Category Archives: successful companies


Starbucks’ President Reveals 6 Leadership Traits That Led to His Success

Howard Behar is former president of Starbucks Coffee Company International and the author of It’s Not About The Coffee and The Magic Cup. During his tenure, he helped grow the company from 28 stores to over 15,000 stores spanning five continents. He retired in 2007. He now dedicates a large part of his time to the development and education of future leaders and has been a longtime advocate of Servant Leadership. Writing for Inc, Marcel Schwantes, Principal and founder, Leadership From the Core, takes a look at an interview; with Bill Fox, co-founder of Container13 and editor of Forward-Thinking Workplaces™, Behar talks about the virtuous behaviors and mindset that guided him throughout his successful 21-year tenure manning the ship at Starbucks.

Six key (and often rare) principles for better leadership and a better life clearly stood out for me in this compelling interview.

1. Give your people room to make mistakes.

Behar was asked by Fox how more companies are able to create workplaces where employees’ voices matter and people thrive. He says, “The person who sweeps the floor chooses the broom.”

Behar is talking about giving a person in a specific role or function full authority, responsibility, and accountability to do their work. “You’ve got to give them room to make mistakes and to grow primarily as people first, and then as employees,” says Behar.

2. Remove fear with trust.

The freedom for employees to make mistakes can only occur with a strong foundation of trust in place. That’s where “people can begin to use their creativity because they lose that fear of being judged. They lose the fear of making mistakes,” says Behar.

In trustworthy settings, you’ll naturally find that people genuinely care about and encourage one another. But it starts with leaders setting the stage — giving their people responsibility and accountability to let them “choose their broom,” says Behar.

3. Serve one another.

“You know it’s not really employees and customers. That’s a word we all use to describe with [whom] we work and do business,” says Behar.

At the end of the day, what we’re really put on earth to do is serve another human being. Behar states, “It doesn’t make any difference what your job description is or what your title is; we’re all servers of human beings.”

4. Set expectations and get agreement.

When asked about what it takes to get an employee’s best performance, Behar believes that open and honest communication–lots of it–is critical for success. But it’s not just communicating. It’s setting clear expectations and getting agreement on those expectations that gets the employee’s full attention. It’s a feeling people get when they are trusted with responsibility and accountability.

Behar uses the example of family dynamics: “What allows your kids to give you their attention? It’s when they feel trusted and not judged,” says Behar. “When that happens, they open up to communication that gets closed down when they’re not. When you’re constantly after them, when you’re always setting rules and regulations then what happens? They close down” says Behar.

Behar says the same is true with workplace dynamics. Set clear expectations, gain agreement on those expectations, and “let them go for it.”

5. Treat people more like human beings, less like mere employees.

Behar was asked what people really lack and long for at work. He says, “Being treated with respect and dignity. Being dealt with as a human being and not an employee.”

In workplaces where people model and share common values like respect and dignity, there’s acceptance of one another: “People are allowed to be themselves at work, whatever that is — within the context of achieving the goals of the organization,” says Behar.

Leaders who respect and treat people with dignity also support their development as human beings. When Fox asked Behar what is the most important question a leader should be asking an employee, Behar replied, “What can I do to support you in the attainment of your own goals in the context of obtaining our family or our organization’s goals?”

6. Discover the truth of who you are.

Reflecting back on his professional journey, Behar shared a story of his own compelling self-discovery. At 26, he really didn’t know whom he was, what his values were, what he stood for, or what he wanted to accomplish in life.

Working at a furniture company at the time, his boss asked, “Howard, what do you love more — people or furniture?”

That hit him like a Mike Tyson punch to the gut. Being that he wanted to be the best in the home furnishings industry, for the first time Behar was confused about his true purpose in life.

He says, “Once I asked myself that question, it began a process of self-discovery. Trying to figure out, ‘Howard, who are you?’ ‘Do you love furniture?’”

He concluded that it wasn’t furniture that he loved, but people — working with people, being with people, and learning from people.

And most importantly, he says, “learning to manage me.”

As a servant-leader, the question of “who am I?” has been a lifelong journey of self-discovery for Behar. He says that he is still figuring out his mission and how he’s going to live his life.

“It’s constantly in my head. I’m always trying to deal with, ‘Who am I?’” says Behar.

Read the full interview.


Christian Faith Plus Chinese Productivity

At first glance, it looks as though it could be any other factory driving the rapid development of the Chinese economy. But this is no ordinary enterprise because here religious faith is as important as profit.

In fact, the owner of the Boteli Valve Group in Wenzhou would like to see all his staff convert to Christianity.

And such a factory is not a one-off: it is part of a growing number of businesses run by Christian entrepreneurs in one of China’s key enterprise zones, whose success is now being studied by the Chinese government.

As he shows me the production facilities, the factory’s general manager, Weng-Jen Wau, tells me that every month, $5m (£3m) worth of industrial valves are manufactured.

About 40% of the factory’s output is exported to businesses worldwide.

But he seems to have limited interest in the sales figures – he is far more concerned to tell me about the place his family’s Christian faith has in the life of the factory.

‘Better workers’

Every Monday morning, the senior managers gather together and pray about the business.

Once a week, members of staff are encouraged to attend an on-site Christian fellowship meeting, where they read the Bible and pray for each other.

Weng-Jen Wau believes that by encouraging increasing numbers of his staff to convert to Christianity, his business will prosper.

And he tells me that when staff do convert to Christianity, their attitude towards their work is transformed.

“If you’re a Christian you’re more honest, with a better heart,” he says. “The people who aren’t Christians aren’t responsible. I think it’s very different.

“I’m not saying those people who aren’t Christians are all bad, but from the percentage of the workers who are Christians, they seem to be more responsible.

“Also when they do things wrong, they feel guilty – that’s the difference,” he explains.

One of the workers I met who had recently converted to Christianity explained that he had known nothing about the religion before he started work at the factory.

BBC map

But he said that his new-found faith was now a source of daily inspiration.

He told me that he was now trying to convert his friends and colleagues to Christianity.

“If everybody became a Christian, it would have a very big impact, and would really help the development of our factory,” he said.

Work ethic

So I asked Mr Wau how much religion was a factor when he was recruiting new staff.

“Of course I would choose the Christians first, definitely,” he said.

Such comments could prompt accusations of discriminatory practice in some countries, but he had no doubt about the sort of impact Christianity could have on Chinese business.

“I think if all enterprises absorb this Christian culture, we will have a much more harmonious society,” he said.

There are obvious questions about whether the staff really have discovered Christianity, or whether they are simply responding pragmatically to a clearly defined vision for their company.

Those I met were keen to stress the significance of their new faith, and the lack of pressure to convert – though there was no disguising their bosses’ clear desire to boost Christian numbers in the workforce.

But the wider role of Christian entrepreneurs in the economic success of the Wenzhou private enterprise zone has not gone unnoticed by the Chinese government.

Far from being regarded as a religious oddity, the impact of Christian-run businesses is now being studied by Chinese government officials.

At the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, I met Professor Zhuo Xinping, Director of the Institute of World Religions.

He specialises in the study of Christianity’s growing influence in China – and has plenty to say about Wenzhou’s Christian entrepreneurs.

He tells me that the city was visited by substantial numbers of Western Christian missionaries during the 19th Century and thus has – by Chinese standards – a long history of Christian faith.

Today it has an unusually high number of Christians for a Chinese city – with some estimates suggesting Christians now make up 20% of the population.

But what really interests him is the way in which the growth of Christianity and economic prosperity have happened side by side.

The Boteli Valve Group in Wenzhou, China
Image captionThe factory has a monthly output worth $5m

He tells me that Chinese researchers are considering whether in Western history there is a link between economic prosperity and Protestant Christianity – and they are questioning what that might mean for today’s China.

“It’s very important to find the secret of social development, the so-called potential forces for a nation,” he says.

“When it comes to Western countries, the majority Chinese understanding is that this potential force is Protestant Christianity.”

Christian faith may sound like an unlikely component in China’s future economic success.

But the notion that newfound faith can inspire a workforce to increased levels of productivity is being taken seriously not only by Christian businessmen, but by China’s Communist – and officially atheist – leaders

What Would the World Be Like if We All Loved Our Jobs?

When you wake up in the morning, are you filled with excitement about the prospect of a new day at work, or do you dread the thought of having to make it through yet another day of drudgery? A great question which we will often answer in the negative! But what would it be like in the positive? Asked and answered by one of Inc’s finest, author and futurist Jacob Morgan @JacobM.

What Would the World Be Like if We All Loved Our Jobs?

If you’re like much of the population, you fall into the latter category and disdain going to work. Surveys have found that only 13% of people around the world actually like going to work–an astoundingly low number.

Low employee engagement can lead to a number of problems, including low office morale, physical ailments, and emotional disorders. Employees who don’t like their jobs, especially when they work together, tend to feed off each other, which can cause distress in many other areas of an employee’s life and lead to more sickness and familial problems.

What would the world be like if we all loved our jobs? Think of the power of that question. To start, the emotional and physical problems from having to spend hours a day in an unsupportive environment would go away or be mitigated. People would likely be much happier and spread that happiness to their personal lives. Think of the potential of what problems society could work together to overcome. With a world of engaged employees who are excited about what they are doing, we could solve some of the world’s biggest problems and bring people together in new ways.

There are a number of reasons people dread going to work: it could be that the work itself isn’t challenging or engaging, the management is difficult to work with, the pay and benefits are lower than the employee would want, co-workers are difficult, the culture isn’t a good match, and many other reasons. And while we may not be able to create a world where every single person loves his or her job, each company can work towards creating that environment in their own office. Imagine what could happen with a full team of engaged and passionate employees–goals and success would likely be higher than ever. Every person deserves to work for an organization that they feel deserves their time and attention to be there.

In order to create this ideal environment, management needs to be on the same page with employees. The right to love your job doesn’t arrive once you hit a certain level or get a promotion–employees at all levels should be excited to come to work. Start a dialogue with honest conversations about what employees like and dislike about their work environment. For some organizations, this happens through town hall meetings or performance reviews, while others use anonymous surveys. Those results can point leadership in the starting direction. If a majority of employees feel unengaged because of the physical office space, management knows that one of its first steps should be reevaluating the office and perhaps creating something that better meets the needs of employees.

Creating an engaged environment isn’t a one-time thing, however. The best companies keep the conversation going and involve employees in the entire process. Constantly asking employees about their ideas for the future and their thoughts on the progress of the company gives leaders at all levels a metric of how their efforts are playing out. Being flexible and listening to employee feedback creates a cohesive environment where people are happy, engaged, and productive.

Everyone around the world deserves to wake up excited to go to work, but unfortunately that doesn’t always happen. While we can’t control what is happening other places, we can focus on what we can control: our own attitudes and the environment in our organization. By putting a bigger emphasis on employee happiness and engagement, organisations can reach new levels of productivity and success.


Here’s how Top Leaders Gain Faster Results, Deeper Relationships, and a Stronger Bottom Line.


  • Among all the attributes of the greatest leaders of our time, one stands above the rest: They are all highly trusted. You can have a compelling vision, rock-solid strategy, excellent communication skills, innovative insight, and a skilled team, but if people don’t trust you, you will never get the results you want. Leaders who inspire trust garner better output, morale, retention, innovation, loyalty, and revenue, while mistrust fosters scepticism, frustration, low productivity, lost sales, and turnover. Trust affects a leader’s impact and the company’s bottom line more than any other single thing. One of the biggest mistakes a leader can make is to assume that others trust him simply by virtue of his title. Trust is not a benefit that comes packaged with the nameplate on your door. It must be earned, and it takes time. As a leader, you are trusted only to the degree that people believe in your ability, consistency, integrity, and commitment to deliver. The good news is that you can earn trust over time, by building and maintaining eight key strengths:
  • CLARITY: People trust the clear and mistrust or distrust the ambiguous. Be clear about your mission, purpose, expectations, and daily activities. When a leader is clear about expectations, she will likely get what she wants. When we are clear about priorities on a daily basis, we become productive and effective.
  • COMPASSION: People put faith in those who care beyond themselves. Think beyond yourself, and never underestimate the power of sincerely caring about another person. People are often sceptical about whether someone really has their best interests in mind. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is not just an old saying. It is a bottom-line truth. Follow it, and you will build trust.
  • CHARACTER: People notice those who do what is right ahead of what is easy. Leaders who have built this pillar consistently do what needs to be done when it needs to be done, whether they feet like doing it or not. It is the work of life to do what is right rather than what is easy.
  • CONTRIBUTION: Few things build trust quicker than actual results. At the end of the day, people need to see outcomes. You can have compassion and character, but without the results you promised, people won’t trust you. Be a contributor who delivers real results.
  • COMPETENCY: People have confidence in those who stay fresh, relevant, and capable. The humble and teachable person keeps learning new ways of doing things and stays current on ideas and trends. According to one study, the key competency of a successful new MBA is not a specific skill but rather the ability to learn amid chaos. Arrogance and a “been there done that” attitude prevent you from growing, and they compromise others’ confidence in you. There is always more to learn, so make a habit of reading, learning, and listening to fresh information.
  • CONNECTION: People want to follow, buy from, and be around friends—and having friends is all about building connections. Trust is all about relationships, and relationships are Page 8 best built by establishing genuine connection. Ask questions, listen, and above all, show gratitude—it’s the primary trait of truly talented connectors. Grateful people are not entitled, they do not complain, and they do not gossip. Develop the trait of gratitude, and you will be a magnet.
  • COMMITMENT: People believe in those who stand through adversity. People trusted Jesus, General Patton, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mohandas Gandhi, and George Washington because they saw commitment and sacrifice for the greater good. Commitment builds trust.
  • CONSISTENCY: In every area of life, it’s the little things—done consistently— that make the big difference. If I am overweight, it is because I have eaten too many calories over time, not because I ate too much yesterday. It is the same in business. The little things done consistently make for a higher level of trust and better results. The great leaders consistently do the small but most important things first. They make that call and write that thank you note. Do the little things, consistently. Trust can’t be built overnight. It requires time, effort, diligence, and character. Inspiring trust is not slick or easy to fake. Trust is like a forest. It takes a long time to grow and can burn down with a just touch of carelessness. But if you focus on these eight components with every action, you will foster trusted relationships—whether with employees, customers, suppliers, or fellow leaders—that will drive results and the bottom line.

This article is by David Horsager, author of The Trust Edge



If you’ve been following Marcel Schwantes, Principal and founder, Leadership From the Core (@MarcelSchwantes) for a while, you’ll have noticed humility is one of his favorite leadership traits to write about; This time for Inc.

But because this word has different effects on different people, it’s often misunderstood. Some interpret it as having a lack of self-confidence or being timid–traits too soft to survive in the harshness of business life. Far from the truth.

The word first struck me in the context of leadership when Jim Collins mentioned it in his seminal book Good to Great.

Collins examined 1,435 “good” companies, and out of the masses he discovered 11 unique companies that became “great.” The insanely successful leaders at those 11 companies were known for directing their ego away from themselves to the larger goal of leading their company to greatness.

Collins found these leaders had a paradoxical mix of intense professional will and extreme personal humility. They are described as modest, with a determination to create results by shifting the focus away from themselves and continually recognizing the contributions of others.

Bruna Martinuzzi, president of Clarion Enterprises and author of The Leader as a Mensch: Become the Kind of Person Others Want to Follow, observes these five habits in leaders who practice humility:

1. Stop talking.

Allow the other person to be in the limelight. There is something very liberating in this strategy.

2. Three magical words.

Use these words for better results than a week’s worth of executive coaching with me (or anyone else, for that matter): “You are right.”

3. Catch yourself.

If you slip into preaching or telling others what to do without permission, think again. Is imposing your point of view overtaking discretion? Is your correction of others reflective of your own needs?

4. Seek input from peers.

Wondering how you are doing on your leadership path? Ask. It takes humility to say “How am I doing?” And even more humility to consider the answer.

5. Set an example.

There’s no better way to encourage the practice of humility in your circle than by practicing it yourself. Every time you share credit for successes with others, you reinforce the ethos.

Parting thoughts.

Interesting things happen when we apply the humble approach. It opens us up to possibilities. We choose open-mindedness and curiosity over protecting our point of view. We become more willing to learn from what others have to offer. We forget about being perfect and better enjoy being in the moment. It also improves relationships, reduces anxiety, and enhances one’s self-confidence.

There’s clear competitive advantage in mastering humility.