Behar to Deliver 2017 Nurse Anesthesia Congress Keynote

This year’s Annual Congress keynote speaker will be Howard Behar, former president of Starbucks Coffee North America and Starbucks International. Behar led Starbucks’ domestic business for 21 years before becoming the founding president of Starbucks International, opening the company’s first store outside of North America in Japan. He participated in the growth of the company from only 28 stores to more than 15,000 spanning five continents. He served on the Starbucks board of directors for 12 years before retiring. Attendees will be inspired by his commitment to the development of future leaders and success in his advocacy for the servant leadership model.

Behar is the author of two books—It’s Not About the Coffee: Lessons on Leadership from a Life at Starbucks and The Magic Cup. Both books detail a leadership strategy that puts people first and encourages leaders to think of staff as human beings instead of labor costs. Behar’s motivational message echoes this sentiment, inspiring listeners to be servant leaders and to lead with their values first. During his keynote address, he’ll share anecdotes and lessons from his years at Starbucks.

Behar answered a few questions about his upcoming address.

Q: Your leadership strategy focuses on putting people first, viewing them as human beings instead of workforce statistics. How can this philosophy be applied to the healthcare/hospital environment?

A: If there was ever a place it belongs, this is it. The healthcare/hospital environment is 100 percent about people, both the people who work there and the people they’re serving. I think one of the things I’ve noticed is that sometimes we can tend to see the people we’re serving as employees, customers, or patients. But they’re human beings first, and, because they’re human beings, they come with all the emotional stuff that we all carry around—both good and bad.

We have to take that all into consideration when we’re working with the people in our institutions as well as the people we’re serving. I think many times we see them as pieces of data instead of as human beings. If we want to change how people feel about working in hospitals and healthcare, I think we first have to see them as human beings.

Q: Are there specific actions that business or medical professionals can take to implement these ideas?

A: The first thing is to listen. Don’t listen just with your ears, but with your whole body. We have to listen for what’s not being said as well as what is being said. All too often I think we try to make everything into bits of data, and we take those bits of data and we add them up and we make decisions based on them. But human beings are human beings; they’re not bits of data. If we want to involve the patient in their healthcare, then we have to open ourselves up and listen to not only what they are saying, but also what they’re not saying. It applies to all human relationships.

Q: Are there certain types of medical professionals who could benefit most from your advice? Or can these ideas apply to everyone?

A: Everybody can benefit—leaders in business, healthcare, education. I see it everywhere because it’s a human issue. The weaknesses that we have as leaders are human weaknesses. We get caught up believing that we’re right and other people are wrong, or we believe that we know more than anybody else, and we forget that we’re there to listen to them.

What happens in a relationship when we stop listening? We start to lose trust in each other. That’s exactly the same thing that happens in a workplace and to the people we’re serving. Very few times at Starbucks did people not like us because of the quality of the drinks. They got mad at us because they felt we didn’t care about them. It’s exactly the same thing in healthcare. There’s no difference. When I go into a doctor’s office, and they want me to be there 10 minutes early when the doctor is 10 minutes late, I feel like they don’t care about me, and they don’t value me.

Q: Listening to people is a lesson that people around the world can take to heart. When you became president of Starbucks International, were there any lessons you learned when you took on a global business perspective?

A: It’s much harder to listen in a global community because our ears aren’t accustomed to different cultures. You have to go out of your way, you have to ask a lot more questions, and you have to be coached on being aware in that society. If I come home and my wife is in a bad mood, she doesn’t have to say a word to me. But if I’m in Japan, and someone’s in a bad mood, it may not show up in the same way. It’s different wherever you go, so you really have to be much more aware of it. I learned a lot of lessons in opening so many stores in over 30 countries. I made mistakes, but I was always willing to admit that I made that mistake and fix it and move on. It’s human service. It’s more than customer service. When we think of customer service, we think that a person has a dollar pasted to their forehead, and if I just treat them the way they want to be treated, I’ll get that dollar. With human service, you don’t care whether they have a dollar. They’re still a human being, and they need to be treated as a human being.

Q: In addition to being good listeners, what is one more course of action you hope the audience takes away from your keynote address?

A: I’d like them to lead by values. I’d like them to lead by thinking about what matters in life, not by thinking about what’s in it for them. I’d like them to think of themselves as servant leaders. When I’m talking about listening, you have to listen to what matters to the other person in order to have a conversation. Too often, particularly in the business world, that what matters most is the bottom line and maximizing profits. But we shouldn’t be maximizing, we should be optimizing. In the nonprofit world, where many healthcare workers live, they still have to think that way because there’s lots of pressure to lower costs. There’s lots of pressure to increase productivity. We can still increase productivity while treating people like they’re human beings, however. We’ve got to be aware of what matters most.