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Thirsty Thursdays: FaceBook vs. Starbucks

Thirsty Thursdays: Facebook vs. Starbucks

A Lesson in Leadership and Accountability

I can't imagine two more contrasting responses from CEO's facing tough situations.  Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, testified to a group of Senators about the data his company collects, how it uses it and the massive misuse of data through Cambridge Analytica.  Kevin Johnson, CEO of Starbucks, faced public outcry for the behavior of one of his managers who unfairly targeted two african-american males acting normally while waiting for a friend in a Starbucks in Philadelphia.  Let's take a look at who served as an example for accountability and who serves as a warning to others.



  • Did not publicly acknowledge the breadth of the misuse for 19 days after the story broke
  • Impersonal, whole-page newspaper ads
  • Personal notes state "Don't tell them we already do [what Europe's new privacy law requires.]"
  • Has a canned answer if he feels "attacked"
  • Apologized and was reminded how many other times he apologized
  • Finger-pointing at Apple
  • FB "should have done more to audit the destruction of the data"
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  • Public acknowledgement within 2 days of the incident
  • Personal apology via video within 3 days of the incident
  • Private meeting with two individuals who were mistreated to apologize and hear how they feel personally
  • Genuine, taking it seriously, not one more apology in a series
  • Manager responsible is no longer employed
  • Closing 8,000 locations for a half day to train 175,000 employees
  • Lost sales and labor costs to train the whole company is apx $30 million

Which brand has a better chance of earning back your trust?


This is a great example of two different approaches.  For me, Zuckerberg was in damage-control mode.  Scripted, deliberate, bland answers, promises to "get back with you on that" and with notes primarily focused upon protecting the company and placing all the blame on himself.  I get he was trying to convey "the buck stops with me" but it didn't come off that way.  The media coverage seems to agree with me for the most part.  Perhaps the disclosure of those notes play a part but even his testimony rang hollow for me.  I also think people want to see some sort of punishment or act of contrition.  Not only does it feel like Facebook won't face one, it feels like Zuckerberg's end goal was to avoid any pain to the company whatsoever.

Johnson on the other hand felt more genuine and certainly reacted a lot faster to take ownership.  He took personal responsibility not only through words but through actions like a heartfelt video and traveling to Philadephia to meet with the two who were arrested.  His language was strong and demonstrated he got it.  And, for now at least, he's showing respect by keeping the details of that meeting private.  And the significant commitment to train his entire company of 175,000 employees in relatively short order also shows he's mobilizing his resources to begin to fix it.  

What nugget of knowledge can we all take away from these two situations?  There will be many days when we each have to own up to an error or mistake.  But if we are in leadership positions the need to react quickly, genuinely and appropriately is significantly amplified.  As leaders you represent a brand and an organization.  Behind that are people you represent.  People with families.  Families that are trying to instill morals, values and standards in their children.  In children who grow up to shape tomorrow.  So here's the already know when you're failing at this.  Unless you're bereft of all values you FEEL when you're not being genuine.  When you're doing the excuse dance your body is telling you it's nervous, and you're full of it.  Listen to it.  It's never too late to stop putting on a show and start giving a real apology.  It's never too late to stop acting and start fixing the issue with genuine remorse.  In the end, depending upon what happened and how bad it is, people may never buy your product or service again.  But if you fail to act quickly, act as a real person, exhibit true remorse and move forward  with a meaningful solution then rest assured people WILL never buy your product or service again.  

Thirsty Thursdays are about our collective thirst for learning and knowledge.  It’s not about Beer:30 [although HR4ALL is all for that, too!]  We hope this weekly nugget of knowledge opens your mind and gives you a reason to pause and think differently.    Have a great weekend everyone! 

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