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  • Stephen Fowler

Avoid the Starbucks Fiasco. Create a "TRUE" Team Culture

Updated: Jun 9, 2018

It's not your father's idea of team building anymore. I use the picture of the ballerinas to illustrate an activity that depends on teamwork.


Did one Starbucks manager make the massive error that cost the company millions of dollars and more bad press than can be imagined?


What defines a team in your company? Is it a functional subgroup like a team responsible for installing certain parts on new cars? Is it servers, back servers and bus staff in a restaurant? Is it a pod of customer service representatives at a call center? If so, wouldn't the corporate culture and therefore customers, quality and profitability be improved if the team definition was expanded? In many instances the team should begin in the boardroom and extend all the way down to the janitorial staff. Rather than discuss how a team should be defined, however, today I would like to discuss intra-team interaction, associate nurturing and positive corporate culture shifts.


Today a successful company must promote a progressive culture when it comes to #diversity and inclusion as it relates to customers. Workplace ethics and equal opportunity laws demand the same as it relates to associates. But, how well are your teams trained to cope with a team member who's having a bad day? We can all imagine what that could be. Maybe one of our associates discovered that a child is desperately sick or has been informed by their spouse that they intend to pursue a divorce. The personal trauma can take many forms.


First, it must be okay for team members to express limitations. When I was an airline pilot I heard the following statement many times: "I have been on vacation for the last five weeks and I encourage everybody in the cockpit to keep an especially close watch on what I'm doing." By that simple admission our colleague helped his/her copilots to be especially watchful and he has set the tone that he is open to suggestions or coaching. Wouldn't it be great if all team members could be as candid?


Second, team members must be trained how to respectfully offer coaching or institute coping skills depending on how bad the situation. In the case of safety or quality (which may have safety considerations) all team members should be empowered to stop a process or interrupt a program without fear of retribution. That applies even if it turns out that such a drastic action was not actually needed. In the case of #Starbucks ANY other team member should have observed what was going on and suggested that the manager reconsider the action he or she was about to take.


Everybody has limitations....Everybody.


It is easy to look at the above sentence and think "Sure everyone has limitations but what does that have to do with team work?" That everyone has limitations is never in question. The question is "With how many unexpected limitations are my colleagues grappling?" Again back to the airline analogy: even as captain of the airplane when I sat down with a new copilot,after a personal introduction, I said "Nobody in this airplane is perfect and our job is to keep each other out of trouble and make this a safe flight for our passengers. If you see me about to do something dumb, say so and I will do the same for you." It is easy to see how that analogy could play out in almost any corporate setting for the benefit of everything and everyone.


In the film Invitation to the Dance, you are introduced to a group of special needs adults who are participating in experimental training. They are being given ballet training. When you observe their amazing accomplishments in the film you see how team work and creative ideas can be combined to produce extraordinary results. The factor to note is that the neuroatypical students have limitations that are predictable. In the case of our colleagues, we tend to know their strengths and weaknesses. The challenge for managers and team members is coping with valuable colleagues who are suffering an unexpected or temporary challenge.


The first step in conquering the potential disruption caused by an associate who is not at their best is to recognize that, as Carmen says, "Everyone has limitations...everyone!" . Invitation to the Dance is a warm way to bring your associates to the idea of being engaged in this concept. After using the film as an introduction to the concept of limitations and how to cope with them, you are able to open the door to more complicated scenarios. Specifically you can begin to explore coping strategies within the team to help troubled team members. Eventually every team member will have a bad day. Now is the time to create a culture that says " We will all have occasional bad days. We don't have to cope with those silently or alone. Our corporate culture is to nurture our associates' needs just a diligently as we do those of our customers."


For companies that still have a way to go before reaching that ideal culture shift I suggest the documentary film, Invitation to the Dance, as a good way to illustrate the challenges and benefits of unlikely teamwork.

To read more about how corporate culture can benefit from enhanced, redefined team work, diversity training and inclusion read our blog articles on the subjects. This is the overview and companion articles delve more into the details.

"Everybody has limitations...everybody"..Carmin-"Invitaiton to the Dance"

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