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, October 31, 2017


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


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.