The Employers' Association

The Employers’ Association (TEA) is a not-for-profit employers’ association, formed in 1939, with offices in Grand Rapids serving the West Michigan employer community. We help more than 600 member companies maximize employee productivity and minimize employer liability through human resources and management advice, training, survey data, and consulting services.

TEA is in the business of helping people. This blog is intended to address human issues, concerns and the things that impact people - be they self-perpetuated or externally imposed. Feel free to respond to the thoughts presented here, for without each other, we are nothing!

Wednesday, 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.