Thatcher clasped his hands and lifted them high above his head, taking a deep breath while doing so. When he finished, he placed his hands back down on the table and said, “Okay, I am sure you all have a ton of questions, and I promise I will take the time to answer every one of them as fully as possible. But, before I do that, I would like to share my core belief. I think that will provide a nice framework for our future discussions and will also help you understand me and my interest in this business. How does that sound?” Everyone nodded, so Thatcher continued.
“I believe that it is people who grow organizations, and successful organizations are focused on helping people grow. Sounds weird, huh?” Again, the group nodded. “Well”, Thatcher said, “before I go any further, let me share that I am really passionate about this. So, at times I can seem a bit preachy. That is not how I want this to go. If I get too high up on my soapbox, let me know. Also, I want you all to feel free to ask questions or disagree with what I say. I want us to have a discussion as it’s not my intent to lecture. Any questions about what I have said thus far?” Eric raised his hand and was greeted by a soft chuckle from Thatcher. “Eric, no need to raise your hand, we are just having a conversation. Lay it on me.” Eric smiled and felt slightly embarrassed. “I agree that it is all about people. But, when you say that successful organizations help people grow, what people are you referring to, employees?” Thatcher smiled, “Great question. Yes, but more than just employees, successful organizations help to grow everyone that the company comes in contact with. This includes not only employees, but vendors, customers, and their communities.”
“I believe that it is people who grow organizations, and successful organizations are focused on helping people grow".
Don spoke up, “It sounds pretty idealistic to me.” “Yeah, maybe”, Thatcher agreed, “but it is good for business, and if you look at companies that are thriving, you’ll find that most have this symbiotic relationship.” “Can you give me an example?”, Don asked. At first, Eric thought that Don was being his normal contrarian self, but he actually seemed interested. “You bet” Thatcher offered. “Let me start with an obvious one, Starbucks. There has been a lot written about what they do to help their employees grow. They offer medical benefits for part-time workers, tuition support for those wanting to go to college and provide a career path for those wanting to grow within the organization. With vendors, they are focused on ethical sourcing, by ensuring up and down their supply chain that they are supporting the triple bottom line. They work with suppliers to ensure financial, social and environmental sustainability.” Gail asked, “What do they do to grow their customers and their communities?” “Another great question.”, Thatcher replied appreciatively. “One of the early goals of Starbucks was to create a third space. A place between work and home where people could gather. Not only to be social but to work, collaborate or just relax. To a distributed workforce, Starbucks has replaced the office as a place to work, be social, and of course, get highly caffeinated.” Thatcher laughed. “They also support the communities in which they do business, whether it’s through charitable work or just simple things like providing a bulletin board and offering coffee grounds for community gardens.”
“Starbucks hasn’t always been perfect.”, Eric offered. “Far from it.”, said Thatcher. “There was a time around the Great Recession, where Starbucks was really struggling. In my opinion, it had little to do with the economy. Howard Schultz had resigned a few years before as CEO, and I think they lost sight of working to help people grow. They got focused on selling products instead of creating experiences. They grew too quickly, introduced drive-thru-only locations, and just lost their way. Schultz saw it happening and wound up reinstalling himself as CEO. He quickly got the company refocused, and since that time, I think it is safe to say they are thriving.”
“Okay, I am going to step up on my soapbox for just a minute. This principle works, not only for Starbucks but for every type of organization. Non-profit, public, private, every type. If we agree that it is, in fact, people that grow organizations, it just makes sense that organizations who thrive do so because they are focused on helping people grow. That is the type of organization we are going to be, and together we are going to work on the strategy to do just that. Can I get an amen?” “Amen,” said the group followed by a few laughs, although Eric noticed that not everyone seemed as convinced as he was.
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Elliot Begoun is the Principal of The Intertwine Group. His articles appear in publications such as the Huffington Post, SmartBrief, and Linked2Leadership. He serves as a thinking partner, providing clients with the clarity, focus, and tools needed to make good people and product decisions. He helps clients build lasting relationships with their customers, develop leaders who make others feel heard, cared for, valued and respected, and most importantly grow.