What’s Your Pillar?
It’s so easy to lose yourself amidst the torrent of opinions out there. People aren’t shy about telling you what you “should” do, or “should” think. And it’s great to get multiple perspectives to consider and ideas to try, but how do you hold steady to what you know to be true for yourself or for your organization, in the eye of the storm?
The truth is, unless you know what you stand for, you can’t.
In 2008 Starbucks’ stock was falling. Fast. Howard Shultz had just returned and was under enormous pressure from the shareholders to turn things around. Starbucks’ comprehensive health coverage was under fire by one of their biggest investors, and he was insisting that the timing was ideal to cut the $250 million program. Other companies were doing it, so why shouldn’t they? Surely it was justified. Shultz responded with such clarity. The essence of their brand, he explained, is humanity. Their culture was built around two primary benefits: providing health coverage and stock options to anyone who works 20+ hours a week. And Shultz held so firmly to those beliefs that he went so far as to say, “…if you believe the financial crisis should change our principles and core purpose, perhaps you should sell your stock. I’m not building a stock. I’m trying to build an enduring company. We are a performance-driven organization, but we have to lead the company through the lens of humanity.”
Every time I think about this example, I get goosebumps. Such unwavering clarity and courage.
Now most of us aren’t in the position to make decisions between a $250 million program and our principles, but we do make choices all the time about our actions. We get so focused on getting fast results these days. “Do whatever it takes!” becomes our mantra. We’re out of a job, we take the first one that comes down the pike. We sell to whomever will buy. We rarely ask the question, “Is this what I really want? Is it right for me?”
And in our organizations, we cut people and resources and stop spending on culture and development. It’s all about increasing revenue and decreasing costs. And it makes perfect sense if we’re aiming to hit big results on someone’s spreadsheet.
In 2008 Starbucks’ stock was at $20.14/share. Today it’s at $70.36. What makes the most sense?
Consider that the great results we’re aiming for are simply a bi-product. That the reason that Starbucks’ has done so well, is that they’ve created a company that people believe in and want to be a part of building. That their leadership brings unwavering clarity around what they stand for as an organization and they’ve courageously held on to that pillar of truth in the face of some mighty winds.
What if we were to do the same. To bring clarity about what we stand for as an individual and let that inform our actions? To have “what we stand for” be the pillar that grounds us when we make decisions?
Because when storms of change toss you about, and you’re being pushed this way and that by the hot air of opinion, you gotta hold tight to something.
Do you know what you stand for?
©OnStage Leadership, 2013
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