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!

Sunday, February 21, 2016


Many people reference “thinking outside of the box” or “being confined within the box” when describing how an individual acts and reacts to issues, situations and their environment.  Those whom approach things from a “known, tried and tested” philosophy are considered to be “inside the box thinkers.”  There is nothing innately wrong with thinking inside of the box but, as can be seen from this picture of our granddaughter playing contentedly within her enclosed environment, you are able to function, perform and produce ONLY with what you have at your fingertips.  IF what you have access to – what you have included with you inside of your box – is enough to make you happy, good for you.  Unfortunately, most individuals tire of doing the same thing over and over – especially if it produces the same results, provides the same outcomes and becomes more of a rote duty than a revealing adventure.  Thinking inside of the box may be good for someone wishing to minimize their potential, accomplish the wishes of others and stay below the radar (possibly even closing the box to hide from the world’s attention) BUT most would prefer to gain more from their efforts and contribute more through the actions they take and the choices that they make.  Inside the box is sheltered, tried and true BUT, as a singer once stated, “Is that all there is to life?”  I would think not, for most individuals.

Some might say that to get outside of the box with your thinking you must “stand upon the box” rather than being contained within it.  While not a bad thought, Jordyn demonstrates the flaw to that logic.  Standing on the box allows you to see your environment – to identify the toys and tools that are around you as well as those that were with you inside of your box – but you are unable to interact when standing above the fray.  Recognizing and identifying your potential is a good start but in order to act – to make a difference – one must become engaged within the opportunities presented and available.  If all we do is stand above where we were – gazing upon the potential around us without ever acting or engaging – much could be imagined but very little can be accomplished.  In order to make a difference we must not only get outside of our boxes, we must utilize the tools at our disposal to initiate change.

When we step down from our soapbox, committing to action rather than relying upon the eloquence of our lessons and lectures, a whole new world of opportunity awaits us.  What was once outside of our reach becomes available to us.  What was at most a thought or dream becomes reality.  We can hold new toys (or tools) in our hands, identify new places to wander, formulate different applications for commonly accepted practices and immerse ourselves in a world that could not have been a consideration from inside the security of the four walls we once called home.  Our actions are limited by the box in which we allow ourselves to be captive.  Our potential is restricted when we can only see what is available but are unable (or unwilling) to access it so that we might initiate change or accomplish planned or anticipated results.

In order to lead we must acknowledge the limitations our “boxes” put upon us and consciously choose to climb out of our confined surroundings and step down from the feelings of omnipotence that standing upon them might evoke so that we can become engaged within our surroundings – utilizing new and untested options available to us.  When we truly “think and play” outside of the box, our achievements will not be contained and our influence cannot be restricted.   When we allow ourselves the opportunity to access the plethora of new processes, untested tools, unfamiliar toys and undefined alternatives we can achieve much.  We will become unique (and innovative) enough to be recognized as leaders when the actions we take and the results we achieve are built upon personal credibility and demonstrated strength of character rather than based on the volume and tone of our words.  Personal success can ONLY be built upon a foundation of recognition and acknowledgement (of our self-imposed limitations), intentional action (to remove the boundaries our limitations present) and purposeful exploration and expansion (of the new horizons revealed to us).  When we chose to abandon our comfort zone – to get outside of our box – we can (and will) accomplish great things.