Newsletter by Barbara Mintzer

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

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September 2005
Reflections on Hurricane Katrina

Like all of you reading this Newsletter, I am shocked and terribly saddened by the devastation and loss that occurred on the Gulf Coast as a result of Hurricane Katrina. My heart goes out to all the people who had to endure this tragedy, and my hopes and prayers are that those who survived will be reunited with their families, and that they will somehow have the strength to move on and put their lives back together. Fortunately, nations all over the world, individual states in our own country, and caring and compassionate individuals have offered to help.

I know there are over 300 nursing professionals who read this Newsletter. Please accept my heartfelt thanks and admiration to all of you for the life-saving work you did in the aftermath of the Hurricane, and the work you are now doing to help the evacuees who are arriving in the states you live in. I have personally spoken to two school nurses in Houston who tell me that the nurses in that city have been working around the clock to get people housed and fed. Their next task is to integrate the children who have just arrived into the Houston school system. Of course, this is occurring all across the country. All people involved in health and education will be working to achieve this goal.

I was trying to decide what perspective I could add as I sat down this morning to write this Newsletter. What could I say that has not already been said that might help others feel uplifted and motivated during such difficult times. As I was sitting at my computer, the following e-mail came in from my colleague, Larry Crider, in Texas . Larry is a retired Methodist minister, a professional speaker and an author, and I am always inspired by his column "Living and Learning."  I believe his column is just what we need to read in the wake of Katrina. Please enjoy Larry's column, and I will add my insights and comments at the end. Some of Larry's other writings can be viewed at

"One of the writers who influences my thinking with his gentle prodding is Rabbi Joseph Telushkin. He writes a lot about day-to-day ethical living and causes me frequently to re-examine how I live and what I do. In one of his books he shares the following story:

'The area of New York City in which my family and I live is filled with so many panhandlers that people often ignore their presence completely or place money in a beggar's palm and immediately walk away. Such was the case one day when my wife was strolling down Broadway with our daughter Naomi. "Mommy", the then-seven-year-old stopped her, "you didn't give correctly."  "What should I have done?" Dvorah asked.

Naomi was prepared with the lesson she had learned at her Jewish day school. "You didn't look the person in the face and say, 'God Bless You.' Because when you give charity, you have to give with a full heart.' My wife immediately went back, gave the beggar another dollar, looked him in the eye, and said "God bless you!" Later she told me 'When I looked him in the eye, I saw a human being, not a beggar.'

Rabbi Telushkin's story came back to me as I considered all of the influx of evacuees sheltered in and around our town this week. Many of these people are in dire need. Most have lost a great deal. Some have lost everything. All of us want to help, but we need to make sure that in the helping that we view these folks as human beings and not beggars or numbers. Long ago one of my counseling teachers told me, "Every person has their own story and every person is worthy of a biography. Sometimes you just have to listen to their story." That was the beginning for me, of a career of listening to people baring their souls. Many of the people I've listened to over the years didn't really expect much more of me than that:  just to listen.

As we get to the enormous task of helping thousands of people rebuild their lives and start over, it is equally important that we take time to bless them and to listen to them. Often we can do no more but we should never do less. Sometimes - indeed often - listening is hard work. We want to make everything right immediately, to give them the quick fix. We want to jump in and interrupt and give instructions on what they should do and how they should do it, but that short circuits the important need of people to share their stories.

It is not enough for us to give money. We must also give others our blessing and give them our ears so that when we look into their eyes we see human beings, and not beggars. We need to see them as people like us, not just as problems to be solved. Think about it."

I certainly did think about it, for some time. Larry's column made quite an impact on me, and I believe his advice is just as appropriate for leaders in business and health care today. More than ever before, it is imperative that we see the humanity in the people who work for us.  We need to see them as people like us, not as a means to an end. In the stress and pressure of our workplaces today, it is very easy to focus on the bottom line, and not on the staff we depend on to make that bottom line happen. We live in an increasingly impersonal world. We also live in a fast-paced world, with a rush to get things done. These two circumstances make it easy to justify not taking the time to "look into the faces and hear the stories" of those who work for us. BIG MISTAKE!

If we don't take the time to hear the stories, and see situations through the eyes of others, we will never know what we could have done to motivate someone to reach his/her potential. As I have mentioned in previous Newsletters, numerous surverys have been conducted on the reasons people leave their jobs. The overwhelming reason was "I do not feel this company cares about their people. They spend more time, money and attention on their technology than they do on their employees."  Don't let this happen in your organization. Technology is wonderful, but it cannot replace the most valuable resource you have ... your hard-working, loyal, committed staff.

Take the time to show an interest in your staff.  What are they most proud of in the work they do? How do they believe they can be of more service to you? Do they have other abilities and skills that you are not aware of? Is there anything they need from you to make their work experience more purposeful?  Look them in the eye, hear their answers, listen to their stories, acknowledge their humanity. The ability to empower others to move beyond their own limitations will be a benchmark by which all visionary leaders will be judged.

We have had a lot to think about in this Newsletter. I would love your insights, comments and/or feedback on what either Larry or I have written.  If you would like to write to Larry directly, or if you would like to receive Larry's column on "LIVING AND LEARNING" e-mail him at . If you wish to pass this Newsletter along to a colleague who may find it of value, feel free to do so. If that person would like to receive my Newsletter, e-mail me with the address, and I will put it on my database. If you know of an organization, corporation or association that would benefit from my message, please let me know. Thanks so much, and have a wonderful month.

About the Author

Barbara Mintzer is a nationally recognized speaker and consultant with over 30 years in business and health care. 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 at the same meeting...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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