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, December 30, 2014


With January’s arrival, we face a “return to reality” and an opportunity to start anew.  The Holiday season has ended and we must get back into the swing of things quickly – our feet hitting the ground running lest we be left behind by an ever changing world.  As we transition from what was once a slower time (though we have seen more work and less play making many people a bit more frantic coming out of the Holiday season) to a more active New Year (full of hope, promise and the realization of dreams), we should think more about what really matters AND how we can ensure it becomes reality than spending our time focusing on frivolous resolutions or insignificant change. 

We must never try to be someone we are not – or do something ONLY because others are doing it.  Many individuals return to work with fresh “resolutions” to do something (or be something) different BUT do not adequately prepare themselves to address and accomplish the transition.  Unless there is more gain from the change than pain from NOT changing, such mid-stream corrections rarely prove effective.  People change very little once they have established their basic values, patterns and thought processes UNLESS they are equipped with the tools needed to initiate change AND internally motivated to maintain it once accomplished.  It is often easier (and more effective) to leverage an individual’s strengths than it is to try to change their shortcomings.  As Dr. Seuss aptly proclaimed, "Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."

The Holidays are a great time for people to sit back and dream – about what they have (or do not have), who they are (or who they might wish to be), and what they want to do differently (so that they can achieve an altered results).  Stephen Leacock stated, "It may be that those who do most, dream most."  One must first imagine something as being a possibility before it can become a probability – must see the need AND the potential for transformation before it becomes a “need” rather than a “desire” but must also remember that “Dreams take time, patience, sustained effort, and a willingness to fail if they are ever to be anything more than dreams." (Bryan Linkoski). 

While “failure” is not necessarily a desired outcome of change, it is often the initiator of transformation.  We rarely change unless our current circumstances dictate that we move on.  We are more willing to run from life’s storms than we are its sunshine – to seek comfort from misfortune rather than to risk leaving a comfortable place.  Dreamers often recognize that just because they DESIRE change does not mean they will achieve it without tasting failure before they feast on success while those living within the “here and now” may not be willing to risk what they have for the possibility of gaining something greater.  Robert F. Kennedy said, "Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly."   Individuals whom have truly made a difference in this world understand that "Failure is not the worst thing – the worst thing is not to have tried."  While much intentional thought and deliberate action is required to succeed, those who are most successful recognize that "Failure is the path of least persistence."  Further, if thoughts and dreams are to become our reality, the word “impossible” must not be a part of our vocabulary (replaced, perhaps with “improbable” or “difficult” but couched in the grey of possibility rather than the black and white of perceived finality).  While facts, information and well-considered alternatives are often the building blocks of change, Dexter Yager described the essence of change by saying, "If the dream is big enough, the facts don't count (nor really matter)."

Life is a series of starts and stops – of closed chapters and of new beginnings.  Insanity is doing things the way they have always been done but expecting the results to change.  If we are to see change as we move from one year to the next, it is important that we not only recognize the need for altered behavior but that we intentionally ACT to make it happen.  Knowing the facts and understanding how to make change happen does not necessarily ensure that our resolutions will be accomplished or our transformation made complete.  Will Rogers appropriately stated, "Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there."  As our seasons change – accompanied by our actions and our attitudes – we should embrace the thoughts expressed by William Osler ("We are here to add what we can to life, not to get what we can from it").  If we seek only what is handed to us we will never realize a life that is unique, self-directed and independent from those more than willing to direct our actions and determine our course.  Sadly, many seem to seek equality rather than equity in the world.  They pull down those who are successful, taking from them the fruits of their labor in an effort to narrow the gap between “those who have and those who have not” rather than providing “those without” the tools necessary to narrow the gap through their own productivity.  While good, hard-working individuals seeking employment often find they do not have the requisite skills to perform available jobs (and seek the training needed to bridge that gap), far too many jobs remain unfilled because the sting of not working is more than sufficiently salved by an ever-expanding system of safety nets, entitlement programs and “social reforms.”

As the “old year” comes to an end and a new beginning presents itself, perhaps we could gain from both the wisdom and reality of Mark Twain when he said "Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first."  We are not “owed” success – we must first seek it then act to make it reality.  Make 2015 a year of successful transformation by thinking big and acting audaciously without fearing failure – then incorporating the lessons learned from each temporary setback into intentional actions that result in long-term success.