“Hey Sally. I took the kids to King Cone this weekend, but didn’t see you there,” I said to one of my favorite Starbucks’ baristas, who also happens to work at the ice cream shop across the street.
“Oh, I wasn’t working there this weekend,” she answered.
“It was crazy over there — just a bunch of high school kids behind the counter struggling to keep up with all the customers,” I said.
“And I bet the manager was nowhere in sight?” Sally asked.
“I didn’t see her,” I said.
“Well, she was probably down the street at the old store just watching them lose their minds,” she said. King Cone had recently moved from down the block to a new location.
“What are you taking about?” I asked.
“She sits at the old store and watches them on the cameras at the new store,” Sally said.
“She what?” I asked in amazement.
“She did it to me the other day — I was drowning with a boatload of customers and she keeps calling me from down the street. She was literally laughing at how frazzled I was,” she said.
“You’ve got to be kidding me. So instead of coming down there to help you she was just watching you? That’s the strangest thing I’ve ever heard,” I said.
“She’s the worst,” Sally said.
“Hey Sally, what did she actually want on those calls? I mean, after she was done laughing at you, what did she want?”
Sally looked pensive for a moment trying to remember: “I don’t think she wanted anything. She didn’t say.”
Now, the above is a truly amazing, almost comical story of how not to lead. It’s illustrative because we can learn as much about how to do something right by seeing it done poorly as by seeing it done well.
But what’s supremely interesting in Sally’s case is she’s got both ends of the spectrum in her life. At Starbucks, she happens to have one of the best leaders/managers I’ve ever seen, and that’s Kelly.
Kelly, as you can imagine, leads from the front. When there’s a line of customers she’s not hiding in the back either snickering at or whipping the troops, but right there grinding the coffee, making the Frappuccinos, and even cleaning the bathrooms. And though the place is overflowing with smiles, laughter and good times, Kelly has that gift of leadership which allows her to gently settle things down when they get too silly. She is respected because she works her tail off, there is nothing she asks her staff to do that she doesn’t, and she respects the team.
I think that’s probably the key to the whole thing — if Sally’s King Cone manager cared a whit about her employees, she wouldn’t sit back and laugh at them (almost literally to their faces) when they were struggling, but rather do everything she could to mitigate their stress. And, oh by the way, happy employees are usually more productive employees, and more productive employees are good for business. But I guess when your focus is sitting back to enjoy a hilarious show, even the bottom line takes a back seat.
For my barista friend Sally, it’s truly a Dickensian case of the best of times and the worst of times taking place the same day on every day she works at both locations. God help those who get no reprieve at all from callous or indifferent bosses.