What Attraction is REALLY About

Recently I learned another – humbling – leadership lesson. It taught me a thing or two about what really attracts people…to us as individuals and leaders, and to our organizations.

I begin with a spoiler alert: Despite what we hear every day, attraction isn’t about our perfect outfit, our fancy new car or our carefully styled new hair-do.

Attraction – true beauty – has nothing to do with what so many of us learned growing up.

So what is it all about? Stick with me.

The lesson about what makes us truly attractive came in one of my favorite classrooms: Starbucks.

I was at the airport and headed to my gate –  knowing that a Starbucks was just around the corner.  I could barely wait for the warm, soothing potion it would provide.

Then, I saw the line and my heart sank. It was long. Really long.

It weaved out of the shop, around the corner, and past other shops that all offered fairly-similar-looking coffee and pastries. Those other places? Empty.

As I dutifully took my place on the Starbucks line I couldn’t help but wonder what was going on with me, and with the dozens of others who had made a conscious decision to wait longer than necessary to fulfill the almighty Starbucks vision.

Just what was it that attracted us all to Starbucks with such fervent vigor and loyalty?

As I thought it through I realized that this word – attraction – really isn’t about what so many of us believe it is. It’s not about physical beauty.

Not everyone inside this Starbucks was striking. The chairs weren’t nicer. The displays weren’t fancier.

What was really attractive about Starbucks had to do with something deeper.

And, when we think about it – and despite what we hear every day from the media – the same goes for what really attracts people to us. And to our organizations.

The greatest leaders out there know it already

So what’s this attraction all about? Behold the 3Cs.

(A note before I begin…I swear I’m not looking for a job at Starbucks, nor do I encourage everyone to join the Starbucks fanatics club. Instead this tale simply offers some tidbits on the true qualities of attraction. Enjoy it while enjoying whatever cup o’ Joe fits you best.)

Okay, now back to The 3Cs:

C#1: Cheer

When you step into a Starbucks you know that the odds are pretty low that the people behind the register are going to scowl at you, whine at you or tell you their problems. They will most likely smile, take your order without judgment, and thank you for your time.

These people might be a vision of beauty or they might not be. No matter. What matters is that they’ll get you what you need and the experience will be pleasant.

So how can we Be the Starbucks?

The truly attractive people are positive and cheery. They’re not fake. They don’t lay it on too thick. They are just…nice. They smile. They mean it. And others respond.

The same goes for our organizations. Customer service and positive, energetic messages matter.

The most beautiful people quickly lose all attraction when they whine, disregard or condescend.

C#2: Consistency

Okay, after all my posts about and references to coffee, the time has come for a confession.

My Java? Decaf.

I’m not happy about it. But let’s  just say I have my reasons.

Thankfully I discovered the Decaf Americano, which at least ensures it will be fresh and hot. And at Starbucks, it’ll taste the same every time.

In fact, at Starbucks, I pretty much know the products, service and flavors will all be the same each time – no matter which location, no matter what time of day.

In our lives, where so many unexpected events pop up every day, it’s nice to know that we can rely on an experience to not just be consistent, but consistently good.

So how can we Be the Starbucks?

Be excellent, friendly, smart and relatable. Every single time.  No matter what.

Don’t be the guy where others feel the need to check out your mood before approaching you. Don’t be the one where people wonder which you they’ll get when they ask you a question or disagree with you.

The same goes for our organizations. Nobody should wonder what our products, services and experiences will be like this time around.

The most beautiful people quickly lose all attraction when you have to tip toe around them or avoid their wrath because they’re having a bad day.

C#3: Creativity

Starbucks doesn’t confuse consistency with boredom.

While continuing to list the usual products, they also get creative…offer up new items, provide little samples, integrate special holiday options.

As much as we all love a consistent experience, we also appreciate taking on something new in our lives. Even if it’s a piece of Pumpkin bread or a new kind of tea. It keeps us intrigued.

So how can we Be the Starbucks?

We can be consistent, as well as innovative. We can offer up new ideas and thoughts, a new way of seeing things.

The same goes for our organizations. Creative companies that take calculated risks keep customers intrigued and interested.

The most beautiful people quickly lose all attraction when they come off as boring, predictable or disengaged.


Be the Starbucks.

Know that a good hair day won’t get you nearly as far as a good hair day matched with a cheery disposition, a consistent level of excellence, a creative way of seeing the world.

So practice the 3Cs. Watch how others love it all. Watch them return again and again.

Even when they might have to wait in line to get their turn.

Now go do good…and do it well.

PS – at the risk of overloading you on all things Starbucks, loyal followers will love this incredible follow-up to the story about Gieselle, our beloved Starbucks manager featured in a recent post…check out what happened when CEO Howard Schultz read the post and decided to give her a buzz: Cool Gieselle epilogue



4 responses to “What Attraction is REALLY About”

  1. Vernon Avatar

    Very nice job of connecting the dots. When hiring, I look for one quality, niceness! I can teach people a lot but can’t teach them how to be nice. It is either in their make up or not. I will be sharing your article with my managers this morning.

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar
      Deirdre Maloney

      Thanks so much for your comment, Vernon – and I truly agree. We just don’t think about how being nice can make all the difference in our relationships, our work culture and, ultimately, our success…it’s a simple lesson we learn when we’re young, but many of us forget it when the going gets tough.

  2. Patricia Costa Avatar
    Patricia Costa

    Thank you Deirdre for your wise and such relevant words on attraction. I have always been of the mind that you can teach someone a job or a skill but you can’t teach someone an attitude. The 3C’s are so vital for success in business and in life.

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar
      Deirdre Maloney

      Thanks for your kind words! I agree that, as much as skills and experience matter, often it’s a person’s attitude that really makes all the difference…appreciate your giving this a read…