Howard Behar began working for Starbucks Coffee when they only had a handful of stores and nobody outside of Seattle, Washington knew who they were. Then, as the President of Starbucks Coffee and Starbucks International, he and his team led the company’s growth to more than 15,000 stores around the globe. Not only has he experienced amazing success for one of the world’s most iconic brands, but the spirit with which he leads is an inspiring example of servant leadership. He is humble, caring, and understands that people are the greatest asset in any company or organization.
For all of those reasons and many more, I was honored that Howard Behar shared these thoughts about my new book Thermostat Cultures,
“Culture is not a side priority on high-performing teams. It is EVERYTHING. Jason Barger is right on in his approach to people, alignment, and values. His spirit and work is infectious and highly valuable. Thermostat Cultures is a must read.” – Howard Behar
Howard has not only become a wonderful friend and supporter over the last six years, but a coveted mentor as well. I spent time with Howard recently in Seattle to connect and discuss growing engaged cultures. Below are some highlights from our discussion and his answers to a few questions:
Q: HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE CULTURE AT STARBUCKS FROM THE BEGINNING AND AS IT GREW?
A: At Starbucks we always tried to be proactive (like you talk about) rather than reactive. We tried to decide who we were and then live toward those values. Once we got clear on our values and what we wanted to do then we were able to connect with human beings. Business is more than making money, it’s deeper than that.
Q: WHAT ACTIONS DID YOU PUT INTO PLACE AT STARBUCKS THAT BROUGHT THE COMPANY VALUES TO LIFE?
A: Our first value was that we were going to treat each other with respect and dignity. Those are just words. So, how do they turn into action? Well, to us they meant that we were going to all be in this together. We gave health insurance to everyone and the CEO had the same insurance that the barista had. Everyone had stock options before we even went public. We could walk down the hallways and we could look everyone in the eyes and say we were all in it together.
Q: BIG ICONIC BRANDS LIKE STARBUCKS ARE SOMETIMES TALKED ABOUT AS IF THEY ARE PERFECT?
A: We all make mistakes. We all screw up. We all don’t always lead in the best ways possible. But, what matters most is that we come back to the things that matter most and stay true to them. You learn how to be accountable to yourself and each other. If your intentions are good and you share consistent and good messages to all, things work out.
Q: WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE LEADERS OR TEAMS IN TODAY’S WORLD?
A: Be authentic. Be who you are. Don’t try to fake it because people can smell that. Be willing to be vulnerable and share your frailties and the mistakes you make. Also share your successes. Be you. The other thing is, the truth is that we all have to perform in life. We have standards that we set for the relationships or operations that we are a part of. So be clear about what those are and then work together to hold each other accountable and bring out the best in each other.
Thank you to Howard Behar for his inspiring words about Thermostat Cultures and building engaged and inspired teams. I always love every chance I get to be with Howard and I admire his spirit and insights. Learn more about Howard at www.HowardBehar.com
What temperature will you set with the groups in your life?
Jason Barger is the globally celebrated author of Step Back from the Baggage Claim, ReMember and the new book Thermostat Cultures, as well as a coveted keynote speaker and leadership consultant. More importantly, he’s striving to be an above average father, husband, and friend.
Follow on Twitter @JasonVBarger and learn more at JasonVBarger.com