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, 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.