Newsletter by Barbara Mintzer

Barbara Mintzer's Newsletter
The Power of a Vision... a Leader's Journey

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June 2006
To Thine Own Self Be True

I had a most interesting conversation yesterday at a Memorial Day barbeque my husband and I were invited to. While Al went to look at a new computer our host had purchased, I sat in the backyard talking to his wife. In the course of the conversation, she told me she dreaded going back to work today because work had lost all meaning for her. She didn't know what went wrong, when it started to go "south" and most importantly, she said, she did not know who to blame for her predicament! I asked her what she was going to do about this situation, and she hadn't a clue. She was in STUCK and did not know how to get out of it. She was so fixated on trying to put the blame on someone, that any talk about how she might get UNSTUCK landed on deaf ears. The idea that she may have some responsibility for this situation never entered her mind. I thought about this woman as I sat down to write this Newsletter and it occurred to me that we can all learn from her situation.

When the work we do no longer has meaning, it is time to look within for the answers. Sometimes our shutting down at work is in response to a particular event. There has been a downsizing of staff; a re-organization of the workplace; a new person to report to; or perhaps a confrontation with a manager or a coworker; something has happened that has made us angry or depressed. It is this incident and our not knowing what to do about it that causes us to distance ourselves emotionally from the work. The anger and/or depression over the event takes the joy out of the work. We no longer see the meaning or purpose to the work we do.

It is not easy but we must learn to differentiate the inter-personal communications we have with others at work with the actual work we perfom. An argument with someone at work should not negate the important work you do or take away the vision you have for what you want to accomplish. If this person is standing in the way of you doing your work, that needs to be addressed with upper management and resolved. It is the helplessness you feel in the situation that causes all the emotional turmoil and the shutting down. As uncomfortable as it might be, confronting the issue and resolving it is the path to renewed energy and vitality at work. Once the issue is resolved, it will not take long before you feel motivated and engaged in your work once more.

"The life which is unexamined is not worth living."

If, however, nothing has changed on the outside, and you feel your work has no meaning or purpose, something is going on inside. Some soul-searching is in order here to find the answers. Perhaps the simple answer is that you are changing. You are wanting something more in your life than your present circumstances offer. Work is challenging and engaging when we are working towards a goal. We have a vision of something we wish to achieve and work is the vehicle that makes it happen. When our dreams or goals change or become much bigger, there is a disconnect between where we want to be and the work we need to do to get there. This is the time to ask ourselves two very important questions:

1.    Why am I doing this?
2.    Why does this matter?

If you honestly cannot answer these two questions to YOUR satisfaction (yours is the only opinion that counts here) it may be time to move on. A number of years ago I was on Contract with a large corporation to work with their upper levels of management on "visionary leadership" more particularly, how to become a visionary leader and how to lead your staff from a visionary point of view. I love this topic and I worked hard to produce and customize my programs for this corporation. They paid me very well for my hard work and you would think it was a win-win. Well, going in, I did not know just how competitive this corporate environment was. From the top down, the over-riding goal was one upsmanship, and from the very first program I presented, I had the gnawing sensation in my gut that these people were competing with me.

I always encourage questions and participation in my workshops, however, with these people all the questions and interactions were tinged with hostility and sarcasm. They were going to show me where I was wrong, and instead of all of us being on the same page, they challenged me every chance they got. I tell you, I was exhausted after each session. The tension at these sessions was palpable and after the fourth workshop I sat down and asked myself the above two questions. At that point, aside from the monetary aspect, I did not know why I was doing these workshops, and the people I worked with never, ever made me feel that my work mattered.

I fulfilled my obligation to finish the Contract, and I worked my hardest to make each workshop have meaning and value. But I was thrilled when the last program was over. Hooray, I AM FREE!  Lo and behold the President of this company asked me to sign another Contract to continue, as he received feedback from his managers that these programs were of value. I was stunned. I realized that their behavior towards me was nothing against me personally; that was their mode of operation, encouraged and supported from the top. However, I got nothing out of it. I need to feel validated and appreciated for the work I do in order for me to be effective. I never felt that. I actually felt anyone could have done those workshops and gotten the same reactions and the same results. I thanked the President and told him that I did not choose to sign another Contract. He offered me more money, which was very tempting, but I stuck to my guns and I was never sorry.

"If your success is not on your own terms,
if it looks good to the world but does not feel
good in your heart, it is not success at all."

                                      Anna Quindlen

The above quote is one of my favorites, as I have had to internalize it many times when I was trying to decide what to do in my career. I hope all of you will find it helpful as a guide when you have decisions to make and you are not sure which way to turn. There are many considerations involved in making decisions, however, through the years I have learned to give the feelings in my heart and my gut the respect they deserve. When what you are doing now has lost its meaning and purpose, go inside for some of the answers and the direction you need. 

We have had a lot to think about in this Newsletter. If you wish to pass this Newsletter along to a colleague or a friend who may find it of value, feel free to do so. If that person would like to receive the Newsletter, e-mail me with the address, and I will put it on my database. If you know of an organization, association or corporation that would benefit from my message, please let me know. If you are looking for a keynote speaker or trainer for your next meeting, please think of me.

About the Author

Barbara Mintzer is a nationally recognized speaker and consultant with over 30 years in business and healthcare. She speaks from experience! Her how-to programs provide participants with immediately applicable skills and strategies for getting buy-in and commitment from staff and staying on top of their professions in today's competitive and constantly changing workplace. Barbara presents keynote talks and breakout sessions for international, national, regional and state Conferences. She also conducts management retreats and in-house seminars. She facilitates panel discussions and roundtables and can be a master of ceremonies for your event...a good investment for your meeting budget. To explore the possibility of having Barbara speak at your next event, or work with your staff/leadership team, please contact her office.

Phone: (805) 964-7546
FAX: (805) 964-9636

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