Onward by Howard Schultz (An Overview)

My first experience with Starbucks was when Debbie and I moved to Seattle in 1994. They had yet to start really expanding. If only I had bought stock in Starbucks back then!

Debbie became a coffee lover during our time in Seattle. It took me several years later, but it was also Starbucks that got me drinking coffee. I discovered this magical elixir called half & half which along with loads of sugar made coffee delicious. 🙂 For years I subscribed to the Beastie Boys preference which Ad-Rock described in the song “Intergalactic” as “I like my sugar with coffee and cream.” Since then, I’ve come to enjoy a latte or french press coffee on an almost daily basis.

Recently I picked up Onward: How Starbucks Fought For Its Life Without Losing Its Soul by CEO Howard Schultz. In the book, Schultz described the growth and decline and turnaround of Starbucks. I found a great deal of insights helpful for those of us in ministry or leading other organizations in need of a rebirth.

Here are some of his insights:

We had to return to our roots, but if that heritage wasn’t linked to a willingness to reinvent & innovate, then we would fail.

I wouldn’t cast blame for the mistakes of the past. But the #1 priority was to instill confidence in our future.

‘Historically it is times like these, times of disruption, where America seems 2 discover it’s greatness.’ – Bono at a Starbucks event after the 2008 economic crisis

Innovation is about rethinking the nature of relationships, not just rethinking products….

Innovation… Had to be relevant to our business, scalable, thoroughly tested, integrated across business channels, & embraced by our partners in Seattle & in our stores.

A new idea’s execution had to be as good as the idea itself…

Going against conventional wisdom is the foundation of innovation.

The best innovations sense & fulfill a need before others realize the need even exists, creating a new mindset.

‘A core capacity of leadership is the ability to make right decisions while flying blind, basing them on knowledge, wisdom, & the ability to stay wedded to an overriding goal.’ – lessons from Warren Bennis

I’ve never bought into the notion that there is a single recipe for successful leadership. But I do think effective leaders share two intertwined attributes: an an unbridled level of confidence about where their organizations are headed, and the ability to bring people along.

Starbucks is at its best when we lead, not follow, when we reinvent categories, create new rituals, & transform an industry.

Whether Starbucks stores could feel small as the company grew big, balancing efficiencies with romance, was a question people constantly asked me, and I was routinely criticized for daring to believe such a balance could be achieved.

‘We were spending too much of our time fixing moments, but not actually solving problems.’ – Kristen Driscoll Starbucks regional director

‘If this was your store, what would you do differently?’ If an answer is within the guardrails of Starbucks’ values, mission, and quality standards, I encourage them to do it.

Every enterprise and organization has a memory. And those memories create a path for people to follow…. the transformation was a brief but specific period in Starbucks’ history, and our memory of its collective lessons will inform our future. They are already informing my leadership:

Grow with discipline. Balance intuition with rigor. Innovate around the core. Don’t embrace the status quo. Find new ways to see. Never expect a silver bullet. Get your hands dirty. Listen with empathy and overcommunicate with transparency. Tell your story, refusing to let others define you. Use authentic experiences to inspire. Stick to your values, they are your foundation. Hold people accountable but give them the tools to succeed. Make the tough choices; it’s how you execute that counts. Be decisive in times of crisis. Be nimble. Find truth in trials and lessons in mistakes. Be responsible for what you see, hear, and do. Believe.

For an excerpt, reviews, or to purchase a copy, go here.

What lessons about turning an organization around have you discovered?

Free Consultation

If you're interested in a free 30-min consultation with me, simply fill out this form and I'll contact you!