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, April 22, 2014

ARE YOU LOOKING AT LIFE THROUGH A TUNNEL OR A FUNNEL?

Life presents many opportunities, challenges and unique possibilities but what we gain depends almost entirely upon our perspective.

Many individuals seek to order their lives – to prioritize their activities in order to accomplish their self-imposed assignments one at a time, completing one before moving on to the next, until all the tasks on their list have been finished.  “Multi-tasking” is a process foreign to them – “focus” is the operative condition in which they live.  You can probably identify them in the workplace by their spotless desks, their appropriately labeled files, their orderly “in-basket” and their “out-basket” that is emptied on a daily basis.  At one time, they may have advocated the use of “Day Timers.”  They have now advanced to the “notes” section within their calendar (which is probably linked to every electronic device they “sync” with their office system).  They will probably list their activities each morning then track their progress each night – re-prioritizing their expectations as they head into a day and marking off their accomplishments as the day ends.  Some might say these focused (structured and ordered) individuals go through life wearing blinders – keeping their eyes focused upon the task immediately in front of them so they are not distracted as they accomplish each task before beginning another.  Perhaps these individuals simply see life through a tunnel – a contained and defined passage in which they can operate moving ahead or behind but never taking a wrong turn or ending up somewhere they did not intend to travel.


 Some live their lives as if they used a funnel to make every decision.  They feed all facts, factors, possibilities and choices in their lives into the top of the funnel – the most significant flowing to the bottom while all others trickle more slowly behind.  “Funnel-thinkers” ask many questions before beginning a task – often defining their choices and narrowing their direction by eliminating the “larger things” that flow more slowly so they can accomplish the “smaller things” first.  As with tunnel-thinkers, their actions and decisions are often focused as they accomplish one thing at a time BUT they often start with more opportunities (rather than simply following one to its conclusion) and may allow an activity to spin around in the funnel if an alternative task moves ahead of it on the way to the bottom.  These individuals acknowledge a variety of activities that must be accomplished then spin them through their “funnel-vision processes” so that tasks can be assigned to others (based on priority) and tracked to ensure the timely completion of all (rather than each singular activity being done before moving on).


A rare few choose to look through the wrong end of the funnel – to see only the exit of a tunnel rather than its entrance.  They expand their possibilities as they move forward in life, taking an initial limitation and blowing it into a world of opportunity by the time it leaves the large end of a funnel.  They see a tunnel as a launch pad (running through its walls in search of an exit) rather than a containment vessel – a place from which they constantly emerge rather than ever simply enter.  Their workplaces are identifiable by the stacks of paper on their desks and the piles of projects that are in some stage of accomplishment.  They do not “defer or delay,” they simply “set-aside” if they need a change throughout the day, always moving forward towards accomplishment but possibly focused more on progress and process than immediate accomplishment.  These individuals would die within a tunnel and drown within a funnel – they need a pool of many opportunities in which to swim and a field of many dreams in which they can wander.  Using the wrong end of their funnel as a telescope, they can often see the “big picture” which helps to guide their decisions and order their activities.  Lists, to these individuals, are a measure of what will be accomplished rather than a history of what has been done or a timetable in which it must be finished.

The world needs all types of people – those comfortable within their tunnels, others seeking satisfaction as they accomplish things in an orderly fashion as they progress through a funnel, and some that see the big picture while looking through the bottom of a funnel or peering out the exit of a tunnel.  Recognizing who YOU are is only half the battle.  Understanding that everyone does not think and act like you while learning to accept the strengths of others who think, act and accomplish things differently allows us to thrive within a world that provides (and demands) a plethora of individual differences.