It’s Not About the Coffee – Lessons on Putting People First from a Life at Starbucks

This book written by Howard Behar, a former president of Starbucks international shares his personal philosophy on leadership. It is an interesting read regardless of your opinion of Starbucks, the book is not the ‘starbucks story’, although sometimes examples from Starbucks are used as analogies, this is a book looking at Behar’s leadership philosophies.

Like many leadership books Behar begins by giving a list of guiding principles. Behar’s ten principles are:

  1. Know who you are: Where one hat – be clear about your values, purposes and goals.
  2. Know why you’re here: Do it because it’s right, not because it’s right for your resume.
  3. Think independently: The person who sweeps the floor should choose the brooms.
  4. Build Trust: Care, like you really mean it.
  5. Listen for the truth: The walls talk.
  6. Be Accountable: Only the Truth sounds like the truth.
  7. Take Action: Think like a person of action, and act like a person of thought.
  8. Face Challenge: We are human beings first.
  9. Practice Leadership: The big noise and the still, small voice.
  10. Dare to Dream: Say Yes, the Most Powerful Word in the World.
While reading the book there were a few passages that I took the time to note down:
  • Being busy and juggling lots of different roles can make us, edgy, inefficient, frustrated, and hard to be around. However if all these hats are serving the same goals and values, the person can gain the skills and find the support needed to grow the enterprise.
  • People who feel good about themselves produce good results.
  • By changing yourself to meet the needs of others you prevent yourself from doing what you do best.
  • It’s too easy to get caught up following the rule book rather than meeting the true needs of the people we serve.
  • In many cases the rule book goes way to far – it tries to tell people how to be instead of explaining what we are trying to do.
  • You know you are doing the right things when:You see so much more when you see things in a fresh way and really listen. Take a different path. See who is there, and keep our antennae up. You’ll hear the walls talk.
    • What you want to do, what you’re inspired to do, and what hte organisation, your boss, adn your customers want  and need you to do are all aligned.
    • You can think independently, because you are clear about the larger goal.
    • You get the information and authority you need to make better on the job decisions.
    • You start asking – and encourage those around you to ask – how your own unique skill set could best serve the task, project, or problem at hand.
  • Do it in person. There is no substitute for human exchange. Sit down and talk with people. Take time to listen.
  • People need to believe they can make things happen and that they can try things, even if eventually they don’t work out, because you never know when the one you’re working on will be the one that will work.
  • Celebrate Failures. Celebrating failures gets rid of the risk of failure. People learn to trust that they can take risks and nothing bad will happen. Not taking risks and not taking action is the thing to fight against.
  • If it’s not illegal, immoral, or unethical, and as long as we won’t poison somebody and someone wants it, then we ought to try it.

The edition of the book that I have begins with a forward entitled ‘leading in hard times’; this gives a checklist for leadership in hard times.

    • Are you being true to yourself and your values?
    • Are you listening and basing your actions on the best information available – including “unaccepted” truths and insights?
    • Are you clear about your role, purpose, and contribution? Are you doing things for the right reasons?
    • Is the right person making the right decisions?
    • Are your decisions and actions building trust and showing you care?
    • Are you taking responsibility and not blaming others?
    • Are you letting truth be you guide?


Categories: Leadership