Make It

What I've learned after 20 years on the job

The path to success isn't just about tasty food, great service, innovative menus and value.

After nearly 20 years, I'm stepping down as executive chairman and board member at Yum Brands. This, of course, prompts the inevitable question of "what are you going to do next?"

It's been a true honor and privilege to lead Yum and the more than 1.5 million company and franchise associates across 130+ countries through the growth of our category-leading restaurant brands KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. Reflecting now on what's next, I certainly have no plans to sit still.

"Whether it was handing out personalized rubber chicken or cheese head awards or giving a set of wind-up walking teeth to employees who "Walk the Talk," recognizing Yum employees was an enormous passion of mine."

Looking ahead, I plan to carry on a passion discovered first during my years with PepsiCo and throughout my years with Yum! Brands. In this venture I'll be making the transition from former CEO of a leading global company, to founder and CEO of OGO (O Great One!), the first consumer brand focused on the awesome power of recognition.

As the CEO of Yum, I learned harnessing the power of recognition can revitalize company culture. Whether it was handing out personalized rubber chicken or cheese head awards or giving a set of wind-up walking teeth to employees who "Walk the Talk," recognizing Yum employees was an enormous passion of mine and part of our success in connecting people back to the company by showing them how much they were appreciated.

And, most importantly, it wasn't just me who was recognizing others. Recognition is a privilege of leadership, and we built a culture of recognition with each group, leader and brand embracing recognition in their own, personalized way around the globe.

Interestingly, a new study conducted by KRC Research for OGO found nearly 9 in 10 middle-management employees feel unrecognized by their supervisors, while 88 percent also feel unrecognized by their co-workers. We also discovered recognition and appreciation go far beyond the workplace with a shortage of recognition — what I've dubbed the "global recognition deficit" — seen at home and in people's personal lives.

In fact, 70 percent of Americans wish they were recognized more overall while 83 percent say they could do more to recognize others. This is why I'm excited to launch OGO and bring the power of recognition to the forefront. My goal is to create a movement that motivates people to use recognition on a regular basis and inspire others to do great things.

From my career and personal experiences, I believe the importance of recognition can be best explained through 10 key principles:

  1. People won't care about you if you don't care about them. Before you expect anything from other people, you must show them you care about them.
  2. The best way to show people you care is to listen to them. If you don't take the time to hear and acknowledge what someone has to say, they won't believe that you care about them.
  3. A great idea can come from anywhere. Great ideas are essential to the success of any organization, but don't assume that they come only from leaders — anyone can have a great idea.
  4. Recognize great work and great ideas whenever and wherever you see them. Great leaders celebrate other people's ideas even more than their own, and do it in a way that is real and from the heart.
  5. Make recognition a catalyst for results. The reason you recognize someone must be directly tied to the important goals and objectives of your organization. Leaders should not only recognize the good, earned behavior, but also recognize counterproductive behavior and address it when he or she sees it. By marking both good and bad behaviors, leaders can create a catalyst that drives results.
  6. Make it fun. Everyone will want to be involved in recognition if you create shared experiences that are fun for everyone — not just the one being recognized.
  7. Make it personal. When you give a reward, make it personal to you and the person you're recognizing. Don't just give out a generic certificate or plaque.
  8. Recognition is universal. Everyone loves to be recognized for who they are and what they do well.
  9. Giving recognition is a privilege. Leaders are in the unique position to recognize others. When exercised in the right way, giving recognition is a privilege that feeds people's souls and makes them feel great about themselves.
  10. Say "thank you" every chance you get. The two most powerful words in the English language are "thank" and "you." Use them often.

Commentary by David Novak, co-founder and former CEO of Yum! Brands, one of the world's largest restaurant companies, and will step down as Yum!Brands executive chairman on May 20, 2016 following the Company's annual shareholder meeting. A renowned expert on leadership and recognition culture, Novak is the author of highly respected and critically acclaimed books, The Education of an Accidental CEO, New York Times bestseller, "Taking People With You," as well as "O great one! A little story about the awesome power of recognition." Novak also created the largest privately funded leadership service program in middle schools and high schools called Lead2Feed, and is the recipient of the 2015 Horatio Alger Award for his commitment to philanthropy and higher education. Novak is now launching a new consumer brand, OGO (O Great One!), with the mission to inspire people through joyful, personal acts of recognition that deepen relationships. Novak's wife of 41 years, Wendy, is his OGO and the greatest inspiration in his life for her brave fight against and advocacy for Type 1 diabetes.

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