starbucks 2Starbucks and their CEO, Howard Schultz, stirred things up (maybe a little more decaf would help) with the idea baristas should enter into a discussion with customers regarding race relations.

He announced it with full-page ads this week in the New York Times and USA Today.

Is this a smart or stupid move for a CEO to make?

I say it’s stupid — not the issue of race relations, which is definitely an issue worthy of discussion — but rather it’s stupid because of the platform.



Businesses are in business to provide a service for which consumers will pay.  Shareholders invest in a business they believe will generate a return on their investment.

Yes, Howard Schultz is the founder of the company and the major driver for its success, but does that give him the right to make a move like this?


My challenge from a business perspective is it winds up becoming a very divisive issue that potentially becomes bigger than the brand, thus disrupting sales.

Are they getting a lot of publicity from the move?  Yes, but do they need the publicity and is it beneficial publicity?  My answer to both of those questions is no.

Leadership is all about helping other people see and achieve things they didn’t think were possible.

Is Howard Shultz meeting that criteria with his initiative of having baristas discuss race relations?  Yes, but does that make it a smart move as the CEO, Chairman of Starbucks?  No, the privilege of leadership still comes with boundaries.

My question is, “Who are those advising Howard Schultz?  Where are the board members, his key staff, etc?”

I can’t believe there would not be those around him who were not concerned about his idea.   To me this means Howard Schultz is forgetting another key tenant of being a leader and that is being open and receptive to other opinions.

To those who say leaders can’t be afraid of controversy, I get it.

But at the same time, leaders have to understand their role with those they lead.  Howard has 4 major constituencies he serves — employees, customers, shareholders, and suppliers.   This is where I believe he made a major mistake.

Leadership is maximizing the opportunities of those you are privileged to lead.  Leadership is not about trying to hijack your current responsibilities for your personal benefit.  If you ask me, that is the definition of a politician.

(Note to Howard…drink more decaf!)

Copyright 2015, Mark Hunter “The Sales Hunter.” Sales Motivation Blog. Mark Hunter is the author of High-Profit Selling: Win the Sale Without Compromising on Price.

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