Regardless of the size of your company, there is a right way and a wrong way to lead your team. Make sure you know the difference.

By Steve Moran

If you are a reader, you know I have a speech coach I have been working with. She has some hard and fast rules about companies you should never talk about and stories you should never tell. Mostly it is because they are so shop worn. At the top of the list is Starbucks.  

And yet here I am, compelled to talk about Howard Schultz and Starbucks.

One of the gazillions of post-Trump victory stories comes from Fortune Magazine about Howard Schultz’s “Dear Partners Letter” to Starbucks team members about the stunning Trump victory.

Content Unimportant – But Context

Only for purposes of providing context, Schultz, a big Hillary supporter, sent a letter to every Starbucks employee that makes the following points:

  • I am stunned
  • I am hopeful that we will overcome the vitriol and division of this unprecedented election season
  • We must honor the democratic process
  • We can choose to answer the challenges of the day with kindness and compassion
  • Today, I trust you, and I trust all that is good in our country
  • Let’s take care of each other and the people in our lives
  • Together is where our collective power lies, as partners, and as Americans
  • I am so very proud to be your partner

The Big Lesson

Starbucks has close to 210,000 employees and yet, Schultz writes this letter as if he is addressing each employee individually. He lays bare his heart. He is hopeful. He is forward looking.

He has created an amazing powerful, crazy, cool brand. He has created a culture where most of his two hundred thousand employees feel like they know him — even though virtually all will never even be in the same state he is in. He communicates in a transparent, vulnerable fashion that makes him feel trustworthy and likable.     

He shares his heart and even talks about mistakes — all of which works well together — allowing him to build this incredible bond of trust. In a very real sense, he gives the impression that he is just like his team members.

Big Senior Living

I have had countless discussions about “how big is too big” and there is a sense that Brookdale is over that number. I am far from believing this to be true. I think running 1,000 buildings and creating an amazing culture is possible. It takes this kind of power and charisma to pull it off.

It is easier for some leaders than others, but the reality is that we all want to like our bosses and our companies. We like them better when they try things that don’t work, then talk about them. We like them better when we share our hearts in hopeful lessons and learned ways. All leaders can do this.

The Wrong Way

It is possible to share your heart in the wrong way. Still looking at the political backlash, Matt Maloney, CEO of Grubhub, sent a memo to every single employee saying If you supported Trump, quit working here.” Yep, he is sharing what is in his heart, and it might even endear him to some percentage of his team members.  

However, on the downside, he may lose some valuable team members. More likely though, he has created an environment where team members can’t trust him. Even if you agree with his politics, sentiment, and anger . . . is that really the kind of boss you want to work for?

Everyday we have the great privilege of building up teams, tearing them down or leaving them the same. There is no doubt that building them up is way better than the other two.