BOTH SIDES OF THE COIN: Do the Right Thing

On the afternoon of May 29th, you won’t be able to get that late afternoon pick-me-up from your local Starbucks. That’s because the company will close its more than 8,000 stores to conduct racial bias education. This decision comes on the heels of the highly publicized arrest of two black men waiting for a business meeting in a Philadelphia area Starbucks earlier this month.

The training is a wise move on the part of the popular chain. But the action of the company’s leader is what I want to talk about. Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson made headlines when he took personal responsibility for the April 12th incident. Now, his reaction is making waves in the business world. Let’s look at how his response can guide you and your organization the next time you face a crisis.

For Management

  1. Start with yourself. Kevin Johnson wasn’t there when the store employee in Pennsylvania called the police, but he took personal responsibility and vowed to make changes going forward. In a culture that makes passing the blame an art form, this move can have a real impact on both public perception of your organization as well as company morale.
  2. Don’t sit on it. Within the first 48 hours of the incident, Johnson had taken personal responsibility, pledged to take action, and then flew to Philadelphia to personally meet with the two gentlemen. Prompt attention to matters, particularly public ones, shows your employees, investors, and customers that you care.
  3. Make changes. Once you make a pledge to take action, actually follow through. Starbucks has solicited help from prominent civil liberties organizations to make sure their training is done right. This partnership makes their plans more official and shows the public they mean business.

For Employees

  1. Be a team player. By the end of May, 175,000 Starbucks employees will have come together to learn about unconscious bias. Collectively, they have the opportunity to evoke real change. When a crisis hits, be willing to step up and participate in the solution. Take a close look at your own department and see where improvements can and should be made.
  2. Learn from others. You don’t have to be a CEO to learn from Kevin Johnson’s story. From entry-level positions to the C-suite, adopt a willingness to make things right whatever the cost to take your organization further.
  3. If it’s not right, move on. Are you dissatisfied with the way your company handles problems? Does your superior neglect issues that affect others or typically pass the blame? If you’ve done what you can, and still feel frustrated, perhaps its time to move on to a company that puts more emphasis on doing what’s right.

While no one likes a crisis, addressing it properly can mean the difference between a permanent scar or a much stronger organization.

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