Q & A with Amy Powell, Director of Operations for Starbucks

By Emad Rahim, D.M., PMP

CTU Business Degree - Amy Powell, Director of Operations at Starbucks Coffee Co.As I mentioned in my previous blog post, Amy Powell, Director of Operations for Starbucks Coffee Co., recently led a webinar on operational excellence and efficiency as part of CTU’s new Distinguished Speaker Series. While I enjoyed sharing key lessons learned with you, those tips are only one piece of the leadership puzzle. If you’re looking to pursue a career in business, take a look at Powell’s captivating responses to some of my top-of-mind questions: 

  • What are your responsibilities at Starbucks?
    In operations, my scope is developing leaders to ensure we are growing the brand and meeting the customer needs. In Licensed Stores (in Florida), it is about creating a relationship that allows for strong dialog. Those will add up to meeting the annual operating plan (AOP) objectives.
  • How do you balance the need for highly specialized experience in your industry with a new innovative spirit that can help push Starbucks ahead?
    In operations, we can teach specialized skills, but the need to be able to work well with others, achieve results and have passion for your development as well as those you touch is critical.
  • What are three things you emphasize in your dealings with your team? 
    Transparency, ownership and consistency
  • Who is a leader you aspire to be like, and why?
    I have been inspired by many, but it is always the passion and risk that makes me respect leaders.
  • What are some ways CTU students and alumni can develop their soft, or emotional, skill set to supplement formal learning? 
    Be human and understand that the approach, often times, will be one of the biggest factors in the results. It is not all about you; remember to involve those that have the greatest impact.
  • What is one leadership characteristic that is most difficult for you to maintain, and how do you work to improve it? 
    It’s developing continuously because it requires stepping out of your comfort or strength areas. I struggle to communicate what my team is or what I am doing as for me it does not feel like it is something new or innovative. But that does not mean it would not be (a benefit) for someone else.
  • What’s the one accomplishment you’re most proud of in your history of leading teams or people?
    I get the most joy from seeing people reach new goals or achievements. I guess for me it is not one event, as it feels like a process and one that I have enjoyed. I can point out high points. For instance, the current team I lead has led the Customer Voice scores for two years straight for the entire Licensed Stores group.  That makes me proud because we are taking care of the customer. The first project I was on was #1 in the country for eight weeks straight, and the second (project I was on) had the lowest percentage of errors in a launch. The enjoyment that came with having one of the only two mobile units in the county and seeing the non-profit organizations we got to work with.
  • Given your role, what are some best practices that you can share for effective supply chain management? 
    This is a challenge, especially with growing companies. Everything, including supply chain, needs to reflected on, measured and reacted to.  Really it is a process of plan; do, check and adjust.
  • Through Starbucks, you’ve worked with great brands, such as Disney and Marriott. What are some of the key qualities it takes in carrying out these types of projects? 
    Everyone has an objective, and often times it is the same. If you can start by acknowledging that everyone has great things to offer and that the goals are similar, if not the same, then the process becomes easier.
  • What can our students and alumni take away from this project or any other high profile project and use in their day-to-day supply chain management – or really any leadership – role? 
    It is not about any specific company it is about the output and what you will be held accountable for.  Leadership is not just about providing direction it is about understanding your impact, learning from others, asking great questions and taking risks.
  • During the webinar, you shared some of your lessons learned. Do you have any more lessons to share? 
    Often times, we may think we are so different in work or home. I do not believe we are, but we do need to adjust our approach.  I cannot think of a lesson or learning opportunity that I have not benefited from in both sides of my life. Learning to ask great questions, knowing my strengths, and knowing that they may not be as much of a strength in personal as work.  It comes down to balance and owning your actions.

I hope these responses give you a better look at what a business leadership career entail. What’s your favorite takeaway?

Photo credit:  Amy Powell of Starbucks with our Provost Dr. Connie Johnson, twitpic via @ctubusiness