The Employers' Association

The Employers’ Association (TEA) is a not-for-profit employers’ association, formed in 1939, with offices in Grand Rapids serving the West Michigan employer community. We help more than 600 member companies maximize employee productivity and minimize employer liability through human resources and management advice, training, survey data, and consulting services.

TEA is in the business of helping people. This blog is intended to address human issues, concerns and the things that impact people - be they self-perpetuated or externally imposed. Feel free to respond to the thoughts presented here, for without each other, we are nothing!

Thursday, June 26, 2014


While much guidance is available to strengthen our ability to lead from a position of authority and control, the individuals whom they lead often become a “silent majority,”  being given little attention, recognition or opportunity to contribute to the “greater good” because they are not allowed (or encouraged) to influence “from the bottom up.”  It is relatively easy to tell someone what to do (and expect it to be done) when one assigns the work AND controls the consequences should the work be done poorly.  It is a different challenge to ASK another (out of the goodness of his or her heart) to do something when the person requesting the work has not authority over the person doing the assigned task.

We all work with (and sometimes around or through) others.  We all have thoughts and ideas that could improve a situation or streamline a process – could enhance a relationship or include others within a solution – but not everyone is in a position to impose their will upon others through a management directive.  In order to effectively influence others – to make a difference in how we contribute to solutions and interact with people WITHOUT the benefit of being in charge:
  • Recognize that it is your responsibility to SELL an idea, NOT someone else’s responsibility to BUY the concept.  Good salespeople identify and relate to the needs of the buyer rather than focusing on their own needs.  While making a sale will obviously benefit the seller, the buyer must recognize why he or she will benefit from making a “buying decision” before a sale will be finalized.  To close the sale – be it of a product, a process or an idea - remain positive and upbeat, focusing on what you can do to “make things right” rather than on what others would have to do to make the conclusion possible.  Until you truly “sell” change, you will be but an implementer of other’s directives rather than an initiator or innovator of ideas. 
  • Consider how change will affect “the whole” rather than focusing on how it might achieve your personal objectives.  Most people are hesitant to abandon the status quo.  If you want something done differently than it is currently being done you must convince others that the results of change are better than the comforts of staying the same.  It is difficult to impose change.  We can move mountains, however, if every individual involved is able to take responsibility for a part or portion of the transition.  If you wish to influence another’s actions, you must clearly demonstrate how the resultant change will positively affect that individual, the organization, their environment, and their future RATHER THAN how it will elevate you or improve your position.
  • Present a realistic cost-benefit analysis of your idea.  Whether it is a major corporate decision or
    a family vacation, be prepared to have a realistic discussion on the cost of change (and of not changing) and the benefits of change (or of remaining the same).  Acknowledge that implementing your idea means someone else’s was overlooked (someone will be opposed to your suggestion because their idea was not used) so it is critical that an objective analysis be clearly communicated to all involved.  Whenever anything has changed in history, the benefits of change have outweighed the costs BUT nothing happens unless (or until) that value proposition has been made.  Nothing is impossible – it is your responsibility to convince all involved that an idea is fiscally viable if it is to become a practical reality.
  • Rather than focusing on what went wrong or did not happened, focus on what DID occur AND what has yet to be accomplished.  Far too many individuals focus on what may have gone wrong (and how to correct it) – losing sight of what went right (and how to build upon it) – as they struggle to bring ideas to fruition.  They think about what was done rather than what has yet to be done.  When we tie ourselves to the possibility of failure (focusing on things that actually went wrong or simply trying to avoid pitfalls rather than implementing change), we cannot possibly realize success.  When we focus on “what did not happen” it is difficult to implement what could still be done differently to alter results.  When we are comfortable with what we do and with whom we associate, we will rarely seek to expand our circle of friends or alter our sphere of influence.   When we accept “what is” we cannot realize “what could be” unless (and until) we acknowledge the possibility of something different – something better – that has yet to be discovered.
We invest tremendously in the acquisition of knowledge in an effort to make a difference – to matter – but until we learn to sell our ideas so that others WANT to “buy” them, we might as well pour our thoughts down an open drain.  We must leverage the power of opinion without assuming the position of power in order to influence effectively.  We must look forward as we move towards new objectives – identifying obstacles that might stand in our way (rather than focusing on the troubled path we have already traveled). We must convince others to travel with us (rather than expecting them to follow without hesitation) if we expect to influence change.  Making yourself matter begins (and ends) with making others feel they matter more!

Thursday, June 19, 2014


Though time is seemingly in abundance when we have nothing to do, it passes far too quickly when we would prefer it to stand still.  We seem to worry more about how quickly we can finish the race than we do about the joy found along the way – or even the satisfaction derived from simply crossing the finish line so we can rest before beginning a new race.  People tend to worry about things they cannot control rather than identifying the things over which they do have influence.  They fear there is too little time to slow down because there is so much to be done – effectively eliminating their ability to appreciate the things they might find or see if they around them had they simply shifted focus from their destination to the road upon which they were travelling.   We often find ourselves slaves to the clock we so desperately seek to master when we keep ourselves busy to the point of exhaustion (without realizing or recognizing that “being busy” does not always mean we are efficient or productive).

I have heard many people complaining about their lemons rather than celebrating the opportunity to make lemonade.  Rather than finding satisfaction in their PROGRESS, some see only what has not been finished due to a lack of time – or what they wish they had rather than what they actually possess.  Rather than saying “good job” when someone finishes a task, they are quick to point out “what else” has yet to be accomplished.  We have become a nation of complainers – bringing others down in order to make ourselves look better RATHER THAN elevating ourselves in order to pull others up with us.  We take so much time making ourselves look better than others that we lose track of the time we could be using to fulfill our own individual potential.

Before we rush to judge, criticize or question others – minimizing the results of their efforts – take time to ask WHY someone may have chosen the path they took or acted as they did.  If doing something differently might produce a far superior result with less effort and/or time being invested (and it is not too late to “undo what has been done”), offer advice and counsel rather than critically dismissing another’s action as being worthless, wrong or misguided (either implicitly or explicitly).  Providing fish gives someone a meal – teaching them to fish feeds them for a lifetime.  Take the time to foster and create autonomy in others rather than encouraging their dependency upon you – any “short term strokes” sacrificed will return HUGE dividends in the future through the quality and quantity of work produced independently by others – ensuring a better utilization of the limited time we are all provided.

Some measure life by counting the number of breaths they take.  Might a better measure of life be tracking the number of moments that take our breath away?  Some worry so much about what must yet to be done that they lose track of what has been accomplished.  Some focus more on the destination than they do on beginning their journey – or on what they might see along the way.  We far too often forget that a new beginning NEVER occurs until an end has been realized – that we cannot arrive at a new place (or accomplish a new experience) until we leave our “present” as we journey towards our “future” (and that once a “future” has been achieved, it becomes a new “present” from which to embark).
Too many individuals live in the memory of their past, seeking the comfort of what once was rather than opportunities not yet realized (or possibly, not yet even considered).  They tend to hold on to what they have, refusing to make room in their lives for what they long to have.  Time is not stagnant – it does not wait for anyone – so we must manage our lives to maximize the opportunities we have during the precious little time we have been provided.  Unless we remember and consider our past just long enough to leverage our experiences so we can enjoy our present just long enough to be fulfilled, we will never be able to anticipate and plan for a future of “not yet realized” opportunities that will allow us to bring our dreams to fruition as we fully utilize our time.

Spend time this summer immersing yourself in the beauty of your surroundings.  Seek solace in the cry of a gull or find joy in the laughter of a child. Value every moment as you travel this earth – for the moments become years (which pass much too quickly) as we pass through this life.  Our time is far too short to dwell in one place for too long – rather we should seek all that might be possible and act to attain what we can by accomplishing those things within our control. We must take the time to appreciate not only that we will arrive but also how we choose to travel and what we might find along the way if we are to master our time rather than be mastered by it.  Though we cannot alter the seasons, we can stop chasing blindly the hands of time as they race relentlessly around the clock.  We must recognize that each morning reveals a new day and each evening closes but a chapter within our book of life – a continuum having no clear beginning and, as long as we are living, no definitive end.