A Perfect Shot of Espresso

Authorship.  It is one of the greatest gifts you can give an employee.  The sense of ownership in the craft of work.  It is responsibility. They own a process, from beginning to end if possible, or at least they own a significant part. Yet always something tangible and recognizable.

I was first introduced to this concept of Authorship in a book I read nearly 20 years ago, Leading With Soul by Lee Bolman and Terrence Deal.  This book is a contemporary parable telling the story on one leader’s journey.  It is now in its 4th addition.

Fast forward to today. I am reading Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul. This is the story of how Howard Schultz returned to day-to-day operations to get Starbucks back on track in 2008.  Growth and rapid expansion was hurting the product, which always started with a great cup of coffee and the perfect shot of espresso.

It was time to get back to basics. As such in February 2008 all 7,100 domestic Starbucks closed for retraining. The focus was how to pour the proper espresso.  Gone will be the days of an assembly line with one person frothing milk only for it to sit too long before the next Batista added it to their shot of espresso. No one person really owning the cup handed to the customer.

The message of the video training was clear … pouring a proper espresso is art and science. Each barista needs to own every shot they pour.  If not right, throw it out and start over.  Same for the milk you prepare and only when you are ready.

The President and CEO of Starbucks through this video demonstration, was reintroducing his partners in coffee shops wide and far, to the gift or authorship.

Howard Schultz finished his video talk (unscripted as he recalls it) with these words that clearly speak to authorship.

“It is not about the company or about the brand.  It is not about anyone but you.  You decide whether or not it is good enough, and you have my complete support and, most importantly, my faith and belief in you. Let’s measure our actions by that perfect shot of espresso.”

These days I need walk no further than to the Starbucks down the street for a reminder on the importance of authorship for leaders.  A reminder crafted into my morning cappuccino.

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