Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson Knows Accountability

Sam Silverstein Blog

When Starbucks had a problem with one of their managers mistreating two African American men in one of their Philadelphia stores, Kevin Johnson, CEO, stepped up as an accountable leader.

Mr. Johnson immediately responded. He didn’t waste any time. He didn’t have to convene his board. And, he didn’t try and make excuses. He removed the manager from the store. He traveled to Philadelphia to deal with the situation himself and he scheduled a day to close over 8000 company-owned U.S. stores and conduct racial bias training for over 175,000 employees. The cost of closing the stores and providing the training didn’t matter in making everything right.

It is great to see that Mr. Johnson is working with professionals who know how to handle these situations like the NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League.

What happened in Philadelphia isn’t necessarily an issue of a bad culture at Starbucks. This wasn’t a Starbucks issue. It was an individual’s issue. Actually, it is an American issue. As a nation, we need to renew our energy towards anti-bias education. Events such as this one in Philadelphia need to end.

Mr. Johnson obviously knows that accountability is keeping your commitments to people. He was committed to the two men who were treated wrong. He was committed to his 175,000 employees when he decided to shut down and offer all employees racial bias training. And, the manager might not know it yet, but Mr. Johnson was committed to the manager by taking the appropriate action and teaching the manager through this experience.

Accountability is not about things. Accountability is about people. We must always remember this. Relationships with people, caring for people, standing by people and valuing people are always at the very core of the true positive power that flows from accountability.

The manager’s actions were in conflict with the Starbucks values but the CEO is correcting the situation in alignment with their values. Things happen. You can have an employee make a bad decision. But, when someone acts against the stated values, does something that is wrong, and the CEO moves immediately to fix the situation, make it right, this is how the system is supposed to work. CEO Kevin Johnson is being accountable and I applaud him for his actions.