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Take a look at Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz’s note to their 190,000 employees (“partners”) after the challenging stock market last week.  And this writer’s “two takeaways” are outstanding as well.  

Aug 25, 2015    |    Justin Bariso


If you noticed your Starbucks barista was a little nicer than usual yesterday, there’s a reason for that.

You might have heard about the recent turmoil in the stock market. $1 trillion was wiped from Asian markets recently, sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunging  (it closed for the day down 588 points).

Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz decided to do something about it. He proceeded to address some major concerns—not directly to customers, but rather, to his employees.

All 190,000 of them.

In a remarkable memo sent yesterday, Schultz spoke directly to employees (Starbucks refers to them as “partners”), and encouraged them to show special concern for consumers:

Our customers are likely to experience an increased level of anxiety and concern. Please recognize this and--as you always have--remember that our success is not an entitlement, but something we need to earn, every day. Let's be very sensitive to the pressures our customers may be feeling, and do everything we can to individually and collectively exceed their expectations.

I credit Schultz with his efforts to use this situation to improve customer service. If I’ve learned anything through the years, it’s that you have to stand up for what you believe in, despite the naysayers. Schultz seems to have a similar view. He's not without his critics, but yesterday’s memo again shows his refusal to stand by idle.

So what can you learn from Schultz’s email? Here are two lessons:

1. Maintain a bias to action.

Great concepts often die in a myriad of meetings. If you believe strongly in an idea, it’s important to move quickly.

Schultz knew consumers would be affected by the market crash. He quickly thought of how that could translate into better customer service (or he approved the idea, anyway), and moved forward.

Takeaway: If you see an opportunity, pounce on it. Think it through, but don’t overanalyze. After weighing the risk against the reward, you’ll find that most often it’s best to try an idea and see what happens.

If it fails, learn the lessons and move on.

2. Praise your colleagues and employees.

Note some of the language Schultz (and his team, no doubt) use in the memo:

“…my confidence in our company and in all of you has never been greater.”

“The experience we deliver in our stores, the strength and equity of our brand, and the primary reason for our current and future success is because of all of YOU.”

“I believe in you and have never been prouder to be your partner.”

Of course, actions need to back up these words. But according to Glassdoor, a website where current and former employees anonymously review companies and their management, Schultz has an approval rating of 91%.

Not bad for the largest coffeehouse company in the world.

Takeaway: Look for opportunities to praise your colleagues and employees. Just as they need (constructive) criticism when they do something wrong, they also need praise and encouragement when they do something right. Perhaps even more so.

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