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Developing Leaders is Job #1 for Yum Brands CEO Novak

yumToday's guest post is courtesy of our board member,  John Hollon.  John is VP for Editorial of and had a front row seat at the recent SHRM annual conference.  Here John reflects on a keynote delivered by David Novak, CEO of Yum Brands.

I'll say this about the annual SHRM conference that's held each June: There's usually at least one keynote speaker that gives you something to think about that's important to your workforce.

This year's event - the 66th annual Society for Human Resources Conference & Exhibition in  Orlando - was no exception, thanks to David Novak, the Chairman and CEO of Yum Brands , the fast food giant that runs KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut.

In fact, Yum Brands is the world's largest restaurant company, with 37,000 units and 1.4 million associates in 125 countries. It's also a Fortune 250 company, with $13 billion in revenues last year.

Clearly, the CEO of a company with this size and scope has a lot on his plate, and that's why what David Novak had to say to 13,000 HR professionals at the SHRM annual conference surprised me, because it isn't something you would expect him to be thinking about.

Novak describes himself as an “evangelist on the power of motivation and management,” and what this means is that he is relentless when it comes to motivating and encouraging his Yum Brands workforce, from top to bottom, from salaried executives to hourly part-timers.

His philosophy that he shared at SHRM Orlando, and wrote about in his book Taking People With You: The Only Way to Make Big Things Happen , is pretty basic but also extremely focused. He puts it like this:

“We all need people to help us along the way. You can go only so far by going it alone. If you want to start a business, if you want a big promotion, if you are developing or launching a new product, if you want your company to move in a new direction, if you want to expand your sales territory, if you want to raise money for a good cause, even if you become the coach of your child's soccer team, which has lost every game so far, and you want to show those kids what it feels like to win, you're going to need people to help you get there. You'll never accomplish anything big if you try to do it alone.”

Although Novak focuses on recognizing his managers throughout the company, he knows that he can't touch everyone and that in his time as CEO of Yum, he's only been able to get to around 1100 people. That sounds like a lot, bit it's not in a company with 1.4 million people.

So, Novak does what any good manager should do - he requires all his managers to develop their own recognition program, and for those managers to require that their sub managers develop their own program, and so on all the way down though the organization.

As I noted in my earlier coverage his SHRM speech:

“(Novak said that) if you can get your people capability right, you make customers happy, and if you make customers happy, you make more money. So, if you get your people capability right, your results will follow. “That why developing leaders is my No. 1 priority,” Novak said, “because you can't succeed without great leaders.” If you can take people with you to get things done, it has the biggest payoff of anything you can possibly do.”

That line from David Novak stuck with me - “If you can take people with you to get things done, it has the biggest payoff of anything you can possibly do” - stuck with me because it is extremely simple, basic, and something that so many managers simply talk about but never really do.

Yes, developing and recognizing all the people in the workforce, from the hourly shift workers to the senior executives who lead giant divisions, is the best thing that ANY manager can do to improve their organization.

If the thousands of HR professionals who attended the annual SHRM conference got nothing else out of the conference last month in Orlando, I hope they got this message from David Novak, because his words alone were well worth the price of admission.

Related Content on Engaging and Developing Employees:

Engaging and Empowering Early Career HR Professionals

Treating People Well is Very Good Business



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