Starbucks’ new CEO, Laxman Narasimhan, spent 40 hours of training to become a certified barista, donning the company’s signature green apron last October. He continued serving as a barista for four hours a month at different Starbucks locations, indicating that his senior executives should do the same. Such an action sends a clear message to the workforce, indicating that the leader is taking the time to learn the intricacies of the operation and understand what it feels like to be on the frontline. It fosters a customer-centric and collaborative culture, helping to break down organizational hierarchies and create an esprit de corps. Additionally, it reveals opportunities to improve both the customer and employee experience, as senior leaders step into the shoes of frontline workers, experiencing firsthand the hurdles that must be navigated to effectively serve customers.
Many leaders focus on pruning their schedules, delegating tasks, and sending representatives to meetings, thinking that it will allow them to better engage their workforce. However, redeeming the valuable currency of a leader’s time is best accomplished by adding to their schedule, as Narasimhan did by attending barista training. Every leader would be wise to follow Narasimhan’s example, as it builds trust with employees and shows that the leader is invested in their success. By immersing themselves in the life of frontline employees, leaders can create a more collaborative, customer-centric culture and reveal opportunities to improve the customer and employee experience.