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!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016


Change happens regardless of what we may do, think or try to influence.  Growth, however, comes only through (and because of) our intentional actions.  People both love and hate change – though we often like to immerse ourselves in the familiarity of keeping things the same (comfort, security, job, environment, friends, relationships, etc.), we really want our lives to improve by providing us with new opportunities and rewards (with minimal risk, discomfort, negative change or inconvenience in our lives).  While wanting to be rewarded with more responsibility, money, influence, friends or power, we often prefer to reap a new and bountiful harvest after planting the same seeds we have used in the past – to gain the prize without entering the contest.  We often refuse to invest the necessary “sweat equity” to make change happen.  Hoping that good things will come to those who wait (without doing anything to initiate a difference), we are more than happy to accept change when it is handed to us without risk of failure or disruption of status quo.  If we have to identify areas needing change AND intentionally act to overcome them so that we can move forward – leaving what we know while seeking a reward at the end of a rainbow we have not yet investigated – THAT is a different story.  When we hoist our sails to move towards a new tomorrow, we may not always know where the winds will lead us.  Simply catching hold of the wind, however (IF we are willing to raise our sails to harness their limitless power), can help us move from the comfort of our existence to the potential of what could be but has not yet been imagined.  We must be willing, though, to push ourselves from the shores of tranquility should we wish to experience any new opportunity that might await.  Some thoughts, attitudes and perceptions that might help you maintain focus while bringing your dreams to fruition as you sail into and through life’s challenges would include:
The only way of identifying (and negating) what limits our possibilities is to push those inhibitors aside while seeking what might be considered to be impossible (or at least highly improbable) to those around us.  When we restrict our actions, reactions and responses to the ways and methods with which we are familiar, nothing will change.  Only when we dare to act in ways we have never before acted – to think in ways we have never before thought – will those things that were once beyond our reach become possible.  In order to maximize the potential of success, we must recognize the resistance we will face, respond to the concerns our detractors will present, and devise a plausible, acceptable alternative to the status quo that often holds us back with a false promise of security.  To move from where you are to where you wish to be, and perhaps even beyond to where you cannot even imagine, tear down the walls that limit your reality to what you have always known and what you have always been.  Unless (and until) we are willing to accept the ramifications of our actions – to continuously move forward towards an ever-changing target rather than finding comfort and settling down along the way – we will never accomplish more than has previously been completed nor receive greater rewards than have been previously received.

If we spend all of our time identifying why something WILL NOT work, how can we ever hope to initiate recognize (or realize) what just might be possible if only we were to try?  How can we change or become someone we might wish to be if it entails doing things that have never been done or accomplishing things we never thought possible if we limit ourselves to those thoughts and actions that are as much a part of us as the air we breathe?  Allowing an individual to learn from failure is possibly one of the best gifts we can give.  When a person must turn back due to unexpected turbulence after charting a course and setting sail, two things happen.  First, the individual will (hopefully) learn from his or her mistake by recognizing the signs of turmoil and acting to avoid them before being hopelessly overcome – either by setting a course that circumvents the problem or returning to safety and planning safe passage prior to embarking again.  Secondly, and perhaps more important, they learn to correct their error in a way that allowed them to move forward towards the accomplishment of their goal.  While staying down after failing may be easy (particularly if someone else is there to pick up the pieces and comfort you after your fall), picking oneself up after falling down is the most important part of learning from failure.  Unless (and until) we move ahead we will never advance.  Learning by experience is much more beneficial than listening to someone else say which way to go or what road to take – for doing another’s bidding is never a good or adequate exchange for initiating and accomplishing our own dreams.  We should plan, anticipate and think of reasonable alternative approaches prior to starting any task BUT must not delay our journey by succumbing to “analysis paralysis” (caused when our fear of failure diminishes our chances of success by preventing us from ever beginning the race.   When we stay behind the starting line it is impossible to finish the race as a journey cannot be concluded unless it has begun.

The person who achieves greatness often fails frequently.  Should a person never make mistakes it is because they have attempted only things that have already been accomplished OR they seek to accomplish only things that anyone could do.  Life is not a carefree path we take while moving towards an idyllic destination.  Life is fraught with pitfalls, traps, snares and impossibly steep embankments.  It would be nearly impossible to go through life without making a mistake, so quit trying to be perfect!  Some of the world’s greatest inventions came out of failure.  Our greatest presidents frequently tasted defeat before they were elected.  Many business owners have failed in an endeavor before experiencing success.  Rare is the relationship that has not survived at least one catastrophic incident – and rare is the individual who has not survived at least one catastrophic relationship.  Learning from our imperfections – recognizing that mistakes provide the knowledge that can prevent them from being repeated – can lead to greatness. We need not shout our failures from the rooftops or publicly flog ourselves for being less than perfect but, if we are to grow, we must use our shortcomings as a foundation upon which success can be built – and can do so ONLY if we acknowledge their existence, learn from the lessons they teach and refuse to be discouraged by their occurrences. 

Knowing what to do is not enough – we must apply our knowledge to initiate change.  Willing something to be done is not enough – we must intentionally act to accomplish transformation.  Recognizing the difference between right and wrong is a good start – showing integrity in the decisions we make and the actions we take validates who we are.  Value is established not by what we know but rather by how we apply our knowledge.  While knowledge is critical, and we must study to gain fundamental understanding, we must apply what we know and practice to perfect its application for our intelligence to be of any use to anyone.  We could THINK about writing an article, note or memo all day long but nothing would happen until we engage our minds, make some sort of sense from our thoughts, apply the words we think of in a logical order and put them into a format that can communicate our intentions to those we wish to influence.  Any action creates an opposite and equal reaction, both in physics and in life.  Intentional action is a prerequisite to change.  Plausible and acceptable actions are the precursor of success.  Appropriate actions will generate anticipated (or hoped for) results.
Only when we risk more than others think is safe, care more than others think is wise, and dream more than others think is practical can we expect to accomplish more than others think is possible.  Until we truly believe, however, that ALL things are possible, it matters not how great a risk we take, how deep our cares may be nor how significant our dreams may seem for our results will be limited by the probability of success we have established rather than by the reality that anything is possible.  We get from life only what we put into it.  When individuals slide through life applying minimal effort to accomplish easily achieved goals they typically receive very little.  Success is not measured by how few times we fail but rather by what we learn from our efforts and how we apply that knowledge to accomplish great things.  We rarely rise higher than we expect ourselves to rise nor fall lower than we allow ourselves to fall.  When we truly EXPECT to accomplish the most improbable things and seek those things we believe to be barely possible, we will almost always taste success in whatever we say, do or aspire to accomplish.