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, November 29, 2017


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 21, 2017


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

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

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

Monday, November 13, 2017


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

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

Individual success can be directly linked to the power a person allows him or herself to take (and the responsibility assumed for each intentional action taken) when contributing freely and creatively to growth.  In order to maximize the chances of success, an individual should first envision the future and where he or she may fit.  Questions that should be asked should include what does one WANT to be, WANT to accomplish, or can realistically EXPECT to achieve?  To taste success one must start with a conclusion - a goal or set of expectations – before embarking upon the path towards accomplishment.  Without an end point, one will never know when one chapter has concluded so that another can begin.  Life without purpose can be eventful but is rarely satisfying.  It may be full of new beginnings but is strangely at a loss for “ends.”  We cannot achieve what we do not believe BUT we will never know how much is possible until we truly identify our abilities, gifts and talents before openly and honestly expressing our expectations and desires for a different or improved future.

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

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

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