For Howard Behar, every job is about serving or affecting people -- and most people are at their best when doing just that.
"The other thing when we're at our best ... is when you're growing yourself -- when you're becoming better at your job -- but usually better who you are as a human being," the former Starbucks president told a group of Hanford contractor employees in Richland on Friday.
Behar spoke as part of a leadership training session offered by Blue Rudder Leadership, a local consulting company that specializes in leadership development for corporate executives.
Behar joined Starbucks in 1989 when the company was just starting to grow. He served as president from 1995 to 2003, and continued on the company's board until retiring in 2008.
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Behar said he learned the importance of being true to himself and serving others early in his career when he was promoted to his first executive job at age 27 at a furniture rental company in Portland.
Before his promotion, he had been a person who was quick to offer opinions and ideas and who wasn't afraid to show his emotions or his enthusiasm.
But a higher-up told him that to be a good executive, he would need to restrain himself and hold his cards closer to his vest.
Behar said he took that advice to heart and literally sat on his hands during meetings to prevent himself from being too boisterous in offering his opinions.
After a few months of that, he ended up hating his job and was ready to quit until a fellow executive told him he had been promoted because of who he was before.
"I realized I have to take care of myself," he said. "That was one of the lessons I learned from that two- or three-month period -- I have to take care of myself emotionally or I'm no good to anybody else."
Another part of the lesson was not defining himself by the title on his business card. Behar developed goals and a vision for his own life and the kind of person he wanted to be, and incorporated that into his work -- including his later work at Starbucks.
"Ever since I did this work ... my life has meaning and I know whether I'm on or off-track," Behar said. "It's important for individuals, but even more important for organizations to do this work."
An important part of how he envisioned his life was to nurture and inspire others. That principal became part of Starbucks' mission statement as the company grew in the early '90s, he said.
He said he hopes Starbucks' eventual legacy will be how it lived up to that mission, not just how much money it made or lost.
"To nurture and inspire the human spirit -- that's what we're here for, our reason for being," he said.