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The Midweek Motivator – Are You A Transformational Leader?

How many “transformational leaders” can you name? Better yet, have you worked for any? And while you’re thinking about it, how many “cult brands” can you name? Once past Apple, Nike, Harley Davidson, and Starbucks it’s a challenge; mainly because to do something incredibly well, you simply can’t do it for everyone. Could these concepts be worth circulating within your management ranks?

Much has been written about the Seattle-based Coffee icon, yet relatively few on the outside can explain why on any given day untold masses line up to pay $3.00 to $5.00 for an exotic coffee or tea configuration. Ironically, perhaps the best analysis comes with a basic observation: “To do something incredibly well, you simply can’t do it for everyone”. This simple-but-eminent truth while easy to quote has become ever more evasive across the spectrum of American enterprise, including broadcasting.

To appreciate Starbucks we should peak behind the curtain of the company’s culture. Two glaring principles rise to realization: first, Starbucks’ “partners” (their genuine portrayal for what most of us would call “the help”) are cultured into a belief that says, “There is no customer request within our coffee identity we can’t, or at the very least, attempt to fulfill!”

Within our Radio culture through no fault of our talent, too many are captive to stereotyped format mechanics and dated company tactics; many of which simply don’t work in today’s “entertain me or else” audience environment.

Regardless of time, title, or rank, Starbucks has never wavered from its original mission-statement expressly designed for its employees: “You ARE the company, you ARE important, and we will never promote someone from the outside, before we promote YOU!” Note to self: “So, after all, it really IS our people that are the organization!”

And with these values in play, Starbucks is only getting started. They say each employee gets an appealing 401K, medical and dental plan, relocation transfer requests and comprehensive training that only a few Fortune 500 companies would have the patience and resources to perfect and sustain.

Starbucks’ unrivaled business model never stops innovating for zillions of eager customers; in an airport, conventional retail malls and shopping areas; even in least-expected locations such as Seattle’s Harbor where Starbucks’ floating coffee-tender service is available to vessels of all shapes and sizes. 

Every company experiences turnover; yet in Starbucks’ culture, great effort goes toward minimizing employee attrition.

To business psychologists, Starbucks’ employees appear happier and far more engaged compared to throngs of disenchanted workers in other fields. And within Starbucks’ “cult brand” where success appears never-ending, life truly seems good to the last drop. Could our profession learn from Starbucks?