Leadership Tips from the Top: David Novak, Chairman and CEO of Yum! Brands Writes ‘Taking People With You’
GUEST AUTHOR BLOG: As a Leader, Are You Taking People With You? By David Novak, Chairman and CEO of Yum! Brands, Inc., author of "Taking People With You: The Only Way to Make Big Things Happen."
I believe that leadership is a privilege. I also believe that all people have an inherent desire to make a positive difference through the work that they do. If you can establish an environment where every person feels that they have a chance to contribute, you’ve created a situation where people can do great things. To build an environment like this, you have to start with trust.
Reaching out to people and building relationships based on trust might seem like a natural idea, but how do you do it? Below are things you can do to show people that you believe in them and that you care.
1. Know That People Want to Contribute: Realize that 99.9 percent of people come to work wanting to do good and try hard. So you have to go to work every day thinking about your people that way and appreciating them for it. If you don’t trust people, why should they trust you?
2. Demonstrate That Everyone Counts: The most successful companies have a culture where every person feels valued. For example, our team in India has made corporate social responsibility a priority. One of their initiatives is to have at least one KFC in every major city run by team members who are hearing and speech impaired. I visited one such store in Bangalore. I was amazed to see how the kitchen worked with lights replacing buzzers and bells that typically tell staff when food is ready. At the counter, there are special menus that customers can point to in order to communicate their orders. The restaurant even provides table tents that teach people basic sign language, which the customers love. This ability to see the potential in every person and to provide a place where that potential can be utilized has been a huge success. What’s more, it serves as an inspiration to the entire organization as to what people are capable of.
3. The More They Know, The More They Care: One way to show people you trust in their abilities and intentions is to share with them what you know. No one understood this better than Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart . Early on, he established Saturday meetings, where he would gather people together for the sole purpose of sharing with them everything he knew about the business. He once wrote the following: “The more they know, the more they’ll understand. The more they understand, the more they’ll care. Once they care, there’s no stopping them. If you don’t trust your associates to know what’s going on, they’ll know you really don’t consider them partners.”
4. Ask Questions That Promote Insight: To find out more about who people are and what they think, one of my favorite questions to ask is, “What would you do if you had my job?” Getting inside people’s heads is important. Don’t ask questions of just the people you work with every day. Spend some time with those who report to your direct reports. Extend this idea even further, to customers or clients or anyone who might have something to do with the goal you want to achieve.
5. Take Responsive Action: Once you’ve found out what people think, you’ve got to show that you’ve taken them into account. John Calipari, head basketball coach at the University of Kentucky, told me how, in 2009, he recruited top high school player John Wall to his team. It was soon clear that this guy was about to go pro, and Calipari could see that the other team members were growing jealous of all the attention he was receiving. Calipari could have just let his star player be, but that would have destroyed the spirit of the group and the trust they needed to have in each other to be a great team. So he took action. He pulled Wall aside and said to him: “John, you are definitely the star of this team and you are definitely going pro. I want you to take as many of your teammates as you can with you. You need to help them be great too.” Wall took his coach’s words to heart and set his sights on improving not only his own performance, but the performance of everyone around him. The power of all that collective talent was unleashed.
If you’re one person getting big things done, that’s pretty good, but it will only take you so far. If you can help a whole team or organization full of people to reach big goals, then there’s no telling what you can accomplish together. It’s up to you as a leader to make that happen.
About the author: David C. Novak became Chairman of the Board on January 1, 2001, and Chief Executive Officer of Yum! on January 1, 2000. He also serves as President of Yum! , a position he has held since October 21, 1997.
Mr. Novak will be appearing on CNBC's Squawk Box Tuesday, January 10, 2012 at 7am/et.