Book Review: “It’s Not About the Coffee: Lessons on Putting People First from a Life at Starbucks” by Howard Behar and Janet Goldstein

Howard Behar presented his 10 principles extracted from the success in his many years of building Starbucks from its local root in Seatle into a global colossus it is now. Like many of the service companies (e.g. McDonald’s), Starbucks’ core competency is to train and retain the people and it must be ingrained into the culture itself in order to stick. It’s about the people and they happen to serve coffee.

There is nothing that’s earth shaking about the 10 principles the author practices and advocates we practice but they’re the real foundations to the true leadership. It’s easy said than done but Mr. Behar seems to walk the talk that contributed to his success at Starbucks. I see lots of similarities to this book, Everything I Know About Business I Learned at McDonald’s: The 7 Leadership Principles that Drive Break Out Success. They are all sound advises. What stands out for me is to wear one hat (Principle #1). It makes sense.

Here’s a summary of the 10 principles of personal leadership:
1. Know who you are: wear one hat. Be aware of your values, your hat. Make sure you’re pursuing what’s most important. Don’t be less than your true self. 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.

2. Know why you’re here: do it because it’s right not because it’s right for your resume. “People don’t work on work. They work on dreams.”

3. Think independently: The person who sweeps the floor should choose the broom. “People are not assets.” Get rid of rules and encourage independent thinking. This is a bit hard to believe for a service company that need to provide consistent services to customers globally. In a way, it’s empowerment.

4. Build trust: care, like you really mean it. “Love and trust are the universal motivators. And there is no trust without caring.” “Caring about people keeps you focused o what truly matters.” “People don’t care how much you know, they want to know how much you care.”

5. Listen for the truth: the walls talk. Use “compassion emptiness” – involves listening with compassion but without preconceived notions. Listening habbits: a. do it in person, b. listen for the meaning below the surface, c. let silence fill the heart, d. ask and you will hear, e. Make it safe for people to speak up, f. be responsive, g. give feedback, h. commit the time to gain alignment, i. Get to “flow”: communicate about the right things.

6. Be accountable: only the truth sounds like the truth – synonymous with accountability. No secrets, no lies of omission, no hedging and dodging. Take responsibility 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. Feel, do, think. Find the balance, but act.

8. Face challenge: we are human being first. Use all the principles to guide you during the hardest time. Remember to put people first, and you’ll find the guidance you need.

9. Practice leadership: the big noise and the still, small voice. Don’t let the noise crowd out the truth. Listen to your still small voice. Let quiet be your guide.

10. Dare to dream: say yes, the most powerful word in the world. Say yes, and enjoy all that your doing, and help others to do the same.