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!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


We are told from an early age that knowledge is the key to success.  If we learn we will achieve.  If we set our sights high when establishing our goals and objectives – and work hard to equip ourselves with the knowledge to accomplish our goals – great things will happen.  For most, the sky has been painted as “the limit” to success.  In front of each of us lies an endless continuum of possibilities – as long as  we pay attention in school, learn what is presented and “never stop learning” throughout life.  I would disagree with this simplistic approach as knowledge alone seems NOT to be the key to anything.

Wisdom is the application of knowledge.  Just because someone knows facts, details or information does not make them a leader, a teacher or a success.  Individuals chosen to participate on the TV game show Jeopardy demonstrate a vast base of knowledge – an unending ability to recall what many would consider arcane facts and an astounding grasp of history, trivia and culture – BUT do nothing to demonstrate any more success outside of this knowledge-based niche than anyone else.  I have met many intelligent individuals who possess all the “book knowledge” available to them yet lack the common sense and practical experience to make a good decision or know which way to turn given the unguided choice.  The application of knowledge through wise choices, decisions and actions that anticipate consequences (both planned and unintended) is what truly defines success – particularly if we do not care who gets the credit for the results that are achieved.  Knowledge allows us to think about issues, topics and challenges from many different perspectives.  Wisdom (the application of knowledge), allows us to succeed by putting knowledge into action.

Not all individuals are “wired” to attend college.  Some learn through books – and we need educated teachers, engineers, doctors, managers and other professionals to study, practice and learn so they can lead, teach and create.  Others, though, can make a difference by applying the knowledge they attain to situations that do not require a college degree.  Trade schools provide knowledge that can be applied within technical careers (manufacturing, tool and die, machinists, carpenters, mechanics and a plethora of other significant occupations that contribute greatly to society).  Certificate programs can focus learning to a narrow slice of knowledge that can be directly applied to a defined situation or a specific career.  Though our grade schools and high schools equip us with information that is vital and necessary to survive in this world, we must continually stretch our knowledge base throughout life so we can accept new challenges by applying our knowledge wisely to the elimination of roadblocks or the expansion of our responsibilities.  When we learn we plant the seeds of prosperity.  When we apply our knowledge we are able to see it grow into endless fields of opportunity.

Many have been told that “knowing is believing” when it comes to understanding something or accepting the resolution that has been enacted.  Knowing is actually nothing unless it is associated with action, responsibility, accountability and focused follow-through.  We can know much without making a difference unless (and until) we put our knowledge into action.  We can know much without making a difference unless we take responsibility for our actions – learn from our mistakes – then move on to accomplish our next objective.  We can know much without making a difference until we act on our beliefs, assumptions and thoughts so that something can be moved forward rather than being allowed to stagnate. 

We should seek knowledge but strive for ways to apply what we learn to better ourselves and those around us.  We should establish goals and seek to accomplish them but understand success is not simply the fulfillment of a stated objective having no purpose or meaning.  Success is not measured by what we have or what we do but rather by what we are able to accomplish with the gifts we are given and how we can apply the knowledge we attain – how we are able to impact, influence or enlighten others as we demonstrate wisdom through the application of all we know and all we have experienced.  It is not elevating, enabling or providing for others – it is fulfilling our own potential as we vacate a “station” in life which another can fill IF they, too, wisely apply their knowledge.

Nothing changes unless and until something changes.  When we seek knowledge it should be purposeful – with all learning directed towards the accomplishment of an objective or the realization of a dream.  Knowing for the sake of knowing may allow us to win the game of Jeopardy but applying what we know to the accomplishment of everyday problems, issues and situation will allow us to win the game of life.

Friday, February 6, 2015


When opportunity knocks, some seek to shift the blame, excusing themselves from any responsibility for the challenges that life might place before them. They prefer taking the “easy path” to all the destinations, implicitly declaring that opportunities are great but challenges should be avoided at all costs. Rarely will you find a risk taker within the ranks of those wishing to travel upon paved roads as any bumps are blamed upon the inadequacies of others and detours are seen as dead ends rather than uncharted possibilities. People refusing to put forth more than minimal effort while expecting exceptional results are unrealistic in their beliefs for change takes the investment of sweat equity to build upon “what is” on the way to discovering “what could be.” Far too many individuals seek to rise to the top upon the backs of others, expecting to receive the same rewards simply because they share the same space and breathe the same air.

Those seeking to leverage their individual abilities, attitudes and desires eagerly open the door to new opportunities.  They immerse themselves in the identification of “root causes” that may have initiated the disruptive events in their lives, seeking to become an indispensable part of innovative solutions rather than an ongoing contributor to unresolvable problems and unreasonable expectations. They move forward upon paths defined by the conditions, situations and issues available to them at the time they begin a journey but are willing to adjust their travels should any of the factors considered at the beginning change. Individuals answering the knock of opportunity typically identify paths not yet imagined as they take roads not yet improved while seeking destinations not previously explored or defined. Those willing to take risks in life visualize where they might go once they step through the door of opportunity. They do not hide behind the safety of a closed existence, rather they absolutely refuse to accept the loss of “what might be possible” by settling on the known cost of “what is.” 

We share much in life with others. We share the things we do (and sometimes those we consciously choose not to do). We share our accomplishments (particularly those that bring us success). We share relationships, possessions, thoughts, families, and friends. Sharing our workload and the results of our efforts has become an expectation as we seek to magnify and enhance our individual contributions by blending them with the unique gifts others have been given to accomplish collectively more than could have been completed on our own. With such an emphasis on sharing and “teamwork” being taught in schools, expected at work and embraced by people seeking to minimize personal risk, however, we discourage people from “answering the knock of opportunity” by dissuading them from expressing their individuality without fearing failure. Within a politically correct world that rewards results rather than encouraging discovery, do we allow people to bring their dreams to fruition?  Are people encouraged to answer the door or are they expected to remain locked tightly within their current reality?  Do we keep the door closed by convincing people it is alright to find comfort in the way things are (and that they will never change). Perhaps the opportunity that knocks in each of our lives should be greeted as a dream that has yet to become reality rather than a reality that has established itself as our dreams.

Dreams are thoughts not yet realized – aspirations not yet brought to fruition. Dreams are the basis of our goals and the foundation of our good intentions. We can live life without dreams but cannot embrace its full potential or become all we hope to be or realize all we might wish to accomplish without first visualizing what we want to become or what we desire to do as we travel through life. Those that perform to the standards and expectations of others may be great contributors (as they add value to society) but until they identify their individual aspirations and work towards accomplishing them, people rarely discover new horizons or identify unknown paths that would allow them to travel beyond the door of opportunity once it has been opened. To accomplish our dreams we must be willing to open the door that holds captive the safety and security of our “present” so we can step through to the unknown opportunities of a “future” yet to be fully identified, realized or finalized. 
When opportunity knocks, you can ignore it, consciously turn it away or embrace it as you move towards its unrealized potential. You can answer its call or hide within the safety and security of “what is.” You can avoid answering the door, hoping someone else will invest the sweat equity needed to bring opportunity to fruition by investing the time and energy you are unable (or unwilling) to expend, but must then accept the results they accomplish rather than the possibilities you could attain.

Some accomplish much because they sacrifice all, holding back nothing as they seek “the prize” rather than worrying about “the cost.” They picture life as a series of surmountable hills rather than a single insurmountable mountain. They see obstacles in life being temporary detours rather than permanent closures, finding “the good” in every situation they encounter rather than dwelling upon “the bad” in what might come their way. People answering the knock of opportunity see where they wish to be and envision what they wish to become then invest themselves into making those things become reality rather than containing themselves or maintaining the status quo. While they accomplish much for themselves, they allow others to taste success by paving the way for them to follow once they have opened the door (for they know that leaving the door closed would prohibit new discoveries and eliminate new accomplishments).