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Q&A | David Novak

Remember Aesop’s Fables, where a father teaches unity to his quarrelling sons by asking them to be like a bunch of sticks which are hard to break rather than single sticks that can be broken easily? The moral of the story: A team is better than a single employee. Taking People With You: The Only Way to Make BIG Things Happen, a new book by David Novak, chairman and CEO of Yum! Brands, Inc., is written in the same spirit.

Teamwork: David Novak.

Beginning with the right mindset that should be developed, Taking People With You takes you through the strategies, cultures and structures needed for a great team, how to establish trust with your team, right up to the follow-up stage. Each chapter ends with summarized tools that will get you started or let you assess how you’re doing.

Earlier this month, Novak was awarded the “2012 CEO of the Year" by Chief Executive, a US-based organizational and leadership journal, in a ceremony at the New York Stock Exchange. In an email interview, Novak touches upon the grey areas of leadership and work culture. Edited excerpts:

Tell us the significance of self-awareness and why it comes up again and again in this book?

Taking People With You—The Only Way to Make BIG Things Happen: By David Novak,Penguin Group, 237 pages, $25.95 (around Rs1,445).

As a CEO it’s easy for you to say ‘Be Yourself’, but it’s tougher for people who are climbing up a corporate ladder.

It’s a leader’s job to communicate the importance of being yourself and to create an atmosphere where people feel comfortable speaking up. If you can establish an environment where every person feels that they can contribute, you’ve created a situation where people can do great things.

What do you do when you don’t want to step on people’s toes or override them, but truly want to turn them around and believe in your idea?

Gaining alignment is hugely important. You can have the best idea in the world, but it won’t matter if you can’t get people on board to help you make it happen. It’s important to explain the “why" behind your idea in order to engage people. It’s also effective to ask for input and get people involved, or they will never be truly committed to the goal.

Your chapter with the section on ‘Telling isn’t selling’ points out a common mistake that leaders make. Why does leadership get reduced to telling others what to do?

Good leaders motivate and engage others, cultivate people at all levels and create a performance-driven culture that celebrates success in order to achieve big results. Everyone should think about how they can take people with them to achieve big goals. If you have no involvement, you have no commitment. So if you try to do things yourself without getting people engaged, you’re not likely going to be very successful.

Give a few steps to build and maintain a positive culture even when there is pressure, competition, an ever-changing business environment.

Building blocks: Create a performance-driven culture.

We have built Yum!’s global culture around the importance of using recognition to drive performance. Our goal is to achieve breakthrough results throughout the organization and celebrate success. All of our leaders around the world are expected to have their own individual recognition awards. Mine is an oversized pair of walking teeth for people who “Walk the Talk" of leadership. Here is how you can make culture come alive in five ways:

• Create shared experiences. Shared training, knowledge, language and other experiences make people feel like they’re part of something.

• Keep creating new memories. You can’t rely on the shared experiences of last year. It’s the leader’s job to make memorable moments happen.

• Cast the right shadow. No culture takes root unless the leader owns it first. Model the principles of your culture yourself, and recognize when you see others living up to them.

• Choose the right people. When you build your team, interview new employees and review the performance of your people, culture should be a key factor.

• Make culture the hero. Make a big deal of your culture. When your team succeeds, show how the culture helped make it possible.

komal.sharma@livemint.com

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