It’s not about the coffee

It’s not about the coffee

ITsnotaboutcoffeeLeadership principles from a life at Starbucks (2007)
By Howard Behar with Janet Goldstein

This book talks about 10 principles of personal leadership :

1. Know who you are : Wear One Hat

Our success is directly related to our clarity and honesty about who we are, who we’re not. Know what really matters to you. Goals give us the tools to put dreams into action. In life, you’ve got to go after your goals and dreams. Of course, for the passion and persistence to be there, they need to be aligned with your hat. They need to be true to who you are and what you truly want to accomplish.

The author believes that opportunities present themselves in mysterious ways, and we can choose to see them. When you know who you are, you will see a path of possibility literally unfold before you. You will be gently guided to follow it, or you’ll create your own opportunity. Each life is filled with possibilities, but most of us miss the magical places to dig. Keep your eyes open, and you will find the treasure.
2. Know why you’re here : Do it because it’s right, not because it’s right for your resume.

The path to success comes from doing things for the right reasons. The tale of the Hundredth Monkey can inspire us to make a difference in our corner of the world. It reminds us of the power of one person doing something right, which can spread quickly to change the behavior and culture of a whole team.

As the story goes, researchers in the 1950s on the island of Koshima, where there was a large population of monkeys, left sweet potatoes in the sand for the monkeys to eat. One clever young monkey discovered she could wash the sand from the tasty vegetables by putting them in the stream. She taught her siblings to do this, and then her playmates, who in turn taught others.

For years, only members of these monkey families washed sand off the sweet potatoes. Then something amazing happened. One day, seemingly overnight, all the monkeys on the island were washing sweet potatoes. It was as if a certain threshold was reached. Once the hundredth monkey learned the behavior, popularizers of the research explained, it spread to every monkey on the island. At that time, there were people who believed that the behavior even traveled to other monkeys on other islands. It’s not like one monkey emailed all the others, “wash the potatoes”. When a critical mass was reached, they all just knew how to do it.



3. Think independently : The Person who sweeps the floor should choose the broom.

Independence comes with knowing why you’re here. The enemy of life is indifference. There is no better feeling than being encouraged to fully use your abilities. You will find your work far more satisfying, and you’ll encourage that same satisfaction in others. Everybody wins.


4. Build trust : Care, like you really mean it.

Caring is not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of strength, and it can’t be faked – within an organization, with the people we serve, or in our local or global communities. When you start to close the door on anybody, the doors close on everybody. I’m not talking about your office door. When you begin to shun or reject one person, your care is compromised. The message gets out as if the slamming sound was on a voice mail broadcast from your office. We need to work at relationships and caring with all people.

Yes, leaders set caring in motion. When the doors close, when there’s fear, then out attention is on ourselves and not other people. But each of us has to practice the habits of caring the best we can. When you care about the others – your favourite people and the people that are harder for you to deal with – you can get through the stress and worry.



5. Listen for the truth : The Walls Talk

To handle yourself, use your head. To handle others, use your heart. Compassion is not a stance, but it is the simple responsiveness to circumstances from a place of selflessness. The emptier we are of self, the more responsive we are.

Think about what happens when somebody comes into your office with a problem – whether work or personal. The tendency is to want to solve it. But most of the time, people aren’t asking for help, they’re asking to be heard. And most of the time, you shouldn’t be solving the problem anyway. There’s a way to help people move through their concerns without owning them yourself.



6. Be accountable : Only the truth sounds like the truth.

No secrets, no lies of omission, no hedging and dodging. Take responsbility and say what needs to be said, with care and respect.


7. Take action : Think like a person of action, and act like a person of thought.

Find the sweet spot of passion, purpose and persistence. “It’s all about the people” isn’t an idea, its an action. Feel, do, think. Find the balance, but act. “I believe it is an immutable law in business that words are words, explanations are explanations, promises are promises – but only performance is reality … Only performance will give you the freedom to grow yourself.” – By Harold Geneen.



8. Face Challenge : We are human beings first

Use all the principles to guide you during the hardest times. If the challenge is too big, if you find yourself stuck, take smaller bites. But remember to put people first, and you’ll find the guidance you need.



9. Practice leadership : The Big Noise and the Still, Small voice

There is a chinese proverb, ” Big noise on stairs, nobody coming down,” captures the complexity of personal leadership. It tells us 3 things :

A. Noise is just noise. It doesn’t count for anything. You have to have substance.

B. It is the quieter voice, the voice of purpose, the voice of caring that matters.

C. Leaders are human beings like everyone else. Don’t forget your own humanity. Don’t forget the humanity of everyone around you.



10. Dare to dream : Say Yes, the most powerful word in the world.

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.



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