Crisis Management: How to Innovate in a Crisis

Rosalind Brewer

Lesson time 08:41 min

A crisis can transform a learner into a leader. In this lesson, Roz shines a light on how some of her most challenging moments were also some of her greatest learning experiences. She reminds leaders—present and future—of the steps they can take during any hard time.

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Topics include: The Philadelphia Starbucks Incident • Crisis Demands Innovation Under Pressure • Real Leadership Through a Crisis • Taking Action in a Crisis • Crisis Spawns Change


ROSALIND BREWER: This lesson is really centering around how innovation is spawned from a crisis. And we can probably go back in the history of our country, a history of the world, and think about how war, how famine, and all of these large occurrences have caused us to be something differen-- how we change. Think about how the auto industry really became an opportunity after the country really built itself around its infrastructure. And so it's really interesting to understand where your innovation can come from and where the creativity starts. And sometimes it starts when you're dead-center in the middle of a crisis. So in this lesson, I'd like to talk about how crisis can be the best learning moments and the best moments of acceleration. I'll share with you a time when I had just joined Starbucks as Chief Operating Officer. And I was just exiting my onboarding. I'd been with the company for maybe four or five months, running operations for the company. And lo and behold, we had an incident in one of our stores in Philadelphia. REPORTER: This video captured by a witness's cell phone shows police talking, and later, handcuffing the man while they were waiting for a friend. ROSALIND BREWER: I was actually getting messages from our security team that we had an incident in Philadelphia. But I get those reports every night. This one hit me a little different. It was exploding on social media. But it was exploding on Black social media. Two men were arrested in a store in Philadelphia. Later, I learned it was two Black men. And that raised a flag for me, and I immediately thought about my own family, my son. It hit me like a ton of bricks. And I knew I had to settle down and quickly get a hold of this situation. And this was a moment where Starbucks had set great policies around hospitality. When someone enters a store, how do you address them? And in this instance, we had a store manager that addressed two African-American males after they entered the store for 10 minutes, and asked them what beverage choice they were having, and they replied that they were there for a meeting. They were going to have a beverage, and they wanted to use the restroom facilities, which she allowed. They came back out of the restroom. And this store manager really prodded these two individuals. It later ensued an altercation, and the police were called in. Two police officers came in. Then, four officers, then an additional two officers-- before we knew it, there were eight police officers addressing two gentlemen that were there for a business meeting. I knew immediately we had a problem. And as the chief operator for the company, I felt responsible that either my policies had fallen down or our customer service level had underperformed. And in fact, that is exactly what had happened. In this instance, our policies were set when our stores had not become part of the community, where people co...

About the Instructor

After years of helming the ship at some of the country’s most iconic companies, including Walmart, Starbucks, and Walgreens, Rosalind Brewer has forged ahead in her quest to innovate while maintaining deep integrity. Now she’s sharing CEO-level strategies for team leaders of all types. Learn to promote innovation, gain buy-in on projects you believe in, and stand out as the leader you know yourself to be.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Rosalind Brewer

Fortune 500 CEO Rosalind Brewer has transformed companies like Walmart, Starbucks, and Walgreens— now she’ll teach you how to make an impact at any level.

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