It’s surprising how a single person can provide wisdom and guidance within a professional career, only to have it spill over into all aspects of life. I didn’t appreciate the full impact of this until she was no longer there.
After a long illness, Beth Weinman died on August 3rd. For over a dozen years, I had the opportunity to work with Beth in her role as National Drug Abuse Programs Coordinator for the Federal Bureau of Prisons. She had a knack for bringing bright, independent and creative Bureau professionals together to form productive teams. Under her guidance, a series of programs was created and revised that has served tens of thousands of individuals working to change their behaviors. Beth had a vision and possessed the tenacity, intelligence and leadership skills to bring practical solutions to a challenging population. And her contributions will be felt for many years to come. I first met Beth in January of 1999 at a conference in Nashville, Tennessee. We developed an effective communication and work relationship: Beth would tell me what to do and I would do it. Often, she would come back and tell me it wasn’t good enough and why and how to make it better. Beth could tell me I was wrong in a way that still made me feel appreciated. She encouraged me and everyone else around her to hang in there until it was right. The end products were the best The Change Companies has ever been a part of creating. In groups, Beth had a way of posing questions, often with a humorous tinge, and someone else would pop up with an answer that was right on target. However, upon reflection, I would realize the wisdom had come from Beth’s question, not from the person taking the subtle bows. Beth also taught me how to engage others in a collaborative manner. She taught me how to remain silent at key times and listen, how to defer to brighter, more experienced professionals and how to be strong when it was called for. Before going to Washington, DC, Beth was a public servant in New York City and Chicago, where she learned not only how to work within the parameters she was given but also how to lead others to do the same. In 2011, Beth received the prestigious Myrl E. Alexander Award. I guess I wasn’t the only one who recognized her greatness. More recently, during work breaks, Beth and I liked to talk about how wonderful it was to be a grandparent, a loving responsibility she shared with her husband, John. I can picture her posing imaginative and guiding questions to her grandchildren, giving them room to respond with a sense of confidence and accomplishment. So thank you, Beth, for being there. So many people are missing you.