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!

Friday, April 22, 2016

WHAT YOU DO DEFINES WHO YOU ARE


It is hard to convince others to NOT do something when they see you doing or saying things them (“Do as I say, not as I do” is not an initiator of credibility and respect).  How can you expect your employees to adhere to an “eight to five” schedule if your own day frequently begins at eight fifteen or ends at four thirty?  (Forget about the fact that you might have been doing company business the previous night, or that lunch was more of a thought than an action, or that breaks are not part of the daily routine – people SEEING you come to work late or WATCHING you leave early assume the same casual attitude themselves.  Parents tell their children to obey the rules (as they break the speed limit driving them somewhere), to listen to their teachers (as they complain about their boss who 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).  We want others to treat us with respect while we dis-respect others, to look up to our leadership while we look down upon those we lead and to listen to our ideas while we close our minds to the suggestions and ideas of those we wish to hear us.  While people cannot be perfect, we all live in glass houses –others tend to hear what we say and see what we do even if we seek to hide our actions, intents and attitudes behind closed doors.  Since truth (and reality) is stronger than the tales we tell or the actions we try to put forth, some rules for living in a glass house would include:

1)                  Our actions speak far more loudly than do our words.  Others may hear what we say but they see what we do.  As a child I was taught that “seeing is believing.”  Never was I told that “hearing makes things right.”  Whether you deal with people as a manager, a peer, a friend, or as part of a family, those around you establish their perception of you – their beliefs, values, understanding and respect – by what you do and how you act rather than by the things you say about yourself.  To be viewed as credible you must ACT incredibly.
2)                  Look for the good in others rather than identifying (and correcting) the bad.   People usually see what others do wrong, rarely recognizing or acknowledging what they do right.  I rarely hear a stressed parent tell their child that he or she is being a good shopper when rushing through the store, but the pleas of  “don’t touch,” “wait until we get home,” and “I am never bringing you to the store again!” can be heard continuously.  Though we need to confront negative behavior if it is to be corrected, we should also make an effort to acknowledge and verbalize appreciation for things done well – modeling the behavior by saying what we do (or wish to have happen) then doing it ourselves (rather than holding ourselves above the laws that apply to others).
3)                  Never throw bricks when you live in a glass house.  Though you may open the window before tossing your criticism out at a friend or co-worker, they rarely take the time to open the door before returning fire.  I have often heard people defend their inappropriate actions by shifting focus and blame – by deferring their own “wrong” by positioning it as being “less serious” than the misstep of another – rather than admitting to the mistake and taking intentional action to correct it (and resolve any repercussions that it may have put into motion).  When we view life as if we were living in a glass house – our actions, thoughts and intentions fully revealed and exposed to those around us leaving no place to hide our own errors and secrets – we find ourselves more understanding of the shortcomings of others, the reasons they might (or might not) do things, and less apt to see fault in them without first making sure that we are without fault ourselves.
4)                  Judge yourself first 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 led their troops into battle rather than following them from behind.  Parents must “walk the talk” for their children.  Managers cannot expect full productivity, efficiency and dedication to the organization without first giving it themselves.  Focus on results or specific actions that could have contributed to undesired results when addressing individual inadequacies rather than the person who created the problem or failed to produce the result.  It is far easier to change results by providing an alternative pathway than it is to modify behavior by telling someone what you do not like.  Judge yourself by identifying your role or contribution – your own action (or inaction) that may have been partially responsible for the shortcoming – before judging others.

When we live as though we are in a glass house without shades or coverings to hide what we are - or on a bridge spanning a great divide but exposed to the public without cover or shelter - we begin to focus on what we should be doing rather than on what others should not be doing.  We open not only windows to look out but also doors to invite others in.  We start leading by example rather than by edict as we expect others to do what we do rather than how we tell them to act.  Instead of trying to hide within the filtered darkness of a dirty glass house, take the time to “wash the windows clean” by speaking and acting with integrity.  We all achieve more when we let the light of truth shine brightly within our lives, our words and our actions.  We accomplish much when throwing praise (rather than bricks) and freely giving (rather than seeking) credit for positive things that are done.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

BUILDING AND MAINTAINING INTEGRITY

Leaders must establish consistent, fair and equitable (NOT equal) guidelines that are well-defined and clearly communicated as the litmus test for decisions they make – regardless of whether “anyone is watching” or not.  People are far more likely to see what you do than hear what you say in life – and a reputation is much easier to maintain than it is to regain.  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 might be able to do when seeking advancement or fulfillment.  Managers must communicate openly and honestly as well or even the best qualified candidate may choose to leave if the “pain of remaining” is a greater motivator to change than the apprehension of starting over is a motivator to stay – particularly within an economy that has more jobs available than qualified candidates to fill them.  Far too many of the ethical shortcomings within today’s world have their roots in a lack of open and honest communication – people or business seeing what they can get away with rather than doing what they know is right – as they seek the fulfillment of self-serving values and the rewards of self-elevating accomplishments rather than the sustainability of shared goals and objectives. 

People often find themselves in an uncomfortable position if they have communicated a partial truth, remained silent on an important aspect or condition, or failed to tell the “why” when issuing instruction or correction rather than openly and honestly telling the entire and absolute truth.  We are a risk averse culture, avoiding situations where the potential of loss is great EVEN IF the possibility of gain is immense, hesitant to create (or even engage in) confrontation.  While some say that “silence is golden,” it can far more frequently be “deadly” than blissful.  When attempting to build (or retain) integrity, refusing to talk about an issue does not resolve it nor make it go away – it simply allows the underlying “reason” for conflict to grow and establish itself.  When individuals mistakenly believe that avoiding an issue will make it go away they are shocked and disappointed when the minor complications they may have been avoiding become un-navigable (and uncharted) waters that tear and destroy everything in their path.  It is far easier to talk about minor issues when they arise (building credibility, respect and integrity) than it is to continually ignore situations (eventually turning a “mole hill” into a mountain).  Leaders often must sacrifice the “popular” card in favor of one that promotes quiet respect – must walk away from being “one of the gang” to being the one who provides the gang with mission, vision and ongoing support.

There is a fine line between being confident and being cocky – between being considered essential and invaluable in the eyes of others and establishing your own value and importance (then trying to convince others that your personal beliefs and expectations are more valuable than theirs).  Far too many good leaders fail to become great because they put themselves before the wishes and needs of those around them – placing more importance upon their individual “good works” than on the accomplishments of those they lead.  When individuals in a position of power allow their personal influence to rise to the surface, effectively filtering the light from around and beneath them, others will be stifled rather than celebrated. 


Humility is far more frequently the foundation of a great leader than loud or abrasive bluster.  Honesty is far easier to maintain than a series of twisted or convoluted lies.  While one may find joy in the journey when seeking personal gain and rewards, rarely will long-term, sustainable integrity be found by forcing others to move in a defined manner to a contrived destination that benefits one party to the detriment of another.  Too many relationships are damaged because one individual places his or her personal “wants” above those of another.  We often fail to realize (or even recognize) that IF we truly and sincerely care for others by helping them accomplish their objectives and meet their needs (NOT accomplishing their goals or meeting their objectives FOR them), others will have the time (and probably the propensity) to support and care for us as well.  The part about building (and maintaining) integrity, however, would dictate that we help others without expecting anything in return – accepting any “return on our investment” only as an unanticipated benefit that encourages us to grow.