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 22, 2015


We often start the year with hope and promise, then fall so hopelessly behind that we forget about our planned course of action to end up where we started – thinking about the things not accomplished (and where all the time we had intended to spend on them has gone), placing them back on our “priority lists” for next year. Following-through on the “fresh starts” you seek this year can only happen when an intentional course is charted – when groundwork has been laid and planning has been done – prior to initiating your journey and intentionally carrying-on - taking life one step at a time.

Before setting (or renewing) resolutions for 2016, you should reflect on how specific actions made a difference during the past year. Were you able to accomplish all you wanted at work…at home…with those you love and care for? Are you in a better (or worse) place than when the year began? What happened to you “in spite of yourself” rather than “because of something you did?” Until you are able to identify “what is” and realize “what has been,” you will never be able to travel down the road towards “what could be” as you seek the possible rather than settling for that which is (and always will be) probable.

Successful individuals define objectives, consider as many possible “roadblocks” as can be reasonably anticipated and plan to avoid these obstacles before moving forward with definitive actions. To these individuals, success is not just a possibility – it is a foregone conclusion! When one sees more “downside” in failing than “upside” in succeeding – becomes hesitant to act for fear of what might go wrong – success will remain an enigma. Success eludes those who think “Why?” as it attaches itself to the actions and words of those who truly believe “Why Not?” We must recognize that SHOULD change happen, only when we accept and embrace the altered paths that open up to us will we assimilate the new realities we are presented.

Are you willing (and able) to accept change IF what you want to happen does occur? When we explicitly resolve to do something DIFFERENT, we must implicitly accept that our comfort, circumstances and situations WILL NOT remain the same!  We must leave our shelter before we can climb the summit if we hope to experience the view of a new horizon.  If we would prefer to remain where we are - to accept the view that presents itself to us as being the best we will ever see - perhaps it might be better to find comfort with what you have rather than wasting time and energy to discover something different that will be left unrealized.

There may have been a time where “keeping up” with the world allowed one to maintain their position in life. We live in a knowledge-driven world – one in which the only constant is change. To avoid another year of failed expectations, approach your “resolution process” systematically. Make sure you exercise your right to live – to make decisions, accept responsibility for change, assume accountable for implementation AND enjoy the praise when your dreams come to fruition (or take intentional action should your path fall short of its intended destination). Some basic things you should consider before closing out your old year and exchanging it for new hopes, dreams and opportunities would include:

Review your last year’s accomplishments. Identify what you resolved to accomplish last year. Celebrate your successes by “shouting them from the rooftops” to a friend or co-worker. Determine if the obstacles keeping you from tasting success were “inside or outside” of your control – and if anything was done to eliminate the roadblocks that prevented you from realizing your goals. Do not forget to list successes from the year that were not part of your resolution process. Just because you did not “resolve” to initiate a change does not mean “credit” should not be taken for its accomplishment. The difference between successful people and those that seem to hover at the edge of greatness is often one of perspective. Some assume success is a foregone conclusion while others think of it merely as a remote possibility!

Clearly define and record your goals for the coming year. Share them with someone you trust to establish accountability. Telling someone, however, is not enough. You should maintain contact with your “support network” throughout the year to keep you “on task” and focused. Secret goals are rarely accomplished and no (or low) expectations rarely result in significant change.  While "shooting low" will keep you from being disappointed, it will never reward you in a meaningful way, either..

Believe that “Nothing is impossible.”  Too many people confuse “impossible” with impractical or improbable. All things are possible - our only limitations are typically fiscal, physical, timing, confidence issues or a lack of knowledge. We will inevitably face detractors and naysayers whenever we try something new. Do not add to your apprehensions, doubts or inadequacies by questioning yourself before beginning!

Regardless of what your goals might be for 2016, remember that the only bad resolution is one never resolved. The only wrong action is action never taken. The only unforgivable mistake is one that did not teach. Reflect on last year’s successes - replicating the positive actions that “made a difference” while thinking about your failures just long enough to understand what went wrong so you can avoid repeating them.  When you consciously resolve to move forward - taking one step at a time - the sky will be your only limit!

Friday, December 18, 2015


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 become a raging storm – the tranquility of their calm disrupted by even the smallest pebble tossed into the sea.

Others seek adventure – preferring to face the storms of life head on rather than finding comfort within anyone’s harbor.  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 have 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.

We move through life leaving each season behind as we anticipate all that the next might bring.  We might do well to fill our emotional pantries with thoughts of grandeur – with hopes and promises – rather than doing as we have always done while expecting different things to happen to us.  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.  Find time to help others along the way – for 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.  Should you begin to feel that “where you are” is better, safer or more secure than “where you could be,” remember that:

·       Dreams take time, patience, sustained effort, and a willingness to fail if they are ever to become anything more than dreams – Brian Linkoski
·       It may be that those who DO the most, DREAM the most – Stephen Leacock
·       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 - William Shakespeare
·       When the winds of change blow, some people build walls while others build windmills - Chinese proverb

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.  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.

It takes 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.  As we end one year and begin another, think about all you have accomplished BUT do not sell yourself short by resting upon past glories.  Identify the reasons things may not have turned out as you wished, internalizing what you may have learned from those challenges, BUT do not allow yourself to dwell upon your failures or shortcomings.  Think about what has yet to be realized and chase your dreams with unbridled enthusiasm.  The winds of change can be felt but never captured – controlled but not contained – but will carry us through life as long as we keep our wings outstretched and our eyes upon our goals.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015


Were we to live in an ideal world, everyone would focus more on new beginnings than on conclusions or endings.  “Drawing a line in the sand” would define more our intent to move forward than keeping us from stepping back – to establish that we are initiating a new path or direction rather than highlighting where we would prefer to leave.  Far too often, people think that closing one chapter is more important than opening the next – that finding closure is somehow more critical than initiating change.  As the year winds down, many give thanks for the blessings they received AND establish lines in the sand to initiate changes in behavior for the coming year – mentally placing barriers in place that “prohibit” them from doing what was considered “wrong.”  Personally, it would seem that a line in the sand should serve as a springboard that launches one into the not-yet realized reality existing deeply within their imagination rather than a blockade that prevents them from slipping into bad habits without offering an alternative course of action.

In order to initiate change, we must recognize that what we are doing could (and should) be done differently if we are to expect altered results.  In order to accomplish this we must receive more “gain” than we experience “pain” in the transition.  We must reflect upon the past, embrace the present, and seek to clearly differentiate our dreams and/or goals, then (and only then) act intentionally to bring them to fruition.  Rather than artificially ending each activity before starting another, allow each day’s sunset to bring closure to life so that morning might offer a fresh new beginning – learning to anticipate what is in store rather than holding on to (or beating yourself up) over what has passed.  Far too many well-intentioned individuals stagnate just across their line in the sand because they were more concerned with defining where they had to move from than they were with charting a new path and moving forward in a new direction.

As the year winds down, rather than making resolutions to be something differently, resolve to become what you wish to be.  The next time you draw a line in the sand, think about the new realities that will be established through the actions you will be taking rather than focusing upon what will no longer be done because you stopped performing or acting in an unacceptable manner.  We build the future upon dreams that become reality – not on the actions taken to avoid negative consequences.  Should we build our world around what we wish NOT to happen, how can we ever focus upon the dreams and aspirations of what COULD become reality?  Refuse to live in a world of “what is” as you walk away from “what has been” if you seek to exist in a land of possibilities.  Aspire to become all that you can possibly be (rather than extending what you have been into what might be comfortably different) and you will find yourself pursuing an existence of “what if” or “what could be.”  Unfortunately, too many individuals accept change that unintentionally presents itself as being all that is possible rather than actively and intentionally seeking that which has not yet been revealed, tested or considered by others.

When you decide that change is necessary (that staying where you are is no longer a tolerable option – that moving ahead holds more potential reward than remaining within your established comfort zone), refuse to limit your potential by focusing upon what you wish to leave behind.  While we can achieve short-term change by blindly running away from our fear of falling back to what we have always been or doing what we have always done, lasting change happens when we intentionally move forward towards destinations not yet known – seeking to establish new realities upon which to build future dreams.