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David Novak is the former Executive Chairman of Yum! Brands, following a successful 14 year run as the Chairman and CEO of one of the world’s largest restaurant companies (KFC,[…]

People want to know that their efforts matter, says former Yum! Foods CEO David Novak, but 82 percent of workers say they don’t feel recognized by their supervisors.

David Novak: Deep down in the heart and soul of every individual they want to know that they really count. They want to know that what they do really matters. I’ve actually learned that 82 percent of employees believe that they’re not recognized by their supervisor for what they do. And 60 percent of employees say they actually like recognition as much as money. And we’ve also learned that recognition happens very rarely, you know. The average person in any company gets recognized, if they’re lucky, about once every two months. 

And what I want to do is spend the rest of my life really building awareness of this fact and really driving home the fact that, as leaders and as family heads, our job is to let people know that they’re really recognized for the great gifts that they have and all the contributions they bring to a business and to the world.

The job of the leader is to create that work environment where people know that you care about them. And once you care about them as a leader I guarantee it they’re going to care about you. It’s sort of like this, you know, I’ve never liked anybody that didn’t like me. I bet you haven’t either. I’ve never really trusted somebody that didn’t trust me. And so if you want to get people invested in you boy, show them that you care about them and then they’ll care about you - and they’ll care about the company more. And they’ll come to work every day wanting to do all they can to make the company a success.David Novak-he best way to recognize somebody is to listen to them. When you listen to them you show that you really care. If you listen to them two things happen. Number one, you actually learn something because these people know a lot about your business and if you can just basically say, “Hey listen, if you have my job or if you could give me some input what would it be?” And then you listen to what they have to say and then you respond. Then you’re showing that you actually care. 

I think there’s two reasons why people don’t recognize other people. Number one they think if they do they don’t trust people. They think, “Oh, they’re not going to work hard enough. If I recognize you and tell you you’re doing a good job you’ll take the pressure off yourself or you won’t put the pedal to the metal anymore. So you won’t work as hard,” which is absolutely crazy. People work harder when they know they’re really being noticed. The other thing is is if I recognize you, boy somebody else is going to wish they’re going to get recognized. And you know what? What’s wrong with that? You know find what they’re doing too and recognize their behaviors that are driving your business.

Thank you in my mind – I don’t know if it’s one word or two words. Like sometimes I get confused about that. But thank you is the most powerful phrase in our language because it’s says, “I appreciate what you do. I noticed it.” It’s not that hard to do. You know that’s why we teach our kids to say thank you. I mean it’s important. But if you don’t say thank you you’re not noticing what people do. You’re actually taking advantage of what they do in my mind. And how hard is it? How hard is it to say thank you? It’s not that hard and it’s very, very powerful when you do it.

You know one of the things you may notice by my hairdo is that, you know, I have – usually I have a full head of hair. But, you know, I discovered about three or four months ago that I have male breast cancer which is a very rare, rare thing. And one of the things I’ll tell you about having cancer, you know, thank God you’re not hit by a bus. You know if you’re hit by a bus it’s over. If you have cancer you have the opportunity to tell people that you love, you love them. And then you also have the opportunity to have people tell you that they love you. And that’s an unbelievable thing that really it’s almost in its own way it’s a blessing. But it’s really made me stop and reflect. You know gosh what if you were hit by a bus? You know what if you hadn’t recognized that person? What if you hadn’t told a family member or a friend or associate how much you appreciate them. You know what a waste. What a waste. And I think this has really driven home to me even more the importance of recognizing others and appreciating people and letting people know just how much you value them. And doing it for people who really are deserving. That’s a joy. That’s a joy of leadership. And I think it’s a joy of being a good human being.