Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks Coffee Company, is now back to work full time at the Starbucks Support Center.  Many readers  may remember that he took about a one month leave to undergo a neck surgery:  I mentioned this at the bottom of  a June 30, 2011 blog post, and it has been in the news too.  On August 8, 2011, Howard sent a memo to all partners thanking them for messages of encouragement and discussing leading through uncertain times:

The memo starts as follows:

Dear Partners,
Today marks my first day back in Seattle following my elective neck surgery.  The procedure was successful, and although my condition will take some more time to completely reverse, I am well on my way to recovery. I am extremely touched by the emails, cards and messages of encouragement that  I received from so many of you. I can’t tell you how heartwarming, and at  times quite emotional, it was to read your words and reflect on how blessed I am to lead this great company.

The memo continues on to say, “Much has shifted in the world during the last month or so. Unfortunately, from an economic perspective, recent events have unfolded, not for the better.  Consumer confidence is once again being tested as high  unemployment, a financial crisis in Western Europe, extreme market fluctuations, and the debt debacle in the United States have yielded a higher level of economic and political uncertainty worldwide.”

Further in the memo, Howard writes, “In these uncertain times, it’s important that we ask what we at Starbucks can do. We have a responsibility as well as an opportunity not to be bystanders, but to act in ways that can ease the collective anxiety inside and outside the company. In this regard, Starbucks innovative, global growth and new distribution channels will continue to create full- and part-time jobs, and not  just in the U.S., but in the more than 50 countries where we operateIn addition, I have asked our leaders at all levels of the organization to make sure we do everything possible to ensure that all our partners have the tools and the resources, along with an open line of communication with their direct managers, to further succeed at their jobs. We also must remain deeply  committed to sharing the success Starbucks is currently enjoying. While there is no silver bullet to quell the angst so many people are feeling these days, it is mission critical that Starbucks benefits—which include Bean Stock, health care, 401k, bonuses and tuition reimbursement—continue to be part of our overall growth strategy.”

And to end the memo, Howard signs off with his signature “Onward,” and writes, “Once again, how we choose to lead  during these uncertain times is critical for our future. Let’s continue to stay true to our principles and take nothing for granted. Given our learning, experience and recent performance, I am incredibly optimistic about the future of our company and the opportunities ahead. We’ve proven more than once that Starbucks can determine its own destiny, regardless of external circumstances. And I promise we will do it again.  Onward, Howard

It’s nice to hear that Howard got all our cards and messages wishing him a ‘get well soon.’  And of course, I, as well as many people reading this article, feel optimistic about Starbucks’ future. It is still bright and strong and highly caffeinated.

(( Edit on August 13, 2011 – The New York Times has now picked up this “Leading Through Uncertain Times” memo and has additionally added thoughts on political campaign contributions including Howard Schultz’s take on this issue:

I hope you enjoy the New York Time piece, and please feel free to share your thoughts on the many issues presented in the memo and/or the New Times article.  Last but not least, the few times that I’ve had content which directly includes messages from Howard or other executive messages, I’ve compiled them in this category here – “Executive Message” – Personally, I think it’s fun to browse through that and see the things that Howard has said at various events.))