January 17, 2012
Posted by Joan V. Gallos
I just finished Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul for a chapter on compassionate leadership that I’m writing. And I’ve fallen in love with the leadership of Howard Schultz. His philosophy — leadership is not just about winning, but about finding a right way to succeed that brings hope for a brighter future to others – is a reminder that if you love what you do and respect the people who help you do it, you’re on a good path.
On the day in 1987 that Schultz bought a local business in Seattle called Starbucks, he held an all-employee meeting. He had three talking points: “1. Speak from my heart. 2. Put myself in their shoes. 3. Share the Big Dream with them.” Schultz saw two requisites for Starbucks’ growth: (1) sustain the passion and personality upon which the company had been built; and (2) instill in every employee a reverence for the coffee experience – the capacity to recreate the transcendental “blend of craftsmanship and human connection” that Schultz encountered with the Italian barista who brewed his first espresso in Milan in 1983. Create a high-quality experience for people, and they will reciprocate with loyalty. Profits will follow.
To quote Schultz: A company can grow big without losing the passion and personality that built it, but only if it’s driven not by profits but by people . . . The key is heart. I pour my heart into every cup of coffee and so do my partners [the company name for employees] at Starbucks. When customers sense that, they respond in kind … If you pour your heart into your work, you can achieve dreams others may think impossible. That’s what makes life rewarding.
Starbucks is an amazing success story. In the 1990’s, it was opening a new store almost every day and is now the world’s largest coffeehouse company with more than 18,800 stores in 55 countries and more than 10 billion U.S. dollars in annual revenues – a ten-fold increase in a decade that also necessitated Schultz’s return as CEO (from his position as chairman) to address the company’s 2007 financial slide and reignite the innovation needed for continued success in an increasingly competitive global market.
Starbuck is also, by Schultz’s label, “a love story:” a testament to his love of coffee and of the work in growing a company and building a corporate culture that inspire and excite customers, vendors, and employees.
To quote Schultz again: Infusing work with purpose and meaning is a two-way street. Yes, love what you do, but your company should love you back. As a merchant, my desire has always been to inspire customers, exceed their high expectations, and establish and maintain their trust in us. As an employer, my duty has always been to also do the same for people on the other side of the counter.
Schultz translated his personal philosophy into a company philosophy to treat all employees with respect and dignity and into company practices like affordable comprehensive healthcare for employees (even part-timers), flexible work hours, competitive wages, stock options, and other perks that repeatedly land Starbucks on Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list – and got Schultz named Fortune’s 2011 Businessperson of the Year.
So are you doing what you love? Bringing your best self to the workplace so as to encourage others to do the same? Walking your talk? Creating a work environment that inspires your employees to create transcendental experiences for your customers? Making contributions to a more hopeful future?
If not, grab a cup of coffee and get out your pencil. You’ve got some personal – and organizational – planning to do.