The Passionate Barista


The mind is an amazing part of we humans.

For nearly two weeks I have been really sick with a very nasty virus.  For the first few days my mind was a fuzz.  I couldn’t think clearly and as everything else was also blocked up, I only heard about two words of any sentence spoken to me.  Well my husband will probably say that happens all the time, but really, I couldn’t hear.  As someone who never takes a day off for illness this has been a challenging time.  Self employed people don’t do ‘being sick’, we don’t have the time for that.  This time it has been different.
As the fuzz started to disappear I suddenly realised that I hadn’t had a coffee for two weeks and had no desire for one, yet I love a really good coffee and enjoy meeting with clients over coffee.  I must be getting better because now I think I am ready for one!  However, it has to be a really good one and made by a barista who knows and cares.  I have been studying the art of good coffee making and for people reading this and who aren’t in New Zealand, you may not be aware that we have an incredible coffee culture in this country.  We’re not just exporting our milk and wine.  Now we are even exporting our baristas and coffee to the UK!
What on earth has a good barista got to do with business other than so many business meetings taking place in people’s favourite coffee shops?  More than you might think.  Take a look at your company, however large or small, and the people who work in it.  The products or services you provide may be outstanding but how about the delivery?
There are 3 rules of good coffee making according to one of New Zealand’s larger coffee companies.

  1. Selection of coffee beans

  2. Skilful and patient roasting

  3. Experienced baristas

75% of making a good coffee is in the hands of the barista. And as these experts say “Never let a bad coffee go out”. Good baristas are passionate about each coffee they make for their customers.  They want to make the coffee perfect for each and every customer. The question is how can you increase the level of good “barista-ship” in your business?  It starts with you.  How passionate are you about what you do every day?  If you are a leader of a team, how passionate are you about helping your people be the best they can?
Re-structuring, downsizing and re-arranging the roles and responsibilities mean everyone is busier and some of the most important aspects of people development get put aside.  Training is usually the first to go on hold, or it may be someone’s behaviour that is really unacceptable but not nipped in the bud.  This can lead to disgruntlement with other employees who are annoyed that action hasn’t been taken and if it is not addressed it can lead to all sorts of expensive problems and it’s energy-sapping. 

Think Like a Good Barista
Just as good baristas focus on delivering the best coffee, managers need to look to see if they are delivering their best as role models for their reports. This may include:

  1. Being passionate about growing people. Regular one-on-ones with team members that aren’t all about the tasks at hand.  These should be discussed at a separate meeting.  This time is for the manager to get to know employees better and listen to what’s really going on for them. Buy them a coffee.

  2. Being passionate about growing yourself.  Ask colleagues to tell you how they think you are really doing in your role.  Ask for, and expect honesty.  Being nice to each other doesn’t help! Buy them a coffee.

  3. Being passionate about your clients and customers.  Get to know them – yes, not just the professional side but the personal one too.  Find out what’s really important to them. Buy them coffee too.

Bad Baristas
Like so many of us, my husband and I had a favourite place for coffee at the weekends.  The coffee was exceptional and we bought their beans for use at home too.  The barista was a young man who was absolutely passionate about delivering really good coffee.  I like soy milk and he always made a brilliant flat white, even though some baristas say it’s not possible with soy. 
Several weeks ago we had a somewhat different experience.  Our coffees arrived and they were terrible.  We complained and new ones were brought to us. They were no better.  We discovered our favourite barista wasn’t there and a waitress said ‘he is the only person who can make coffee here’.  We walked out and haven’t been back since to that place. The owner/manager, we were told by staff, was not good at training and developing her staff and we noticed her lack of attention as to what was going on around her.  She had a different focus which was on all the lovely gifts and nick-nacks she sells rather than food and coffee.
The message I take from this is that every interaction I have with a client is important in how I handle any situation.  If I don’t listen I won’t be back in the door.  Perhaps being self employed I have a different view of life.  If we don’t work we don’t get paid, hence being sick is something I am very keen to avoid.  Equally, I always want to give more to my clients than they expect.  I'm passionate about what I do.  Are you?

Gilly Chater


Gilly helps people achieve insight powered breakthroughs for themselves and their businesses. She is an inspirational speaker who presents keynotes and breakouts at conferences and writes about the key ingredients for success in today’s world.

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