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, June 22, 2015


Management is the ability to transform one person’s talents into performance.  Good managers identify each individual’s unique talents and abilities.  They treat people EQUITABLY rather than EQUALLY – determining what is best for them based on their abilities and how they can contribute most rather than assuming all should receive equal benefits even if they do not add similar value.  Good managers define and communicate expectations, then assign tasks to persons having the greatest potential for success – giving them the ability to act independently and the right to assume responsibility for results. 

Experienced managers leverage individual talent and experience towards the successful accomplishment of organizational goals and objectives – identifying existing abilities and maximizing contributions by assigning duties and managing priorities RATHER THAN focusing on training individuals to “fix” their shortcomings.  While training is critical and often necessary, it should not be seen as the “ends” but rather as the “means.” Recognizing that all employees contribute differently, and accepting that individual contributions are a necessary part of success, helps to define a great manager.  A good manager might try to elevate all employees to their highest potential.  A great manager will utilize an employee’s inherent ability to accomplish great things.  Should employees need additional training, a great manager will know how each employee learns best and set up programs that cater to individual needs and differences. 

Leadership is moving people (as opposed to individuals) towards a common good – rallying the team to accomplish great things together rather than capitalizing on an individual’s existing talent.  A leader needs to be eternally optimistic – knowing that people working together will eventually accomplish things better and more easily than those working alone.  Great leaders make employees feel that anything is possible – that no mountain is too high to climb and no valley too deep to enter – by “showing the way” rather than providing tools for them to move forward by themselves.  Leaders demonstrate what must be done and accomplished rather than by telling them and staying out of the way. 

Leaders motivate through actions rather than through words and assignments as they join in to make sure the team accomplishes things as a cohesive and collaborative body rather than as a group of talented individuals.  Great leaders communicate clearly by defining expectations and focusing on anticipated results as they motivate individuals to work with others to maximize the impact of their group’s efforts.  Leaders live their words through their actions.  Effective leaders are able to identify individual potential that can be nurtured and melded into a great functioning team.  Should a team need additional training, great leaders would develop programs to teach skills that will benefit the organization rather than strengthening individual talents that already exist within the team.

Are you a Manager or a Leader?  Far too often we see problems caused by well-intentioned supervisors managing when they should lead OR trying to lead when times call for strong management.  A strong MANAGER tends to accomplish specific things more quickly.  Tasks are clearly identified, people having proven abilities are assigned to accomplish them, and results are expected immediately.  A strong LEADER will pull others towards outcomes rather than pushing them towards pre-defined destinations.  A leader will draw others forward using a carrot while a manager may tend to carry (and liberally apply) a stick.  Both styles are necessary (at times) in order for organizations (OR relationships) to thrive BUT there is a time and a place for each.  Choose your “time and place” wisely to help maximize the results your group can achieve!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


Failure is not a life sentence.  It does not have to produce a long-term, insurmountable negative impact on you or your life.  Given the right conditions, the proper setting and a learning attitude, failure can often empower you to achieve a level of greatness you never dreamed possible.  When we eliminate the FEAR of failure by minimizing the repercussions that often prohibit us from trying new things – by embracing the possibilities that unproven approaches can provide – the sky becomes our limit.  Rather than looking into a dark tunnel (hoping that the light we see is the other end rather than a train) we can peer out from the tunnel into an unexplored horizon.  

Many successful salespeople have learned that each success is preceded by many failings
– but too few individuals embrace that reality.  When trying to discover the secret of electricity, Thomas Edison declared that rather than failing he simply discovered many possibilities that did not work.  The inventor of “Post It Notes” could have wallowed in his failure (because he did not invent his intended super adhesive) but chose to find a purpose for something that met none of his intended consequences (the rest being history).  There are four lessons we must learn if we are to transform individual shortcomings into immediate success, creating opportunity from apparent disappointment.  These transformational secrets include:

·         Change your perception of "success" and "failure"

Most people see themselves caught between two extremes – success and failure.  They feel they must either fully accomplish the goals they have established OR their falling short will automatically label them a failure.  What would happen if we altered this perception – seeing failure as but one of the paths to success – if we studied our failings as openly as we celebrate our successes?  What more might we be able to accomplish if we claimed the freedom to learn as much from what DID NOT work as much as we do from the actions that accomplish our intentions?  If we were to view failure as inevitable – as a requirement rather than as a possibility – and be judged not by whether we MAY HAVE failed but rather by what was learned WHEN we fail – perhaps we could accomplish great things by taking risks once thought unacceptable.  While I would never suggest that anyone actively SEEK failure, if they simply ACCEPT IT as being inevitable –as a necessary stepping stone along the path to success – it will become a more regular building block to the dreams that define your future.

·         Intentionally increase your rate of failure

Nobody could argue with the premise that the more we try the more we ultimately succeed.  If “trying” means doing things that we have not done before – things we are not trained to do nor accustomed to doing – then it is logical that as we attempt to do more we fail more, also.  Advancing the thought, if trying more results in both failure and success, and we learn from our failings as we move towards success, should we not intentionally increase our failure rate so that we succeed BOTH by “winning” AND by identifying what should not be repeated when we experience loss? 

·         Set Flexible targets (processes and guidelines) rather than firm goals (absolute  destinations and inflexible expectations)

Everyone sets goals BUT we usually establish our goals around the successful accomplishment of a specific task, project or activity.  What would happen if we focused on the process as opposed to the outcome?  If we do things the way they have always been done while expecting a different result we would define insanity.  If, however, we expect different results BECAUSE we are doing things differently, seeking new and untested methods to accomplish them, we would inevitably expect to encounter failure from which we would learn along the way.  Think how much might be accomplished if we set a goal of trying five new ways to accomplish something (knowing that at least four of the paths could lead to failure) rather than trying so hard to accomplish one specific goal.  How much more could we “win” (and how much greater could our “wins” be once we identify the roadblocks) if we truly focused on the “new” (the possible) rather than constantly seeking the tried and true (the probable)?

·         Accept your successes gracefully but celebrate your failures with reckless abandon

It is natural to be excited when we taste success.  We want to celebrate – to reward ourselves.  While it would be ridiculous to minimize the “victories” we achieve, we far too often fail to maximize the successful navigation of each detour as we seek to finish our journey (those things we see as being distractions or bumps along the way).  Why do so few celebrate PROGRESS when many minor accomplishments pave the path to completion?  Far too many people save their celebrating until their goal has been accomplished (a single act or event that was the culmination of many starts and stops).  Do not “dodge” the praise of another when it is sincerely offered – gracefully accept it AND spread it around when appropriate – but refuse to live only for the recognition of others (for when you most need to be acknowledged, you may
be the only individual present).  Successful individuals allow life to be a series of small celebrations rather than a set of significant events.  If we build our hopes on reaching a destination, where do we go once there?  Should we not feel more exhilarated as we move forward TOWARDS an objective (knowing we have many more options and activities to celebrate along the way) than we do once we have “arrived?” 

Individuals that require a “why” before moving on may be waiting for success to reveal itself from the jaws of failure.  Those that find joy in the journey, however – that are able to move forward accepting THAT things happened without having to understand why – are able to leverage potentially negative situations into a springboard that will catapult them towards potential opportunity (that may never have presented itself had they been doing what they had always done to achieve the same results they always achieved).

When is the last time you rewarded yourself for failing?  Instead of mentally punishing yourself for not succeeding, buy yourself an ice cream cone (or a coffee – or some other desire of your heart) and say, "I'm one step closer to success!" Stop letting failure have the negative hold it has on your thoughts and emotions.  Use each step backwards as an opportunity to collect your wits as you strive to move forward – continuously seeking what life has yet to offer rather than accepting those things it has provided as our only reward.