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, April 27, 2018


Yesterday is but a memory – regardless of how sweet or sad, it has passed us by and become history.  Today is nearly done – who we are and what we experience will soon be a part of our past as it cannot become tomorrow.  Only what we build for – what is in our “not yet accomplished” bucket – will inevitably (and undeniably) become today at some point in time, pausing only long enough for us to accomplish that which we intentionally act upon before it, too, fades into the past.  Time is a precious (and valuable) commodity that far too many take for granted.  We must value the time we have (recognizing and understanding that we have no guarantee of time) and use it to make a difference in the lives of others if we hope our time can be measured in more than minutes, hours and days.

Why is it that people tend to rush to judgment, hurry up to wait, and do ANYTHING but “stop 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 seem to worry more about how quickly we can finish the race than we do about the joy found along the way – or even the satisfaction derived from simply crossing the finish line.  People far too often worry needlessly about things outside of their control rather than identifying the things over which they have influence and acting upon them.  We fear we do not have the time to slow down so, instead of appreciating the things around us we ignore them while driving relentlessly to some vague and often unidentified goal.  We often find ourselves slaves to the very clock we so desperately seek to master when we keep ourselves busy to the point of exhaustion – confusing “busy” with “productive” as we measure efforts rather than results.

Many people complain about their lemons rather than celebrating their opportunity to make lemonade.  The weather is too hot (yet the long winter will almost certainly bring complaints about it being too cold).  I am too busy to exercise (several acquaintances were in accidents this past year that took from them the ability to freely move about – I am sure they wish “being busy” was all that kept them from exercising).  Rather than finding satisfaction in all they have accomplished, some see only what has not been finished (excusing indecisiveness or inaction as being a lack of time) or what they wish they had (rather celebrating than what they actually possess).  We have become a nation of complainers – bringing others down in order to make ourselves look better RATHER THAN elevating ourselves in order to pull others up with us.

Rather than rushing to judge others, take time to ask WHY someone acted a certain way (particularly if “that way” is different than your way so you immediately judge it as being “wrong”).  Rather than expediting (and articulating) your condemnation of another’s unique, untested or unusual idea take time to see if YOUR perspective might be the root cause of your exasperation.  Offer advice and counsel rather than critically dismissing another’s action as being worthless, wrong or misguided.  Doing something for another because they may have done it wrong (or differently than you might have) provides but a short term “fix” as it changes only results rather than altering behavior.  Providing fish gives someone a meal – teaching them how to catch fish provides a long-term solution.  Spending time to make time is ALWAYS a good investment.  Making time at the expense of another’s time is questionable at best.

Why hurry up to wait?  If you are going to have to wait anyway, use the time preparing for the journey.  You cannot control another’s behavior – only your own.  If someone else is frustrating you by being late, use the time productively to think about how YOU might be able to change the situation.  Is there something you can do that the person you are waiting for feels the need to accomplish before leaving?  If YOU are the one who is late, call ahead to say when you will arrive.  It will not make you early but at least your tardiness will not be holding others up.  We are far too quick to blame and too slow to seek responsibility when we play the hurry up and wait game – often too busy assigning “fault” to seek a workable (and timely) solution. 

When people rush to see how much they can do or see they often lessen the enjoyment of what they actually saw or accomplished.  A better utilization of the limited time we have might be to find joy in the journey rather than accepting nothing but the accomplishment of a defined goal.  Investing time in the discovery of a solution rather than seeking ONLY the satisfaction of accomplishment of a task or assignment will allow you to apply “lessons learned” to other situations in the future.

Some measure life by the number of breaths they take.  Might not a better measure be the number sunrises (or sunsets) we can see as a testimony of our reality?  Walk occasionally rather than running all the time.  Seek solace in the cry of a gull or find joy in the laughter of a child.  Though we cannot stop the passing of time 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 – and if – we chose to arrive. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018


People yearn for recognition – to contribute to the success of whatever they do – seeking to become an integral part of their organization, their relationships or their interaction with others – hoping that their ideas and opinions will help make a difference.  If we fail to establish a “case” for our inclusion by doing the same things that have always been done in “tried and true” ways that may be effective but lack innovation, we will probably be seen as important but not critical – a necessary evil or potentially an identifier of the problem but not an essential part of the solution.  The first step to relevance – to becoming integral – should start with some serious thought about the things that DO NOT create personal credibility. 

Information is rampant in today’s society.  Electronic communications, on-line searches, magazines, newsletters, trade journals (even newspapers, believe it or not) are available to anyone opening their mail or turning on their computer or subscribing to a news or information resource.  There has been a proliferation of “personal coaches” and “relationship managers” seeking individuals that can be convinced they need to be led down a narrow road to success.  The market is flooded with “self-help” books and “how to” manuals attempting to provide wisdom, experience or role models to a searching public.  With all this data, information and opinion available, why would anyone need someone to interpret the material so that it can be appropriately used?  Unfortunately, merely finding material, data or examples of how others have become successful will NOT add to personal or professional credibility in today’s information age.  In order to become integral we must help learn how to APPLY the information available in a manner that will effectively promote excellence – knowing what to use, what to minimize, what will “work” and what will not be acceptable – if we are to become relevant in our relationships.

To become a part of the solution (rather than simply an ongoing part of the problem) one must learn how to ANTICIPATE THE NEED for a solution by knowing enough about a situation to predict what might go wrong (OR what could actually “go right” and needs to be advanced).  Just “doing” your job, or filling in space and time with conversational words rarely provides the insight to become an integral partner.  One must delve deeply into the inner-workings of an operation to fully understand it – to give more than they might receive in a relationship to fully appreciate it – if he or she is to become a trusted and valued partner.  Do not recruit from a job requisition or job description – learn about the job as if YOU were going to perform it.  Do not generate policy simply because someone feels it is needed – find out why the need has been perceived and make sure the policy being requested really addresses the root cause of the problem (rather than treating an annoying or highly visible symptom).  Do not be the first to say “I am sorry” or “It was my fault” (unless that is the truth) – be honest and open with your admissions, always seeking how to fix what may have gone wrong and how to keep it from recurrence rather than assigning (or assuming) blame if you seek a sincere relationship between equals.  The first step towards “becoming integral” is to become knowledgeable of situations, environmental influences, cultural impediments and value requirements before acting.

If information, data or examples of successful behavior were all that the world needed, why would it need you?  Whenever you are asked to give advice or answer a question, ALWAYS respond in a way that adds value to the data you find and the information you give by interpreting it into something that can be understood and applied to resolve an issue recognizing the cultural, ethical and situational parameters of your audience.  This interpretation may differ depending on whom you are dealing with – be it an hourly work team, an executive management group OR a personal (or family) situation of significance – but YOUR relevance will be based upon the value you give those to whom you communicate and the RESULTS (intentional action) your advice initiates.  Since your success is often dependent upon another’s ability to implement, NEVER give information (examples or advice) and walk away.  We must equip others with the tools needed to successfully take action after identifying a path upon which they will travel if we are to be seen as effective contributors.  If we are not actively leading we must “get out of the way” so that others can succeed – we must monitor and observe (rather than telling and directing), honestly “not caring” who gets the credit as long as an appropriate solutions comes to fruition. 

In order to be seen as integral to anyone or any process we must identify root causes and seek workable (acceptable) solutions while focusing on the “ends” (as we seek to acknowledge and influence the “means”).  Information without application is like a tire without air – it may be “there” but not really useful to anyone (UNLESS you are a tire swing manufacturer or you design/install boat bumpers).  When we put air in the tire it becomes a tool.  Showing others how applying information to resolve a problem or advance an effort helps create an invaluable tool that can become a repeatable process “owned” by others (so you can move on to identify and resolve other issues or concerns).  Your investment in developing others to identify issues, apply their abilities (or expand their knowledge so their impact might increase) and initiate intentional action will provide unparalleled returns. Becoming a part of another’s solution (rather than a solution to another’s problems) will help you to gain (and retain) credibility, integrity and respect.

The road to “becoming integral” is not a path for the weak-spirited – for anyone unable (or unwilling) to interpret data, create solutions, intentionally act then measure results (and reset as necessary).  Become integral by seeking workable answers that help resolve seemingly impossible situations when implemented through intentional actions taken to make observable (sometimes unexpected) differences.  Change is not often simple – nor is it predictable – so initiating and/or contributing to it (particularly to the transformation of others) is not an easy road to travel.  Striving to MAKE a difference (rather than BEING the difference) will help you discover the path towards relevance sought by many but traveled by few.

Thursday, April 5, 2018


What forms a boundary for you?  Is it your life experience?  Things you did (or did not do) as a child?  Your respect and reverence (OR disrespect and irreverence) for the past – for the way things have always been (or could have been different)?  Perhaps you find comfort in predictability – your actions driven by the fear of travelling down a new and unknown path – preferring to live within the secure understanding that things should be as they have always been.  Far too many people live within the confines of their “known worlds,” excusing their inability to reach beyond where they are by claiming satisfaction with “the way things are” rather than reaching for what has yet to materialize (or potentially has not yet been imagined).  Do you live inside of your boundary waters – safe from the trouble and turmoil of life and everyone or everything that is different from you – or do you live seek to experience life as it could be rather than as it is?  Might you face stagnation in your life if your waters rarely flow from here to there – becoming nothing but a catch basin for ideas entering your universe but never letting them pass through or move on?  Without a constant flow of water – in with the new and out with the old – life will eventually die.  Unless we continually refresh the boundary waters of our minds, our hopes, dreams and aspirations will also wither and die – yet the delicate balance between holding on and moving on must be intentionally addressed to ensure our success.  When is “holding on” too much and when might “letting go” be too drastic?  We must learn from our past AND our present if we are to build a dynamic future.

We sometimes steep ourselves in heritage, immerse ourselves in history and surround ourselves with the accomplishments of those who came before us as we seek safe passage through life upon a trail that was blazed for us.  Our safety and comfort, however, should we choose the path well-traveled may come at the expense of meeting people new to us and accomplishing things not yet considered possible.  Though we may find peace and tranquility when drifting upon calm waters that have been contained by the limitations established by the efforts of others, should we intentionally release our boundary waters by opening the floodgates and stepping out of the basin built by others – turning from what we are towards what has yet to be considered – the possibilities that we might discover are limitless.  We do not need to eliminate the dam that holds our waters back but we do need to allow a flow of thoughts and ideas to escape from our pond to minimize stagnation.  We do not need to build new bridges each time we face a difficult task but we do need to seek alternative ways to span our troubled waters lest we find ourselves captive within the tributaries meant to keep others out.

People should cherish tradition yet continually seek new and better ways to do things (that may become someone else’s tradition in the future) if they wish to move beyond their current realities to accept new possibilities.  Tradition can be the basis for action taken but should never become a destination in and of itself.  Far too many individuals hide within the richness of their traditions, holding on to the past rather than reaching out for their future.  We must determine the course that sets our direction – that defines the ultimate destination to which our paths may lead – by considering those that came before us while bringing to fruition the reality that sets the stage for those who will follow.

One must continually give in order to gain.  While knowing we often receive back much more than we give, such a return should be a bonus rather than an expectation.  We should, however, be prepared to give more than we ever imagined possible when seeking more than we thought might be attainable should we choose to step beyond the boundaries (and barriers) of an established and comfortable past into the unlimited world of future possibilities.  The greatest possibilities that have yet to be accomplished in our lives arise from expanding our current reality into an unlimited tomorrow by applying the lessons we have learned from every action we have taken towards the resolution of problems not yet defined or fully realized.  As we let loose the boundary waters to flood beyond our surroundings into the spillways of life we will be exposed to opportunities previously beyond our imaginations and possibilities never before considered.  Only when we identify our potential will we be able to realize it – when we look past the pages that have been written in our book of life towards a future without rhyme, reason (or restriction) – will we be able to accomplish all that life holds for us.  Only when we tap into our boundary waters and release them to feed and nurture the ideas around us will great things begin to happen – will the fruits of our labor bring to fruition those things in our lives we previously chose not to accept or refused to imagine as being possible.