David Novak, the former CEO of Yum! Brands, was asked in an interview, “What’s the secret to great leadership?”

“I’ll tell you the secret to great leadership,” Novak said. “It’s to never have a certain type of person working for your organisation. These people should never exist in your company. For me, it was a guy named Bob.”

So this bloke is saying that THE secret to great leadership is to avoid a certain type of person? Like, that’s it? And the answer is, “Yes”. But there’s a twist. As the leader, it’s your fault if you have people like Bob working in your organisation. It’s not Bob’s fault.

Novak explained himself by telling the story of how, when he worked for PepsiCo, he used to visit the frontlines across the country. His job was to talk to them about what they were seeing and doing and feeling. At one plant everyone started raving about this guy named Bob. How Bob taught me more in four hours than I have learned in four years. How Bob showed me what really awesome customer service is all about. Everyone was basically going off about Bob.

So, doesn’t that make Bob the guy you DO want working for your company? How does that make Bob a guy you do NOT want working at your company?

Well, as everyone was sharing their favourite story about Bob, Novak looked across the room and saw Bob. And Bob was crying. Novak asked Bob why he was crying, and that’s when he realised he never wanted a guy like Bob to work for him again.

Bob told Novak that he had been working with Pepsico for 47 years and that this was the first time he had ever heard how his colleagues felt about him. It was the first time he ever felt appreciated. If was the first time he ever felt valued.

That’s when Novak knew he never wanted anyone to ever feel like Bob again. That’s when he realised the power of recognition and made it one of Pepsico’s top values – because no one should ever feel like Bob.

Do you have any Bobs working at your company—people who have no idea how appreciated they are? Are you one of them?

At the end of the day, there’s nothing more soul destroying than feeling like no one gives a shit, and your work doesn’t matter. Which is why a little appreciation, acknowledgment, and applause will always go a long way.

Richard Sauerman
Richard Sauerman
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