Leadership behaviors in “non-leaders” leads to organizational success.

Recently, I ate breakfast at the Starbucks on 86th in Johnston (Iowa) on my way to a leadership workshop with the Waukee High School Warrior Wrestling program.  As I drank my coffee and prepared the workshop, I would occasionally look off into space.  You know, to think.  But there was a display of funky-cool travel cups right in front of me, and I took a break to walk over and look at them more closely.  (Side note — I’ve been searching the world over for a travel mug that both retains heat very long and is dishwasher safe — if you find one, let me know.  Thanks.)

I picked one up to look at it more closely, and an employee appeared in front of me immediately.

“Do you have any questions about that?”

I didn’t really know what to say, so I took the friendly, yet smart-aleck, approach. “Um, well, does the lid snap on, like this, you know, like every other travel mug?”

She smiled; “I guess it does.”

“Well, then, I guess I’m pretty up-to-speed on it.”

“Cool.  If you need anything, I’ll be right over here.”  And she went back over by the register.

This low-key, but obvious, attentiveness is something I have noticed at this coffee shop before.  I like it.  The employees there meet needs.

I’m sure she knew that I am aware of travel mug basics.  She wanted me to be aware, however, that she was present and willing to help.  Most importantly, she made me feel like I mattered.

I wish all locally owned and operated coffee shops had the consistency of product quality and the near-perfect customer service of the Starbucks on 86th; if they did, I’d patronize them, as I prefer to support local business.

This isn’t a customer service anecdote, it’s a leadership behavior anecdote.  Ken Blanchard, famous for The One-Minute Manager, likes to talk about the great trifecta of the ideal business organization:

-Be the employer of choice.

-Be the investment of choice.

-Be the provider of choice.

It sure looks like the Starbucks on 86th has nailed this.  And it seems to be due, in large part, to every employee at every level acting as a servant leader; that is, meeting the needs of the people around them, both co-workers and customers.  This isn’t just good for customer service and retention (though it sure works on me!); it improves productivity and reduces turnover, just because people are happy at work knowing that they are supported, valued, and empowered.

If there’s a locally owned coffee shop in Des Moines with this kind of spirit, please let me know.  I’d love to check it out!

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