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, March 16, 2015


Finding purpose – without actively seeking it – is like finding a perfection beyond all expectations.  Our abilities flow freely, far too powerfully to be contained.  Life becomes abundant and free – our results far exceeding the effort producing them.  While we do what we like, our labor becomes a path to be enjoyed – the destination but the logical conclusion of the choices we gladly make.  When we do what we want, the rewards far exceed what we invest, and all seems good in the world.  Living becomes but a chapter within a never-ending story – having no clear-cut beginning nor a definitive end, only the continuous expectation of good things to come.  Finding joy in what we do and with whom we choose to live – and happiness in what we have rather than what misery because of what we are lacking – allows us to live life as it is rather than wishing for what could have been – or for what has yet to be. 

·         “Being” far outweighs “doing,” and the contributions we make towards the growth of others provides us more satisfaction than does advancing ourselves
·         We truly care more about the good that can be done than about who receives credit for doing it
·         We love what we do and are allowed to do what we love in a way that lifts others while fulfilling ourselves.

It is then that we know we should stay – for who could replace us should we go?

·         The promise of tomorrow become lost within the realities of today – realities rooted in (rather
            than built upon) our memories of the past
·         Our efforts become pain rather than pleasure – our destination becoming the driver making us lose site of the joy in our journey
·         All that we love in what we do become but things we do to accomplish what must be done
·         Our dreams become a flame that has lost its brilliance as it slowly dies to but a flicker or the path from which the fog was cleared be returned to its murky darkness
·         The hope that seemed so real for a season fade to but a wish for what might have been as our contributions become shadows passing quietly through the night
·         The certainty relied upon for strength and comfort become but an abandoned dwelling within the sheltered corners of a shattered mind
·         We seek more from life than we are willing to invest – wanting more from others than we are willing to give of ourselves. 

·         You no longer find strength in your Dreams (for you have grown far too conscious of the limitations of your reality)
·         You no longer bask in the warmth of simply being (the need for external praise exceeding your own internal confidence)
·         What you know and are able to accomplish creates a barrier restricting the ability of others to exhibit their knowledge or minimizes their accomplishment
·         All that keeps you going is the fear of your alternatives rather than your ability to make a difference. 

Perhaps then comes the time that we should go – time to move on – letting go of what has not yet become.  It is then that we know we should go – for what might we inhibit or who might we impair should we stay? 
May we have the health and ability to stay as long as we are able to contribute – and the graciousness to go without dragging others down as we leave (or disrupt them should we stay).  In staying or in going…
·         It is the lucky ones who staked a claim to life that were able to embrace the world as their own reality
·         It is the fortunate ones who defined their dreams clearly, allowing nothing to interfere with their sense of purpose
·         It is the meaningful ones who have realized their hopes, accomplished their goals and given more to those around them than they could ever give themselves
·         It is the insightful ones who act intentionally in all they do rather than allowing destiny to choose their mate, guide their career or determine the way in which they will contribute to those around them or control their real. 

In whatever we do, may we stay as long as we can contribute – and walk away with our heads held high knowing (and acknowledging) all we accomplished should we choose to go.  When we choose to stay (or to go), may we know when to live life as it should be by living life as it is – and have the wisdom to know the difference – so we might know when it is time for us to stay (or it becomes time for us to go).

Monday, March 9, 2015


“Not all who wander are lost” (Tolkien) is a truism as much today as when first penned.  Without breaking down the walls around us and stepping outside of the box, few innovative or original thoughts would be considered.  Unless, and until, we begin to wander off the beaten path – searching for things not generally thought of or methods not typically used – will anything different happen.  Had the Wright brothers not “wandered” towards Kitty Hawk – building upon new thoughts and processes with each step they took on their journey – would we be able to fly today?  Had Edison not wandered upon darkened streets – refusing to accept a flickering flame as being the only form of illumination – would we have the electrical power grid that exists today?  Had a handful of disillusioned souls not wandered across the ocean to an unknown destination – driven forward by the promise of a better tomorrow that offered freedoms of religion, choice and self-governance – would we live within the greatest nation ever formed?  While many that wander aimlessly through life are lost, those that wander with a sense of purpose, a thirst for knowledge and a desire to make a difference in their world are far from lost – they are leaders upon a road not yet discovered travelling towards a goal not yet identified.  They seek what has not yet been found BUT find and develop all they can as they pass through uncharted territory on their way to a perceived destination – which becomes but a resting place for them to regain their strength before wandering anew.  Wanderers are the leaders of our world, and those willing to wander with them will be amazed at what wonders have yet to be discovered.

Conversely, not all who are lost wander (Smith).  We cannot expect change unless we are willing to
embrace it – until we consciously and intentionally move forward towards a destination not previously discovered.  While some wander aimlessly because they are lost – sometimes even stumbling upon a great discovery or an uncharted trail – their travels are unplanned and their discoveries unintentional.  Many, however, who are lost chose to lie low awaiting rescue.  Rather than making a difficult situation any worse they will find a safe harbor within which they can ride out the storm – a dry cave in which to crawl during the rain.  Those who find comfort in the status quo – who are content to live as they have always lived so that they can have all (but no more) than they have always had – represent the unfortunate souls content to exist in mediocrity.  When facing a fork in the road, those content to rest will seek guidance from their past – looking behind them to find what has worked so that they can move forward on familiar trails that lead to known destinations.  When facing the unknown, some who are lost prefer to await rescue – to wait for others to lead them from where they are to where they would prefer to be – but will rarely strike out on their own or leave breadcrumbs behind them as they strike a path towards the untried and the untrue.  Those who do not wander will rarely find a way that has not yet been found nor discover a concept that has yet to be imagined – they are but the worker bees within an ever expanding hive – content to do as they are told in exchange for a planned and consistent universe regardless of the cost.

A rare few individuals are seekers striving for change, validation or innovation – willing to walk away from the safety and security of “what is” in search of things that could be (but have not yet been identified).  Whether they are lost or enlightened, those that wander will find things along the way not yet identified or discovered.  The difference is that those who are lost see their discoveries as an end – a final destination or place to rest – while those seeking innovation, freedom or unheard of results see their discoveries as but the beginning of something entirely new and innovative.  It has been said that the first step of any journey is the hardest but perhaps the second step – that one taken after initially setting out from what is comfortable and secure towards that which is unknown, and those taken next once the realization of what is being left behind before an understanding of what may be gained – are truly the most difficult.  While many sentences make up a book – and the first is often difficult to write – it is important that we know when (and how) to end each chapter so we can move on from what has been accomplished while seeking what has not yet been achieved.

Look back only long enough to know from where you come.  Stop only long enough to know where you belong.  Leverage your past and your present to establish a future that will never be unveiled unless (and until) you begin to wander.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015


Great leaders tend to display a fierce resolve to do whatever is needed in order to accomplish their stated objectives without really caring who gets the credit for the work as long as the results are achieved.  If we accept this as an indicator of success, it conflicts with what we see as great qualities in the people we hold up in our traditional definition of leaders - those who "make a name for themselves" as they accomplish much (personally) while making significant changes in industry, education or society.  While one person may be able to catalyze change, no one person can cause change to happen unless others are motivated to engage in and implement a change in behavior that will lead to a new result.

Most people identify great leaders as being people like Steven Jobs, Jack Welch, perhaps a President or two of the United States – identifying “leadership” with an outspoken champion of change whom has accomplished visible things through his or her actions.  While these individuals may be change agents, they often use their position of power to “dictate” change rather than being an effective and humble leader able to facilitate change.  Individuals able to encourage “buy in” to from others to implement change – leveraging the momentum of the whole to accomplish more than any one person could have cone – leave a truly inspirational legacy.  Max DePree, a great West Michigan leader, wrote that “Leaders don’t inflict pain; they bear pain.”  In order to lead effectively, one must consistently demonstrate humility, honesty and integrity so that people want to follow (noting that “following” should never be done blindly – it MUST include independent thought, analysis and consciously directed efforts).  

Humility is disciplined strength.  Humble leaders are quick to give credit and slow to accept praise.  While a leader must be competitive in order to grow an organization, the manager who takes all the credit will find him/herself without a team to enact change!  Think about how different a sporting event would be if the coaches took all the credit for their team’s success.  While chess may allow for one-on-one activity, there would not be much of a game when played if the abilities of each individual contributor were not melded into a functional unit having one purpose, mission and objective.

Honesty is living, speaking and acting with a truthful sincerity free from deceit or fraud. Communicating honestly means to speak plainly and pointedly – stating all facts and assumptions considered before making a decision – so that people know what you are saying AND (perhaps more importantly) why you are saying it.  Respect is not purchased by cashing in an astounding vocabulary – it is earned by simply stating one’s position so that it can be clearly understood and acted upon.  While we have the right to freely and openly express our beliefs (short of harming another), we ARE NOT given the right to be taken seriously in all that we say – unless we have earned it by consistently demonstrating a high level of integrity through our actions.  Unless (and until) we are seen as being dependable, credible and honest by others, we might be able to impose our will upon individuals but we will not be able to motivate, inspire or lead them towards greatness.

Integrity is the value one establishes when he or she adheres to moral and ethical principles as guiding factors in the decisions they make – when moral character and honesty is expressed within all their personal and business interactions.  People respect individuals perceived as “having integrity,” trusting what they say and willingly following where they lead because they know “where they are coming from” in everything that is said or done.  Saying what you mean – then doing what you say – are two of the greatest attributes a leader can possess.

While charismatic leaders may produce “quick fix” solutions with lower risks (cutting costs and making splashy, quick change usually saves money in the short term), sustained success is delivered through leaders providing stability, long-term growth, and coordinated group effort.  Perhaps more of us should learn how to balance ego with humility – to put corporate and employee growth before our own – so that we might reap the rewards of organizational success.

Nobody is perfect – we are all human, and humans make mistakes.  The way we deal with those mistakes, however, will either insure our ascension within an organization or guarantee our fall. While leaders must provide a clear sense of direction, they must be humble in accepting credit and honest in accepting blame when efforts fail.  An individual able to do so will have gained immense credibility through his or her integrity – credibility that will translate exponentially into positive results.