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, December 8, 2017

SMART OR WISE – THE SAME OR DIFFERENT?


Wisdom results from our application of knowledge – from using what we know to change (or intentionally stabilize) a situation, alter the life of another, or accomplish something that had not yet been considered.  One can be wise, however, without having (or demonstrating) much common sense or practical knowledge.  We can know all the facts and understand all their ramifications but cannot initiate or accomplish change unless we act upon the things we know rather than simply building upon them to form a hopelessly tall (and self-contained) tower.  Simply knowing many facts, always asking the right questions and appearing to have all the answers may make us smart but unless (and until) we apply the facts we have learned to change a situation or circumstance that we have never encountered we will never demonstrate wisdom. 

Today’s world is afloat with facts, data and information and resources yet it seems that problem-solving skills are less likely to be demonstrated than ever before as many have difficulty trying to apply their wealth of knowledge to un-related circumstances within their daily lives.  We run before we walk as our impatience rules the day.  We pursue the impossible (or at least the improbable) rather than finding comfort in the reality of “what is” and extrapolating it into that which has not yet become – far too often leaping ahead without thought or direction.  Knowing what to do and doing what is right within a given set of circumstances is not always the same thing (situational ethics?).  We are taught to memorize facts and regurgitate answers on tests that measure what we were taught rather than what we may have learned during the lessons.  While knowledge may be the building block of wisdom, it does not shine as a light in the darkness until it is appropriately applied.

Impatience and intolerance have become the driving factors in “effective” communication with the analysis of data initiating deliberate (and specific) action designed to resolve a known problem using the process developed by others in a similar situation – minimizing the impact of creativity in the face of reality.  Integrity was once an integral part of an individual’s make-up – it now seems to be an insignificant backdrop to life’s everyday drama. Relationships once rooted in honesty now seem built upon circumstance fed by individual desires, validated by sincere apologies and justified by “the wisdom of the crowd.”  It seems that the application of information to create a viable solution – taking the risk required to make a difference by being unique in thought and action – is less about “doing things right” and more about “just doing it.”  Knowing what to do (because we have learned facts or seen similar situations in the past) is a good start to transforming our knowledge into wisdom.  To be credible and effective in the demonstrative application of our wisdom we must say what we are going to do, do what we say and show others that we are predictable, consistent and fair in our actions.  We must recognize and consistently honor the values, likes, dislikes and preferences of others as we pull them along with us (rather than trying to push them ahead to test the waters before stepping in).

It is nearly impossible to move in the wrong direction when one does not care where they are going.  Little credit, however, can be taken (or praise given) for unanticipated results generated through unplanned activities. In order to transform knowledge into wisdom – to make decisions count – we must anticipate our destination before moving from one situation to another then plan where we want to land before leaping from where we stand.  Unless we look forward (rather than back) or we will find ourselves moving from the frying pan to the fire. When teaching our granddaughter to ride her bike we constantly reminded her to look where she was going rather than where she had been – a great piece of advice that most individuals seeking to accomplish any new objective should assimilate.  Success hinges upon the creation and attainment of targets so we can recognize and acknowledge that our actions (or intentional in-actions) are leading towards a definitive conclusion.  Many great innovations were a direct result of an initial failure.  Had someone not allowed their mind to wander, however, and fed their curiosity – had they not transformed their knowledge into wisdom while investigating previously unknown (and unconsidered) possibilities – today’s world would be a vastly different place.

We are able to leverage our knowledge to make wise decisions rather than blindly following the thoughts of others when we analyze the information around us, consider the results (and ramifications) of applying it to our circumstances then act (and monitor what happens) as we move forward.  When we look ahead to avoid the obstacles in our path rather than behind at what has already been accomplished we are able to sail towards what might become reality rather than anchoring ourselves within safe harbors of the past that discourage change.  Planned, intentional actions initiate change – and once we are able to demonstrate our ability to orchestrate the transition from “here and now” to “where we have not yet imagined” we will be wise beyond our expectations and experience more success than we ever dreamed possible.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

AVOIDING MISTAKEN ASSUMPTIONS POSITIONS US FOR SUCCESS

Most people are “measured” by the success they have which becomes the results we aspire to emulate.  Little attention, however, is given to the small, commonsense, practical things that often lead to failure.  While we cannot avoid all missteps along the way – particularly if we are committed to initiating new solutions, forging alternative paths and seeking places where “no person has ever gone before” – there ARE some sure-fire mistakes we make that minimize our chances of success.  If we are able to identify and avoid these simple assumptions, pitfalls and roadblocks we will be able to avoid debilitating failure.  Some of these “common sense” areas that promote mistakes and disruptive missteps would include:

Mistaken Assumption #1:            PEOPLE DO NOT ENTER INTO A RELATIONSHIP (OR A NEW JOB) UNLESS THEY ARE FULLY EQUIPPED TO PERFORM.  THEY ABSORB AND IMPLEMENT NEW IDEAS AS THEY GAIN EXPERIENCE.  THERE IS NO NEED TO BUDGET FOR OR INVEST IN TRAINING – IF A PERSON IS NOT CAPABLE OF DOING, PARTICIPATING IN OR SHARING SOMETHING HE OR SHE WOULD NOT BE ENGAGED/INVOLVED.  Insecure individuals often feel threatened by others who “know too much” or are “overqualified.”  Unless a degree of “shared success” can be established, refusing to allow or permit one individual doing everything with the other accomplishing very little, a partnership cannot grow.  Individuals perform better when they have a high (but realistic) self –concept – knowing they are fully equipped to perform any job that is assigned or to contribute in the resolution of any problem that is faced while in a relationship.  Managers of excellence recognize that elevating their people’s skills will enhance their own ability to contribute more to their organization.  Individuals should be capable of assuming more than their basic job responsibilities so that both employee AND manager has time to seek new challenges.  Within ANY relationship, once part of the equation feels underappreciated – when all participants can no longer gain from expanding their knowledge base or trying new approaches – the beginning of an inevitable end has clearly revealed itself. 

Mistaken Assumption #2:            IF EVERYONE WERE TREATED EQUALLY THERE WOULD BE NO REASON TO COMPLAIN AND ALL WOULD WORK TOGETHER TO BEST COMPLETE WORK, PROJECTS OR RESOLVE STICKY ISSUES WITHOUT CONFLICT.  THE BEST WAY TO AVOID CONFRONTATION IN ANY SITUATION IS TO TREAT EVERYONE THE SAME REGARDLESS OF THEIR ABILTIY TO CONTRIBUTE OR THEIR CAPABILITY TO GROW.  Rewarding all equally for the work that has been done regardless of individual effort, while often the easiest thing to do, creates animosity within the “high achievers” in our world and NEVER results in everyone BEING the same.  All organizations and relationships need leaders – people of dreams, individuals of vision, contributors that take calculated risks to receive proportionate rewards.  Successful leaders will reward excellence rather than celebrating mediocrity – expecting all to rise to the top rather than pulling the top down to eliminate differences.  They identify and recognize individuals who can give back as much (if not more) than they take away from relationships – rather than those seeking comfort in “acceptability” or hiding within the shadows of doubt.  While giving across the board increases may be an “easy” way to go, it tends to encourage those who can truly contribute to take their talents elsewhere, leaving behind those who are ecstatic to be paid good money for average results.  Treating every individual “the same” will reduce opportunity as it blends individuality into a single “nobody wins – everybody loses” package.  One must climb from a solid base of support in order to grow – at work OR within a shared relationship.

Mistaken Assumption #3:            CRITICIZE INDIVIDUALS WHENEVER YOU CAN – IT BUILDS CHARACTER AND MOVES NEGATIVE ATTENTION AWAY FROM THOSE LESS CAPABLE OR MAY BE DOING AN INFERIOR JOB.  Finding out who caused a major loss and addressing him/her publicly may serve to make sure that the mistake is not repeated – and the example made may help ensure nobody else will make a similar mistake - but what is really gained by addressing the individual WITHOUT correcting the action that caused the problem?  Weak managers critique and criticize while great managers identify root causes then provide tools or training to minimize the chances of recurrence.  Accepting an individual does not necessarily mean we also accept his or her actions – it simply allows us to keep our mind open as we separate the “person” from the “action” in life.  We should not accept poor results or bad decisions but we must be careful to avoid criticizing the person rather than the action.  NEVER attack the offender – address the offense.  We seek to insulate the person from the action far too often in our “politically-correct” lives, making excuses for them or forgiving them without consequence.  While people learn from their mistakes, they must be given the tools and the opportunity to change their behavior if they are to become the foundation of an organization’s success.

Mistaken Assumption #4:              REST ON THE RESULTS OF YOUR SUCCESS BECAUSE PEOPLE WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER THE SIGNIFICANT THINGS YOU DO.  Life is not static.  It is a continuum of change.  The sun rises and sets each day.  Life begins (and ends) each day.  Relationships come and go with little regard to those left behind.  Individuals comfortable with success rarely accept the status quo as being sufficient – they seek to expand it.  We should never accept “good enough” as being adequate.  Rather than seeing today’s accomplishments as an end to the day, some see them as where tomorrow begins.  While good things may come to those who wait, successful people often create their own future by acting in ways that are noticed by others, allowing their actions to speak louder than their words without having to raise their own banner inviting praise.    

Mistaken Assumption #5:            DO NOT EMBARRASS OTHERS BY PUBLICLY POINTING OUT WHAT THEY HAVE DONE.  PRAISE PEOPLE PRIVATELY SO YOU CAN BE MORE PERSONAL IN YOUR COMMENTS.  If you compliment one person you may have to compliment everyone, right?  WRONG!  We must know when to criticize AND when to praise, recognizing that each individual has personal gifts, talents and abilities that ARE NOT equal.  Maximize the possibility of success by identifying strengths and creating environments that rely on or encourage the use of those strengths (while minimizing the need to act within areas of weakness).

Whenever we assume before we investigate or we think we know (and act on our assumptions) when we know we should think (prior to acting) we minimize our chances for success.  It takes practice, patience, perseverance (and personal sacrifice) to rise to the top.  Success and accomplishment does not come to those who take the easy way out or assume only the best and are unprepared for the alternative (rather than hoping for the best WHILE preparing for the worst).  Success tends to come to those who seek it, study alternatives that will help provide it, initiate actions that continuously promote it, monitor (and react to) results along the way and are willing to alter their direction (when conditions change) rather than staying the course regardless of what happens.  Do not assume success will find you – rather seek it out and make it happen.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

MAXIMIZING YOUR CHANCES OF SUCCESS


What must we do to navigate through the competitive world in which we live without drifting into a minefield – to set sail and arrive at our destination before struggling through a storm?  We are doing more with less in almost every area of our lives.  Our workplaces are more productive, on-line re-sellers with a limited selection of low-cost items are threatening more traditional retail outlets and we face more competition for the limited number of jobs available in today’s market.  Four characteristics seem to reveal themselves within the actions of successful individuals (and the endeavors they choose to pursue) – keys and values that are strangely absent from those striving to reach their targets rather than thriving while moving beyond anything they ever imagined. These four key characteristics are:
  1. Successful individuals recognize that things done within today’s world may not be good enough for tomorrow – that doing things as they have always been done may meet today’s needs but will not begin to satisfy tomorrows hopes, wishes or desires.  Since most individuals prefer not to “fix things that are not yet broken,” individuals able to anticipate when their “good thing” is about to end AND develop alternative ways to leverage their strengths into different avenues will most likely thrive within an ever-changing world. 
  2. Successful people recognize the need for change BUT understand that “change for change sake” is not a good thing.  They also know that being afraid to change when it is needed will hold them back when others less hesitant move forward.  Successful people do not typically spend much time asking “why things are the way they are” because they focus on “what else” might be or “why not” do things differently.  They do not worry about “who will let them do things differently” but rather try to identify (and overcome) who might try to stop them.  Achievers challenge proven methods, holding on to those that are effective while replacing and refining those that lose their relevance – constantly seeking what MIGHT work while moving from what USED TO WORK but has run its course or outlived its usefulness.
  3. Individuals driving change and achieving success typically live with a continuous sense of urgency – to investigate new methods, try new things, and implement new processes – NOW!  Rather than being content with the status quo, successful individuals defer to others the business of maintaining while they identify alternative paths and “roads less travelled” that will lead to new beginnings.  Initiators rarely become bogged down in detail (though they do like systems) as they take for granted a good idea will be implemented – a characteristic that allows for the free transfer of authority and accountability BUT that can be a fatal flaw to a “dreamer” whom does not see the need for a pragmatic and detail-oriented support team.
  4. Successful people maintain open communications with others as they gather the information necessary to make informed decisions.  They talk to other knowledgeable individuals, listen to their input, and readily act upon what they hear (rather than simply talking and listening without acting).  Asking questions with the intent to elicit solutions (rather than simply questioning others to elicit opinions or engage in conversation) signals productive communication.  It is critical that we NEVER believe contributing to the identification of an issue is sufficient.  Only when we galvanize the diverse input of others having different backgrounds, experiences and knowledge can we leverage the abilities of the team to accomplish those things which are “possible” rather than only achieving what has previously been done.

These four characteristics – sensing (and anticipating) the need to change, recognizing when change is needed (and when it might be best to stay the course for a moment), moving forward with urgency (after first imagining opportunities and considering obstacles that must be avoided to minimize disruptions), and seeking external input that will lead to alternative actions (allowing for the implementation of previously untested solutions and the realization of not yet considered opportunities). 

Each of us has the potential to become more than we are and to unlock doors that have kept us from reaching our dreams but must recognize (and understand) that nothing will change unless we truly believe that ANYTHING is possible.  Using the right “keys” will unlock your potential for future success.  Maximize your chances of success by identifying the “key” you might be missing as you seek to accomplish all you are destined to achieve.

Monday, November 13, 2017

THE DEFINITION OF SUCCESS: ACCEPTING NOTHING LESS THAN WHAT YOU HOPE TO ACCOMPLISH BY BUILDING UPON WHAT YOU HAVE PREVIOUSLY DONE

Sometimes an individual is able to succeed, grow and prosper because of a unique skill set, a captivating personality, an influential and motivating mindset OR plain good luck in spite of (rather than because of) the things that are consciously done to create the success.  More often, however, much planning, analyzing, forecasting, and “sweat equity” go into bringing individual thoughts and dreams to fruition.  An individual must selflessly invest his or her time, money and effort to realize the returns that inevitably come when one mortgages their short-term leisure time for long-term rewards – but accomplishing anything, one must envision the future, determine how it can be enacted, then steadfastly advance towards its realization. 

One must closely monitor progress and constantly identify obstacles that could hinder the accomplishment of goals, either avoiding their negative impact or minimizing their effect, in order to help guarantee success.  Changes to established plans should be considered carefully before acting, but actions should be intentional rather than reactive or in response to temporary conditions.  A person will never be able to reach his or her full potential when focused intently upon the path rather than the prize at its conclusion – when looking back to where they have been rather than ahead to where they wish to travel – more concerned with stumbling than learning from each fall.

Individual success can be directly linked to the power a person allows him or herself to take (and the responsibility assumed for each intentional action taken) when contributing freely and creatively to growth.  In order to maximize the chances of success, an individual should first envision the future and where he or she may fit.  Questions that should be asked should include what does one WANT to be, WANT to accomplish, or can realistically EXPECT to achieve?  To taste success one must start with a conclusion - a goal or set of expectations – before embarking upon 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.”  We cannot achieve what we do not believe BUT we will never know how much is possible until we truly identify our abilities, gifts and talents before openly and honestly expressing our expectations and desires for a different or improved future.

Once a goal has been established, an individual must determine how it can be accomplished.  What knowledge or ability must be attained to achieve the goal?  Who must be brought into the solution (to maximize the chances of success) and who should be excluded from its execution (to minimize the potential of failure)?  Too often, training is an afterthought to the accomplishment of a dream.  When we start act without thought we may taste limited success but it will be realized in spite of ourselves rather than because of anything that we intentionally did or could easily replicate.  In order to advance ourselves we must do things differently than they have been done in the past so we must develop new tools, thought processes and methodologies that can be leveraged to build alternative paths that lead to previously unconsidered destinations.  Seeking to leverage that which is common knowledge often reveals only what has been previously accomplished.  In order to fulfill our potential we must expand our horizons beyond the “here and now” to the “what if” and “why not”.

To achieve greatness, people MUST steadfastly advance towards the realization of their dreams.  In order to continually move forward, systems must be put in place to identify obstacles that could hinder progress AND to justify warranted changes.  An individual will never reach his or her full potential should he or she focus too intently upon the path rather than moving towards the prize at its conclusion.  Perhaps we should all take the time to chart a path upon which we can travel, setting our targets high, so that we can be an integral part of a well planned solution RATHER THAN simply a piece of the puzzle or a part of the problem that someone else must resolve.  Only by choosing to envision the future, to enact a solution and to steadfastly advance towards self-actualization (while keeping our eyes on the goal) will we ever achieve our true potential.

One’s potential is not measured by what he or she has done but rather by what he or she is capable of doing.  The potential of an individual is not an accounting of where he or she has been but rather an anticipation of where they might go.  In order to realize our full potential we should recognize and acknowledge the accomplishments of our past, allowing ourselves to bask but for a moment in the memories of what we did – as we let go of what we have proven possible while moving on towards those things that could only have been imagined.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

WE MIGHT RUN (OR HIDE) FROM OTHERS BUT CANNOT ESCAPE OURSELVES


People tend to maximize the impact others have on their failures while minimizing their own contribution to negative results.  Likewise, they maximize their personal contributions towards any success while discounting the contribution of others.  They DO NOT realize that distancing themselves from a situation or problem does nothing to eliminate one of the most difficult things to run from – the person they see whenever they look in a mirror.  We can run from places, situations, relationships and the ramifications of the choices we make but we cannot alter “who we are” or how we react by simply positioning ourselves in a different space or time.  When recognizing the need for change and identifying the steps needed to implement it, “the monster in the closet” that needs addressing is often “us” (and the things we do) rather than “them” (or the things done to us).  Identifying and owning our own role in creating a roadblock to success is vital if we are to overcome the obstacles in front of us.  

Too many people live in a world of “what is” rather than in one of “what if” OR “what could be.” They like to make excuses for things that happen “to them” rather than identifying and implementing solutions that change or alter “who or where they are” so they can become “what or whom they wish to be.”  Nobody is going to make us succeed – we must wrap success around ourselves by considering the ramifications of each action we take and the impact that each choice we make has on the world around us.  We cannot run away from “who” we have become – we only shift “what” we are to a new location by identifying our strengths (and utilizing them) as well as our weaknesses (working to correct or minimize their impact on our results) so we can share in the ownership of solutions developed through the contributions of many (rather than through our own limited knowledge or ability).  Though a new environment might provide a fresh perspective, it will not change what we do or how we do it UNTIL we identify our flaws and intentionally act to change (or overcome) them.

We cannot become something different by moving to a new location, beginning a new relationship or taking a new job unless (and until) we change, alter or modify ourselves in such a manner that new initiatives and altered perspectives are probabilities rather than remote possibilities.  Realistically establishing what role we play in the success of an endeavor (rather than claiming all the credit while shifting all the blame) will allow us to (collectively) accomplish much by elevating all to the highest level imaginable rather than lowering others to the highest level we might be able to individually achieve.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

OVERCOMING FIRST IMPRESSIONS


Our first impressions often influence the way we respond to and interact with people – whether they are fair, right or completely “off base.”  When we pre-suppose what another’s strengths or weaknesses are because of the way they look, act or present themselves we limit (or elevate) their ability to contribute to the advancement of ideas, the alteration of environments or the success of future endeavors.  When we rush to judgment, defining the capabilities of others based on what we perceive rather than through an analysis of their proven abilities or an examination of the results they produce, we pre-dispose their performance to rise only to the level of competence our minds have established.  Some dangers inherent to allowing our first impressions (be they “spot on” or “way off”) to establish the potential contributions of others would include:

Unfounded perceptions can negatively influence our thoughts and actions – often encouraging us to make inappropriate and potentially harmful decisions.

Our perceptions can cause us to act more on feel than fact – a dangerous and unreliable driver when making significant decisions.  The way others look, dress or speak can indicate much about their actions, reactions and thoughts BUT it can also mislead us into limiting (or elevating) their capabilities.  I worked for a very successful business leader years ago that would always “dress down” when looking to buy any major purchase so that the sales person would not “pre-imagine” how much he could pay for the item but rather think about how low the price might have to go in order to make a sale.  When we label an individual based on what they look like, sound like or appear to be we potentially lose the potential they might have – then wonder why the person did not blossom as we hoped they would when we first met them.  People tend to make judgements based on first impressions but must look beneath the surface when determining the true value of an individual.  Successful individuals (in life, within relationships OR at work) take the time needed to identify (and grow) the strengths of those around them while nurturing (and developing) their areas of weakness.  Unless (and until) we look to leverage the abilities of others we will never be able to overcome the disabilities that we would otherwise focus upon.

We miss much in life when we assume to know what another is thinking as we limit what they might truly be able to contribute by rendering it unnecessary (or unacceptable) for them to speak.

We have all heard someone interrupt another by saying, “I know what you are thinking…” or simply complete another’s sentence only to hear, “That is not what I was going to say.”  When we assume what another thinks (or can contribute), we discount anything they might say or do to improve a situation.  Rather than defining another’s abilities through a potentially inaccurate first impression it is better to ask questions, listen to responses, and drill down to establish their true (or possible) capabilities.  Finding out what someone can contribute by creating an environment allowing him or her to utilize their knowledge as they leverage their experiences to realize their potential will accomplish much.  Successful people provide support and encouragement to individuals around them – helping them define and establish their own reality within a broad framework which has been communicated as being safe and acceptable while allowing (and encouraging) them to learn from failure (rather than trying to prevent them from ever making mistakes).

We tend to fulfill our own prophecies for what we can accomplish AND what others might achieve.  We limit our own potential when we allow ourselves to be content with a partial solution (no matter how much better it might be than what exists now) and inhibit those around us from growing when we establish ceilings that prevent them from reaching their full potential (or building spaces from which they cannot leave to explore other possibilities.  We stifle initiative when we allow our first impressions to dictate acceptable standards, expected actions and what should be accomplished (rather than considering what COULD be accomplished if only others were allowed to stretch their wings and fly on their own).

Some individuals refuse to set goals for fear they might fail – preferring to experience success in whatever they say or do as they measure progress rather than results when performing as directed rather than seeking new and innovative solutions.  While we should measure progress to identify how far we have come and how far we must go, it should be to determine how close we are to the accomplishment of a goal rather than a validation of past success, an excuse for failure or a justification of how far we have come (rather than looking to what might still lie ahead).  We should use accomplishment as a springboard towards future success rather than as a resting place that provides immediate gratification and keeps us from reaching for future rewards.  Had someone not imagined flight as being possible then sought results through practical efforts (rather than stopping when their thoughts had materialized), we may never have left the hanger at Kitty Hawk.  The first impression most had of Albert Einstein was a distracted individual having poor math skills who would never fit into society – an impression he did not accept as a final definition of his worth and value.  He chose to use the “label” as a springboard to accomplish what he dreamed possible rather than settling for what others thought probable – refusing to accept the limits others arbitrarily placed upon his potential as he sought fulfillment and self-worth in his own accomplishments. 

When we establish high expectations, great things happen.  We may find comfort but will rarely experience satisfaction should we settle for something less than the best. 

Individuals tend to rise to the level they are expected to reach – to accomplish the objectives that have been established for them (when they are established) but not often much more than what is expected.  It is important that we overcome our tendency to label people when we meet them, choosing instead to maintain an open mind as we seek astonishing results.  While someone labeled “mediocre” or “lacking” during a first impression does not often realize excellence, mediocrity cannot establish a foothold in our lives (or the lives of those around us) when we truly believe that all people are capable of accomplishing great things.  IF we feel that our first impressions are infallible – and seek to determine our direction based on our pre-conceived values of others – we will thrive ONLY if we can accept that our initial judgments may change and that what was once considered to be a reasonable expectation may, in fact, be but a foundation for future growth.


Successful people find it is easier to work with and build up the strengths of individuals than it is to overcome or try to develop their weaknesses – and that communicating lofty goals and expectations is a precursor to their becoming valued contributors.  Do not let your first impressions (be they overly positive as they may set others up to fail OR too negative as they may discourage and diminish their potential contributions) be the driving force in determining what might ultimately become possible.  Looking at what those around us might be able to accomplish (rather than focusing only upon what they have done) – then equipping them to achieve greatness by accepting their unique and individual potential and building upon the strengths they offer rather than focusing on the abilities they have yet to demonstrate – will allow us all to grow and thrive.

Monday, August 21, 2017

FINISHING THE RACE…


In order to grow and succeed – to contribute to the growth of those around us - one cannot do only what has been assigned (regardless of how well each individual assignment is performed).  Looking back towards where we have been rather than ahead towards where we wish to be – remaining content with the present rather than building upon it as a springboard to the future by doing what works as opposed to seeking what might work better – are signs of a life in stagnation.  If one wishes to achieve “the possible” rather than being content to accomplish only those things that have already been done, the thoughts, ideas and abilities of others must be incorporated into our individual dreams of the future to enhance and transform “what is” into “what could be.”  In order to ensure that such transformation can occur we must:

1)  Understand the difference between efficiency with effectiveness.  An e-mail may be efficient, but a conversation might more effectively resolve an issue without extended “replies and clarifications.”  Effective individuals make sure that every investment of time and/or energy has a direct and measurable impact – they accomplish things that need doing in order to move forward – and do them well – rarely wasting time or energy doing unnecessary things that “might be nice” but are not related to the accomplishment of their objectives.  Efficient individuals accomplish all things well whether or not they serve to advance their cause or move them towards a defined objective.  An immediate e-mail communication may efficiently promote conversation but might not effectively resolve an issue.

2)  Recognize that NOBODY is irreplaceable.   If an individual feels that nobody could EVER do what he or she does, that person has probably (unknowingly) limited what he or she can accomplish.  When we feel nobody could ever do the things we do as well as we do them – and accept that as an unwavering paradigm – we become so enamored with our abilities that we fail to identify our possibilities.  If nobody else can do (or even wishes to try doing) what you can then you will never advance beyond the rung of the ladder upon which you have firmly positioned yourself – potentially poised for greatness but unable to progress from where you are to where you wish to be.

3) Acknowledge that you MAY NOT know all the answers.  Though it may seem that whatever some do or say is right – that any direction they take turns out to be the path that is chosen – nobody has the experience or abilities to make all the right decisions regardless of the situation, environment or time-frame.  In reality, people knowing how to think through all the possibilities so they can ask the right questions are much more valuable than those who feel they are able to give all the right answers.  One must always be open to new ideas, techniques, and ways of doing things.  We can truly contribute to our organization’s success and profitability – or experience all that life could offer – ONLY after identifying the limitations of current systems, policies, practices or procedures by asking questions about how they might be improved.  Nothing will change, however, until we decide to act – to move forward by implementing the answers received of the questions we ask (rather than doing things as we have always done them because we think we know all the answers ourselves).

4)  ALWAYS give credit to others.  People recognizing and acknowledging the ideas and actions of others tend to share a never-ending ride to the success (and glory) – enjoying a seemingly unlimited potential “upside” while tempering their individual “downside” risk.  Those that take credit for another’s ideas had better like themselves a lot because they may not have supportive friends to prop them up in the future. 

5)  Add to existing abilities and upgrade outdated skills while refusing to accept “what is” as “what will always be.”  What was once necessary to maintain a life-long job or to enjoy a long-lasting relationship is no longer sufficient.  Employees who refuse to learn new skills or different ways of doing things typically fail to grow – those who refuse to retrain may not remain.  Unless an individual brings more into a relationship than he or she could ever expect it to return – is willing to give another more than is taken (unconditionally and without expectations), seeking to gain more by sharing than by receiving – he or she will never realize the treasures awaiting them beyond their current reality.


While we may be able to start a race on our own, we need the help, support and efforts of those around us to finish.  Life is not a sprint – it is a marathon.  To accomplish much, we must give much.  To receive support from those around us we must first encourage and support their individual growth.  To rise to the top – to finish the race – we must not only build the foundation upon which we stand (so that we are firmly rooted in our convictions) but we must accept the encouragement and support of those around us as we grow – recognizing both our ability AND our need to change – if we seek to “travel where no one has previously gone” in order to achieve that which has not been previously accomplished.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

MAKING SOUND DECISIONS


Whether you feel it best to simply avoid them, live in frustration because of them or view them as an opportunity to shine, decisions are a necessary part of life.  Though some parents (and supervisors) try to protect others from the consequences of poor choices by catching them before they fall – preventing them from experiencing any negative ramifications by insulating them from failure – nobody is completely isolated from the decision-making process.  Some may wish they had a map that would provide a definitive route upon which to travel but the road to change is fraught with danger.  Others would like a detailed instruction sheet so that they know that the actions they ultimately take have a high likelihood of succeeding – preferring to act in ways that would guarantee predictable and consistent results rather than potentially significant rewards if a chance of devastating loss might also be present.  A select few, however, view each decision that faces them as an opportunity to choose which road to take, what path to follow, when to climb (or circumvent) a mountain as they celebrate the chance to act intentionally and exercise independent judgment to accomplish new and different things.

There are as many approaches to making decisions in life as there are people living it – and therein lies the problem.  Since no two people are alike, no two decisions will be alike, either.  There are very few absolutely “correct answers” to a question (though some may be better than others) NOR is any one answer completely wrong (as each solution presents different variables towards the resolution of an issue).  Regardless of the situation, the level of disruption or magnitude of change required, any intentional action taken is better than inaction or unintentional action that results in unintended consequences.  Reviewing and refining the possible actions we could take prior to acting helps to minimize risk and maximize success but far too often individuals delay their actions by dwelling upon why they should not act rather than considering why they should.  A fulfilled and worthwhile life is truly the ongoing result of what we choose to do and the actions we take (or intentionally choose NOT to do or take).

Making solid decisions that result in life-changing experiences requires careful consideration, intelligent planning and intentional action. Most successful individuals establish rules they use to hold themselves accountable for their actions (or their intentional lack of action) so that progress can be monitored and modifications implemented along the way rather than waiting until a destination is reached only to find that it is not where they wanted to go. While everyone lives by some set of values and ethics, some of the rules that provide the “highest return on investment” in the decision-making process would include:

·  It is OK and natural to dislike parts of any job, situation or relationship. It is NOT OK to avoid, refuse to do, or ignore the parts you dislike – or to discuss openly your dissatisfaction with others not having a need to know your opinion.  We accomplish much more when we move forward with a positive attitude than we do if complaining as we go about things we cannot influence or control.  Good decisions are the result of intentional disruptions or informed conformity.

·  It is OK to make a mistake but not OK to repeat the same mistake. Everyone that makes decisions will make their share of wrong decisions.  You have probably never initiated action if you are never wrong.  Most prefer that every choice they make would lead them to prosperity BUT it is OK to make a wrong decision on occasion as long as a lesson was learned.  Learn from your errors, using them as a springboard to leap forward when making decisions based on firm principles and reasonable information.  People will usually work with you – help you make intelligent decisions) – as long as you continue to show measurable progress or the ability (and willingness) to grow.

·  Focus on things you can control rather than worrying about those you cannot. Identify obstacles that are within your sphere of influence so you can remove them and act accordingly.  Actively seek to eliminate the hurdles that are outside of your control by giving them up to someone having the ability to influence or change them.

·  Lying, cheating, or stealing is intolerable if one expects to be valued or respected during the decision making process.  If you are the best performer or individual with the highest results – but those results came through dishonesty or at someone else’s expense – you will not be respected, credible NOR working (or participating in an ongoing relationship) for very long.  It is always more profitable (but much harder) to elevate others and bring ourselves along than to raise ourselves and expect others to grab on as we pass them by.
           
·  Results are recognized – effort is merely a means to the end. Do not seek praise for working hard or contributing greatly – recognition will follow the successful completion of objectives (and will be given to all involved).

·  All individuals may speak, question, and have a voice in any decision but that does not mean all votes are equal. Life is not a democracy.  Input is valued but the individual responsible for the ultimate success of any endeavor must make (and live with the results of) the final decision. Do not confuse “equal” with “equitable” as you live life – nor a democracy with efficiency.

·  Nothing is impossible in life.  While some solutions may not be cost-effective, are seemingly impractical or beyond our ability to implement, “I cannot,” “It is not possible,” and other self-defeating attitudes should not be allowed to enter (or rule) our lives.  Well thought-out solutions to issues you may encounter while doing your job (or during life in general) are not reasons for celebration, they are simply expectations of the way you should continually exhibit and utilize your abilities while striving for new decision, actions or solutions.


Everyone comes to a fork in the road – a decision point that forever changes what they have done or where they are going – redirecting all efforts and activities towards the accomplishment of what has yet to materialize.  Do not walk blindly upon an uncharted path or you may end up missing a turn and becoming helplessly lost within an impossible maze – unable to find an end OR return to the beginning for a fresh start. Establish the rules YOU choose to live by then keep them close to you, guiding your steps and actions as you consciously and intentionally decide to act AND act to implement your decisions.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

INVEST YOUR TIME WISELY TO MAXIMIZE RESULTS


Time is seemingly in abundance when we have nothing to do – yet it eludes us when we are so busy that we might prefer it to stand still.  Some attempt to work through one project at a time – from start to finish – then move on to another.  Others work on multiple tasks by attacking different priorities – setting aside one project in favor of another prior to its completion – until all work is eventually completed (hopefully in a timely manner).  Still others tend to operate by “putting out fires.”  They work on one thing UNTIL something seemingly more important comes along, at which point everything is dropped to resolve the immediate crisis before returning to what they were doing.  Regardless of the kind of work style exhibited, too many individuals worry more about when they will finish the race than they do about finding pleasure along the way – or even recognizing the satisfaction of simply crossing the finish line.  Many worry needlessly about things outside of their control – spending precious hours documenting or validating why something cannot be easily accomplished because someone else has authority or control– rather than acting upon things over which they do have influence.   Others feel they never have the enough time to finish what must be done so they dare not “stop to smell the roses” along the way.   Those individuals often find themselves slaves to the very clock they so desperately seek to master – struggling to complete anything on time because they worry more about having the time to appropriately resolve an issue than simply moving forward, one step at a time, until it has been resolved.

Far too many people complain about the lemons in their lives – the disturbances, distractions and annoyances – than they do celebrating the opportunity to make (and enjoy) lemonade.  They dwell upon the fact that others possess the attributes they would prefer to exhibit rather than embracing and exhibiting their individual gifts and abilities.  Rather than finding satisfaction in all they have accomplished, they see only what has not been finished due to a lack of time or how much better a job they could have done “if only” more time had been given.  These people would say, “I did not do anything I wanted to this summer (vacation, holiday, etc.),” mourning that the season passed them by rather than recognizing how much was truly accomplished.  They would prefer to think about what was not done than what they did – often refusing to acknowledge how they may have impacted another as they dwell upon their own changing (and never satisfied) expectations.

Everyone can lose themselves in thoughts about what COULD HAVE BEEN.  It is easy to dwell on lost opportunity – to excuse a lack of execution by saying that the time for action has passed or the contribution that personal action may have made is not worth the effort expended.  It is harder to anticipate WHAT MAY YET BE – to seek issues not yet identified and commit to their being accomplished – and to accept each minor accomplishment as but a step on the road towards the completion of a major life event.  Whenever I become lost in time, chasing maddeningly after the tip of a second hand as it races around the clock, I remind myself that life is not measured by the time it takes to accomplish our objectives but rather by the objectives we are able to accomplish – by the impact we are able to make upon the lives of those around us – in the time we are given.

Summer is not over yet EVEN THOUGH many have already taken vacation and “settled” into a life of “what is” rather than one of “what is next.”  Major roadways are being repaired causing disruption in the “sameness” that many strive to maintain.  Perhaps we could gain more from thinking about the alternatives – the opportunities to explore areas not previously identified – that have been presented rather than dwelling upon how we wish we could live within our normal routine to accomplish our assigned objectives.  We often find ourselves buried by what must be finished before something new can begin rather than truly celebrating all we have done while seeking closure to the opportunities still available.  Whenever we seek what has not yet been done rather than dwelling upon what we did not accomplish we will discover ways never before considered in which we can make a difference in the lives of those around us. 

Seek all that you can possibly imagine in your life this summer by identifying new solutions to unresolved issues rather than making excuses for unintended consequences (or omissions).  Immerse yourself in the beauty around you – finding solace in the cry of a gull or joy in the laughter of a child – as you recharge and refresh prior to beginning anew.  Find peace within the hectic world around you, taking your life back from the clock as it ticks relentlessly on.  Time should never become but a measurement of how long it takes to fulfill your destiny.  Rather, allow it to become the measure upon which your identity, success and accomplishments can be monitored as you drive relentlessly towards fulfillment of your thoughts and the accomplishment of your objectives.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

FULFILL YOUR POTENTIAL BY THINKING BEYOND YOUR CAPABILITIES AND SEEKING MORE THAN COULD BE IMAGINED POSSIBLE

Researchers tell us that walking in an upbeat way with your head held high as you look ahead to where you are going can improve one’s mood – and that swaying from side to side while walking (meandering without meaning or purpose) can make one be depressed and sad.  Resisting temptations such as chocolate, fats, and “indulgent” foods elevates one’s self-perception and esteem while succumbing to those temptations creates an attitude of failure.  Talking to a total stranger while travelling (rather than isolating yourself within your own thoughts) helps one to feel more “grounded” and accepted in life.  Sitting with good posture rather than in a slumped-over manner causes individuals to be more positive in their reactions to life and their hopes for the future.  It seems that many of the “right things” we do have a positive affect on our health and our future possibilities while the “wrong” or “questionable” things we do lead us to a more unhealthy lifestyle and less rewarding destinations.  While these conclusions have been developed as a result of observations made during controlled, scientific research, think about some of the corollaries we could take from a “living the dream” rather than an “enduring the nightmare” attitude.

I knew a very capable individual who tended to think more about what might go wrong than what could go right.  He dwelt upon the possible – making sure that he would be able to respond to any contingency imaginable – often missing the opportunity to “strike while the iron was hot” due to his deliberate nature and his over-thinking each situation.  He was hesitant to build upon his accomplishments for fear that the “fall from grace” would be more drastic and destructive than was the rise to success – effectively ensuring that he would not fail because he minimized the possibility of failure by taking sure and measured actions that resulted in predictable and anticipated results. While he never tasted "agony of defeat" he never truly experienced the "thrill of victory" in his life.

I knew another individual that considered a situation, thought about several of the more obvious ramifications of his actions, then decided to act on the information he had “in hand” rather than continuing to “posture” himself in a way that might avoid all risk or minimize the chances of failure.  He often acted (intentionally) knowing what would likely happen, what could possibly happen and what had a small (but realistic) chance of happening – but his actions often put him ahead of his competition and in front of “the crowd,” allowing him to hold his head high in the discovery of the unknown rather than forcing him to look down while following the footsteps of another without fulfilling his or her individual dreams.  While acting before having all the possible outcomes identified may require us to react and respond to more "contingencies" along the way, it will almost always take us to a place where "no man has gone before" as we experience rewards not previously expected, anticipated or imagined. 

Many people silently commit (to themselves) that they will change (multiple times throughout the year) in order to alter their anticipated expectations.  They think that altering their behavior will produce significantly different results BUT are not committed enough to the change that they are willing to share their intentions with another (for fear of failure or in an active resistance to outside authority or control).  When individuals focus on the change rather than looking forward to an altered result – start with where they are and what they have done rather than seeking something different or dreaming of an alternative reality – they tend to experience short-term differences rather than life-altering transition.  Commitments to change come in many shapes and sizes but would include things like going to the gym (for 1 – 2 months), exercising at home (for a week), driving safely (until you are late for a meeting) or spending more time with friends and family (unless there is a major project at work).  Self-generated and monitored expectations of change without external support and accountability seldom result in lasting transformation.  We can accomplish only those things we have seen or done when left to our own devices and given only our own support for we need to be praised and complimented for our positive actions (and held accountable for our shortcomings when experiencing failure) if ever we are to realize success.

If “walking with confidence” helps people be happier, think what the accomplishment of an expressed goal (even if for only a short time) might do for one’s demeanor and self-confidence.  Rather than trying to implement change or speak as another’s mouthpiece or act as his/her clone, why not commit to transform?  Do not accept only what is attainable – rather reach beyond the probable to experience the possible.  Set your targets boldly where people have previously feared to wander – not as a means to challenge defeat but rather as a way to break through to destinations not yet discovered.  When one accepts the things that others have already accomplished and defined as their personal benchmarks for success, how can you NOT know what to expect or WHEN it might happen.  When you seek new frontiers – looking forward with anticipation rather than backwards in fear or dread – there will be less criticism of the choices you make and the roads you take because others have not yet “been there” or “done that” with their lives.

Sincerely believing that you will succeed – when supported with appropriate training and resources – will contribute greatly to success.  Anticipating failure almost always becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Setting the bar high keeps your head up (and your attitude will follow).  Failing to set a goal will allow your head to drop as you drift aimlessly without a plan or a target.  Acting happy in life helps us to be more energetic, innovative and accomplished in what we do and say.  Establishing your destination before you determine your route will help you accomplish things nobody has yet done.  Keep your head up while looking forward to where you COULD go and you will experience greatness (rather than looking down to follow the path of another as it leads to anticipated results and expected outcomes).  To “be all that you can be” you must actively and intentionally decide to seek more than you could ever be given.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

SUCCEED BY AVOIDING THE PITFALLS THAT LEAD TO FAILURE


Change is the only constant in our lives.  If we stand firm without seeking to improve ourselves or increase our contributions we may find ourselves “on the outside looking in” rather than realizing (and moving beyond) our wildest imaginings.  While many seek the stability and purpose of work, the sense of security offered by a solid job can become a prison from which one cannot escape if it fails to provide the opportunity to grow and advance.  The same might be said of our personal relationships – comfort is good but shared adventures and jointly discovering new horizons can make an otherwise cool situation sizzle.

People seeking to accomplish no more than has been assigned or is expected tend to be seen as dependable, reliable and consistent BUT their lives (jobs and relationships) can become stagnant.  If one truly hopes to taste success or fulfillment – recognition or growth – he/she must look back but briefly to understand where they have been while focusing on (or building) a new path forward towards yet to be discovered possibilities.  Individuals content with the present rather than seeking the future – suppressing their desire to move from “where they are” towards “where they could be”) often find themselves doing what has already been done and settling for the comfort found in achieving what has been previously accomplished (rather than becoming what they could potentially be). 

There are several pitfalls that limit your potential – that minimize your ability to bring your dreams to reality.  Recognizing these traps can help keep you from a self-imposed prison that will become your reality should you accept the hopes and dreams that someone else might have for you rather than for your own.  To ensure success and supercharge relationships, recognize (and actively avoid) these precursors to failure:
  • NEVER be content with the skills or knowledge you possess.  In order to thrive in life we must continually upgrade (and apply) your (new) abilities – refusing to accept “what is” as an end but rather seeing today as a means to “what will be” in the future.  What was once necessary to maintain a life-long job is no longer sufficient.  A secretary needs word processing proficiency (even if they were REALLY good with a typewriter).  Many production workers need to run automated machinery or understand statistical process controls.  An HR Professional must maintain his or her knowledge of legislation impacting the workforce to ensure compliance while helping to manage and maintain a highly qualified talent pool.  Individuals who “fail to know” typically fail to grow.
  • Do not confuse being efficient with being effective – or worse, keeping busy with being productive.  An e-mail may be efficient, but a conversation could more effectively resolve an issue without extended “replies and clarifications.”  Leaving a note as to where you are might be efficient but calling someone to give a personal explanation can be much more effective.  A person may appear busy but unless a concrete objective is accomplished – a sense of urgency linked to the completion of a stated Organizational Goal – the activity is no more meaningful than dust in the wind.  Effective people make sure that every investment of time and/or energy has a direct and measurable impact on their organization’s ability to conduct business.
  • NEVER believe you are irreplaceable.  In the workplace, when an employee feels that nobody could 
    EVER do what he or she does, that employee has probably limited what he or she could ever accomplish.   Individuals who believe they are “critical” to the Organization within their limited and specialized role do not typically grow – they simply reinforce stagnation and the acceptance of mediocrity.  If nobody else can do the things you do, you will never be able to seek new horizons or accept new responsibilities.  It is difficult to be important to anyone else when one becomes self-absorbed and self-important themselves.  When one truly believes and acknowledges another to be irreplaceable they typically find that “special” person will reciprocally provide more recognition and encouragement than could ever have been generated internally.
  • Do not fool yourself into thinking you know all the answers.   One must always be open to new ideas,
    techniques, and ways of doing things in order to grow.  Innovation and resolution-based problem solving comes from applying new ways of doing things to accomplish existing tasks.  One can truly contribute ONLY after identifying the limitations of current systems, policies procedures or relationships, asking questions as to how they might be improved then moving forward towards the adoption of more effective processes that result in better solutions.  People who know all the questions are often more valuable than those who feel they know all the answers.  Leading another to develop alternative solutions allows them to share in the success of actions taken.
  • NEVER forget (or refuse) to give credit to others for a job well done (while being carefully hesitant about assigning blame should a good idea fail).  People recognize, respect and acknowledge the ideas and actions of those who are unafraid to make things happen.  Those sharing (or assuming) the blame if things go wrong will win loyalty, be recognized as leaders, and become vital contributors to the activities around them.  When one assigns the responsibility AND holds an individual accountable for results, providing the opportunity to rectify mistakes should they occur, leadership has been clearly established.  How much (more) could we accomplish in life IF ONLY we did not care who received the credit?
  • We do not establish confidence and credibility by always insisting that we be in the lead or assuming that we are above reproach.  A delicate blend of “me first” and “I am right behind you” is needed to gain another’s confidence.  A person is measured more by the actions they take than by words they speak.  To gain (and retain) credibility we must allow others to participate as equal partners – to help develop the path that will be followed (with you “watching and supporting their back” to minimize the consequences of a fall).  A good leader (at work or within a relationship) cannot always be first and foremost while making sure he or she has the final “say.”  Rather, he (or she) must “pull” the team along while allowing a good amount of “freedom to wander” along the way instead of pushing it into avoidable trouble (or into a ‘funnel” leaving no room to learn from failure) from behind.

As you enjoy the warm, lazy days of summer, take time to plan where you are going, think about how you are going to get there, and maintain perspective along the way.  Learning from the failure of others is often easier but acknowledging and moving forward using our own failings as the experience behind growth is somehow much more effective (as long as we recognize that falling is not failing but that failing to get up once we have fallen often leads to our stagnation).  Make this summer the time you identify and nurture “the possible” rather than accepting and hiding within “the probable” as you fully embrace success by avoiding the pitfalls that might hinder your progress.