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 20, 2016


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. In front of each of us lies an endless number of possibilities as long as we pay attention in to what was taught in school, apply what we learned then “never stop learning” throughout life. Knowledge IS essential to our being able to make informed, intentional choices as it helps us to understand how something can be (or has been) done.  It is hard to be original and innovative unless we understand WHY things are done the way they are (so that we can retain the good and replace the bad when we take action to initiate resolution or change).  Knowledge is but the key, however, that helps to open the lock – it takes Wisdom to open the door and courage to cross over the threshold.

Wisdom is the application of knowledge. Knowing facts, details or information does not guarantee success.  An individual can memorize information, demonstrate subject-matter awareness and seemingly “know all the answers” but be incapable of APPLYING the information they know when confronted with an unfamiliar or unknown situation.  Individuals chosen to participate on the TV game show Jeopardy demonstrate vast familiarity with all sorts of knowledge – an unending ability to recall what many would consider useless facts while demonstrating an astounding grasp of history, trivia and culture – but are rarely more successful than any of the rest of us because KNOWING (about things, situations or life) does not necessarily translate to SUCCESSFULLY ACCOMPLISHING the development and initiation of solutions.  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 what we know into action by applying the information we have acquired to resolve a variety of issues, situations and concerns that we have not previously witnessed, experienced or studied.

All individuals are capable of learning (if they apply themselves).  Some learn through books, observation and study.  Others are more tactile than cognitive in their learning, though, understanding by doing, experiencing and experimenting rather than reading, studying and visualizing.  College – for far too long considered the ONLY way to advance and achieve success – is a good learning environment for some (but not all).  Trade schools provide knowledge that can be applied within technical careers (manufacturing, tool and die, machinists, carpenters, mechanics, technicians, IT professionals, healthcare support positions, etc.) 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. Our grade schools and high schools equip us with vital and necessary information but it is often “static learning” that applies to defined situations requiring specific responses based on known history and anticipated results.  In order to APPLY knowledge to a variety of situations (many we may never have previously seen or experienced) it is vital and necessary to continually stretch our knowledge base throughout life.  If we are to assume new responsibilities and overcome new challenges we must continuously increase our knowledge so it can be applied to the elimination of roadblocks or the realization of our possibilities. 

While all should seek knowledge, “the wise” among us will strive to apply what they have learned to better ourselves and those around them.  We should establish goals and seek to accomplish them while recognizing that 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.  Demonstrating wisdom requires that we apply (rather than memorize) knowledge to fully leverage the resources available to us that impact, influence or enlighten others while understanding what “has been done” and anticipating “what has yet to be.”  Wisdom is not elevating oneself NOR is it enabling or providing for others – it is fulfilling our own potential so we move forward in life allowing others to travel behind us after we pave the way.  Knowing is nothing unless it is associated with action, responsibility, accountability and focused follow-through. We can know much but never make a difference unless (and until) we put our knowledge into action – until we take responsibility for our actions by learning from our mistakes so we can move on to accomplish our next objective.  We must demonstrate wisdom by helping others learn without having to experience the same mistake or disruption.

Knowledge provides us with the foundation upon which we can build our house of dreams BUT we must apply what we know (without requiring the praise or credit for what we have done) to reach our full potential.  Knowledge does not become wisdom unless (and until) we are willing to apply what we know in ways that have not previously been used to resolve issues that have not yet been resolved.  Wisdom cannot be claimed until we are able to accept and learn from failure (learning from our shortcomings and moving on without regret) OR celebrate unimagined success (without becoming complacent or comfortable in the moment) when initiating that which has not yet been tested.  We cannot expect our anticipated outcomes to be anything different than they have always been until we change our approach, our expectations or our attitudes.

When we seek knowledge it should be purposeful – intentionally directing our learning towards the accomplishment of an objective or the realization of a dream (or possibly an appearance on Jeopardy).  When we apply our learned attitudes, behaviors and knowledge to resolve abstract, unanticipated or unique problems, however, we become wise.  We demonstrate wisdom (rather than knowledge) as we lead others by doing (rather than saying), by showing (rather than directing) and by encouraging them to follow our lead (rather than demanding or insisting upon their loyalty).  In order to move from knowledgeable to wise – from smart to intelligent – one must realize that life is NOT knowing all the right answers (rather it is knowing the right questions to ask) and accepting that learning from failure and moving forward is often better than always being right (whether real or imagined) in life.

Monday, December 12, 2016


Every team needs a leader – but rarely can one individual set the course, trim the sails, maintain course and stabilize the ship by him or herself without the help or assistance of others.  True leaders emerge during times of trouble, turmoil and strife – riding the strength of their convictions to success – as they leverage the abilities of others to accomplish exponential multiples of what they could have achieved by themselves.  While there should be very little difference in one’s leadership style when facing success OR unexpected hurdles (whether at work, at home or in a relationship), far too many “competent” individuals take full responsibility for accomplishments and excuse their action (or inaction) by blaming them on or deferring them to others rather than sharing credit for things done well and accepting responsibility for actions that may have led to unwanted consequences.  A good leader bends to fit into their surroundings rather than standing firmly against life’s storms.  An exceptional leader utilizes all the resources at his or her disposal to ensure success, safety and continued progress rather than seeking personal praise and short term-gain (popularity, acceptance, being “liked”) while pursuing excellence. 

Leadership (and life) could be thought of as a ship at sea – needing a form of propulsion, a means of stabilization, a method to control direction and a way to hold fast in order to safely travel a charted course in the pursuit of a not yet discovered destination.  When setting and communicating a course of action, a Leader must take responsibility for his or her actions AND the consequences of the team’s actions by taking ownership of a situation rather than blaming another for an unfortunate circumstance – accepting and facing reality while constantly pushing towards an anticipated destination.   He or she must act as a sail by capturing the wind to push the team forward – anticipating and avoiding changes in the winds that could disrupt progress.  Without a sail (or motor, for the less classical thinker), a ship will drift endlessly upon the currents without intentional motion or expected results.  A sail pushes a ship forward much as a good leader encourages forward progress by recognizing and anticipating the contributions of each member as the team progresses towards a final destination.  When propulsion is removed, a ship will stall.  When leadership is missing, a team may wallow and a relationship may drift aimlessly and before eventually (possibly) reaching a destination (which is often unplanned, unexpected and less than ideal). 

A ship needs both a rudder and a keel in order to “stay the course” as it progresses forward.  Without some form of steering a ship cannot turn – and while the quickest path between two points IS a straight line, life rarely provides unobstructed access to our goals.  Without some kind of stability – a keel or ballast beneath the surface – a ship will tilt, lean and possibly capsize before it reaches its destination.  A Leader must ask the right questions when investigating a situation – listening for useful input from others – while steering around obstacles (or correcting missteps) in the pursuit of a final objective.  A Leader takes his or her personal obligations (and credibility) more seriously than his or her personal work expectations.  Anticipated or planned objectives invariably change but a course charted by intentional thought and navigated with integrity can lead a team through any unexpected obstacle or unwanted disruption.  Trust is not earned easily but MUST be attained through consistent demonstration within an individual’s life as it often becomes the stability that keeps a team on course.  While taking the easy road that needs no navigation or situational stabilization (ignoring a situation or partially concealing a truth) may be less painful and create fewer short-term disruptions or distractions, individuals preferring to dodge responsibility for their choices and actions will never be seen as credible leaders when they are provided the opportunity to lead – and straight and narrow paths through waters having no turbulence are rarely encountered in life.

A ship cannot travel forever without stopping for replenishment.  While a sailboat needs only the wind to move forward and a nuclear-powered ship could theoretically travel nearly forever, both have to stop at some point to resupply.  A ship does not typically reach its final destination by accident and without an adequate anchor (or anchorage) holding the ship steady – providing safety from the elements – a crew could not rest (causing the journey to become dangerous).  Ships need an anchor to secure them while considering a new course BEFORE venturing forth if a destination is to be reached with maximum efficiency.  Likewise, a team needs “an anchor” to hold it back long enough to examine how it must proceed as it seeks new and innovative resolutions.  Fools rush in – leaders step back so they can understand what was done, why it happened and what could be done differently BEFORE pushing relentlessly forward.  UNLESS a leader can identify sails, rudders, keels and anchors within his or her team – accepting each part’s abilities and limitations – the path to success will never be traveled without tragic mishap.  Life Leadership requires us to acknowledge sails, stability, direction and time for reevaluation if we are to be successful as we move towards effective problem resolution and the intentional accomplishment of our objectives.  

Wednesday, November 30, 2016


Far too often we become disillusioned with what we have – seeking other rewards or greener pastures – without first identifying OUR OWN role in the disappointment we feel or the conflict we experience.  People confronted with occupational crisis or personal catastrophe rarely ask themselves what they did (or did not do) to contribute to their situation.  We tend to blame others for our shortcomings rather than facing the reality that our own actions or decisions – our inaction or avoidance – may be (or have caused) a major share of the problem standing between us and accomplishment.  We turn our backs on relationships that have cooled rather than trying to feed the fire without ever learning that the smoldering embers we thought had died could have provided a more encompassing flame when properly fed and intentionally nurtured than the most out of control wildfire that might unintentionally cross our path.  We walk away from jobs where we have proven ourselves to seek opportunities provided by an unknown employer – often running from what we know and choose to leave behind rather than enthusiastically seeking new experiences after a thoughtful examination of what we might be accepting as an alternative reality.

A number of people seek something for nothing – asking not what they can do to contribute to the well-being of others but rather what others can do to elevate them.  They expect their needs to be provided for by others – be it income, a job, housing, comfort, warmth, validation, acceptance, security or a plethora of other things that could (and should) be internalized for intentional action rather than externalized for charitable contribution.  They want all that others enjoy without saving or investing the sweat equity needed to earn it.  They want all things possible handed to them without putting forth the effort needed to initiate change.  Rather than lifting themselves up they seek to bring others down – to take what they feel they deserve from the efforts of others rather than contributing to what they receive through their own initiative – creating equality at the lowest (rather than the highest) common denominator.  They seek support and acceptance from others when they have failed rather than trying to lift themselves up after acknowledging and owning their shortcomings – seeking absolution rather than resolution.  These people are part of the problem with this world rather than part of the solution – part of the illness we fight rather than the cure we wish to distribute.

Some people seek to build upon (rather than accepting as a destination) “what is” as they pursue what is not yet theirs – often seeking to realize things or situations not yet fully imagined.  They see life as opportunity rather than entitlement.  They may fall two steps back when taking each single step into an undiscovered world BUT never stop moving as they seek to accomplish their established goals AND move from them once realized towards new horizons.  These people accept responsibility for their actions should they contribute to failure, either learning from the mistake so that it will not be repeated or correcting the problem by addressing their individual shortcomings.  They see a relationship as a living, breathing organism – something that needs to be nurtured through constant attention (and compromise) rather than allowed to drift aimlessly on its own without oversight.  They see our land of freedom and opportunity as a place where extreme individual effort results in unprecedented reward – where nothing is outside the reach of those willing to work hard to bring possibilities to fruition – rather than an unlimited resource that will never run dry as it fills the needs of those unwilling to work for their rewards.  These people are part of the solution in life – part of what “could be” rather than rooted in “what is” or stuck in “what should be.”  They seek (and eventually achieve) what is possible rather than waiting for what life may eventually provide.

In order to MAKE a difference in life, you must be willing to BE different.  You cannot remain “one of the crowd” caught up in what everyone else finds acceptable or “do things the same way they have always been done” if you expect change.  If you feel the world owes you something you do not currently have (or see any chance to accomplish or receive it) you should look to see what effort you have invested to earn the reward you seek.  If you think others are unfairly receiving the rewards you deserve (and you should get them because they do), try to replicate their investment (of time, experience, risk and ability) or intensify your own internal efforts so you, too, might generate a favorable return (rather than expecting it to be provided to you without effort or action).  Our future lies firmly within our own control, but what we see as “possible” may be vastly different than that seen by others based on where we cast our vision and what we accept as a path towards an eventual destination (rather than seeing each journey as a destination in and of itself).

To those looking over their shoulder – focusing upon paths already travelled rather than roads yet to come – tending to live in the past (finding comfort in what was once reality but may never again be realized) – we should offer help to redirect their vision towards what has yet to be rather than allowing it to rest upon what has already been accomplished.  To those seeing their present as all they could ever need or want – resting on their laurels while finding comfort within what has been attempted, abandoned or completed without seeking even the most easily attainable rewards resting just beyond their limited horizon – we should offer encouragement so that they might be able to rise from the perception of achievement to accept the challenges of accomplishment.  To those casting their vision forward – seeing the potential of what might be achieved as being well worth the risk of temporary setbacks – accepting the challenges an unknown future presents as an opportunity to excel rather than a threat to fail – we should offer to walk beside them as they join us on journey towards not yet realized possibilities.  To make a difference, we must dwell upon “what was” only long enough to recognize the value our past contributes to the decisions we must make and the actions we must intentionally take to bring our future to fruition.  Reach up as you reach out – lifting others with you as you climb the ladder of success – and the difference you make will be felt throughout time (and eternity).

Thursday, October 27, 2016


The Beach is quiet now.  The sun-worshippers have gone – abandoning her as the warmth of summer waned and she entered the lonely days of cold desolation…
Builders – once freely constructing their dreams upon her shifting sands – have returned to the daily routine of their work and their classrooms…
Friends and lovers have gone their separate ways to pursue individual realities after making empty promises to meet again next year…
The gulls – so active during the seemingly short season – have moved on in search of a more bountiful harvest.
Leaving only the Keeper of the Harbor – the Guardian of the Shore – to look after his Sea as he tends his lighthouse…

The Keeper stands facing the wind – cold and alone – seeing the sea and the beach in a different light than those who feel only her warmth and experience but the happy sounds of crowds while failing to recognize the beauty portrayed in isolation…
He sees past her surface into the depths of her soul – feeling and experiencing her power as she pounds relentlessly upon the empty shores of the now deserted beach…
He braces for an incoming autumn storm – feeling the biting cold of the sea’s loneliness lashing out to escape the confines of her reality upon the winds of change…
He becomes entwined in nature’s struggle to make sense of the shortening days and protracted nights – seeking meaning and life within the expanse of the sea’s depths and turbulence…
He sees the danger spread across her face as she awakens from the comforting calm provided by night’s shroud of darkness, beginning a new day of restless searching that keeps ships in safe harbors…

The Keeper treads gently upon the shores as if in a sacred temple abandoned long ago by a distracted and disinterested world…
He feels the strength of the Sea as he walks beside her – sensing her cry out for one who might understand, her tears driven towards his unprotected face upon the wings of the wind…
He struggles to face the rising storm – pounded relentlessly by the Sea as he tastes her salty loneliness and leans towards her into the wind…
He falls to his knees – absorbing her pain while sharing her suffering as he immerses himself within her sorrow – joining the Sea in her confusion as he protects his head from the torrential rains…
Then slowly rises to share the moment when she spills from her confinement – lifted up by the relentless winds of a storm – experiencing freedom from the constraints normally imposed upon her by the shore before returning to her reality as the winds recede…

The Beach is quiet once more – the storm having passed leaving the Keeper at rest with his Sea…
New life appears upon the shore as the tides fall – life that could never survive the crowds of summer but thrives during the lonely and undisturbed days of seasonal isolation…
The Keeper returns to his lighthouse – seeking the solitude it provides him as he directs others through lurking danger hidden by his Sea…
He celebrates the possibility of new beginnings brought about through the passing of seasons rather than dwelling upon the finality of stormy ends – upon what could yet be realized rather than what has already proven itself to be…
Standing alone – The Keeper of the Harbor and Guardian of the Shore – finds peace and comfort in the beauty a desolate shore provides while awaiting the return of those finding pleasure upon the summer sands.  He finds hope in each season life provides rather than living life (and finding comfort in) but one preferred season.

Those who see only their current reality rather than the potential of a different tomorrow – who focus on the disruption of the moment rather than the possibilities that each disruption might bring – are among those unfortunate enough to have left the beach at the end of summer.  Those who abandon life’s potential to accomplish that which is known to be achievable – that walk away from discovering “what could be” by accepting the comfort that “what is” might provide – become blind to the beauty that each new day might bring and tend to accept only what they are able to accomplish (see, touch, feel or explain) as all that is possible rather than seeking things that might at first seem impossible then celebrating each one as an opportunity to accomplish great things.  Remain true to yourself (and those around you) as you pass through life, stopping to see all sides of a story and experience each season of the beach before relentlessly moving forward to intentionally accomplish great things.  Thrive as you experience life’s storms by striving to become who and what you wish to be rather than accepting what others expect of you as being “good enough.” 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


While words and promises can be compelling, the true measure of a person is not what is said but rather what is done.  Following a leader’s actions is much easier than believing promises – especially if what is said changes like the winds (or the weather here in Michigan).  Though a zebra may think itself a horse it cannot lose its stripes.  A child’s storybook once portrayed a porcupine that thought himself to be “fluffy” rather than “prickly” but his actions spoke louder than his words.  We have often been told that “if we can dream it, we can do it” but unless (and until) we take intentional action to move from where we are to where we wish to be, nothing changes from what it is to what it could become.  In order to lead effectively we must let go of the misconception that people will listen to what we say (and ask) without regard to what we do (or expect to be done) to accomplish what we want (without appropriate explanation) as we seek different results (without leading by example).

How can we expect our employees to adhere to an “eight to five” schedule if our day frequently begins at eight fifteen or ends at four thirty – with errands extending lunch and personal phone calls, internet inquiries or text messaging disrupting us from fulfilling our responsibilities?  (Forget about the fact that you might have been doing company business the previous night, or that lunch was really an important business meeting or that breaks are not part of the daily routine…people SEE you coming in late or leaving early, your actions screaming far more loudly than the undertones of reality.)  Parents tell their children to obey the rules (as they break the speed limit driving them somewhere), to respect their teachers (as they complain about the “boss that does not know anything”), and to take time to enjoy life (when they are “too busy doing their own thing” to play catch in the yard).  Many sales organizations make unrealistic promises to customers (in order to “close the sale”) that must be kept by employees working long hours (evenings, weekends and Holidays) while the people making the promise spend time with their family.  While this “customer service” reality may be hard to avoid, repeated abuse of the time of others while no apparent “self-sacrifice” is perceived by those putting in the time will minimize the credibility of the “abuser” and create hard feelings within an organization.

As humans, we are not perfect.  We must learn to lead effectively by acting in a consistent and predictable manner (NOT necessarily doing the same thing in the same way all the time but rather by thinking in a logical manner that recognizes and considers the factors influencing success before acting in a way that those being led can understand).  If we wish to be who we truly are rather than presenting ourselves as what we wish we could be, it would be wise to remember:

1)                  Words are but whispers when compared to the shouts of our actions.  People more often believe what they see than what they hear.  Those around you establish their perception of you by what you do – by how you act – not by the things you say, ask or request.  We may try to reinvent ourselves with words, polish and packaging but we are truly only what our actions establish us to be in the eyes of others.  If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many volumes would a day’s worth of our actions (be they good or bad, consistent or random) write upon the pages of the lives of those we interact with on a regular basis?
2)                  Look for the good in others, publicly praising their positive actions and interactions to raise their attitudes and abilities while privately addressing their shortcomings by helping them to learn from their mistakes.  People usually see what others do wrong – rarely recognizing or acknowledging what they do right.  Parents rarely say to their children, “You are really being a good shopper today!”  Rather it is, “don’t touch,” “wait until we get home,” or “I’m never going to bring you shopping again!”  Though we need to address and constructively correct negative behavior, we should make an effort to acknowledge and verbalize appreciation for things done well.  Far too many Managers feel that good performance is an expectation needing no acknowledgement (we pay people to do their job) while poor work must be immediately addressed and corrected (far too often in an excessive or potentially abusive manner). 
3)                  It is better to compromise than to criticize – to live in the house you have built through your actions than in the rubble of another’s house you destroyed with your words.  Criticism is destructive.  Competent leaders do not tear others down to make themselves look better, they build others up to make ALL improve.  One cannot lead by pushing from the bottom – leadership leverages the abilities of all to move the group into a singular direction that benefits the whole – to raise the abilities of all so that the team can achieve an ever-increasing level of competence – pulling others along with them as they rise to the top.
4)                  Look inwardly when assigning blame.  People often defend their inappropriate actions by shifting blame to others.  Rarely does an individual come out and say, “It was my fault.”  Far more often it is, “Sam over there did something much worse than I would ever do.  Address him before you talk to me.”  When we measure ourselves against the actions of others, we will never truly see value in what we may have done (nor the full impact that our mistakes may have) – we see only the relative value of how our actions compare to another’s (concluding that “better than another” is “good enough” rather than striving for the best).  Far too many politicians blame all failures on their predecessors while claiming all success as being their own – or (as is currently being done) deflect and defer rather than speaking boldly and acting with confidence. 
5)                  Judge yourself using the same standards you apply to others.  The greatest leaders of our times would never ask others to do what they would not do themselves.  Truly great generals lead their troops into battle rather than following them from behind.  Parents must “walk the talk” for their children.  Managers cannot expect full productivity without giving it themselves.  Anyone in a meaningful and sustainable relationship must share equally and contribute proportionately to a mutually beneficial outcome (rather than expecting another to be you or do things exactly as you would do them).

Effective leaders seek truth rather than distributing consequences.  They focus more on what they are doing than on what others may not be doing – leading by example rather than by edict.  In order to lead effectively we must recognize that nothing we say will overcome the things others see us do – that our actions are the clanging symbols of a band while our words are the whispering flutes.  Were we to live each day as if we lived in a glass house having no shades or blinds to mask our actions, would our words reinforce our reality or would our reality overcome our words?  Only when we can accept the results that come from others doing what they see us do rather than performing as we tell them to act will we fulfill our leadership potential.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


Leadership and management are not synonymous.  Though some feel they must be “fully in control” if they are to be “in charge” of a situation – that to acknowledge challenge or criticism weakens their position of authority – they lose the power of leadership when they force others into being managed.  Many feel that leading and managing are synonymous – that to lead they must actively and overtly establish themselves as being in charge – of managing and controlling the actions of another.  What they do not easily realize that leaders are often rugged individualists able to assume power and authority by the sheer presence of their strength while managers are instruments necessary for the accomplishment of assigned tasks but often fail to rise above their surroundings.  Managers need to plan, measure, monitor, coordinate, solve, hire, fire, and so many other things. Typically, managers manage things. Leaders lead people.  The definition of a leader is someone who has followers – people who believe in the leader’s values, abilities, and judgments enough that they are willing to support him or her as they are led towards a shared destination.  This is far different from managing someone’s actions or directing them to accomplish an assigned activity as no loyalty or belief is required when direction comes from a position of assumed power rather than one of sincere trust.  At the risk of over-simplifying a complicated issue,


·         Coordinating and directing activities in order to accomplish defined goals or objectives
·         Telling others what to do (and, often, when/how to do it)
·         Assigning and overseeing specific activities that must be performed by others to complete work or projects in a predictable and proven way
·         Directing, measuring, and correcting work activities intended to accomplish assigned tasks
·         Accomplishing personal or corporate objectives through the efforts of others
·         Top down directives with little room for self-expression
·         More autocratic than democratic – often accepting responsibility for success
·         Minimizing chaos (maximizing order and control) to produce structured results
·         Working through others to accomplish objectives
·         Expecting others to do as they are told so things are done correctly
·         Making sure people are doing things right


·         Defining objectives then facilitating discussion on how best to accomplish them
·         Asking for input from others before telling others what should be done
·         Assigning responsibility for and providing accountability to others for the work they do
·         Demonstrating practices and welcoming input that will improve results
·         Accomplishing shared objectives through the efforts of the team
·         Lifting (and holding) the team up so it can accomplish great things
·         More democratic than autocratic – but responsible for both successes and failures
·         Allowing controlled chaos to create effective solutions
·         Working with others to accomplish great things
·         Not asking others to do what they would not do themselves
·         Making sure objectives are being accomplished and credit is being given appropriately

Those who cannot differentiate power from authority often diminish their ability to rise with their team – choosing instead to raise themselves upon the work, effort and accomplishments of others OR minimize the work of others so they appear to have risen without doing anything to advance their cause or purpose.  Individuals unable to accept success as a stepping stone rather than a destination – as a point from which to leap rather than a place upon which they settle – often find themselves chasing windmills rather than harnessing the wind.  They find that coasting downhill is easier than pedaling up and accept living in the valley rather than climbing to the next peak – choosing to manage their current situation rather than leading in the discovery of a new solution.  Those seeking power often do so at the expense of gaining respect – mortgaging their long-term integrity for a short-term taste of recognition.  Seeking power focuses efforts on the means rather than the ends – on how something should be accomplished rather than on what must ultimately be achieved – often inhibiting creative efforts that might exceed (rather than simply meeting) expectations.  Those accepting authority find themselves given more power than they could ever have imagined for when authority is assumed the responsibility (and reward) for outcomes is freely given.

To bring others along with us as we accomplish great things we must lead rather than manage – pull others with us rather than pushing them from behind.  We must establish and demonstrate confidence in our own abilities before we can expect anyone else to have confidence in us.  Anyone can manage by imposing their will upon those around them – by forcing compliance through a position of power.  Only those willing to learn, to apply their knowledge and exercise their authority (by sharing successes and assuming blame) will become leaders – finding the most effective passage through whatever obstacle presents itself - at work, at home or in their personal relationships.

Thursday, October 6, 2016


Have you ever noticed that people tend to blame others much more frequently than they accept blame when something goes wrong?  Our children do it ("It was not my fault!"), our employees do it ("I could have had it finished if only I had received it on time from..."), and we often even do it ourselves ("Had I done it by myself it would have been finished long ago…").  Blaming is easy.  One must only open his or her mouth, shoot off a couple of random statements that shift responsibility to another, then sit back and keep out of the crossfire.  While blame can be deferred, however, it does not change the fact that someone did (or did not do) something that derailed a project, process or activity.  Unless (or until) we address or correct the behavior it will most likely continue to happen – each time becoming more acceptable than the last.  Unless (and until) we address the behavior (action or decision) that leads one to produce poorly we will never rise above the obstacles that surround us. 

Learning from the mistakes of others is easy (since there is no personal pain from their thwarted gain).  Assuming accountability for our own shortcomings or failures is far more difficult.  Though most people would say it is ridiculous to think that one would subject themselves to the added pressure of constantly assuming another's mistakes, think about the way that our culture has evolved.  We come to the rescue of those in need.  We try to create an “equal playing field” whenever possible.  We reward effort rather than results.  We provide limitless opportunity to succeed while sheltering, buffering or protecting from failure.  How can we expect to instill a degree of accountability into others when we are unwilling to implement the “effects” that should be a direct result of their “causes?” 

We teach to the masses, trying to bring all to a defined level of competency rather than pushing those capable of more to their maximum potential.  Rather than grouping kids by learning (and achievement) levels, classrooms are "blended to better reflect the environment that will be experienced in real life."  We make sure that kids are SOCIALLY adjusted - but at what cost?  Why be the "good kid" when those creating havoc are the ones receiving all the attention?  Why do we reward "improvement" or “effort” rather than "achievement?"  Do our extreme inclusive and recognition efforts encourage good behavior or reward bad?  Think about the ramifications of our actions - who gets most of your time and attention?  Do you spend more time with those doing all that is expected or the one needing constant attention and continuous reminders as to what needs doing next?  Our continuous excusing of bad behavior (or accepting a marginal result) is possibly the worst behavior we could display – and it seems to run rampant in the name of equality (rather than equity), living wages (rather than competitive market rates),  and relative worth (rather than absolute value).

We tend to reward bad behavior in business, too.  Sometimes individuals rise to their highest level of incompetence unless we are willing to identify and address inadequacies along the way.  I once knew an employee who had excellent technical skills but could not supervise people.  Rather than providing him with the tools needed to perform his job then holding him accountable for his performance, he was promoted into an upper management position so the company could retain his knowledge of the industry but “insulate him from making daily supervisory mistakes.”  Failing to evaluate performance honestly – not communicating expectations and establishing consequences – often allows a person to rise within an organization by moving from one frustrated supervisor to the next.  Though we may not intentionally reward someone for acting poorly, accepting the results of negative behavior without consequences unintentionally validates the poor behavior being displayed.  Supervisors often look the other way when employees make mistakes but very few employees (or people) will initiate behavioral change without first feeling a little pain of reproach – a conundrum created by silent acceptance of inadequate behavior.

Everyone has rules designed to control actions, increase productivity or quality, reduce losses or provide a safe, socially acceptable environment in which to work.  When writing or implementing rules, however, we should identify the intent or behavioral change expected.  Before publishing the restriction, consider the “why” of a rule more than what the rule says (allows or disallows).  Should a rule violation occur, we must address inappropriate or unacceptable behavior, point out what was done wrong AND detail how it could have been done correctly.  In addressing an unacceptable result we must not minimize the individual responsible but cannot excuse bad behavior but rather should embrace the learning that comes from making mistakes.  We must allow individuals to recognize and acknowledge the obstacles that stand between where they are and where they wish to be – and to address them (rather than simply moving around them).  Pure avoidance rarely results in lasting change – the very action you wished altered often reinforced when there are no consequences.

Nobody can stand up without first falling down nor run without first walking.  Why do we expect more from people in a work situation than is necessary to live and grow?  When actions are overly regulated, we penalize individuals making a mistake by removing their opportunity to change – to learn from failure.  Rather than being a part of the problem, address the negative actions of others (in a positive way) to become a major factor in the implementation of a solution.  Learn from personal failure while remaining tolerant of shortcomings.  We tend to receive no more than we expect and achieve no more than we believe possible.  When we accept poor behavior (and its resulting poor performance), how can we ever expect to achieve greatness? 

Identify inappropriate actions, correct them, then monitor the resultant changed behavior to make sure a mistake becomes “the exception” rather than the “rule.”  People can learn from their mistakes and move forward ONLY if they are constructively confronted when the behavior occurs (AND their actions or results addressed appropriately should the behavior not change).

Monday, September 19, 2016


…from my recognition that life is not a spectator sport that can be lived from the sidelines.  I hope you can find validation and confirmation from these observations – and are empowered to add your personal axioms as comments after you have read mine.

There is no limit to what we can accomplish when we seek results and conclusions rather than recognition and credit. 

We gain much from life when each step is celebrated as an accomplishment rather than celebrating only upon reaching the goal at the end of our journey.

You cannot fulfill another’s dream nor find peace in reaching another’s expectations.  Far too many limit themselves to “what must be done” without seeking “what might be possible” – accepting “what is” as a destination rather than a temporary resting place upon the never-ending road to an ever-changing reality. You will never rise higher than you expect yourself to rise nor fall lower than you allow yourself to fall.

When we imagine that which is incomprehensible, seeing it as not only achievable but viewing it as a foregone conclusion, we can accomplish those things once believed to be impossible.

Dreams are thoughts not yet realized – aspirations not yet brought to fruition.  We can live life without dreams but cannot embrace its full potential without first visualizing what we want to become then dreaming about what we wish to accomplish.  Rather than living the life that others might establish for you, live your dreams – risking more than other might think wise so that you can accomplish more than others might believe possible.

When seeking change it is important that we run towards opportunity rather than away from failure.

When initiating change it is your responsibility to SELL an idea, not someone else’s responsibility to 
BUY the concept.

When seeking to initiate change we must recognize and accept that the long-term gain our short-term pain might produce is more desirable than the ramifications (and comfort) of our complacency.

We must recognize that before we can move from “what we have” to “what we hope for,” one journey must end before another can begin.  We must acknowledge that before we can take a new path towards a yet-to-be determined destination we must abandon the old and familiar roads that have taken us safely to places in which we have found comfort.  All change begins with the deliberate consideration of an intentional action that, if acted upon, will forever alter where we are as it redefines where we are going.

In order to accomplish anything of significance in life we must establish goals and expectations – for unless we determine where we wish to “end” our journey it is difficult to know how far we have come or how much longer we must travel.

Words describe what one wishes to accomplish – actions (and results) define success.

Our emphasis should always be upon recognizing and rewarding accomplishment rather than rewarding recognized effort.

Gaining respect and credibility in the eyes of those one leads is far more important than trying to befriend them.

Saying what you mean – then doing what you say – are two of the greatest attributes a leader can possess.

Imagine living in a glass house – where everything we say or do is open for critique and criticism.  Nothing is “secret” or “private” when it comes to the choices we make or the actions we take.  Such is the reality of leadership – and the tremendous weight of responsibility placed upon a leader’s shoulders by those looking up to him or her for guidance.

Leaders must recognize that their actions speak far more loudly than do their words.  As a child I was taught that “seeing is believing.”  Never was I told that “hearing makes things right.”  Those around you form their perception of who you are by what you do and how you act NOT by the things you say about yourself.  We cannot expect loyalty, efficiency and productivity from employees if we do not demonstrate it through our own actions.  Leaders would never ask others to do what they would not (and have not) done themselves.

In order to make a difference in life you must be willing to be different.  You cannot remain “one of the crowd” doing things the same way they have always been done if you expect to accomplish great things.

It has been said we should lead, follow or get out of the way in life.  Perhaps the most critical of these is the last – for if you are not an active part of the solution through your leading the charge or participating in the process, you become a significant part of the problem by obstructing the progress of others.

Leadership is much like life – fulfillment comes to those that recognize opportunity, identify alternative courses of action that will alter or modify unacceptable results then intentionally take action to initiate change.  May the pathways you choose lead you to safe passage as you seek to make a difference in your own life (as well as in the lives you have been empowered to lead).  

Wednesday, September 7, 2016


Choosing right over wrong, ethics over convenience, and truth over popularity are seemingly difficult benchmarks to achieve in life.  Business leaders must continually use consistency, fairness and equity as the litmus test for decisions they make in regards to product offerings, finances and employee-related issues.  Employees (or those seeking work) must identify and present truth over fiction, reality over desires and an honest appraisal of what they can do over what they feel they could be capable of doing when seeking advancement or fulfillment.  Individuals within successful relationships must remain open and honest with communications, fair and reasonable in expectations and willing to both express “wished for” outcomes and accept compromise to achieve mutually beneficial results.  Far too many of the ethical shortcomings in today’s world have their roots in a lack of transparency – people or business seeing what they can get away with rather than doing what they know is right or speaking in one manner while acting in another – as they seek the fulfillment of self-serving values.

Supervisors (or individuals within their personal relationships) often find themselves in trouble when they communicate a partial truth, remain silent on an important aspect or condition, or fail to tell the “why” when issuing instruction or correction.  Communicating partial truths to different people – even if what is being said is not a lie but rather just part of the story – can compound itself by allowing stories to become mixed during ongoing communication or to fully materialize when people talk to each other about what you have said.  If an individual is being criticized or verbally attacked and you are in a position to intercede with “the rest of the story” that might make the berating stop but you choose to say nothing, silence can broadcast a lack of integrity more loudly than words could ever manage.  Directing rather than explaining – particularly if there appears to be inconsistency or a lack of consideration for others in the orders – can reduce credibility and integrity within a leader, partner or friend.  Honesty and integrity must be the benchmark of all communication – fairness and equity the litmus – for an individual to earn and maintain respect in their personal OR professional life.

Our environment and those we are with change frequently but our value system – our ethics – cannot drift upon the winds if we are to remain an anchor to those around us.  In order to be a contributing part of the solution rather than a significant part of the problem, our values must serve as a rock-solid set of principles to establish and guide proper conduct. This set of principles should ALWAYS influence our decisions and choices, outwardly determining our actions, if we are to express integrity and establish credibility.  Unless our exhibited actions are natural expressions gained through training, experience, and an application of closely held principles, those depending upon us for guidance will lose confidence in our choices and become fearful of our leadership decisions.  When faced with difficult decisions, we all must make choices that are well thought-out and that lead to a planned “end point.”  When given a choice, far too many individuals take the path of least resistance rather than taking “the high road” wherever it may lead.  “Integrity” is not an object we can seek nor a destination we can find, it is the glue that holds successful human interaction together – a path to follow as we seek to find meaning and fulfillment in our everyday actions.  Integrity is the “high road” upon which we should travel as we build meaningful, trust-filled relationships.

In order to avoid being more “stubborn” than “purposeful” we should be prepared to change our mind (and potentially our choice or direction) should the situation around us OR the facts upon which our initial decision was based be significantly altered.  The only thing that is certain in life is change – not the direction of change nor the likelihood of controlling change, only the knowledge that change will happen – so we must be prepared to manage it.  Leaders often find themselves in a position to make or break relationships, ensure the success of a venture or institution, or cause the realization or the destruction of dreams with every decision they make.  Good leaders typically thrive on “making a difference,” quietly accepting praise for a job done well (often spreading it graciously over the efforts of a team) while assuming blame for things that went wrong (often sheltering “the team” from outside criticism).  Great leaders build credibility through the transparency, consistency, predictability and integrity of their words and actions.

Thursday, September 1, 2016


Have you ever met someone who sets a course in life based on how many others are doing the same thing?  Rather than identifying problems, investigating root causes and intentionally setting into motion the actions that would resolve issues in an individual and/or unique way, the path of least resistance is chosen as these individuals travel upon roads that others take and make “safe” (commonly acceptable) rather than “right” (based on fact rather than the opinion of others) decisions.  Perhaps it might be better (though possibly more difficult) to seek individuals who seems to consistently and continuously “take the high road” in the way things are done and choose the path less traveled (rather than the path of least resistance) when making decisions – for knowing (and associating with) such a person will invariably lead to success.

Far too many people diminish their potential by following the crowd (doing what is “right and prudent”) rather than following their own beliefs.  They seek popularity (or at least acceptance) rather than standing strong on their own values, judgments and decisions.  They choose to blend into the majority rather than the criticism that standing alone often brings.  They accept that things are as they should be rather than seeking what could be possible if established systems and familiar processes were to be challenged.  The “throng” tends to validate itself by thinking, “We are no different than anyone else – the same as all others with whom we associate” rather than believing, “We are all unique individuals whose potential is limited only by our individual actions and behaviors.”  The attacks our society mounts against individuals seeking to make a difference through non-conventional methods or untested thoughts and processes are often enough to discourage all but the brave to forge their own path.  By homogenizing our unique characteristics into a single melting pot that can be universally accepted by all, “the many” seek to stifle the ability of all but a rare and outspoken few to make a difference in the world.  Allowing this to happen – either explicitly through participation or implicitly through acceptance – diminishes one’s ability to think, act and contribute in a meaningful way.
Following the crowd is easy.  Anyone can do what others accept, go where others are going, act as others act and find a sense of community by blending in. Travelling familiar roads and doing things the way they have always been done can take the bumps and turns out of our journey BUT when we do things as they have always been done we can expect nothing more than has already been accomplished.  When we move forward by focusing upon where we have been and what we have done we cannot truly see where we are going or what might be accomplished.  While teaching our granddaughter to ride a bicycle I found myself telling her to “look where she is going rather than watching where she has been” if she seeks to achieve success without falling – an axiom that should apply to all we say and do in life but is often abandoned as we seek acceptance and validation by others.   Only when we accept that much can come from seeking a different reality than that chosen by the crowd will we realize that loss can become gain, failure can breed success, and the decision to stop can be either a conclusion (accepting that what is will always be) OR a new beginning (failure is a detour rather than a dead end on the road to success).  Followers of a crowd tend to accept the group’s destination as a place to land while those seeking to make an individual difference often build their future from the stopping point accepted by others as being “good enough.”

Too many supervisors seek acceptance from those they lead rather than striving to earn their respect.  Too many parents seek to be friends with their children (and their acquaintances) rather than role models.  Too many teachers want to be “liked” by their students rather than viewed as being “tough but fair.”  Too many of our political leaders make decisions based on polls that measure what the majority think they should do rather than doing what might negatively impact the majority IF a decision or course of action might be best for the values (and sustainability) of our nation.  When forging a path using our personal strengths, values and character we tend to lean towards greatness in all that we say, do and accomplish.  Alternatively, when we try to make ourselves look better by pulling others down – making ourselves look good by tarnishing another’s reputation or diminishing their abilities – we often find ourselves travelling upon roads fraught with hazards, pot holes, barricades and dead ends. 

What kind of transformations might take place in our nation (and in YOUR life) if more decisions were made (and courses of action taken) driven by “rather than…” thinking?  What might YOU be able to accomplish – what potential might you be able to realize – were you to “march to your own drummer” and forge your own path rather than listening to (and following) the music made by others?  You will know (and be able to realize) your true potential ONLY should you choose to accept the risk and opportunity that individuality brings – leaving behind the comfort, support and (often) false security that being “one of the crowd” provides. Only those choosing to be path makers rather than path takers can truly rise to the top.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016


Individuals often succeed by “being in the right place at the right time,” making a mistake that turns out to be revolutionary (post-it notes, as an example) or “carrying on” a legacy handed down by someone else.  More often, however, much planning, analyzing, forecasting, modeling, and “sweat equity” go into bringing dreams to fruition.  We must selflessly invest our time, money and effort to realize the returns that inevitably come when sacrificing short-term leisure time for long-term opportunity.  While the creation of jobs and the return of wealth to a community may be offshoots of successful business, they are simply the byproducts of dreams, the results of hope and the culmination of focused (and intentional) effort.  In order to realize great accomplishment, individuals AND organizations must imagine the future, consider alternative options as to how it might be realized, then steadfastly advancing towards its ultimate accomplishment – recognizing that effort without goals are often fruitless and actions without intent regularly fall short of hoped for results. 

Once set, one must closely monitor progress and constantly identify obstacles that could hinder the accomplishment of goals – minimizing disruptions to the successful actualization of intended consequences – to help ensure success.  Changes to established plans and procedures should be considered carefully before initiating new processes or practices because intentional actions that foster anticipated results are more predictable and prone to replication than are reactive responses that resolve temporary conditions or situations.  A business will never reach its full potential should a leader focus too intently upon the path (particularly if the path is well traveled by others or often frequented by its competition) rather than the prize at its conclusion (recognizing that even “the prize” is but a resting point upon the continuum of time) NOR will an individual reach his or her full potential until the “ends” become the intended reason for the “means” (rather than a functional by-product of effort put forth to accomplish the assigned dreams of another).

Business success can be directly linked to Management’s ability to motivate and encourage employees to freely and creatively contribute to organizational growth (without fear of failure).  In order to leverage the power of people, an organization must foster and encourage personal development equipping individuals to contribute (rather than simply trained to listen and do what they are told).  An organization should continually challenge and encourage employees to imagine the future and consider where he or she may wish to fit.  Questions that should be asked should include what does one WANT to be, WANT to accomplish, or can realistically EXPECT to achieve (with AND without additional training)?  To taste success one must start with a conclusion - a goal or set of expectations – before starting down the path towards accomplishment.  Without an end point, one will never know when one chapter has concluded so that another can begin.  Life without purpose can be eventful but is rarely satisfying.  It may be full of new beginnings but is strangely at a loss for “ends.”  Taking stock of what has been done, what is in progress and what is but a thought should become a part of everyone’s daily routine IF he or she truly wishes to achieve success – for without a roadmap, how can we hope to move from where we are to where we wish to be?

After establishing a goal – organizationally or individually – we must determine how it can be best accomplished.  Must additional knowledge be attained or abilities be enhanced to achieve the goal?  Who must be brought into the solution to make it happen (and who should be excluded from its execution to minimize disruption)?  Must the power of a team be brought into play or is the goal more individualistic?  Too often, training is an afterthought to the accomplishment of a dream – our hopes taking us places where our abilities fear to tread.  When we start “doing” without thinking we may taste limited success but it will be realized in spite of ourselves rather than because of anything that was intentionally done or could be repeated.  Organizations can play an active role in this process by providing the time for employees to think, the environment in which they can experiment, the tools they may need to become accomplished, and the climate in which they can succeed.

To achieve greatness, people MUST steadfastly advance towards the realization of their dreams – recognizing that detours will arise (but are simply temporary disruptions rather than insurmountable obstacles) and that reaching a destination may require one to occasionally step back in order to move forward.  In order to enact meaningful change, however, with any degree of efficiency and urgency we must develop and utilize systems that allow us to anticipate and avoid obstacles that could hinder progress whenever possible while justifying the initiation of warranted changes when necessary (EVEN IF the change forces us to abandon tried and true activities that provide trusted and consistent results).  An individual will never reach their full potential should he or she focus too intently upon the path rather than the potential at the path’s conclusion.  An organization will NEVER leverage the power of its people if they are kept in the dark (expected to “do” rather than to question “why”), stifled through fear of reprisal (rather than being allowed to grow through healthy experimentation) and rewarded for doing things as they have always been done (rather than for challenging the status quo and being recognized for creating new alternative processes that produce better results).

Potential achievement is not measured by what someone has done or an accounting of where they have been but rather by what they are capable of doing and an anticipation of where they are going.  While some may hold onto the dreams of their past, reveling in the memories of what was or has been accomplished, if we are to achieve our full potential we must transform our thinking to consider things that never were (or have yet to be realized) – asking “Why not?” rather than questioning “Why?”