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!

Friday, May 29, 2015


Whether managing people, relationships, situations, teams, products, processes, your temper or yourself, someone has written a book guaranteed to make you an expert.  Since there are far fewer managers than people being managed in this world, however, I’ve often wondered why so little attention has been given to influencing “from the bottom up” rather than to managing from “the top down.”   In that we are all human, whether or not we manage, I would like to propose seven “keys” to making yourself more influential as you interact with others.

1)                  Recognize it is your responsibility to SELL an idea, NOT someone else’s responsibility to BUY the concept.  Good salespeople identify and relate to the needs of the buyer, not their own needs.  While making a sale will obviously benefit the seller, a buyer must recognize why he or she will benefit from his or her buying decision before a sale will ever be consummated.  Remain positive and upbeat, focusing on what YOU can do to “make things right” rather upon what others could do to make things fail.  Until you truly “sell” change, you will be but an implementer rather than an initiator. 
2)                  Consider how change will impact “the whole” rather than how it might advance your personal objectives.  Since most people are hesitant to abandon the status quo, if you want something to be different than it is, you must convince others that the promises of change are better than the comforts of staying the same.  In order to initiate change, every individual must take full responsibility for being understood.  If you wish to influence another’s actions you must clearly demonstrate how resultant change will positively impact that individual, the organization, their environment, and their future
3)                  Present a realistic cost-benefit analysis of your idea as you define and communicate value.  Whether it be a major corporate decision or a family vacation, be prepared to have a realistic discussion on the cost of change as well as the results of change.  Acknowledge that implementing your idea will probably mean that someone else’s idea was not used.  Recognize that whenever anything has changed in history, the benefits of change have outweighed the costs.  It is your job to clearly communicate this if you expect to be heard.

4)                  Treat those you are communicating to with the same respect and courtesy you would like yourself (OR that you would utilize with a customer).  Recognizing that the person to whom you are communicating IS your customer when presenting an idea or concept will help you be a better salesperson.  Within your personal relationships, “dictating” might be a quick remedy…but selling (rather than telling), discussing (rather than imposing)…will be much more effective over the long run.
5)                  When a conclusion is reached, whether or not you fully agree with it, adopt the final decision as your own.  Many ineffective influencers will “own” decisions with which they agree and “credit others” with the ones they may not have wholeheartedly supported.  Remember that you will not always “win” when influencing upwards, but you will gain tremendous credibility if, after all the discussions and debates, you own any solution that is not illegal, unethical or immoral.  We can always live to fight another day as long as we don’t impale ourselves upon the sword of principle today.
6)                  NEVER advance an idea without having a sincere belief it will make a difference…regardless of who might receive the credit.  If we lose sight of the result of our ideas, focusing instead on getting credit for the concept, we often discredit others to make ourselves come out on top.  When we consciously make others feel that they are right or responsible, rather than continually elevating ourselves into a role of infallibility, our ideas have a better chance of implementation.  Assuring our desired results are realized will provide for better long-term rewards than will being recognized for short-term contributions.
7)                  Rather than focusing on what has (or has not) happened, dream about what has yet to occur.  Far too many individuals are haunted by what went wrong… losing sight of what went right…as their ideas come to fruition.  When we are mired in a world of failure we cannot possibly reach out towards success.  When we focus on “what did not happen” it is difficult to consider what could still be done differently to alter results before they become “final.”  When we accept “what is” we cannot realize “what could be.”

We all invest tremendously in the acquisition of knowledge.  Until we learn to sell our ideas, however, rather than expecting others to simply buy them from us, our knowledge will never be leveraged into positive change.  We must look forward rather than backwards…convincing others to travel along the winding road with us…if we ever expect to influence change.  We must acknowledge that we are capable of achieving more than we might think possible (as long as we are willing to invest our time, talent and abilities into realizing the transition) if we expect to initiate change. 

It is not enough to recognize change is needed for us to become all that we might wish to be.  We must understand the ramifications of complacency (as well as the rewards of transformation) and the gains of doing something (which must be greater than the pains of doing nothing) if we are to grow and succeed (or influence and motivate others to thrive).  We will never be able to encourage others to grow unless (and until) we recognize our own potential.

Friday, May 15, 2015


We often receive an unexpected boost from motivational quotes.  Many originate within the world of sports BUT life is more than playing games – it is about dreaming what might be our reality if only that which is could become what we hope, wish and dream it to be.  It is about reaching beyond our wildest expectations to grasp a slice of reality from a pie not yet baked.  It is about setting goals beyond what is achievable so that we force ourselves outside of the box in which we are comfortable and move towards things yet to be considered by standing upon the cardboard to search for those things that have not yet been imagined.  We all stumble and fall while travelling through life – the difference between success and failure being whether we stay down or we get back up – and what we learn from the experience.

People react to challenges differently.  Some seek comfort from every storm – preferring to remain within the safe harbors of life, never venturing outside the protected coastal waters as they accept the remnants and wreckage that wash up to shore.  They allow others to seek new adventures – to conquer unknown territories and discover treasures far beyond their ability to imagine.  They are gulls finding sustenance in things discovered and discarded by others.  To them, a gentle breeze may appear to be a raging storm – the tranquility of their calm disrupted by even the smallest pebble tossed into the sea.  If one were to equate such an existence to the hyena it would be apparent that scavengers ARE able to exist.  Rarely, however, does an individual reach greatness when they rely upon “pack mentality” to survive NOR does one receive the “first fruits” when they gratefully accept what comes to them rather than seeking to discover how much more might be available if only they were to stretch beyond their accepted paradigm.

Others seek adventure – preferring to march into the storms of life head on and face forward.  They hear the howling in the wind and seek to identify its source – wish to find where it came from before watching it go away.  They recognize that the wind cannot be contained nor captured but often dream of riding upon it – of soaring above the earth that holds them as they seek new horizons not yet discovered.  They prefer to identify opportunities as they move boldly forward in life rather than seeking comfort in what they (or someone else) already accomplished.  Where some could not fathom being a hawk hurtling down towards an unknowing prey, these individualists could not tolerate being a scavenger relying upon the efforts of another for sustenance.  Their need for autonomy – for independence – is far too great to accept the path forged by others.  They capture the wind within billowing sails – riding it as far as it may take them without allowing their concern for a safe return to detract from the journey.  They accept potential peril as the inevitable return on their unrestrained investments towards the accomplishment of their dreams.

As we move through life we must leave our yesterdays behind as we pass through our today in anticipation of all that tomorrow might bring.  Unless we fill our emotional pantries with thoughts and visions of grandeur – with hopes and promises of a yet to be defined future reality rather than doing as we have always done while expecting different things to happen to us – we MAY find momentary happiness but will never find the peace to accept that “what is” is all that “could be.”  Whenever you begin to feel that “where you are” is better (rather than just safer or more secure) than “where you could be,” consider the following: 

·         As you begin (or refresh) your journey through life, take time for the little things to become big.  Do not move so fast that you fail to enjoy the journey as you seek a destination BUT do not become so enamored with the journey that you never rest or recharge along the way.  Find time to help others along the way – to share your strengths and experiences so they might be built up rather than run over.  When the going gets tough others may be the only lifeline available to keep us going.

·         Live life to its fullest – focusing as much on the joy in the journey as you do the gold at the end of the rainbow.  More than anything, find peace and joy in all that you say and do – seeking comfort from your discoveries rather than being satisfied to discover comfort within the status quo.  Seek moments of rest as you seek to fulfill your dreams rather than sanctuaries and safe havens that might keep you from reaching beyond the shelter of today to experience the potential of tomorrow.

Some find that motivating thoughts or inspirational phrases keep them moving forward rather than looking back.  In order to experience gain within our lives, we must realize change – and must keep our eyes on the prize as we move relentlessly towards it if we expect to grow.  Thankfully, all thoughts ARE NOT sports metaphors - some of the thoughts I find most helpful including:

·         Dreams take time, patience, sustained effort, and a willingness to fail if they are ever to become anything more than dreams – Brian Linkoski
·         The greater danger for most is NOT that our aim is too high and we miss, but that it is too low and we reach it - Michelangelo
·         We know what we are, but know not what we may be - Shakespeare
·         When the winds of change blow, some people build walls while others build windmills - Chinese proverb
·         If all you seek to become can be defined by what you have accomplished, accept comfort in who you are but allow those who know you mourn the death of what you may have become – Dave Smith

There is no limit to what we can accomplish when we seek results and conclusions rather than recognition and credit.  We can find ongoing satisfaction when we claim success during the journey – acknowledging each step taken as we run the race rather than waiting until our quest has ended to find satisfaction in the efforts we exhibited.  We accomplish many things not yet imagined and bring to fruition countless things not previously realized when we allow our dreams to materialize – to become a new reality as we travel the road to ever-changing destinations – when we see each station as a stop along the way rather than an end in and of itself.  We gain much from life when each step is celebrated as an accomplishment rather than looking only to the goal at the end of our journey as a win/lose, make it or break it destination.

We cannot allow our eyes to drift from the prize if we seek to move from “good” to “great” in our lives.  Though it may not “take a village” to raise our self-awareness, it DOES take commitment, determination and intentional action to move beyond the storms that often darken our lives to the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Accept nothing but your best as you seek new destinations – learning from your failings as you turn adversity into opportunity while reaching new heights with each passing day.  Capture the wind to move forward after each accomplishment rather than finding comfort and accepting as final the rest stops along the way and each never ending beginning will lead towards the better life you wish for (and deserve).