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, 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.