The horrific terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 may have occurred 12 years ago, but the memory of those events remain emblazoned on our minds and hearts to this day. And no organization embodies the mission of honoring those who were affected more than the September 11th Families’ Association and its work with the 9/11 Tribute Center.
The September 11th Families’ Association is managed by a group of dedicated professionals located in the shadow of the World Trade Center, and supported by hundreds of volunteers who were personally affected by the events of that day—family members who lost loved ones, survivors, uniformed services (e.g., FDNY, NYPD, PAPD), and residents of Lower Manhattan. Welcoming over 500,000 visitors annually, these dedicated volunteers contribute hundreds of hours of their time and their deepest emotions to fulfill the mission of the organization:
To support victims of terrorism through communication, representation and peer support… to unite the September 11th community, present evolving issues, and share resources for long-term recovery.
Just this year, on October 21st, members of the Loeb Consulting Group were honored to have an opportunity to dedicate our time and resources to lead their management team through a customized half-day introduction to The Leadership Challenge and experience, first-hand, the spirit and passion of this group of dedicated professionals.
Our own life-changing experience began when Natalie Loeb, Founder of Loeb Consulting Group, was touring the 9/11 Tribute Center offices for the first time with Lee Ielpi, President and Co-Founder of the September 11th Families Association. Lee, who lost his son, a firefighter, on September 11, was showing Natalie a tray of semi-precious stones that he had personally polished and brought into the offices so that each employee could select one for his/her own. As they discussed the courage and dedication it requires for the team to come to work and contribute with enthusiasm each and every day at this special place, Lee asked Natalie to choose one of the stones for herself. Honored and grateful, she chose a rough stone with a crack as a memento of her first visit. That crack made Natalie’s choice unique and memorable, and she carries it with her every day as a touchstone when she’s feeling stressed or anxious. It reminds her that life is not perfect; yet, at the same time, it is beautiful.
Lee encouraged Natalie’s heart that day. He made the experience special with his gift. It was his way of saying “thank you” to Natalie for being there while offering her a handmade memento that would always remind her of this special place filled with courageous people dedicated to a common cause.
After that first visit and as we began planning our work with the group’s management team, a natural fit evolved. Rather than facilitate our Leadership Challenge program in its traditional order, we decided the cornerstone should revolve around the Practice that truly exemplified the association’s mission: Encourage the Heart.
Unlike many other organizations Loeb Consulting Group works with, the September 11th Families Association confronts challenges that are unique. Many of the volunteers the organization’s management group oversees have been dedicating their time, energy, and hearts to this effort for as long as eight years. And the emotions they confront almost daily are far more dramatic than what we would typically deal with in a more traditional for-profit or non-profit environment. In addition to volunteers, the September 11th Families Association itself enjoys great stability among its employees with an average tenure of five years. As a result, in many ways, Encouraging the Heart was an ideal complement to the association’s culture and mission.
With COO Gordon Loeb as co-facilitator for this event, participants wasted no time in sharing personal stories of those who had significantly influenced their careers and lives. It was quite apparent that the lessons passed on from others helped shape their lives in ways that created a natural fit in how each of them contributed to fulfilling the organization’s mission. For example, the awareness of how their daily interactions impact others, in some cases for years to come, was immediately realized.
While we introduced The Leadership Challenge program with Encourage the Heart, we seamlessly moved through each of the other Five Practices: Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, Challenge the Process, and Enable Others to Act. As the program progressed and participants explored how to live out the Practices, they consistently, either obviously or subtly, referred back to the essential principles of Encourage the Heart.
We also employed the Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI) with the group and, true to form, they quite naturally received feedback in the appropriate spirit—as a gift. Without defensiveness, there was an openness to address the feedback they were given and a real commitment to leverage their strengths in order to improve their effectiveness as leaders and to help develop the leadership capacity of their volunteers as well.
As is always the case, the power of The Leadership Challenge to help the September 11th Families Association increase its capacity to serve is just beginning. The work and dedication of the group’s leadership team and its volunteers have encouraged OUR hearts and Loeb Consulting Group is honored to be able to continue to donate our time and resources as we work with the association to follow through on its commitments. We are excited to be part of this journey.
Doug Mayblum is a consultant with Loeb Consulting Group, LLC, a management and leadership development company dedicated to cultivating high potentials in law firms, businesses, and student and community leadership. Loeb Consulting Group is an authorized provider of The Leadership Challenge® Workshop. For more information, visit www.loebconsultinggroup.com.
To learn more about the September 11th Families’ Association, visit http://911families.org