Good leaders publicly celebrate success loudly while privately whispering (specifically and directly) about
failure.  They analyze themselves to identify their strengths (which they leverage towards a common good) and their weaknesses (which they work hard to strengthen OR minimize by leveraging another’s gifts).  A good leader may or may not be “a friend,” but must ALWAYS be seen as fair and consistent.  We must establish decision-making skills that allow us to act in a predictable and reasonable manner if we wish to become effective – which, if done by example rather than through edict – will allow us to accomplish great things with others.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


Some would define success as “having arrived” at a final destination. Others measure success through the progress they make while working towards the accomplishment of a challenge.  Whether you consider “success” to be a destination or the journey towards a conclusion, it entails inspiration (to identify what could be), deliberation (to consider the benefits AND the ramifications of change) and transformation (intentional action to initiate change) to be realized.

Success is not defined by what (or how much) we do nor by where we end up in comparison with where we began.  Success measures both what we accomplish AND what we have been able to learn from our experiences along the way.  Simply being busy – or doing things – does not guarantee success.  We must perform with purpose – moving towards defined objectives – to experience success.

Success is not a measure of what (or how much) one has but rather of what (or how much) one has invested to attain it.  Success is not something that can be granted, bestowed or declared by others – it is an accomplishment or series of planned activities that, when internalized by an individual as being significant to him- or herself, results in the proclamation of achievement through words, actions or attitudes.

Does a child hurt (and cry) less if falling when nobody is watching than if someone rushes to provide comfort
and care?  Is their crying more the result of an action (a fall) OR an action seeking results (comfort to counteract the fall)?  Do we learn more from the fall or from the comfort received from another because we fell? If a tree falls in the forest with nobody near to hear it, is there sound?  Is noise a consequence of waves received or the result of waves generated – a process or a product?  Is success achieved because a series of actions culminates in the accomplishment of a goal OR is the growth experienced as we initiate and work through the actions themselves a better barometer of success?

Rather than striving to achieve success, perhaps it would be better if we invested our talents and abilities to seek achievement, allowing our actions to create success.  Rather than seeking recognition, praise or notoriety we should recognize (and accept) that we will become “significant” when our efforts are recognized by others, attracting the attention they deserve.
In life, success typically breeds more success (NEVER being content to rest upon its laurels) while uncorrected or unresolved failure perpetuates continued failings (unless or until something happens to break the pattern of non-achievement).  Celebrate the successes you achieve but do not rest upon (or within) the past or your achievements will become your ceiling rather than your floor.  Success follows our opening up new chapters in life rather than from our closing old ones – from our initiating new beginnings rather than from resting within old ends.  ONLY when we reach for the stars – stretching beyond what can be easily attained – we will experience success.  Only when we EXPERIENCE success will it become real.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


Leadership emerges during times of trouble, turmoil and strife.  It had been said that anyone can manage during good times – that even a “blind squirrel can find a nut once in a while” – but what do YOU do when the going gets tough?  While there should be very little difference in your leadership style (whether at work or at home) when you face unexpected hurdles, far too many “competent” individuals excuse their own actions by blaming or deferring to others.  Seeking short term-gain (popularity, acceptance, being “liked” by others) often damages long-term credibility when “it was not my fault” is the immediate response to every issue, problem or concern that faces us.  In that we are all human, however, we are bound to fall into the “credibility exchange” trap.

Examples of “decision deferral” and “blame game mastery” exist everywhere we look.  The Government tends to shift blame rather than assuming ownership of most situations – and (sadly) the American People tend to accept that transfer as being acceptable.  The current Administration blames our past President for creating the crisis in care within the Veteran’s Administration because when we began the war in Iraq during the past presidency we did not anticipate the increased need for care so “it is not our fault” that there are more veterans in need than there are providers to care for them. Our past State administration blamed the previous governing body for our financial woes – then took credit for any gains by claiming that the turnaround was a result of implementing initiatives started during their time in office.  Rare is the politician who will say, “It does not matter who caused the situation – we must work together to identify the root cause of the problem so we can concentrate on its resolution rather than focusing on fault.”

On a personal level, individuals within failing (or suffering) relationships often blame others on their “position in life,” think “if only something else had happened differently, I would be in a different place,” or simply walk away rather than assuming part of the blame.  Many people feel vulnerable when they accepting blame rather than shift it to others.  “It is not MY fault!” is far easier to say than “I am sorry – I was wrong.”  An apology should be the beginning of a new direction rather than the end of a poor choice.  It is not a conclusion – it is a fresh start.  Too many people feel they need to avoid all appearance of being “human” (making mistakes, expressing doubt, changing a direction should the conditions change) if they want to be respected –that “being right” trumps “being real” when it comes to relationships.

At work, many examples of responsibility shift exist.  Seemingly competent managers sometimes tell staff to
“look busy” because “top management” is out to cut staff and “we don’t want that to happen to us” when orders begin to drop.  By building a bond of mutual fear with staff, these managers avoid the “blame bullet” but will never become leaders.  Rather than becoming part of the solution their deferral of responsibility has made them an unexpected part of the problem. A leader will “take the bull by the horns” and face reality by confirming that things are tough (staff probably already knows this), telling them that something must happen to change the current situation (insanity is doing things the same way expecting different results), and painting a realistic picture of what might happen unless an alternative is identified.  It does not really matter WHO is to blame or WHY the situation currently exists (if, indeed, it was the fault of another).  What DOES matter is what will (or can) be done to move from where we are (regardless of why we are there) to where we want to be.

Life is not a paved highway that provides us one clear path to a known destination – it is a winding road offering many alternatives. Unless (and until) we move forward, we will fall back (or be run over by others as they rush ahead).  When we wait for (and ultimately accept) the solution of others we give away our ability to define our own destiny.  We forfeit the right to share any of “the fame” (but often hold onto the desire to isolate and transfer “the blame”).  Blame is situational – life is transactional.  Avoiding (or accepting) the obvious does not create change – it fosters complacency. Assigning fault excuses our condition – accepting responsibility and seeking resolution initiates change.   If we wait for things to happen to us (or expect someone else to lead us from where we are), our choices become obvious and our results limited to a narrow set of defined (and predictable) outcomes.  If, however, we react and respond to situations rather than planning and anticipating (or blaming and excusing) – we will find our lives full of unpredictable moments that reveal to us unlimited potential leading to undefined (and unexpected) possibilities.