Wednesday, March 21, 2012

It's About the People. It's Always About the People.







Last 28 February 2012 brought us to the Asian Institute of Management Conference Center to listen to a former Starbucks Coffee International president give a talk about leadership. AIM, Starbucks, Asia Society... you'd think you were in for an afternoon of talking about innovative R&D, pushing global supply chain management, dominating the market...




But, no. This was something else. What we got was a man named Howard Behar who, although clad in a business suit, was pacing around the stage and chatting on like he was just having a casual conversation with the rest of the people in the room. 


This was a man who wore his heart on his sleeve. A man whose sincerity shone through. A man who was in front of us that day to tell us what he, as the former head of an internationally successful corporation, sees as the most important principles of leadership.


What did he have to say?


To the people on top - it's not about the title on the card. Your card can say CEO or Vice President, but that's not who you are. You are a human being. Nothing more, nothing less. Just a human being trying to achieve something an serve other people.


When it comes to managing your company - it's not about maximization. He makes the distinction between "maximization" an "optimization". Maximization, he explains, connotes using your people as though they were machines, squeezing as much as you can out of them. Optimization, however, takes the people into consideration and treats them as stakeholders.


Sounds like it's a play on words? Well, if you read Behar's book, you'll understand this point of view better. It is actually linked to a very specific vision in his mind of what the worker-workplace-success equation:


"When someone brings their passion to work, and it is aligned with the work of the organization, success is the natural outcome."


The two most importance principles


1. Wear One Hat
That hat that defines us as human beings.


Essentially, it means that as a leader, you need to know who you are, know what you stand for, and then host true to that no matter what.


2. The person who sweeps the floor should choose the broom
When it comes to dealing with your people, honor the expertise that they have. Trust them to know their job, and to know the tools that they would need to do their job well.




Want to know more? 
Here's my post about the book It's Not About the Coffee: Leadership Principles from a Life at Starbucks. 


Here is Howard Behar's website about the book. You can also check out the Starbucks Philippines website and a Facebook.


Here's an article about Howard Behar's visit to Manila on the Asia Society website. The Asia Society is also on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Youtube.

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