"Pour your heart into it" - by Nicholas Wai

 Image from: http://www.idea-sandbox.com/gyb/starbucks-finally-to-start-telling-its-story/

Image from: http://www.idea-sandbox.com/gyb/starbucks-finally-to-start-telling-its-story/

Company culture starts and stops at the top! You might not totally agree with this statement (register your thought on our poll via the link above) because our everyday experience of a company’s culture is usually through our interactions with its employees (typically front line staff). 

It is they who translate and embody their company culture by greeting us a certain way, handling things a certain way, or responding to a crisis in a certain way. Their behaviors and actions are a result of their company culture whether it is deliberately molded or left to be evolve organically, and like it or not, it is directly related to how the company’s top management dictate how certain things should be done, what they say and emphasis in their speeches and correspondences, and most important of all, how they behave as role models for their employees.

Why have I brought this up? I came across this Inc. article on Starbucks’ Howard Schultz this morning. He sent out an email to “inspire” all the partners (employee in Starbucks speak) at Starbucks to be a little more compassionate towards their customers in light of the stock market turmoil in recent days. In terms of corporate communication it hit all the marks:

  • assuring the partners that the company is in good shape;

  • congratulating them on their contribution towards the success,

  • reminding them that success has to be earned and not taken for granted,

  • inspiring them to be a little more compassionate towards their customers through delivering extra-special “Starbucks experience”,

  • encouraging them that they have weathered through different challenges before, and

  • empowering them by instilling pride and emphasizing his faith in them.

Will it work?

Time will tell…

But I am more inclined to side with Schultz. With emotional behaviors like being more compassionate it is just impossible to force them out of someone other than by inspiring a genuine belief in what you believe in, with authenticity, passion, and care for someone. I remember reading his first book Pour Your Heart Into It almost 15 years ago when I was in the mist of great personal and professional transition and was really inspired by his personal story of growing up through different challenges, then building the global brand one shop at a time through taking care of the partners and adhering to certain core beliefs and values, and most important of all, that it was told not as a corporate success story but a very personal story of resolve and resilience. I could feel through the pages how much he loves the company and the care he has for his people and customers. Does Starbucks serve the best coffee? Not really, but in terms of “the coffee experience”, as I sit here at my local Starbucks typing away, seeing how the baristas and their familiar customers greet and embrace each other, I can definitely feel that extra something being “poured” into what the people here do to keep customers like me keep coming back.

So does company culture starts and stops at the top? It’s probably not the whole picture, but it has got a lot to do with it.

In reflection,

  • Next time when you go to one of your favorite establishments, observe what’s in their corporate culture that makes you like them. Think about what’s the leadership believes and behaviors that made it happen.

  • If you are leading a team, take a critical look at how’s it is performing not just objectively but also how much your team members like to work with each other. What have you done or not done to result in this?

  • In our world of fear and challenges, what would a little compassion towards yourself and others do to you and the people around you?