Archive for September, 2013

Starbucks Story Is about Passion and Authenticity

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

Starbucks is proof positive that passion and authenticity can drive a company to huge success. Founded in Seattle in 1971 by two guys who sold whole bean and ground coffee as well as tea and spices in a retail store in Pike Place Market, Starbucks originally set out to educate consumers about dark-roasted coffee and the wide variety of beans and teas in the world. The founders were comfortable being small and selling only bagged products for customers to brew at home. The company grew by leaps and bounds only after Howard Schultz, now chairman, president and CEO, got involved.

Hired in 1982 to head up marketing, Schultz became CEO in 1987 after leaving the company for a while to start his own business. When he returned to take the top post, Schultz convinced private investors that his vision was achievable. Aiming for a national chain of European-style warm, inviting neighborhood cafes, he and his management team grew the business from a company with 6 stores to a national chain of 1,300 stores and 25,000 employees–within 10 years! Now a global company of more than 20,000 stores and 151,000 partners in 62 countries, Starbucks is still an organization run on passion.

Schultz had been bitten by “the bug” of high quality coffee and the classic Italian cafe culture in 1981 when he first sipped a cappuccino at a neighborhood coffee bar in Italy. He’ll never forget that pivotal moment–and he still loves sharing that experience with the world. He was certain Americans would enjoy the experience just as much as he did, and in some communities Starbucks is, in fact, the “Third Place” gathering spot that Schultz envisioned. And his concept caught on to a far greater degree than he originally imagined.

As he says in his first book, Pour Your Heart into It, How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time, “People connect with Starbucks because they relate to what we stand for. It’s more than great coffee. It’s the romance of the coffee experience, the feeling of warmth and community…. Starbucks strikes an emotional chord with people. Some drive out of their way to get their morning coffee from our stores.”

Based on an authenticity that permeates the culture, Schultz’s leadership emanates from his contagious passion for coffee. The mission “to inspire and nurture the human spirit–one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time” inspires store managers, executives and partners at all levels. Management decisions, as well as the one-on-one interactions between baristas and customers, are evidence of their commitment.

Starbucks has proven, as Schultz says, that “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 values and by people. If you pour your heart into your work, or into any worthy enterprise, you can achieve dreams others may think impossible.”

How about your organization? Is the leader’s passion evident? Is the vision clear? And what about you? What dreams do you have for your own future that passion and authenticity will help you achieve?

Storytelling Skills Enhance Workplace Learning

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

The majority of knowledge that workers need to perform their jobs is gained informally, usually by swapping stories with co-workers in the lunch room or around the coffee pot. That’s when co-workers can compare notes on what’s worked and hasn’t worked, and  share a new technique or process that occurred to someone while performing the job. Studies have demonstrated that fully 70 percent of essential job knowledge is gained informally, with only 30 percent learned in formal classroom trainings or through one-on-one mentoring.

Recognizing that informal learning involves story swaps, many leading organizations have structured a learning system based on teaching storytelling skills. Sharing experiential stories among and between work teams and departments is a highly effective way to help workers transfer knowledge effectively–in a way that’s easily understood and remembered.

Even so, according to the American Society for Training & Development, many organizations still do not have ways to assess whether learning has taken place; neither do they systematically support the actual implementation of new skills and knowledge on the job.

To ensure that “transfer of learning” takes place, organizations need to develop a learning transfer plan, institute tools and processes to reinforce the skills and knowledge relayed in training, and adopt a means of measuring whether the skills and knowledge are being used on the job. As with any company-wide effort, full management support and involvement is required at every level of the organization in order for the training system to “take”.