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!

Monday, November 24, 2014


A recent Wall Street Journal article reported that walking in an upbeat way could improve one’s mood – and that swaying from side to side while walking would cause one to be more depressed and sad.  Resisting temptations such as chocolate, fats, and “indulgent” foods elevated one’s self-perception while succumbing to those temptations created an attitude of failure.  Talking to a total stranger while travelling rather than isolating yourself within your own thoughts and sitting with good posture rather than in a slumped-over fashion also caused individuals to be more positive in their reaction to life.  It seems that many of the “right things” we do have a positive affect on our health and demeanor while the “wrong” or “questionable” things we do lead us to more unhealthy destinations.  While these conclusions are the result of observations made during controlled, scientific research, think about some of the corollaries we could take from a “living the dream” rather than an “enduring the nightmare” attitude.
I knew a very capable individual who tended to think more about what might go wrong than what could go right.  He focused on the possible – making sure that he would be able to respond to any contingency imaginable – often missing the opportunity to “strike while the iron was hot” due to his deliberate nature and his over-thinking each situation.  I knew another individual that considered a situation, thought about several of the more obvious ramifications of his actions, then decided to act rather than continuing to “posture” himself to avoid all risk or minimize the chances of failure.  He often acted (intentionally) knowing what would likely happen, what could possibly happen and what had a small (but realistic) chance of happening – but his actions often put him ahead of his competition and in front of “the crowd,”  able to hold his head high in discovery rather than hanging it low in compliance.
Many people begin each year with resolutions to change – an expressed thought of altered behavior and significantly different results.  Most resolutions tend to be short-term in nature – like going to the gym (for 1 – 2 months), exercising at home (for a week), driving safely (until you are late for a meeting) or spending more time with friends and family (unless there is a major project at work).  Resolutions tend to be immediately achievable transitions rather than long-term transformations.  If “walking with confidence” and “eliminating a back and forth sway” help people become happier, think what the accomplishment of an expressed goal (even if for only a short time) might do to their demeanor!
Rather than “resolving to change” this year, why not commit to transform?  Do not accept only what is attainable – rather reach beyond the probable to experience the possible.  Set your targets boldly where people have previously feared to wander – not as a means to ensure defeat but rather as a way to break through to destinations not yet discovered.  When you accept the things that others have already accomplished as your benchmarks, critics (and cynics) will always point out what did not work in the past while predicting your demise.  When you seek new frontiers – look forward with anticipation rather than backwards in fear or dread – others are less apt (or able) to criticize because they have no basis (or experience) to support their predictions of failure. 
Sincerely believing that you will succeed – when supported with appropriate training and resources – will contribute greatly to success.  Anticipating failure almost always becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Setting the bar high keeps your head up and your attitude will follow.  Failing to set a goal will allow your head to drop as you drift aimlessly without a plan or a target. 
Act happy if you seek joy in life.  Establishing your destination before you determine your route will help you accomplish things nobody has yet done.  Predicting success (rather than assuming failure) will help you to succeed.  The experts tell us to “walk happy to avoid depression?”  I would say that is a great start…but only a start…to becoming a more successful “you.”

Thursday, November 6, 2014


Every organization must have a mission – a vision – a reason for “being.”  Unless an organization exists to fulfill a specific (and necessary) purpose – to produce a product or provide a service – it will not survive. Unless consumers or a market segment needs a product or service (it has, creates or enhances value), the best or largest “supply” in the world will not be “in demand” enough to justify its ongoing presence.  Though a business can (and does) impact society by providing jobs, work is a necessary part of the process of producing results NOT the result of an organization’s efforts to create meaningful activity.  Work without purpose may keep an organization busy (for a time) but will not produce the income needed to sustain its activities.  An organization will not be able to attract and retain employees unless it can clearly and definitively communicate what kind of work is expected to be done, how “success” will be measured and how results will be rewarded.  Without a mission, an organization cannot focus its resources towards the accomplishment of an identified purpose, choose the direction it should go or qualify the decisions it must make as it establishes itself as being a vital and contributing part of the business community.

In order to be effective, an organization’s mission statement must clearly (and concisely) define why a business exists, what it does, and (sometimes) who it serves in a way that can be easily remembered and communicated by all involved in its accomplishment.  Nike has established the phrase, "To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world" as its mission statement – implying what it does by who it serves.  "Our mission: to inspire and nurture the human spirit one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time" is the stated purpose of Starbucks Company, never mentioning coffee but referring to the inspirational experience it hopes to provide.  Coca Cola’s mission, “To refresh the world - in mind, body and spirit; To inspire moments of optimism - through our brands and actions; To create value and make a difference everywhere we engage” states what the company does without ever saying what it produces.  Kohl’s mission, “To be the leading family-focused, value-oriented, specialty department store offering quality exclusive and national brand merchandise to the customer in an environment that is convenient, friendly and exciting” says what it is without limiting itself to any one particular product or brand.  The Employers’ Association’s mission is “To provide practical Human Resource solutions to West Michigan business promoting operational excellence and sustainability,” defining what we provide, to whom it is provided and what our service is intended to accomplish.  While no two mission statements are the same, each successful enterprise must be able to state why it exists by communicating what product, service or value is being provided in a way that people understand – and can hopefully easily remember when a need materializes.

Individuals often accept that business needs a mission – a purpose and reason to exist – but fail to transfer that essential reality to their own lives.  In order to establish value in ourselves, everyone needs to establish a PERSONAL mission statement to guide individual actions, efforts and activities.  A personal mission statement is a bit different from a company mission statement, but the fundamental principles are the same – it provides clarity and a sense of purpose.  It defines who you are and how you will live. When we drift without purpose towards an unidentified objective, we will take a long time to accomplish nothing.  While we cannot miss a target unless it has been clearly identified and posted – cannot fail unless we establish goals and objectives – life without purpose becomes meaningless.  A sailboat needs a sail (to capture the wind) and a rudder (to set a course) if it is to move forward.  It needs a keel to stabilize its journey and an anchor to hold it in place during times of rest.  Though there are many parts and pieces that work together to make a sailboat move ahead, unless a destination has been identified and deliberate action is taken to move towards it, the best wind, the most favorable seas and the mildest conditions will be wasted unless a “reason to sail” has been established.  Unless we (personally) know what we wish to accomplish through the actions we take and the decisions we make, we will never learn what we need to know (do or understand) in order to add value (to ourselves, our friends or our society) as we seek to make a difference in this life.  We must dedicate our actions, our efforts and our thoughts towards the accomplishment of SOMETHING if we hope to accomplish ANYTHING.

Writing a personal mission statement offers the opportunity to establish what is important, often allowing us to make a decision to stick to it before we waste energy and resources without knowing where we might want to go.  As we establish a personal mission statement, we should seek to ask the right questions rather than trying to provide the correct answers – to expand our horizons to regions we have not yet explored rather than limiting them to our “known and comfortable” universe.  An individual mission may be as simple as “I will make a difference in all I say or do,” or “I will live everyday with Integrity and vow to make a positive difference in the lives of others utilizing my knowledge for the good of all people.” It may a “short term” objective like, “I will complete my education so that I can pursue a new career.”  It may be as complex (and convoluted) as, “I will pursue knowledge that can, through intentional actions and experiences, be transformed to wisdom.  I will apply wisdom to advance myself (and others around me) while seeking and establishing new opportunities that add value to my life and my community.  I will never give up (though I may occasionally give in) while realizing all that I might hope or imagine myself to be.”   Make your dreams become reality by “memorializing” them in writing – by telling another about them so they can hold you accountable for their fulfillment.  However you wish to establish a personal mission statement, consider Steven Covey’s reference in First Things First – that it must connect your own unique purpose with the profound satisfaction that comes from fulfilling it.  Life fulfilled is life worth living!