Sunday, September 23, 2007

Leadership Legacies: "The Starbucks Experience"

Along with personal life legacies, I enjoy learning about the leadership legacies of individuals in organizations as well as the legacies of organizations themselves. My interest in organizational legacies (and love of great coffee) lead me to the book, "The Starbucks Experience" by Joseph A. Michelli.

While I most often go to my locally-owned coffee shops (Barry's Deli is my favorite), whenever I'm traveling, I'm glad there's usually a Starbucks nearby to provide my morning cup of coffee. I've always had good experiences at the Starbucks I've visited and appreciated reading about their "secrets of success" in Michelli's book.

Starbucks "5 Principles for Turning Ordinary into Extraordinary" include:

1. Make It Your Own
2. Everything Matters
3. Surprise and Delight
4. Embrace Resistance
5. Leave Your Mark

These principles can be applied in most any organization or business in my view. "Make It Your Own" brings the talents and unique personality of every employee to life in the workplace. I'm sure that if all the businesses I've worked for over the years would have diligently practiced "Everything Matters", the business world would be very different today (and the Enron meltdown wouldn't have happened).

"Surprise and Delight" inspires creativity and real caring about individual customers and fellow employees. No doubt, the political arena (and occupants of the White House) would be transformed by practicing "Embrace Resistance." And "Leave Your Mark" is all about the legacy every organization and individual leaves for future generations of people living on planet Earth.

Leaders at Starbucks have also provided a structure for employees ("partners") which they call the "Five Ways of Being":

  • Be welcoming
  • Be genuine
  • Be considerate
  • Be knowledgeable
  • Be involved
This structure encourages people to be creative (no "scripted" approach to customer service) and to bring their own personality into providing service to customers. To reinforce the concept of "Five Ways of Being", Starbucks gives their partners a pamphlet called the Green Apron Book which offers ideas on how to personalize relationships with customers.

Michelli's book is an enjoyable read even if you have little interest in business management or organizational legacies. It is filled with heart-warming stories about ways Starbucks partners have surprised and delighted customers (and each other). I was especially touched by the story of a store partner who shared her $87 million lottery winnings equally with everyone on her team (they had contributed $1 each to the ticket she bought).

If you only read one business book this year (or ever), I highly recommend "The Starbucks Experience". Take it along to read at your favorite coffee shop. And you may want to give the "Five Ways of Being" a try at your workplace ... or wherever you are in your life.
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