Starbucks: A Significant & Purposeful Business Anchored in Engaging & Compassionate Leadership Practices

It is important to remember that Starbucks started as a single store and that anything is possible if we take the lessons learned from Starbucks as a nudge to think about how we can innovate and expand our products, services, social media tools, technologies, and channels. The leaders at Starbucks also demonstrate what is possible when you foster product passion, teach your people the importance of human connections, seek operational excellence and efficiency, and engage in a never-ending pursuit of relevance.     – Joseph Michelli, Leading the Starbucks Way

The first session of the Fall Term of the 2013 GsD is wrapping up with today’s post. Organizational consultant Joseph Michelli’s latest book Leading the Starbucks Way has been the primary resource for this session.

Michelli uses over two years of research with dozens of leaders in the Starbucks organization to develop five actionable principles that forge emotional connections that drive innovation, grow new business product lines, and foster employee and customer loyalty. These principles are “brief and clear, and put the customers, products, and experiences at the purposeful center of Starbucks.” Here are the five principles:

  1. Savor and elevate
  2. Love to be loved
  3. Reach for common ground
  4. Mobilize the connection
  5. Cherish and challenge your legacy

In order to help you evaluate mastery of the material as well as apply independent thinking skills to your own setting, here are a few summary thoughts based on the five principles above.

  • When frontline team members are passionate about your Guest Experience, they build interest and excitement on the part of your Guests.
  • Evaluate every strategy to ensure that it aligns with your core values, reinforces your purpose, and stimulates continued progress toward your aspirations.
  • Well-designed experiences involve a willingness to see the environment and process from your Guests’ perspective.
  • If your Guests view your organization as being competent and having integrity, you have created the environment for trust. Trust is a gateway emotion on a journey to greater levels of emotional engagement.
  • Listening is not a passive pursuit; listening is synonymous with connecting discovering, understanding, empathizing, and responding.
  • Good leaders provide uplifting moments for those who uplift Guests.
  •  One of the most powerful opportunities for building a relationship occurs after your Guests’ visit, with your team members offering a warm farewell, and inviting Guests into future opportunities to connect.
  • Observe your Guests, then adopt, adapt, and extrapolate new ideas that will connect both locally and globally.
  • Technology should support the mission, not the reverse.
  • Complacency and inertia are challenges to innovation for your organization.
  • There is typically a strong interdependence among a organization’s performance, its values, and the impact it has on the communities it serves.
  • Passionate team members have a magnetically positive impact when it comes to turning Guests into attenders and future team members.

It is important to remember that, at its heart, Starbucks is in the people business serving coffee. Place, Process, and Product are all important, but the foundation and core of Starbucks success is its People.

Take a look at this brief video and you will have a better understanding of what I mean:


The M.U.G. Award referred to in the video allows partners to recognize co-workers for “Moves of Uncommon Greatness” that help them achieve their goals. It’s a way of saying, “Thanks for helping me out. I couldn’t have done it without you!”

Can your team members say the same thing?

Part 9 of a series in the 2013 GsD Fall Term

Leading the Starbucks Way: Information, Insights, and Analysis Needed to Create a High-Performance Guest-Oriented Organization

inspired by and adapted from Leading The Starbucks Way, by Joseph Michelli



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