— Howard Behar, It's Not About the Coffee
I've always been fascinated by Starbucks' story and unique coffee experience. I really didn't participate in it for many years, but I observed how many of my friends and colleagues were drawn into it.
I wondered how it was possible to take something as mundane and commonly available everywhere as coffee and turn it into such a successful business and experience that people craved.
Howard Behar was not a familiar name to me, and I wasn't aware that he was associated with Starbucks. But one day, I found an article he had written on leadership that caught my attention.
I learned that Howard Behar, now retired, was the president of Starbucks during its most explosive period of growth when it grew from 15 to 15,000 locations worldwide.
After reading his book, It's Not About the Coffee, I decided that Howard was unlike any other leader of a big corporation that I had ever encountered, and he likely played a crucial role in the phenomenal success of Starbucks.
Here was a leader who clearly cared about people and seemed to be in tune with the characteristics that I felt were important for leaders to embody.
After interviewing Howard, I was convinced that his influence and leadership weighed heavily upon Starbucks' success.
Here are a few of my favorite quotes from my interview with him:
- "When there's trust, it's amazing how people can begin to use their own creativity because they lose that fear of being judged. They lose the fear of making mistakes."
- "It's that whole dynamic of letting them be, setting expectations, gaining agreement on those expectations, and letting them go for it."
- "What do people long for at work? Being treated as a human being and not an employee."
- "What's the gap between what we say we do and who we are, and what actually happens?"
But my favorite quote from Howard came from his book, It's Not About the Coffee:
Your job is to discover your truth.
Here is an excerpt from my interview with Howard on this point:
At 26, somebody asked me a question that seems like a throwaway question. I was in the furniture business at the time. My boss asked me, "Howard, what do you love more, people or furniture?"
I had grown up in the home furnishings industry, so I always thought I wanted to be the best in the home furnishings industry. I was confusing that with who I was. Once I asked myself that question, it began a process of self-discovery. Trying to figure out, "Howard, who are you?" "Do you love furniture?"
I concluded it wasn't furniture that I loved, but people that I loved. Now I love the creativity of furniture, and I enjoy working in that context. But I loved working with people, being with people, and learning from people.
And most importantly, learning to manage myself. Learning to figure out who I was, what my mission was, what my values were, and how I would live my life—that journey has never ended. It's constantly in my head. I'm always trying to deal with "Who am I?"
Read the preview of my interview with Howard at The Person Who Sweeps the Floor Chooses the Broom.
What did you find most intriguing?
I invite you to share what you found most intriguing in the comments (online) below.
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— Bill Fox, Founder, Space Beyond Boundaries