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I love Starbucks. I know, start throwing stones or telling me that I’m a sellout – whatever. I have been a recurring feature at my local Starbucks in every city I’ve lived in. No, it’s not the coffee I love (although I love me a venti iced coffee with sugar free vanilla), it’s the atmosphere.

Working from home, I often need a change of scenery and be “around” people and still being able to get work done. Tall task, I know. So Starbucks became my go-to place every morning – to get out of the house, retreat into my own world while amongst others. And I was a regular – the baristas knew my name and my order, and I knew them.

But We Broke Up A Month Ago

I wish I could say something huge went wrong and there was a huge fight where coffee was spilled and beans were thrown. But it was a lot less dramatic – they forgot who their audience is.

Plain and simple, I broke up with them because it became a chore to go there. People were literally fighting over seats, racing each other to grab a table by an outlet, hovering over others to force them out. It became Darwinian.

And all I wanted was a cool place to hang out and get work done, while getting my caffeine fix.

Knowing and understanding your audience is paramount to success in any aspect of business. I learned that the hard way early on in my career (think: being condescending to the president of the company because he was being a moron), and have witnessed it being the downfall of many others along the way.

Knowing When It’s Game On

Having a true understanding of who your audience is makes playing to it, easier. And don’t kid yourself – playing to your audience will make your rise to the top a lot easier. You don’t have to be “playing” 100% of the time at work, but understanding your audience when it’s critical will go a long way.

Emailing a higher up.

I can’t tell you the number of complaints I’ve seen from managers who loathe getting emails from their direct reports because they don’t know how to email a superior properly. Regardless of who you are emailing, if they are above you in the rank and file – you need to adjust your email style.

You need to be concise, to the point, and avoid any extraneous details or pleasantries. Think: executive summary or bullet point the message. Cut out the fluff – no one has time to weed through it. Share only the relevant details, review the email to ensure it makes sense, and send it.

Delivering a report, training session, or “materials.”

Game on people – this is one of the best ways to play to your audience. But you have to fully understand who will be receiving the information. You should create these documents with information that IMPACTS the desired audience.

Example: training session about new pay procedures. For line-employees, my focus will be on how it will impact their pay, their schedule, how to use the new process/procedure, and consequences. For my peers, I would be sure to add in any questions that they may encounter, create an FAQ/resource guide, and provide them with talking points. For senior leaders, I would top-line the information – how much the company will be saving, how it will impact any daily operations, and expected push back.

See the difference? When you are crafting materials, it’s easy to want to tell the WHOLE story without considering your audience, which leads to information overload and a poor reflection on your communication skills.

Creating your office culture, mission, vision, etc.

Most of us don’t have the influence to actually create the company’s culture, mission, and so on. But we all have the ability to influence our local experiences. A lot of times “Corporate” creates their vision of what is important for the company – often, without understanding the actual people who will be living with their decisions.

Figure out what the people on your team, department, floor, local site, etc. value – and then leverage that when you are trying to get things done.

Example: I worked in a local office that valued collaboration, even though “the company” valued silo-decision making. So when rolling out new programs, instead of just executing them like corporate wanted us to do, I got others involved so they felt as though they were part of the process and shared in the roll-out.

I’m hunting for my new Starbucks.

To be honest, I’m a little bummed about the break-up – still, a month or so later. I miss the atmosphere and the feeling I got when I walked through those doors and got to work. I miss having “a place” to go that felt like a second home. But I refuse to fight the flow of the people who now regular my Starbucks.

So I’m searching out a new place and hoping that I can find a new “home” that will cater to this audience – at least for a month or two.

Photo taken (by me) at the first Starbucks in Seattle, WA