Monday Morning With Biggby's Coffee


 It’s Monday morning, and you’ve got tasks, assignments, projects, deadlines, and to-do’s on your mind.  (Wait, wait, don’t quit this yet :))   Focus for a minute on this – what Daniel Goleman calls the “primary task of leaders” – you’ve got to “prime good feeling,” and activate the energy in your peeps.*  Hopefully you got your kids jazzed before they left this morning, maybe got your spouse pumped up, but even if you missed those chances, pay attention now to the energy levels at work.  Every person you touch, you want to leave a little bit more energized.

 One of the tried and true ways to generate energy in others is to connect.  Walk with me into the Biggby Coffee headquarters in East Lansing, and imagine how you might come up with your own adaptation of their leadership practices.  I gave the guy at the reception desk my name and told him I was there to meet with Tom Butz, Vice President for Operations.  Tom brought me in to his office and started telling me about the Biggby culture – growing fast, but staying way close to the customer.  “I’d introduce you to Bob, the co-founder, but he’s almost never here,” Tom said.  “He’s out visiting stores and talking to franchisees, employees and customers.”   The co-founder is quite literally touching people in the field, listening, and even blogging all about them.  You can find little movies of the Biggby’s people he’s met at his “Where’s Bob” blogsite,  Might not mean tons to you, but I bet it gets them psyched.

 Tom Butz continued with his excited talk:  “Did you meet Mike, our president?.  He’s the guy who was sitting at the reception desk,” he went on.  “We all do two or three six-hour shifts answering the phone, so we get unfiltered contact.”  I was impressed with that.  Mike had been so low-key when I’d met him, so matter-of-fact.  On my tour a few minutes later, Mike and an employee were doing a conference call from right there in the reception area.  What a message they’re sending:  my work, like your work, is just work.  We all matter here.

 Then the coolest part of all was the orange phone sitting on a table in the inner office.  “That’s the complaint phone,” Tom said.  We all pick it up.  Mary, the co-founder, Mike, me whoever’s around.”  He said it makes for some comical moments when someone disappointed that the wi-fi wasn’t working says, “the president should know this,” and Mike says, “well, I am the president and I appreciate your calling and telling me.”  The phone is an energizer.  It shows that the boss is pitching in – one of the tried and true ways to motivate.  It also tells customers they care and are really being heard.  Finally, it keeps a once-small business in touch.

Maybe you can’t work the front desk, but you can always stop by and ask the receptionist what’s going on, how he’s doing, and what he’s hearing.  Maybe you can’t handle the orange phone, but you could ask the customer service people how they’re doing and what they’re hearing.  And maybe you’re not Bob, but these days anyone can blog about the cool people they’re meeting and working with and wanting to encourage.  Pay attention to energy, as you

Lead with your best self!



  • Leadership energy and confidence is a critical success factor at a company, village or country.

    Energy predicts not only performance outcomes, but when gathered at the individual employee level, it predicts turnover, absenteeism, customer satisfaction, team outcomes, performance appraisal scores (using 360 feedback systems) and even patient satisfaction in hospital settings. Leaders’ energy is important because it predicts employee energy, and overall employee energy predicts performance and productivity.

    Why is leadership energy and confidence on the decline?

    Leaders have too much work to accomplish in the amount of hours they can devote to their work. The most recent business environment led to layoffs, cautious hiring, and risk-averse business practice. Additionally, slow but sure growth has led to more work with less people.

    How do individuals function in this environment?

    They “surf” from project to project—doing a little bit of work on each one. The logic is that if an employee does enough on each one, then each pile goes down a bit, and managers and co-workers are placated. But in reality, the individual succeeds at nothing. He or she doesn’t finish projects, feels inadequate and becomes deenergized.

    Today’s leaders face an additional battle: They’re worried—actually scared—that their best and brightest people will leave. Because if really well-organized employees—those who know the business and understand how to get things done—leave, then you have to hire someone new and train that person to come up to speed.

    Source: American Management Association newsletter article, Stacking Work Syndrome: A New Management Malady by Theresa M. Welbourne, Ph.D., CEO of eePulse, Inc. ( and adjunct professor of executive education at the University of Michigan Business School.

  • Hey John,

    You offer a good perspective, as always. You’re absolutely right that “leaders have too much work to accomplish in the amount of hours they can devote to their work.” I think even more than that: Leaders don’t have enough time, period, to perform their work, spent meaningful time with their families, contribute time to their schools, churches, and communities, and everything else that’s important. That’s where prioritization is important, but so few of us are consistently good at that … I can certainly attest that’s true for me.

    When I was young (way back in the 1960’s … yikes!) I used to think that the future would be somewhat like the Jetsons, that with new inventions and more efficient ways of doing things, we’d have a lot more free time on our hands. As it turned out, just the opposite has happened. People in the U.S. and many other technology powers spend more time than ever in the office, while more and more of their colleagues are laid off. To paraphrase RFK, the world that could result is one in which the “working would envy the laid off.”

    It’s not my intent to complain, just to emphasize how important it is to focus on first things first. And as George Jetson might have said about today’s work environment, “Help! Jane! Stop this crazy thing!”


  • Dan,
    I appreciate your perspective. I’ve been around, so to speak, and have seen truly energizing leaders, but for the most part, what you have referred to in your blog this morning equates in many instances to nothing more than a “hype job”…..and the employee looks at it from a different perspective……that being, “Am I earning a living wage?” If they are not, I do not care how hard the leader tries, he will fail to get his point across……because it will be construed as just more of trying to get more out of me, the worker, as I will in essence, be earning less. Time IS money, on the job, and there is no better example of taking advantage of dismissing that notion than with management in a salaried position, constantly being pressured to perform more, spend more time at, yet the salary remains the same. Money talks, bulls**t walks, is what I remember hearing years ago.

  • Dan,

    Call it noise, the Madonna Affect, whatever…a leader’s ability to connect with co-workers and collaborators often depends on their ability to “hype” their message enough to break through all the chaos that surrounds us every day. I spend time working on marketing for a small non-profit and I am not earning what most would call a “living wage.” (Well, it is on the critical list, anyway…)

    I was suprised to learn that we are barraged with from 1,600 to 6,000 marketing messages each and every day. (See: That’s just marketing, and does not include factual information we process to do our jobs and messages from those around us. It does not include what passes for “news” or cultural endeavors; and it does not include self-communication. With all that noise, how does a leader break through to deliver support and energize others?

    First of all, as with motivation, I don’t believe it is a delivery process, but a discovery process. I cannot “motivate” you to do anything, but I can help you discover motivation that will move you. In the same way, I cannot really “energize” you, but I can help you discover your own energy sources and tap into them.

    Second, time is not money. Time is our most precious and most non-renewable resource. We can only spend it, we cannot bank it, borrow it, or barter it for someone else’s time. Management cannot give us more time to spend, so they must negotiate with us for an exchange – time for dollars or other perquisites.

    The third area is where Bibby’s Coffee excels – getting others to focus their time on what is important to the success of the business by leading the way, leading by example. The leader is drawing a map which shows how to find those energy reserves and how to focus them on task. Stand outside and grin at the sky. Others will stop and search the sky for what is making you smile. They want to smile too, but all the noise is making it hard to find things to smile at or about.

    Just be sure that you are grinning at something they can recognize and share…


    • Mick wrote:
      Second, time is not money. Time is our most precious and most non-renewable resource. We can only spend it, we cannot bank it, borrow it, or barter it for someone else’s time. Management cannot give us more time to spend, so they must negotiate with us for an exchange – time for dollars or other perquisites.

      I’ll agree with you relative to time being our most precious resource. And it is there that we differ, and I speak with regard to the workplace. If I’m being asked to do more (ie., spend more time on the job)I will expect to receive more reward in equal exchange for MY time devoted to YOUR business. If someone is attempting to ‘titillate’ me with a hype talk, yet offers nothing more than that to me, with respect to being asked to spend more of MY precious time doing for them and their business, I would respectfully decline being sucked into the mentality by upper management of “squeeze every once of life from the employee for our benefit, but try like the dickens not to offer any more remuneration incentive. Use fear if necessary.” Seen it before……as they say on the street….homey don’t play that game.

      • Mark,

        I guess we’re not in Kansas anymore. I don’t see where, in the Bibby’s Coffee example, the staff are having every ounce of their life sucked by their employer, or that they were ordered (or asked) to work more hours. Also, please note that I said the employer “must negotiate with us for an exchange – time for dollars or other perquisites.” I applaud the Bibby’s Coffee management for “walking a mile in the moccasins” of their employees. Enthusiasm is not hyperbole, although I admit (having raised four kids) it can be annoying sometimes.

        I worked for an employer (a Federal agency) for fifteen years, until a new management team took over the district office, headed by a fellow who believed that the employee’s sole motivation and reward was the paycheck…period. Within a year, many career Federal employees, including me, transferred or left the service for other work, abandoning a hostile and rigid work environment filled with battles, large and small over mere minutes of work. Managers were required to dock vacation time for employees returning a minute late from their break. Employees left clients at their desks in the middle of an interview, to take their break on time…for fear of losing those precious minutes. Been there. Done that. Left that behind.

        My current employer, the under-funded non-profit, often seeks additional hours and extra effort. On occasion, I comply. On occasion, I decline: “Sorry, got a life…see you tomorrow.” When my dad died two years ago, and I needed time, it was provided…no questions asked. We have an understanding. I respect their needs and they respect mine. I’m not getting rich, but I sleep better at night by not facing a temporal battleground each and every day.

        I applaud your resolve not to be “used and abused” by a bottom-line feeding employer. Hyperbole seems particularly pernicious in an election year, and one should not have to deal with that at work. I would not wish to play that game either. Your entrepreneurial spirit seems well-suited to work as a self-employed consultant or contractor, where time translates even more directly into money. Thanks for your perspective and helping to underscore the trend for most, if not nearly all salaried employees to move toward the role of entrepreneur within their organizations.

  • I think this shows excellent insight into how important knowing what is going on from the bottom up is to the boss/ceo/cfo – hopefully you have lots of management people reading your posts! Me, I’m just the worker bee.

    • I agree, Laurie. One of my closes friends, opened a Biggby Coffee in Escanaba, Mi, this year, the first one in the U.P. She works the store. I am employed part-time, 15 hours a week, on top of my 40 hour work week, but I consider my Biggby job, my fun job! I’ve encouraged her to work the store. It is important for your employees to see you work. It results in respect for the owner. Great Posts to a Great Article!

  • Love your coffee. !! Way better than Starbucks!

    No wonder they are closing up. 🙂

    Are you hiring in your main office? Would love to work there. Have 30 yrs customer service experience.
    If you reply—thanks!
    Keep the the good coffee.
    Ingrid Cook

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