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, July 18, 2017


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


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


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


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.  

Tuesday, June 20, 2017


Far too often we decide “what is possible” by default – by establishing what could not possibly be done by focusing upon what has (or has not) been done in the past.  We set our goals at (or just below) what we are pretty sure can be done to ensure success.  Rather than seeking to enter untested waters with unproven techniques to accomplish unconsidered objectives we tend to “be safe” in life by doing what we are certain can be done while avoiding those things that might expose us to unacceptable risk (seeing the potential rewards as insignificant when compared to the possible losses).  We often close our eyes to what could be, preferring to focus upon those things that have already been.  We seem to wear blinders as we focus on and pursue a destination rather than considering the journey – often worrying more about celebrating finality than experiencing the path we choose which leads to new beginnings along the way.

There are those, however, who find themselves reaching for the sky without thinking about falling to the ground.  They focus upon the sun without fearing the dark shadows cast behind them by their current realities.  These individuals often chase their wildest imaginings without regard to the practical limitations life tends to place upon them.  They rarely base what they feel can be accomplished on what has been previously done, choosing to follow paths that take them to places not yet discovered and roads not yet paved through the efforts of others in an attempt to accomplish things that were never considered possible.  When we lead from a position of “anything is possible” rather than one of “some things are too difficult to attempt” we must allow ourselves to learn much from our failures as we prepare to gain much from the vast opportunities that will present themselves to those refusing to be contained by the walls of mediocrity.

Ineffective leaders often worry so much about what they do not have or have not been given the authority to accomplish that they lose sight of their abilities and what they can do without permission.  Rather than wallowing in hardship and adversity, successful individuals often use trouble as a springboard to opportunity.  By refusing to accept the constraints of reality, a precious few individuals fulfill dreams that would never have surfaced had life treated them more tenderly – accomplish objectives that would never have been considered had they accepted what they were given in life as a fact rather than a starting point.  Looking forward rather than back, seeing the light at the end of the tunnel as an opening on the other side rather than a train bearing down upon them – seeing “the possible” in a situation rather than focusing on its inherent realities – are signs of an optimist (whom is destined for greatness).

Understanding our abilities, capabilities and realistic potential can help to define success OR identify failure (which most may accept as an end but a select few will see as an opportunity for a fresh start).  Intentionally acting, even if the way is not clear or the destination not yet been identified, allows us to move forward with confidence towards the accomplishment of our dreams.  Changing directions or positions if situations or facts change is seen by many as being weak and un-convicted, preferring to hold firm regardless of what changes might occur (often to show stability and steadfastness to those around them).  Others would prefer to slowly fade away by clinging on to “what is” rather than seeking “what could be” in their efforts to hold on to what they have rather than reaching out for what has not yet become apparent.  Those seeking (and thriving upon) change find strength in their ability to adapt – willingly altering their direction (and the efforts of those working around them).  Should the facts change or an unexpected disruption occur, successful individuals make lemonade from the lemons they are presented – find ways to build upon the unanticipated to reach what has not yet been imagined.

Strong leaders rarely accept a single, concrete solution to resolve a problem or positively influence a situation.  Rather than limiting themselves to what may have worked in the past they seek several workable options, implementing the one that not only provides the best answer but also garners the most support.  Though it is human nature to take the easy road, great leaders seek the road less travelled – recognizing that uncharted pathways tend to lead to unimaginable rewards.  Their choices may not result in the instant gratification that so many crave in today’s society as tough decisions favor long-term solutions – nor will they minimize the hardship that life presents to all of us – but they may help transform that which was considered as being a distant possibility into something that becomes a definite probability (a transition that ALWAYS precedes major change).

Why is it that those dreaming of tomorrow as they run swiftly from the yesterday’s constraints seem to laugh more than those simply living one day at a time?  Why do they seem to move forward more often than they fall back?  Why do they always seem to reach for the possible rather than finding comfort in what has already been accomplished?  People who dwell on past accomplishments and thrive on outside recognition typically live within the limitations imposed upon them by their environment, their perceived position in life and the “permissions” they have been given by others to act.  Those seeking what has not yet been realized live within a world of temporary pauses on the way to new beginnings – of slowing down and speeding up without ever truly stopping – relentlessly moving forward to establish previously unconsidered levels of excellence and accomplishment.  Individuals perfecting the actions they have always performed find they have much time on their hands to watch the world go by.  Those seeking new realities every day have little time to dwell upon their past as so much has yet to be accomplished – so many new places they can enter having yet to be defined.

Had the creators and innovators of our past been content with their surroundings, seeking inspiration from what others had accomplished rather than reaching out to explore an unknown future, where would our world be today?  Rather than being inhabitants of a practical world – doing only what is assigned, anticipated or expected – strive to be a sojourner within a world full of possibilities.  Seek to expand your horizons each day you are given by seeking new perspectives from your experiences rather than simply experiencing the reality in which you live.  Only when we attempt what has not been accomplished will we accomplish what has not yet been imagined – will we achieve “the possible” rather than experience “the probable” in life.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017


One of the key principles in any relationship – be it professional or personal – is that much can be accomplished IF you do not care who receives the credit.  Though it is human nature to want recognition for successfully implementing an idea, an individual becomes a leader (OR truly contributes selflessly to a relationship) when he or she realizes that being responsible for advancing something – for seeing an anticipated result come to fruition – is often more important than receiving credit for its accomplishment.
Any relationship – be it business or personal – will be strengthened by actively engaging in cooperative (two-way) reasoning – through openly discussing all possibilities before intentionally acting to travel upon the “best” road (not necessarily the “only” road or what you had considered the “right” road prior to your conversations).  Originating alternative ideas or concepts is critical to initiate change BUT the implementation of change can often be more effective if the “doers” are empowered to act so that the “dreamers” can more freely innovate.  Maturity within a relationship (or success in a managerial position) comes when the originators of ideas internalize the reality that while “doers” tend to receive credit for their performance in bringing ideas to fruition they would never have acted had not a new idea or direction been brought to the surface by a “dreamer.”  As Leaders (AND Dreamers) we far too often try to push everyone in the direction we want to go (you should realize that it is far easier to pull a string than it is to push it – so why do we try to push rather than pull people?) or walk over those that appear to be in our way (stepping on someone feels SO much more satisfying than taking the effort to circumvent the problem!) rather than leading them through our actions and lifting them up upon our shoulders (rather than climbing upon theirs).  Conversely, some misguided Leaders (or participants in a relationship) attempt to “overly involve” those around them in the “germinating” process hoping that a single great idea will grow from a collectively-generated seed (this may be how hybrid plants come into being but rarely can a single solution come from a fragmented collection of thoughts and suggestions).  Sometimes we must determine what is appropriate to share so that “group-think” can occur while recognizing that decisions must be made and/or direction established (often singularly) so that collective action can take place to reach planned objectives (allowing the group to take the credit).
We unleash the potential of those around us to create change when we formulate an idea, expand and enhance it through conversation with stakeholders (anyone involved in necessary change or the accomplishment of alternative results), determine the best possible course of action (which will produce the best answer having the most support to minimize detractor disruption) then communicate the course we have chosen to those that will be implementing the change, acknowledging their role and contribution to determining the path we will be taking (rather than telling them what to do and how to bring our thoughts to fruition).  We create dependency upon our oversight – validating and confirming our control over each and every situation and within our relationships – when we tell others what to do and when to do it (rather than by defining goals and/or expectations then monitoring progress towards their accomplishment).  A relationship constructed upon a foundation of dependent reliance on the thoughts and ideas of another cannot be healthy or meaningful.  Growth or success beyond that which one has already achieved cannot occur until a Leader equips those around him or her with the tools (talents, experiences, training and abilities) which will lead to and openly allow independent actions.

Great leaders originate ideas, communicate expectations then move on to consider new alternatives as they monitor the progress of those left to accomplish their initiatives.  They are rarely around when the initiated tasks are completed (they will have moved on to consider a new problem) so the Dreamers will not often receive direct recognition for the results.  They WILL celebrate in the accomplishments of others, however, recognizing that great rewards will ultimately come to those who can selflessly initiate change as they continuously seek new opportunities. 

Those that seek recognition for their ideas and actions often lose sight of their long-term objectives and fail to meet their ultimate goals.  To achieve greatness, seek it within the accomplishments of those with whom you have relationships.  Leverage the capabilities of those you have equipped to act upon their ideas rather than limiting your potential to only those things you can accomplish on your own.  Define yourself in the celebrations you share while leading others through their darkness so they can help light your way as they begin to utilize their gifts, abilities and talents – planted by you but nurtured through their own intentional actions - while discovering all that they can be, learning from their mistakes without fear of reprisal or being reminded of their failures.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017


Leaders inspire others to change.  Rather than telling another what must be done (or what has been done wrong) they show individuals a better way.  Rather than dwelling upon an individual’s negative behavior and their shortcomings they acknowledge positive efforts and reward positive results.  A leader paints a picture of “what if” or “what could be” rather than “what is” or “what always will be,” making sure that stakeholders within the process are included in the “painting” as easily recognized key contributors.  We cannot make an individual do what they choose not to do but we CAN provide positive reinforcement and identify potential negative consequences should they choose NOT to act appropriately.

Leaders typically demonstrate the ability to influence by example to gain the support of others that choose to follow them RATHER THAN forcing them to follow a lead they do not believe in or trust.  Successful leaders put more effort into selling than they do telling – into securing “buy-in” and sharing ownership than they do in making excuses or assigning blame – recognizing that people contribute more if they WANT to do something than if they HAVE to do it.  They anticipate “what might be possible” and preparing to advance that objective rather than reacting to “what did happen” and blaming others to avoid accepting the consequences.  Gaining respect and credibility in the eyes of those being led is far better than trying to be a friend of those being managed or protecting them from tasting defeat.

Leaders remain true to their values – transferring the skills and aptitudes they have learned onto others by saying what they believe and doing what they know to be right.  Great leaders tend to display a fierce resolve to do whatever is needed in order to accomplish their stated objectives without really caring who gets the credit for the work AS LONG AS the anticipated results are accomplished.  Saying what you mean (then doing what you say) are the two greatest attributes that a leader can exhibit.

Exceptional leaders (within a work or a personal setting) recognize that their actions speak far more loudly than do their words.  They look for the good in others, loudly praising their positive actions, interactions and attributes while quietly addressing their shortcomings privately and behind the scenes.  Though negative behavior needs to be addressed, they make an effort to acknowledge and verbalize appreciation for things done well along the road to accomplishment.  Great leaders would never ask another to do anything they would be unwilling to do themselves.

Words describe what one wishes to accomplish but actions lead to the results that define success.  An individual blessed with the gift of communication can paint a picture with the words he or she speaks.  An individual blessed with the gift of accomplishment can achieve great things with or without the help of others.  The rare individual possessing both gifts can accomplish things not yet imagined by engaging the abilities of others to raise both the floor (elevating those things once seen as minimally acceptable) and rip off the ceiling (allowing them to grasp for the things that were once beyond their reach).

When all is said and all is done our emphasis MUST be on recognizing accomplishment rather than rewarding effort OR people will continue to try tested and proven ways of doing things rather than attempting the unconsidered to achieve the unimaginable.  While all individuals SHOULD be able to play on a team – to share in the rewards of a group’s efforts and work together to accomplish more than any one individual could have done on their own – every team needs a leader to monitor its activities, measure its efforts and acknowledge its accomplishments or the “wins” will become insignificant events while the “tries” will become praiseworthy.

There is no limit to what can be achieved when one seeks results rather than recognition – when the goal becomes to accomplish our objective rather than making sure that we receive what we believe to be the appropriate credit for our individual (or our team’s) efforts.  While doing things “as they have always been done” will often result in an “acceptable” result, is it not better to strive for excellence (rather than to thrive on mediocrity) and to push the boundaries out towards the unexplored horizon (rather than living comfortably within defined silos and contained fields)?

Before we can move from “what we have” to “what we hope for” we must realize that one journey must begin before another can begin – that before we can wrestle with new opportunities we must free ourselves from the constraints (and restrictions) that hold us back.  We must acknowledge that, before taking a new path to an unknown 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 initiated, will forever alter where we are as it redefines where we are going.

Without a goal – an aspiration to accomplish that which has not yet been achieved and to imagine that which has yet to be considered – and a way to measure progress towards its accomplishment, one will never know how far they have come nor how far they have yet to travel.  The secret to being all that you can be is in setting realistic goals that stretch your reality from what it is to what it has not yet been accomplished.  How can one move forward if they do not know when to begin their journey NOR where to cease their wandering?

In order to MAKE a difference in life we must be willing to BE different.  We cannot remain “one of the crowd” doing things the same way that have always been done if we expect change to occur.  We all choose which path we wish to travel – neither path being totally “right” or completely “wrong.”  We all live with our choices – holding fast to the possibilities (or the probabilities) that our actions dictate or choosing to pursue the unknown.  Whether you are a seeker or a planter – a dreamer or a doer – you will receive back in direct proportion to what you have invested in – limited ONLY by your own acceptance of (or refusal to accept) reality.

Before we seek safe passage, we must first dream – for without dreams we cannot establish goals and targets that have not yet been considered so that we might be able to achieve that which has not yet been discovered.  Before we determine which path we will follow we must immerse ourselves in all things that could be possible rather than seeking only those things of which we can be assured.  Allow each pathway you take provide safe passage to the fulfillment of your dreams – never giving in or giving up no matter what obstacle may block your way.  Seek greatness (rather than settling for adequacy).  Reach for the stars (rather than being content to bump against the ceiling).  Live within your potential (rather than limiting your success to those things that have previously been achieved or engaging only in the things you know how to do).  Success is not measured by how many times you have tried nor even how much you have accomplished but rather by what you learned each time you stumbled – by the number of times you have gotten up after being knocked down – as you positively influence the lives of those around you while persevering to do those things once thought to be beyond your reach.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017


Every individual makes choices in life.  We choose to look at each obstacle or disruption as either an opportunity or a roadblock – something that keeps us from achieving our goals or something that strengthens us as we overcome adversity.  We make intentional decisions to live in the past, to be content with the present or to seek a not yet defined future – but nothing can be achieved without a decision being made and an action being taken (even if the decision or action is to do nothing).  While environment and upbringing may have much to do with how we view things, perspective, ambition and values tend to define what we believe is possible while comfort, ambivalence and acceptance keeps us from reaching for more than has been accomplished.

Much of who we are, what we accomplish and how successful we will be is defined by our perspective in life.  The way we look at things – see the potential rather than the probable, the possible rather than the obvious – helps to establish the kind of life we lead, the relationships we maintain and the future we can expect to realize.  Consider the following:
  • Do you measure what you have gained or what you have lost in life?  Some people look at life as being a series of accomplishments and a list of opportunities that have yet to be realized.  Far too many focus upon what “could have” or “should have” been – wallowing in jealousy, self-pity and the unfairness of life.  When we begin to measure life by counting our losses rather than by celebrating our gains – by relying upon what we know to be reality rather than seeking to establish new realities – we become but a participant in history rather than a part of its creation.
  •  Do you look ahead towards what has yet to be realized or find comfort in what you have accomplished?  Individuals finding comfort in what they have done tend to live in the past.  They find value in the things they do – often establishing their identity in what they are rather than who they are.  Those looking towards what has yet to be revealed – leveraging their knowledge, abilities and experience to solve new problems and reach new plateaus as they fearlessly walk where nobody has yet wandered – will lead by example rather than being led by others.
  •  Is your world one of endless beginnings or the beginning of constant ends?  Some look at accomplishments as the end of a successful journey.  They see effort, hard work and sacrifice as the raw materials from which rewards are created – often finding comfort in their destination without wishing (or needing) to leave the “safe haven” they built.  Others see each “end” as but a beginning to something new.  They pause to catch their breath before starting a new climb – finding contentment in reaching new heights.  These individuals draw lines in the sand so they can cross them as they move forward rather than using them to establish boundaries or limits to keep them safe.  They find joy in the journey – pride in their progress – rather than needing to identify an end to their efforts or building a harbor from which they will never sail.
  • When you see a shadow do you focus on the lack of light or on the light that created the darkness?  Too many people see (and are satisfied with) the symptoms or results of a situation rather than asking “Why?” or seeking the root cause of an issue.  It is good to recognize that something exists – be it an obstacle, an attitude or even a shadow – but it is something else altogether to seek a reason for its existence.  Treating a symptom may provide temporary relief but it will not resolve the reason the symptom exists.  Ignoring a grinding noise in your car (or turning the radio up so you cannot hear it) will not resolve the problem UNTIL you are no longer able to stop because your brakes have failed (though that WILL stop the grinding).  Choosing NOT to talk to someone that bothers you may reduce your interactions with them but will not help establish a healthy, productive environment.

Life is full of alternative perspectives.  Two people seeing or experiencing the same thing will often realize different realities.  The key to life – to determining whether the “glass is half empty or half full” when observing a conflict or choice situation – can be found within each individual’s attitudes, aptitudes and motivation.  More than being an optimist or a pessimist, our intentional actions (and intended reactions) determine the likelihood of our success – of our ability to lead or be led and our acceptance of “what is” or our insistence upon “what could be.”   Become who you CAN be (rather than being content with who you were before you became who you are) if you seek to advance – to make a difference in your life AND the lives of those around you.  Do not hide in the shadows – become the light that creates opportunity out of darkness.  Do not find comfort in your efforts – seek the potential your abilities offer.  Measure all that you have gained (rather than marking and recording all you have lost) and you will find that the glass is not only half full – it can actually be filled to overflowing so that others can benefit from your excess (rather than suffering from your limitations).

Tuesday, May 2, 2017


Why is it that people tend to rush to judgment, hurry up only to wait, and do ANYTHING just to keep moving rather than “stopping to smell the roses?” Though time is seemingly in abundance when we have nothing to do, it passes far too quickly when we would prefer it to stand still.  We always have time to do something over when we could have simply done it right the first time. We seem to worry more about how quickly we can finish the race than we do about the results that our practice produce or the joy found along the way. People far too often worry needlessly about things outside of their control rather than identifying the things over which they have (and are able to exhibit) influence THEN intentionally acting upon them.  Individuals too often fear they do not have the time to slow down so they can appreciate the things around them because of the expectations they have placed upon themselves for unrealistic or unreasonable results. We often find ourselves slaves to the very clock we so desperately seek to master as we keep ourselves busy to the point of exhaustion so that we can complete a journey in as little time as possible only to find we are too tired to enjoy the destination once we arrive.  We live our lives thinking that once we have achieved something we can move on rather than realizing that life is a series of “beginnings and endings” which overlap, run concurrently and exist in perpetuity as we move from one event to the next.  We must learn to value our time as we seek results or we will find that our time slips from us without our consent as we chase concepts rather than realizing dreams.

Many people complain about their lemons rather than celebrating the opportunity to make lemonade. The weather is too hot – or too cold – but rarely do we find it ideal. We are too busy to exercise but complain that we do not like what we have become. We do not find satisfaction in what we have accomplished as we tend to dwell upon only what has not been finished – refusing to acknowledge the progress we have made while moving towards an end goal until it has been reached.  We spend more time wishing we had something rather than being grateful for what we actually possess. We have become a nation of complainers and criticizers as we seem to derive more satisfaction from bringing others down in order to make ourselves look better RATHER THAN elevating ourselves in order to pull others up with us.  We must learn to accept that we ARE NOT equal in our gifts, talents or abilities so we should not expect equality in our results.  We must recognize that time spent wisely will lead to the accomplishment of great things while time wasted will result in doing what has always been done and achieving what has already been mastered.

Perhaps we should take the time to ask WHY someone acted in a way we might feel foolish or ill-advised.  Rather than expediting our condemnation while attempting to elevate ourselves in the eyes and ears of those beholding our ranting we should take time to see if OUR perspective might be the cause of exasperation rather than another’s actions – to look towards ourselves first to identify what we may have done to contribute to the problem rather than blaming others to cover up any role we may have played.  Think of how much our words might matter if we offered advice and counsel rather than critically dismissing another’s action as being worthless, wrong or misguided. Doing something for another or telling them how badly they performed because they may have done something wrong (or differently than you might have) provides a short term “fix” as it changes the immediate results BUT it does not alter individual thought processes or behaviors. Rather, telling someone what to do, how to do it and when to act creates dependency (rather than innovation) and compliance (rather than creativity) while creating an environment that caters to the cautious – to those willing to do what they are told – rather than rewarding those applying their experience to accomplish things not yet considered possible.  Removing the time that others might use to learn can resolve a problem quickly but does nothing to foster problem-solving by those directly involved.  Correcting a “wrong” by stepping in and taking over may expedite a solution but will not prevent the problem from recurring in the future.
When people rush to see how much they can do or see they often minimize the enjoyment of what they actually saw or accomplished – always thinking what else could have been done rather than finding satisfaction in what they did. We recently vacationed in the West Indies where people tend to live a different pace and find as much joy in their journey as they do in reaching their destination.  Houses are built from the top down (rather than the bottom up), living quarters being constructed upon “stilts” leaving the lower level open until it is needed for more housing, a business or enclosed storage.  People do not seem to “miss” what they do not have as they find joy in those around them and satisfaction in what they DO have.  Far too often we are unhappy with our lives and our accomplishments as we seek the things others have (only to find they do not satisfy us should we be able to claim another’s results as our own).  We can be far too quick to blame (and too slow to seek responsibility) should we choose to play the “hurry up and wait game,” often too busy assigning “fault” and transferring blame to seek a workable solution and ensure its timely implementation.

Though we cannot alter the seasons or slow life’s progress, we can stop chasing blindly the hands of time as they race relentlessly around the clock. The sands of time will not bury us if we become the master of our own universe by taking the time to appreciate not only where we are going but also how, when and IF we chose to arrive.  To accomplish great things we must recognize and reward progress – both our own and that of those around us – rather than simply focusing upon what did (or did not) happen.  When we value our time – and consider the time spent by others to be just as valuable – we are able to focus our efforts on not only the “ends” but also the “means” as we realize our dreams and make them our realities.

Thursday, April 27, 2017


Have you ever met someone who set a course in life based on how many others are doing the same thing?  Such individuals rarely seek to MAKE a difference – rather they tend to AVOID being “different” as much as possible.  They do not seek alternative solutions (often failing to even attempt identifying problems, investigating their root cause and acting to resolve them IF they even admit to there being something amiss), they tend to take the path of least resistance and “go where others are going” or focus on the “wrongs” of others so their questionable actions seem much more “right.”  Some feel that the ONLY way to travel somewhere is along paved superhighways, seeking the most direct route to a destination rather than finding “joy in the journey” along a scenic back road or unimproved path.  To those of you finding comfort in the familiar – being content to travel upon roads previously discovered while refusing to challenge the status quo – the rest of this article may hold little value.  To those, however, seeking to forge their own path as they investigate new opportunities and discover alternative rewards, these thoughts are written as testimony to your creativity and innovation – to your insatiable spirit of adventure and love for life.

Far too many people diminish their potential by following the crowd (and even, perhaps, being seen as doing what is “right and prudent”) rather than following their own beliefs (intentionally acting upon their thoughts and feelings rather than refusing to acknowledge their existence).  They do what is popular rather than standing strong on their own values, judgments and decisions.  They choose acceptance by the majority rather than the criticism that standing alone might initiate.  “Followers” accept that “things are as they should be” rather that seeking what “could be.”  They feel validated by thinking, “I am no different than anyone else” rather than believing, “I am a unique individual whose potential is limited only by my own actions and behaviors.”

Following the crowd is easy as you do what others accept, go where others are going, act as others expect and find a sense of community by blending in. Travelling familiar roads and doing “politically correct” or “acceptable things” can take the bumps and turns out of one’s journey BUT when we do things as they have always been done we can expect nothing more than has already been accomplished.  Only when we accept that unexpected results will come ONLY when we seek to create 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 both a conclusion and a beginning.  Followers of a crowd tend to accept the group’s vision as a final destination rather than as a foundation upon which an unrealized future could be built.

Too many supervisors seek acceptance from those they lead rather than respect.  Too many parents seek to be friends with their children rather than to be role models.  Too many teachers want to be “liked” by their students rather than viewed as being “tough but fair.”  Inventors and creators DO NOT accept “common knowledge” as being an ultimate end – rather they see what is (and what has been) as but the beginning of what could be or has not yet come to fruition.  Had Fulton listened to “common wisdom” he would never have invented the steam engine.  Could the Wright brothers have launched their dreams had “the crowd” influenced their actions by inhibiting their souls?  Is our nation stronger and more stable because our leaders make decisions based on polls that measure what the majority thinks should be done – often choosing the more acceptable route rather than doing what might negatively affect those not fully contributing but best for the nation?  Might we be in a better place if our leaders simply governed by bringing the promises made to the people that elected them to fruition rather than acting in a “politically correct” manner that would re-elect them? 

What might YOU be able to accomplish – what potential might you be able to realize – if you “marched to your own drummer” rather than listening to the tunes sung by others?  Make the most of your individuality in whatever you may say or do by taking “the plunge” this summer!  Though not as refreshing a jump as entering a cool lake on a hot day, you will find “being all you can be” is much more fulfilling (and rewarding) than being “all that your friends wish you were.”  Forging your own path may require more work than taking the road of least resistance BUT the rewards will more than offset the increased effort as you achieve greatness in both your dreams AND your reality.  

Tuesday, April 18, 2017


I recently spoke with an individual ready to pursue additional education so that she could switch fields completely and move as quickly away from her current job situation as possible.  While she enjoyed the WORK she did, she did not respect her boss, was disappointed that an excellent co-worker recently left the organization, and felt the Organization’s Board of Directors had “no clue” as to what was happening within the company NOR did anyone care about its future.  Her choice was to leave what she enjoyed to seek a greener pasture (as she had done before) – flowing freely from one situation to the next without considering any collateral damage that may have been left in her wake.  Far too often we find that the easy way out is not necessarily the best choice BUT choose to follow the path of least resistance rather than working to change what we do not like – prefer to leave a “known” set of problems without considering the entirely different set we will most likely encounter.  When facing major life-changing decisions, looking into the “what can I do to alter this situation” rather than focusing on the “what is wrong and why should I tolerate it” might help identify alternative solutions.

When an individual is brought in from the “outside” to run an organization, the Board (or hiring authority) should make sure that the person’s skill, ability, experience and proven track record are much stronger than any internal candidate may have possessed.  In this case, the individual’s boss (new to the organization) did not (in her opinion) have the proven experience or demonstrated ability to do his job.  While she had not been a candidate for his job – nor did she want to do it - she was so wrapped up in her own frustrations that she never asked him how he felt, what he wanted to do (or needed help doing), or where he saw the organization going.  She had talked herself into running away from the work she liked because of things she did not know (she knew nothing about her new boss’ plans or the Board’s desires for the organization’s future – which may have been different than those expressed by the previous Director).  She was like a river flowing rapidly towards a fall from which there would be no return – building momentum as she moved forward without identifying why she was moving, what she was objecting to or what part of the “blame” for her unhappiness could be directly attributed to herself.  She felt that SOMETHING was wrong, could not really identify what it was BUT recognized she must act (rather than intentionally deciding NOT to act) in an effort to resolve the issue.

After talking to this individual a bit about her expectations and how she saw herself fitting into a new (but less significant) role she was able to move past the turbulent rapids into an area of relative calm.  She began to examine what she liked about the job (AND the organization), what she disliked, what she would be leaving should she move on, and what she would need from a different employer to overcome the issues she was facing (while providing similar opportunities and challenges).  Many of the things she was seeking were deeply imbedded within her current position but she had been so busy looking at “what was not” that she lost sight of “what was.” 

Many of us become disillusioned with our jobs (and our lives) at times.  Unless we step back and look at the “big picture,” however, we may base our actions (and assumptions) on part of the puzzle – trying to treat the symptoms rather than attempting to root out the disease itself.  We can miss out on the opportunity to “win the war” when we become overly consumed with our focus on winning each and every single battle.  The story of three blind men describing an elephant comes to mind when thinking in such a short-sighted fashion.  One feeling a leg may think the elephant to be a tree.  One feeling the tail may describe it as a rope.  One feeling the trunk may imagine a snake.  All might be right but not one of them will be able to identify the nature of the beast by focusing on a single component – as no one individual can possibly see all aspects of a situation without fully investigating and analyzing the results of his or her studies.

There are many ways to move from one situation to another – but often we embark upon the most obvious escape route before seeking alternatives resolutions.  We do not simply draw a line in the sand from which we can begin anew – we excavate a trench that will isolate us from our situation once we have crossed the line (sometimes the trench becomes an obstacle in and of itself as we fall to its bottom and have a difficult time regaining our footing.).  While such tactics WILL move us forward, they often create pain and close the door on any possibility of returning – or of improving our position. 

Perhaps there are “kinder and gentler ways” to move from a bad situation to a better one than to burn our bridges – no matter how good that might feel in the heat of the moment.  Before “moving on” we should identify ways to maximize the “good” things about where we are while minimizing the “bad.”  Many new supervisors or leaders wish to make instant changes – to put their mark upon the organization – without first seeing what works (and does not need to be fixed) and what is truly broken (needing immediate attention).  Often we seek to mandate change rather than trying to influence it – to “tell” rather than “sell” our ideas.  We rush headlong into situations that require skills we do not possess (without seeking the training that might equip us to handle them) or have “legacy” status (that must be identified prior to making a change).  Patience, tolerance and not caring who gets the credit for changes that are made are major factors that influence our reactions to situations. 

In the case of the person originally discussed, a change in HER attitude made all the difference in her situation.  Rather than focusing on what was wrong around her she began to identify areas that she could make a difference.  She began leveraging her experience to help others change.  She used her organizational knowledge to help identify “sacred cows” that would be difficult to change so that those in a position to set priorities would be able to maximize their success.  She became a champion of change rather than a detractor of new ideas within the organization – a part of the solution rather than a major part of the problem within her department.  She was allowed more freedom to do what she liked – what she was good at – as she demonstrated how it positively impacted the organization.  Rather than leaving a questionable situation she became an integral part of the company – without having to “pick up her tent” to move to a new campsite.

While seemingly difficult, changing our perspective will often make all the difference in the world.  When we identify (and utilize) our strengths, acknowledge (but commit to strengthen) our weaknesses, realize what we can (and cannot) change and intentionally act to resolve (rather than run away from) our challenges we will be able to fully realize our potential.  Rather than looking “outside” to resolve your problems, perhaps the first step towards success should be to look at yourself – at what you are, what you are doing, what you are saying and what you expect.  To “be all that you can be” you must identify how to communicate your ideas, influence your peers and initiate change.  Unless (and until) you do, escape may be the path of least resistance but it is often the first of many detours in life we face before eventually stumbling upon the road we should have originally taken.