Sam Silverstein Blog

Don’t call it P.R.: Starbucks takes a stand for community service.

Leaders at successful companies, I’ve found, are consistently accountable for following through on commitments that align with four distinct organizational values. These values can be expressed, in broad terms, as follows:

  1. Foundational Values. What we stand for as an organization; our organization’s fundamental character.
  2. Relational Values.How we treat and connect with people inside our organization as well as outside our organization.
  3. Professional Values.What level of excellence and performance we expect within the organization.
  4. Community Values.How we feel about, participate in, and support our community.

In future blogs, I’ll be looking at each of these values in depth. To begin with, let’s consider that last one, community values, through the lens of a global brand that everyone knows about and most of us have an opinion about: Starbucks.

It’s likely that you not only passed a Starbucks today, but that you also heard about the recent fallout from one Starbucks store’s discriminatory treatment of two African-American guests. That incident in Philadelphia back in May set off an important national conversation about racial attitudes and public accommodations .. and it also led Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson to hit the interview circuit to publicize his company’s response to the event.
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Sam Silverstein Blog

A lack of accountability always starts with leadership.

You may have seen the recent news story about the American Airlines flight that went horribly wrong for a Kentucky youth group.

A pastor leading a group of forty teenagers on a mission to help children in Mexico showed up at the airport with plenty of time to spare to make their flight. They were two hours early. But when they got to the front of the line at the check-in counter, things went haywire. One American Airlines employee insisted to another employee that the best way to check this group into the flight was to process all forty passenger tickets, and then to process all forty bags. This unorthodox advice, which I can’t imagine was the proper operational procedure, launched a cascading sequence of errors that resulted in the kids and their pastor spending over ninety minutes at the counter, trying to get themselves and their bags checked in!

Once everyone and their bags were finally taken care of, the group made a mad dash for security and then ran for their gate … but when they got to their gate, the American Airlines employee on duty told them that the doors had closed.

They were three minutes late, and they would not be allowed on the plane.

The kids and their pastor begged. They pleaded. They explained what had happened back at the counter. None of it mattered. The woman on duty wouldn’t open the door. That plane took off withoutforty of its passengers!

How does something like that happen? Good question.

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Sam Silverstein Blog

Facts are not in the eye of the beholder. Accountability and truth go together.

Recently, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, in defending the White House’s current legal strategy during a live interview, made an extraordinary assertion: “Truth isn’t truth.” His point, if you can call it that, was that there are always multiple possible explanations for any event, and that when two different accounts of an event exist, there is literally no way for anyone to determine what actually happened.

This argument stopped me cold, and I hope it stopped you cold, too.

I don’t care what your politics are. I don’t care what you think about the man in the White House. I don’t care whether you think presidents should be interviewed under oath or you think they shouldn’t. Facts are not in the eye of the beholder.

The minute we start pretending they are, or staying silent while someone else does, we are in deep trouble.

So let’s be very clear on this point: The truth does exist.
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Sam Silverstein Blog

The recession-proofing step too many leaders overlook.

There’s a lot of talk now going around now about whether the world economy is going to plunge into another recession because of the possibility of major loan defaults in Turkey.

Here’s a prediction: Whether or not there is a recession, your organization will thrive over the next few years … if you as the leader recession-proof your team by making and keeping your own personal commitment to the right values.


You as leader will either define and model the values that do the most to strengthen your team and protect your organization from external challenges like an economic downturn … or you won’t define and model those values. If you do, I predict your ship will pass safely through any and every storm. Unfortunately, most leaders overlook this responsibility.

You, as an accountable leader, cannot tolerate any action that goes against your values. Your values, as lived on a day-to-day basis, are what will tell everyone in your organization how they will act, what kinds of decisions they will make, and what kinds of results they must produce, whether they are facing a huge opportunity or a huge challenge. And the very best time for you to define and reinforce the right values is now … before there is a major crisis for your team to respond to.

It is only your own personal commitment to identify and live the right values – in your personal life first, and then extending into your professional life — that enables you to inspire the people you lead to live by those same values, during both good times and bad. To make it through the tough times, you must do what most leaders don’t … by identifying and living the right values, day in and day out. Identifying those values and committing to everyone on your team that you will live and protect them, each and every day, is at the very core of being an accountable leader.

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The Power of Commitment

Sam Silverstein Blog

I recently gave a speech in Long Beach, California. I arrived early the day before, which meant I had time to enjoy the nice weather, beautiful views, and great food of that fair city. A friend of mine happened to mention that I should visit the Queen Mary cruise ship, a beautiful reminder of an elegant way to travel the world, now retired in Long Beach and used as a hotel. Hearing the ship’s name brought on a strange wave of emotions. Before my friend had finished speaking, I knew I had to go.

A quick online search confirmed that daily tours were available. I walked to the pier.

The tour guide shared various historical tidbits about this famous ship. One was that the Queen Mary, along with the Queen Elizabeth, is credited with shaving between one and one and a half years off of World War II because of the number of soldiers they were able to transport speedily to Europe from Canada, Australia and the United States. Another nugget of information the tour guide passed along was that the last Atlantic crossing before the Queen Mary was converted to a military transport begin on August 30, 1939 in Southhampton, England.

What the tour guide didn’t know was that my grandfather and his family had a role in that final transatlantic sailing.
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