Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Starbucks, Mission Statements and Authenticity

I was struck today by a conversation with some Starbucks staff as they helped each other cover their tattoos in order to hide them from the prying eyes of customers.

Apparently, a tattoo on a partner (Starbucks lingo for barista) cannot be exposed to the public no matter how small or insignificant.

One of the tattoos in question today appeared to be about 1/2 an inch long and about an inch or so wide.

It was also a highly offensive image.

It was an image of the Earth.

Exactly … I almost called the thought police myself, given the highly offensive nature of the image.

But seriously …..

The conversation caused me to think about Starbucks’ lengthy Mission Statement, which includes the following lines:

Together, we embrace diversity to create a place where each of us can be ourselves.

When we are fully engaged, we connect with, laugh with, and uplift the lives of our customers – even if just for a few moments.

We can be a force for positive action – bringing together our partners, customers, and the community to contribute every day.

It’s really about human connection.

It seems that Starbucks, if I understand the printed word versus actualization of same, encourages people to be themselves unless they work for Starbucks, in which case you can only be some semblance of yourself.

Now if staff were heavily tattooed, tattooed with offensives messages or images or heavily pierced, that could provide impetus to ban some things.

But a generic, across-the-board policy barring everything doesn’t seem to create a place where the baristas can be themselves.

This caused to me think about the many mission statements I have encountered over the years or the many companies that hang Successory-like posters everywhere while executing in exactly the opposite way than espoused by the mission statements and posters.

Mission statements and other material, when applied correctly, can motivate, inspire and establish clear paths of intention and execution.

When applied incorrectly, lived hypocritically or defined with fluffy, meaningless, immeasurable “noise”, they can demotivate, create cynicism (inside and outside the organization) or just make the organization look silly.

For those of you who embrace a mission statement, on a personal or corporate level, do you live it or do you allow it to make you look foolish / hypocritical?

Does it enable you or and / or your organization or does it merely serve as a source of entertainment for others like some of these Dilbert moments?

Because if you don’t know, you might as well hang up a poster like this (courtesy of


Do you know?

Are you sure?

In service and servanthood,


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