Jeff Balin On "Big-A Agendas," Values, and Buddhist Thought


VO: How did you get from managing the Granville Island Starbucks to becoming a sought after leadership coach and consultant?

BALIN: I have an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. I was in consulting and product management and then took a big detour professionally and went into retail management. I wanted to start my own business and in doing my own research, I fell in love with the guiding principles of Starbucks, which first and foremost emphasizes respect and dignity. So I went to work in retail management as a store manager.

VO: Not the usual job for an MBA, I suspect.

BALIN: This was a huge departure from what traditional MBAs do. A lot of people called me crazy. But I knew I was following my values and making decisions based on values and not on what society thinks I should be doing, or relatives, or anyone else.

The whole experience was a blast. In four years I never had a Monday-morning and it was because I chose the job based on the things I really cared about, my values.

VO: What do you find are the primary things on your clients’ minds? What are their greatest concerns?

BALIN: They are concerned about what we call in coaching, “the small-a agenda” and “ the big-A agenda.” People come to coaching often for a business-related concern, but ultimately what we get to is their big-A agenda.

VO: What are the Big-A Agendas?

BALIN: Ultimately I think people want to make a difference and I think the people that I really click with have a sense of their own mortality. I say that in the most positive way. They know that time is limited.

VO: So they have some perspective on the preciousness of time.

BALIN: Yes. It’s not just about coasting along and accumulating more goodies and toys along the way for my clients. I don’t work well with people who come to me just to get a promotion. There has to be something more urgent and important at stake. I think that’s the real big-A agenda, that people have a sense of their own mortality and want to do something meaningful, something with integrity. Something they can be proud of.

More in Business

BC Premier Christy Clark announcing a carbon tax freeze in 2015

B.C. businesses call on Clark to lift carbon tax freeze, introduce annual hikes

VICTORIA — A group of British Columbia businesses is calling on Premier Christy Clark to raise the carbon tax to help the economy. The open letter to Clark signed by more than 130 businesses comes in...

Paul Bronfman and Paul Potvin share tips on expanding and growing your business

William F. White’s Paul Bronfman and Paul Potvin share 6 key tips for success

David Van Seters brings illuminating view of shared economy to Board of Change event

People packed into the SAP Canada building in Yaletown on Thursday night for a wonderful evening with David Van Seters,  president of Sustainability Ventures and pioneer of the "shared...
Speak up about this article on Facebook or Twitter. Do this by liking Vancouver Observer on Facebook or following us @Vanobserver on Twitter. We'd love to hear from you.