The Employers' Association

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

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

Friday, December 22, 2017


Everyone comes to a fork in the road – a place in life where they say “no more” while seeking “no less.”  They realize that life cannot continue at the insane pace we tend to pursue – that running towards a goal must be more important than running from something – but that both become equally important when we allow fear and emotion to drive our decisions.  We eventually (and inevitably) run into a wall when our dreams for the future are met equally (and convincingly) by our memories of the past – locking us firmly into a “present” that is not growing, fulfilling or likely to change. 

Some might say that “when we quit learning, growing or changing we die.”  Perhaps it would be better to simply say “ENOUGH” and move on without fighting, crying or struggling – without senselessly holding on to what we have (particularly that which does not contribute to our own or other’s growth) by over-valuing what has been (using our past accomplishments as destinations rather than foundations) rather than seeking what has not yet been revealed (looking over our shoulder to where we have been instead of ahead to where we wish to go).  When you quiet your soul and vanquish your fears – calm your apprehensions and begin to recognize that the light at the end of the tunnel into which you have entered may not be a train coming at you but rather a beacon leading you towards a dream that has yet to be realized – you enter into a new world of possibilities that sees life 
through a lens of “what could be” as an achievable alternative to “what has always been.”

We all awaken to a time we realize that our hoping for someone to give us something we do not have must stop – that we can no longer wait for change to “just happen” or happiness, safety and security to be waiting for our discovery around the next corner.  We must consciously and intentionally act to initiate change.  We must come to terms with the reality we all have strengths (and weaknesses) as well as beauty (and warts) – that nobody can (without intentional thoughts and actions) live like “Prince Charming” or “Cinderella” waiting to find or discover happiness in which to live ever after.  We must realize that life cannot be a fairy tale unless (and until) we recognize that peace and serenity is born through an acknowledgement of our own imperfections and an acceptance of the imperfections of others.  Once we awaken to realize that life must necessarily be an ever-melding mix of hopes, dreams, accomplishments and expectations – a fluid state of flux rather than a static state of entitlement – we can cast off the chains that hold us back so we can reach out to grasp the lifelines that will pull us forward.

As we travel through life we realize that people do not always say what they mean or mean what they say – that not everyone will always be there for us (though someone or a group of trusted individuals WILL BE if we allow it) nor is life ever “all about you and you alone.”  We must learn to stand on our own and take care of ourselves – building safety and security through our self-reliance (which, unlike an island, cannot truly survive life’s storms without external support).  We must stop complaining about other people and blaming them for things they may have done, instead looking to undo what we ourselves may not have done and learning that the only certainty we can count on is the unexpected entering our lives.  We must stop judging and pointing fingers and start accepting others as they are – overlooking their shortcomings and accepting their human frailties – if we are ever to accept ourselves as being similarly fragile and equally as imperfect while striving to grow and succeed.

We view ourselves (and the world around us) through a filter born of the messages and opinions ingrained in us throughout our childhood then reinforced by the successes or failures – the acceptances or rejections – we have experienced as adults.  Only when we begin to sift through the “junk” we have been fed about how to behave, what to wear, how to act and what to value – to determine what is real and important to us rather than reaching towards what was expected to be valued and significant for us by others – will we learn to open ourselves up to new worlds and different points of view.  We cannot begin to reassess and redefine who we are and what we really stand for until we recognize that our individuality is shaped by both external influences and internal desires, and that we must come to own what we can initiate and accept what we cannot change before we can move forward in life.

As we awaken to the possibilities of life we begin to learn the difference between wanting and needing – discarding the doctrines and values we have outgrown or should never accepted to begin with as we follow our hearts, instincts and consciences.  We learn that it is truly in giving that we will receive – that we can discover fulfillment and accomplishment through our creating and contributing ONLY if we stop maneuvering through life as a consumer long enough to recognize that creation and consumption are distinctly different paths leading towards opposing and conflicting objectives.  We must learn the differences between guilt and responsibility to thrive.  We must learn the importance of setting boundaries and knowing when to say “no” when necessary rather than always saying “yes” for when we extend ourselves beyond what we are capable by doing to relieve the pressure on those around us we may actually stifle the growth of others while reducing our own ability to try (initiate or master) new things.

In the depths of our confusion when we find ourselves at an inexplicable fork in the road we come to realize that, for the most part, we get from life what we believe we deserve (whether that be good or bad) and that much of life is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  In order to achieve success we need to believe that success is probable (or at least possible).  We must recognize that anything worth achieving is worth working for – and that wishing for something to happen is far different than working towards making it happen.  In order to initiate change we need to identify a destination we wish to achieve, establish a direction we will travel, then exhibit discipline and perseverance to stay on track.  Before embarking upon a journey of change, however, it is important that we recognize nobody can do everything alone and it is OK to ask for help (and not a weakness of shortcoming to accept it) as we move forward.

When feel that an impossibly large load has been dumped in front of us in life – that there is no reasonable or realistic way to get around the obstacle in front of us – we may come to realize life is not always “fair.”  We do not always get what we think we deserve and sometimes bad things truly do happen to good people.  We must learn to fight for what we want in life, however, rather than living under a cloud of impending doom if we hope to understand that fear of failure is not the only impediment to our growth – that a fear of success (and the unknown that accompanies it) may be an equally binding tie that binds us where we are, keeping us from moving towards what we could become.

We all awaken to a new dawn each day we rise.  If we are to make the most from the days we are given we must learn from our failures rather than allowing ourselves to be buried by them.  When we face life with and attitude of “Why Not?” rather than wallowing in one of “Why Me?” we seek the path leading towards the “what might be possible” rather than settling for “what is and will never change.”  When we courageously live our lives “as they could be” rather than being content to find comfort in “what they are” we will find ourselves awakened to a world of possibilities.  Share your world with those around you so that you all may gain and grow through your independent and intentional discoveries.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


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 evolves from “doer” through “manager” to “leader” when he or she realizes that being responsible for something and achieving the results that one wishes is often more important than receiving credit for its accomplishment (or making sure that someone else receives the “blame” if something does not work out as hoped for and planned).
Any relationship will be strengthened by actively engaging in cooperative reasoning – openly discussing all possibilities before acting to bring to fruition one person’s desires without at least uncovering and exploring the thoughts of another.  Originating alternative ideas or concepts is critical to initiate change as time spent engaging all effected by a decision (even if their thoughts and ideas are not directly acted upon) can make the implementation of change more effective (when the “doers” are empowered to act so that the “dreamers” can more freely innovate).  Successful leadership reveals itself when the originators of ideas internalize the reality that they do not need to receive accolades for their thoughts – even if the “doers” receive credit for their performance in bringing ideas to fruition they would never have acted upon had a new idea or direction not been brought to the surface by a “dreamer.”  We far too often try to pull everyone in the direction we want to go or step over those that appear to be in our way rather than lifting those around us up and rising to the top upon their shoulders as we seek new processes, destinations and results together.  On the opposite extreme, some inexperienced leaders attempt to “overly involve” those around them in the “germinating” process hoping that great ideas will grow from a collective seed – failing to recognize that “too many cooks can spoil the broth.”  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 (allowing the group to take the credit).
We unleash the potential of those around us to create change when we formulate an idea then communicate the results we wish to accomplish to those that implementing the change, allowing them to consider alternative paths that could be taken, rather than dictating what must be done AND how we expect it done.  Ordering another to accomplish a specific result MAY lead to a desired solution but often provides an excuse as to why something did not happen rather than a celebration about what did occur.  We create dependency in relationships and minimize autonomy (and independent thinking) when we tell others what to do and when to do it rather than simply defining our goals and monitoring progress towards their accomplishment.  Growth or success beyond that which one has already achieved cannot occur until a leader equips those around him or her with tools that prepare them for independent actions and a confidence that mistakes will be viewed as learning experiences rather than used to generate discipline.

Great leaders originate ideas, communicate expectations then get out of the way while constantly considering alternatives as they monitor the progress of those left to accomplish their initiatives.  Innovators are rarely around when the tasks they initiate are completed because they have built teams that can act independently and communicate openly thereby freeing themselves to focus on other opportunities so they may not be in a position to receive direct recognition for activities that produced results.  Leaders celebrate in the accomplishments and successes of their teams, recognizing that great rewards will ultimately come to those who can selflessly initiate change and deliver results.

Those focusing upon receiving credit for their ideas 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 that you lead.  Leverage the capabilities of those you have equipped to act upon their ideas – that you have provided the confidence to move forward and given permission to learn from their failures – rather than limiting your potential to those things you can accomplish on your own.  Find your full potential as you lead others through their darkness and they will help to light your way as they begin to find themselves.  Make yourself too valuable to replace and you may find that you have nowhere to go as nobody else can do what you have done.

Friday, December 8, 2017


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

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

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

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

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