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, January 21, 2014

PROVIDING PATHWAYS


People face crossroads throughout their lives.  Some stressful situations are the result of unavoidable circumstances within our daily lives.  Most, however, are a result of our own individual failure to anticipate the potential ramifications of decisions we make (or choose not to make).  An idealist might ask how much stress can be avoided if timely and “correct” decisions that lead to a proper course of action are made BEFORE a difficult situation arises.  A realist would probably opt to consider how much stress is acceptable and what are the most likely avenues of escape when it becomes too much.  An optimist might look at stress as a proving ground – an opportunity to become stronger and prove one’s self-worth while moving towards a better place.  A pessimist might look at stress as a roadblock that makes the path impassable, causing one to turn around and seek the comfort of familiarity rather than forging ahead.  Some take accountability for their stress and share the success that might result from their efforts to move forward.  Others blame failure and complications on someone else while taking credit for gains and personally assuming any growth that might come from moving through difficult situations.

We all play a significant role in our own happiness (or sadness) yet can be major contributors to those same feelings in others depending upon the decisions we make and the directions we choose to take.  Dealing with people is an art.  In order to advance ourselves we must often provide others a “safe passage” so they can come along beside us as they actively contribute.  We should consider each situation we face – each decision we make – as an opportunity to find not only those parts of a solution that might be “partially true” but also what could be “potentially false.” As we provide a path for others to follow (which will hopefully allow them to become a “trailblazer” at some point in time), consider the following:
  • 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.  The first question is a half truth – people should not be told exactly how to do things all the time – but they MUST be told what is expected if they are to achieve any fulfillment from their contributions and assisted along the way should they run into temporary obstacles or experience set-backs.
  • All people bring a degree of experience and expertise to any situation.  They probably would not be in a position to offer their opinion if they were not at least marginally able to contribute to the resolution of an issue, concern or problem.  As soon as you think (and in some way express) that a question is “stupid,” you have lost all respect.  Not everyone knows the right answers (nor do many know the right questions!), so we should not expect people around us to act without some form of feedback or direction.  Allowing someone to run in whatever direction they choose might be good for their endurance BUT undirected effort and activity can create frustration, waste time and produce ineffective results.
  • People are (and should be) expected to contribute to the resolution of a problem or the elimination of troubling situations by applying their individual skills and abilities.  They must also receive appropriate praise and effective correction – targeted towards improved performance – if we expect them to leverage their unique gifts as we develop and implement mutually beneficial solutions.
  • Worrying about things or situations around us is a good thing.  Hiding reality from others is not so healthy. While people contributing to the resolution of a situation do not all need to know the same information, the DO need to know SOME information in order to act.  If we wish to be an island, expect to receive the limited rewards that a self-contained eco-system might provide.  When we want to receive all that is available to us – to benefit most from the efforts that a group can contribute – inform those around you what is going on, what will (or will not) work, what obstacles exist (and which are merely bumps in the road) and how they can help.  Letting others become involved is not a sign of weakness – it allows them to get involved in choosing the path to take so that there is “buy-in” to the path chosen – whether it is the “best path” (in our own opinion) or one that will (eventually) lead to the same destination.
Sometimes a “definite maybe” is the best way to work with those around us – expressing neither a strong directive nor an unarguable premise before asking for input and listening for a response from those around us. Provide a passageway by looking back while moving forward – by reaching out while holding back – by running ahead while encouraging others to follow – allowing us to move forward together.  Life does not stand still for anyone.  Allowing others to think their road is a straight and narrow passage to a known future as they travel upon a defined route does nothing to help them grow – it simply allows them to exist!  Providing passageways for them to consider as they move forward in life, however – being available as a resource should the need arise without becoming the only source of direction when the going gets tough – will help develop those around us into functioning contributors to our great society.