Leadership Development: Helping People Become Better Leaders with David Novak

Brands like KFC have become global household names. This kind of success is made possible my leaders who are leading leaders like David Novak. He is the Founder and CEO of oGoLead and the Co-Founder and retired Chairman and CEO of Yum! Brands, a fast food company that operates the brands Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut, among others. He narrates how he was always into leadership even from a young age. He shares about how he managed to lead Yum! Brands as a global company, spinning off all the way to China. David believes in patterned thinking and shares his tips on how to look for ideas like what they did with Cool Ranch Doritos. He also introduces his book on developing company leaders called Taking People with You and talks about the digital leadership development platform he created to help people become better leaders.

TTL 565 | Leadership Development


I’m so glad you joined us because we have David Novak. He is the Cofounder and Retired Chairman and CEO of Yum! Brands. If you don’t know Yum! Brands, you probably do. It’s actually KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. They’re all under that umbrella. He’s also the number one New York Times bestselling author. He’s got a company that he’s running and I’m interested to know about that.

Listen to the podcast here

Leadership Development: Helping People Become Better Leaders with David Novak

I am here with David Novak who is the Cofounder and Retired Chairman and CEO of Yum! Brands, which includes KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. Yum! is one of the world’s largest restaurant companies. He’s also been named 30 Best CEOs by Barron’s, one of the Top People in Business by Fortune and one of the 100 Best-Performing CEOs in the World by Harvard. He is the CEO of oGoLead, a digital leadership development platform he created to help people become better leaders. He’s the number one New York Times bestselling author of Taking People with You. Your bio is an amazing thing to read and it’s an honor to have you on the show. Thank you for being here, David.

It’s my honor to be with you.

I gave a little bit of background, but I saw you have an interesting background that I wasn’t expecting when I went back to your childhood a little. I have been stalking you a little bit to learn a little bit more about you. Did you live in 32 trailer parks in 23 states by the age of twelve?

My dad was a government surveyor. We moved every three months. We lived in all kinds of small towns up and down the United States. We were never on the East Coast and the West Coast. I’m probably the only guy that you would know that lived in Dodge City, Kansas twice, which we did. My mom would check me into schools and she’d say, “David, you better make some friends because we’re leaving.” That was the case. It was one great experience for me because when you’re putting that situation, you have to work through the anxiety of doing new things. I would quickly assess who the good kids were in the school, who were the people I wanted to avoid, who I wanted to make friends with and I try to make friends and get along as well as I could and then we’d move. It wasn’t that bad on the moves because I took my neighborhood with us. My dad had a group of about fifteen surveyors that he worked with. We’d hook up the government trucks to our trailers and go to the next trailer park. We go from Chama, New Mexico to Detroit Lakes, Minnesota to Kimball, Nebraska. Tiny little towns you’d never heard of but it was a tremendous experience for me that I think helped me a lot.

That’s going to give you a great foundation for understanding customers later on in life. You have seen so many different areas and what people’s lifestyles are like. That doesn’t surprise me that you would get into such a successful brand. A lot of people are very familiar with KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. They may not know the Yum! Brand name if they’re not in the business world as much, but it’s a huge thing to be what you were, the chairman and CEO of such a large company. Is that something that you always strive to be, a CEO and Chairman? What was your goal when you were younger?

For me, I was very competitive and still am very competitive to this day. I was fortunate enough to find out what I loved early on in my career. In college, I was a mediocre student until I took some advertising courses and I love advertising and marketing. Once I loved that, I wanted to learn more and more about how to do it and it may be an avid learner. I’ve read a lot about you and your push on curiosity. I’m curious about how to be a better leader. What I did was I took a job. I started out as a copywriter. I’d look around and said, “That guy that’s the account executive, he seems to have more responsibility.” Does he have more than what I have or am I missing something? If I was missing something, I worked on it then I went and I try to get that job. Every time I get thrust into a new situation, I’d look around at my peers and whoever I was working for and say, “Could I do that job that my boss has?” I would work my butt off and try to make that happen.

I became head of marketing for Pizza Hut. I ran marketing and sales for Pepsi. I said, “I’ve got to be an operating person to demonstrate I can be a president.” I became the Chief Operating Officer of the Pepsi Cola Company. I got to be the President of KFC and then President of Pizza Hut. PepsiCo decided in 1997 to spin off our restaurant brands into an independent public company and I was in the right place at the right time and became the CEO of Yum! Brands. Back then, we had about 20,000 restaurants in about 80 countries. When I retired, we have about 45,000 restaurants and we were in over 100 countries. We went from having 20% of our business outside the United States to 80% outside the United States. I got to lead a great global powerhouse and create the culture that I thought was perfect for our industry. It was fantastic but I had no clue I was going to be able to do all this. I did my job, worked hard, was ambitious, looked around and said, “If that person could do it, I can do it.”

I love that perception of what you’re capable of creating because I think that a lot of people limit themselves. They think, “I can’t do it.” I guess that’s why I was so interested in curiosity. I’m super competitive as well. I like wanting to strive to be better and looking at what other people do. If they can do it, why can’t I do it?

I always say, Diane, you never know what you’re capable of. I’m proof positive of that. My family would never think that I’d end up being chairman and CEO of a company, let alone one that was as prestigious as Yum! Brands was. One thing led to another and somehow God takes you down a different path and you take that road and I feel very blessed to have had the opportunities that I’ve had.

I teach a lot of marketing and I’m like you, I love marketing and advertising. In my courses, we always talk about product placement in different things. I can’t look at Taco Bell without thinking of the movie Demolition Man. I can’t look at KFC without thinking of the movie, So I Married an Axe Murderer. You did a great job of getting your product out there. Are those two that come to mind for you?

I think great brands get into the vernacular. They become a part of the culture. They can be mentioned just off hand without a whole lot of thoughts. You don’t have to think about it. It’s something you do. You go to KFC and get a bucket of chicken. You go pig out on some tacos at Taco Bell. You have that pan pizza at Pizza Hut. What we always try to do with our marketing is to get ourselves in the vernacular, be talked about and try to have a lot of buzz. At Taco Bell, on the verge of all the social media stuff that happened, we created what we call a fishbowl. We’ve started monitoring social media 24/7 and making sure where people were. We didn’t get behind on that trend and I think that’s helped Taco Bell become cool and hip.

You want to be where people are. If they’re in a theater, you want to be a part of what they see on television. You want to be natural. You want to be authentic. You want to be true to who you are. The Colonel Campaign is fantastic for KFC, like changing out those celebrities. Over Mother’s Day, they had the Chickendales. I was so proud of the team. I had nothing to do with it. I recognized them. I said, “That’s something I wished I would have done.” That’s what I always said to people about marketing. In marketing, you wear your work. It’s the one job where once you do something, other people see it and it’s big time. You want to have people see it and say, “I wish I would have thought of that. I wish I could have done that.”

[bctt tweet=”When you get people engaged and involved and you go in with an open mind, you come up with a lot of ideas.” username=””]

Those commercials are all great. George Hamilton’s Extra Crispy kills me. That is too good. You were a big part of the spinning off of Yum! China. How hard was that?

That was my last act as CEO. What happened is when we started Yum! Brands, we had about 100 restaurants in China and it became an absolute powerful house force. We had a tremendous local team who did a great job. When we spun it off, I think we had around 7,000 restaurants and it was about 40% of our profits. Anytime China had a hiccup, the rest of the company had a hiccup because it’s so dependent on China. We wanted to keep China in Yum! fold, which we did but what we did is we spun them off as an independent public company and made them a franchise. They pay Yum! Brands a licensing fee on every year of one of their sales stores. Those are still a part of the Yum system but it was the only place in the world where we owned all our restaurants in China.

We had all the company equity and put all the capital in. We own the restaurants there and we had great operating margins. We’re able to spin off China so they could become an independent public company and they’ve done extremely well since the spin-off. Yum! became a franchise company where we were almost 100% franchise company. Investors call that asset like because you don’t have to put a lot of capital. What’s great is that overall the stock is doubled and been one of the best performers on Wall Street. We thought we would have great success in and we have had great success and even a little bit more than what our investors told us we would or bankers, so it’s been great.

You’re very creative and you find good ideas in places you wouldn’t expect them. I write about other companies that did that in some of my work and I’m interested in how they came up with the idea for the Cool Ranch Doritos. I thought that was an interesting story. Do you want to share that?

I always believe in pattern thinking. You go out, you look at what other people are doing and then you say, “How could I do that in my business?” When I was in the advertising agency business side, one of my accounts was Doritos. Doritos had started the slowdown in terms of its growth. Nacho Cheese Doritos was the big popular flavor, but Frito-Lay had no product innovation for a number of years. I said, “Why don’t we develop different flavors?” I took my team and rather than going to the snack aisle, we went to the salad dressing aisle to get a sense of what was growing in the salad dressing business. We found that this ranch flavor was taking off. It used to balsamic, but the ranch flavor was the fastest growing. We saw all kinds of phasings in the grocery store for ranch.

We went back and did more homework and quantified that ranch flavor was the fastest growing salad dressing flavor in the world. I went to Dennis Heard who was the head of R&D at Frito-Lay and I said, “I’ve got a great idea for you. I think what we’ve got to do is develop ranch-flavored Doritos.” I said what was successful was Nacho Cheese Doritos. We need to put a unique image to a known quantity. Nacho was the unique image to the cheese when we did Nacho Cheese Doritos. Let’s call this Cool Ranch Doritos to give it a little bit of uniqueness. That became the hottest, most popular products. If you look around in the snack aisle, you’ll see a ranch flavor everything. That started by not thinking about the snack business, but thinking about what people are doing outside of the snack business and how you could apply it to your business. I did the same thing at Pizza Hut. They had all these different kinds of toppings that you can eat and enjoy.

TTL 565 | Leadership Development
Leadership Development: You have to get yourselves in the vernacular, be talked about, and try to have a lot of buzz to become a part of the culture.


I took my team, we went out to California when California Pizza Kitchen was an emerging concept. We ate all these different pizzas, barbecue chicken pizza, Thai chicken pizza and BLT pizza. I came back and said, “How can we do something like this at Pizza Hut?” We didn’t have all those exotic toppings on our make table, but we did have a lot of pepperonis. We said, “Why don’t we create Pepperoni Lovers?” We doubled the pepperoni, we called it Pepperoni Lovers and our sales grew by 10%. We said, “How about Meat Lovers? How about Cheese Lovers? How about Veggie Lovers?” The Lovers line of pieces of pizza is one of the most popular lines that we have and other competitors basically copied it.

It’s interesting how you thought to even go outside of where you were comfortable, to begin with. Why the salad dressing aisle? How do you know where to look for these unusual ideas?

You just read a lot. You think about things. I used to read Ad Age cover to cover. I pay attention to anything that was going on in marketing. You’ve got to go where your products are sold and walk the aisles. If you’re in the restaurant business, you’ve got to go to the stores and talk to your customers and talk to the front line. The people who are on the front line know so much. They have so many good ideas if you just ask them. You have to have your eyes and ears open for new ideas. The big thing about me is I don’t claim to be the smartest guy in the room. I have to have other people to help me. It’s one plus one equals three. When you get other people engaged and get them involved and you learn from other people and you go in with an open mind and then you say, “If they’re doing this, how do we do this in our category?” All of a sudden you’ve got a million different ideas you never had. It’s nothing brilliant. It’s doing what I think you need to be. Business leaders have to be in the market. They have to be on top of what’s going on. If you ever bought a car where you’re proud of that car and you think it’s great and once you buy that car, you drive down the highway and you see everybody else has it. It’s because you’re open to it right at that point in time. When I go out, I’m always open to the things that I’m working on so that I can do pattern thinking and bring things together.

That’s great because a lot of leaders come up with, “Don’t come to me with problems if you don’t have solutions,” kind of thinking and sometimes people can’t have the solutions. They are not qualified, but they can recognize issues. Do you think a lot of leaders shut down people with that thinking?

I think that’s ridiculous because why are you a leader? You’re there to make things better. If somebody comes to me with an idea, I try to be open on the idea and then build on the idea. When you build on the idea you can actually come up with something. It’s very rarely where I’ve had an idea that was all by itself. There’s always somebody that makes it better. For a guy or a woman to be the boss sitting back waiting for everything to come to them tied up in a nice little bow, it’s arrogance and it’s not the way you build a winning company.

I love that you’ve gone into this company that you’ve developed because you focus on a lot of this that you embrace in leadership and it’s called oGoLead. I mentioned you’re the founder and CEO of that and it’s a digital leadership development platform that you created to help people become better leaders by teaching them. You’ve got these trademark heartwiring and hardwiring skills. What is this company? I looked at it and it’s very interesting to me. Can you explain it from your perception?

[bctt tweet=”Every company should become known for being a people-first company that drives great results by teaching their people.” username=””]

What’s important is that companies transform their managers into confident, capable and engaging leaders. Every company should become known for being a people first company that drives great results by teaching their people you must-have leadership skills. This is important because a lot of companies are losing people in profits because their managers aren’t trained. 70% of what drives engagement is determined solely by the manager. I always say, “Show me a good leader and I’ll show you good business,” and that’s a fact. 79% of employees leave the company that they’re in because they don’t feel appreciated for what they do. The people are not valuing each other. As a result, anytime you lose an employee, even if it’s $50,000 employee, it costs you over time $50,000 to replace that employee. It’s costing people time, energy and money because they don’t train their people. For me, when I was at Yum! Brands, I spent fifteen years teaching a program called Taking People with You. It was everything I knew about how to get your mindset right, how to put the strategy structure and culture behind things, and how to follow through to get results because people don’t do that. That was my passion.

I taught it to over 4,000 people in our company. It was something that was so critical to me and our company because I knew if I could build great leaders, we would have great businesses wherever we did business. I wrote this book called Taking People with You, which was on this program because that was the name of the program that I taught. We had 40,000 restaurant managers and I wanted as many of our restaurant managers to get trained on the principles of Taking People with You. This was the most powerful thing I did, spending time developing leaders in our company. When I retired, you look around and the big hot buzz word is all the toxic leadership that’s out there. There are all kinds of issues. It’s a big problem.

What I want to do is help companies and help people become the best possible leadership development company they can be or the best possible leader they can be. I have two programs that we saw. I’m launching one called Purposeful Recognition and to me, it was the big key that I used to drive performance in my company throughout my career. A lot of people think recognition is that soft willy-nilly stuff that makes people feels good. What I found is if you recognize people for doing the right things, which is what I call purposeful recognition, they’re going to do more of it. The other thing that’s interesting is nobody’s training anybody on how to recognize people. I learned how to do sales programs. I learned how to make quality products. I learned finance for non-financial executives. I learned all these different skills like how to innovate. No one is teaching people how to recognize people, yet 80% of people feel they’re not recognized to work for what they do. This is a huge problem.

I saw that you’ve given away rubber chickens and cheese heads and some of the stuff and I loved your office with all the plaques of everybody, even on the ceiling because you ran out of room on the walls. I’m thinking about this in sales, I remember they used to give us some contests of things to motivate us in different things but they never asked me what motivated me or what I wanted for recognition. They just assumed I wanted to go to a Suns game or whatever it is that they were giving away. How do you determine?

You’ve got to be empathetic with the people that you recognize. Purposeful recognition to me is that you’ve got a company and you say, “What behaviors do you want to have happened in your company that’s going to drive great results? Is it innovation? Is it a collaboration? Is it focused on the customer? Is it putting process and discipline around what matters? What are those things that are going to drive performance in your company?” Those usually are the company’s values. I don’t like the idea of values because it’s too amorphous. This is how we’re going to work together. I call them my “How we work together” principles. What are those four or five things that are critical to your consultancy business?

TTL 565 | Leadership Development
Taking People with You: The Only Way to Make Big Things Happen

You’ve got people working for you. Identify what those four or five things are and then that’s what you recognize people with. You recognize people for doing those things. If being innovative is important and let’s say Joe came up with the innovative idea, you go up and say, “Joe, thank you so much for this idea. It’s terrific. It’s creative as it can be and it’s making our customers happy.” You recognize him in front of other people, the public recognizes him and everybody wants to get recognition and it becomes contagious. That’s what I did throughout my career. I have to tell you, it is the secret weapon to leadership that people don’t use, but you can’t give it to people who don’t deserve it. You have to recognize people who earn it. In the training program that I have, it’s like a masterclass on recognition. I teach people why recognition’s important and why it works. How to do it in a personal way that’s right and consistent with your personality. What are the barriers to recognition, knocking them down and how to make it a way of life? It’s a one to the two-hour course. I’m doing this program because I believe that any company or any person who takes this program, it will transform a company and it will transform a person.

Are you on at the same time or is this recorded?

I had a professional team come in and film me. I start out my day in a car. I do focus groups with Millennials. I’ve got human organizational development specialists on my team. They have self-reflection after each one of my sections of the course. You’re asked to look at your own performance and what you do. I’m so excited about it because I believe no matter how successful a company is, if they have people in their company take this program, it will create a wave that will be unlike any you could imagine. I’m very excited about that.

The other program I have is called Essential Leadership Traits. This is all about how you engage, equip and elevate yourself to be the leader that you can be. This is more of a 90-day program, a master’s program. It takes you fifteen to eighteen hours to take and you learn the soft skills that drive hard results. We call that being heartwired and hardwired. For me, I’ve had my success in my career. We charge people for this stuff so we’re not making any money yet. I think we will look at some point. I’m doing this because this is the right thing to do for people, the right thing to do for our country. If the leader has a great experience that they don’t share with others, it’s a crime. That’s why I write my books.

Definitely, you are paying back of what you’ve learned. I think that’s so important in mentorship. As you’re talking about this recognition, I was trying to think in my mind how to tie that into curiosity. Because sometimes people have these great ideas, say we want to recognize innovation but then they hit this wall of we don’t do the things that way or we can’t or that’s not how it’s done. We get shut down sometimes for great ideas. A lot of people in my research I found there are four things that hold people back from being curious in that fear, assumptions, technology and environment. Sometimes the environment at work, leadership is the problem. What advice do you have to create a more curious workplace?

If you want to have a more curious workplace, you tell people that this is one of the behaviors you want to have in your company and that you want people to looking around and not saying, “We did this before and looking for solutions versus problems.” When people are curious, what you do is you recognize the people when you see it. You explain to them why that was curiosity. Curious is an interesting word. I know what you mean by it, but it has probably different interpretations. You need to define what you mean by curious and then when you see people do those things, recognize them for doing it and they’ll understand what you mean by curiosity and then they’ll also do more of it. If you want to have people be collaborative and you’re the leader and you start recognizing people for being collaborative and you say, “Sally got together with Anne and Bill. The three of them came up with this idea. They built off of each other and I’d like to recognize them for how collaborative they were. That collaboration is the reason why our sales are up 5%.” That’s how you do it.

If companies are trying to expand globally, that’s another issue I work on, not just curiosity but the perception of how we can have expansion in other areas of the world and have people see us or we see them in a way that we understand each other. It comes back to empathy. I study emotional intelligence but I’m curious how much perception was an issue when you were at Yum! and how you got around that?

[bctt tweet=”Recognizing people is the secret weapon to leadership that people just don’t use.” username=””]

First of all, if you’re going to be a global company, you’ve got to realize that everything does not resonate the United States of America. There are smart people everywhere. I actually think the only way you can become truly global and truly have a phenomenal business globally is that you have to have partners and/or people that understand the country. When we had expats running France, we didn’t do well in France, but when we had people who were French running France, we did fantastically. Our China business was huge. Why was it huge? Because we had an all-Chinese team. We would filter in some expertise that could be an expat. I think that you’ve got to build a local capability.

Once you build that local capability globally, they understand their customers better. That’s how you get empathy and that’s how you get through the perception issues. You have to have high emotional intelligence to know that it’s important for you to do that. Many people spend their life talking about what they do versus focusing on the problems that they’re solving for customers and for their people. Nobody cares that much about what you do and why you do it and talking about yourself. The way that you’re successful is you learn what your people need and what your customers need and they’re the main character of everything that you do, not you and that’s important.

That’s an important point. I’ve had Daniel Goleman on the show talk about emotional intelligence. We’ve seen Travis Bradberry and these people share this data about CEOs having the lowest level of emotional intelligence. Maybe either it’s because they have to deal with numbers and finance more than people and different things as they get promoted. What do you think is the biggest reason we see such low levels of emotional intelligence in CEOs?

People climb up the ladder, they get to the top and they began to think that they deserve that. That they’re better than other people and that keeps you from reaching out to other people and they become judges and bosses versus coaches and collaborators. It’s a big difference. I know a lot of great CEOs who have the traits of empathy. I don’t know very many good CEOs that don’t. I’ve done 64 podcasts on oGoLead and my podcast list is a who’s who list of business leaders, from Jamie Dimon at J.P. Morgan Chase to Gary Keller at Southwest Airlines, Tom Brady in the world of sports. I’ve done it with executive chefs. Different people with different vocations. All of them get inside of the heads of the people that they have to lead and take with them. Successful people do not see them. They have the humility that says, “I need other people.” That humility says you need people besides yourself. That’s why I do these podcasts on oGoLead, you go to OgoLead.com. They’re unbelievable because you learn from these other leaders. That’s what I’m trying to do is to help grow other people. I’ve got all kinds of contacts and because of that, I’m able to get all these people to do these podcasts with me and it’s a lot of fun. It makes a big difference. I don’t know if anybody wants to listen to me, but the fact is you’ve got me for now.

I agree and to me, I do this for a lot of the same reasons. You get to learn so much. These clips will be in courses I teach and then when I speak, when I talked to David Novak, he said this. It’s so interesting to combine what we learned. I love what you do with all these groups to try and get them better equipped. I even saw that you said 63% of Millennials feel leadership is not being developed. I saw you mentioned Millennials quite often and other things that I’ve seen and it’s always in a positive light but we’re not doing enough for them. Do you think that that group is underdeveloped as compared to any other group?

It’s the largest section of our workforce now. It’s the blindest misunderstood generation that I can think of. I got to colleges and the young kids I talked to all the time want to grow. They want to develop. The reason why they leave companies is they’re not getting developed. They’re not growing fast enough. They have these companies where there’s no emotional intelligence. They don’t want to work 24/7 because they grew up with their parents who got divorced because the priorities weren’t right. They’re trying to balance their life more, but they’re doing all this stuff for the right reasons. I have a lot of respect for Millennials. I think that if their companies aren’t training them, I want to train them. That’s why I’m doing this. I want to get companies to train them too. We have a business-to-business business and we also have a business-to-consumer business. I want to provide the training that will help people. The one thing that I have going for me and I say this maybe with a little bit of humility in it, is I’ve done it. I was a CEO for a long time and had a lot of great success but it was all through other people. I offer a pragmatic experience that is proven and can make a difference in people’s careers. That’s what I’m trying to teach people.

TTL 565 | Leadership Development
Leadership Development: So many people spend their life talking about what they do versus focusing on the problems that they’re solving for customers and for other people.


I’m curious when you talk about the balance and work life type of things that we focus on. What’s the perception in other countries of what is a reasonable work week? Are we unusual compared to China and the different places you’ve worked?

I don’t know what the usual work week is even here or what the perception is. I haven’t seen that. I think when you talk about aspiring leaders, the people who are reading this are aspiring leaders. I did a podcast with Eric Yuan who took Zoom public. He didn’t think about balance but he goes to his little kids’ basketball games and he wants his employees too, but you come home, you do the work you’ve got to do. You fit everything into your life. It becomes one. When you start compartmentalizing things like that, it doesn’t work. When you go to work, you better go to work and do something you love. Because when you love, you’re not going to work. You love it. You’re going to do your hobby.

It’s hard for people to figure that out though what they love, isn’t it sometimes?

Yes, it is but there are all kinds of little tests you can take, whether there’s Myers-Briggs that you can find out where your areas are. Some people lock into it like I did by taking a course and it was fantastic. All of a sudden I wanted to study.

What course was that?

That was when I was in advertising and at the University of Missouri. I take one advertising course and I was gone. I knew what I want to do the rest of my life, advertising and marketing. Once you find what you love, people always tell you to do that but why is it so important when you love something, you can’t get enough of it. You’ve got to balance your passion with what comes into your life in terms of your family. The people who are successful don’t compartmentalize their life like that. They figure out how to take their whole life and make it one.

[bctt tweet=”The really successful people have a humility that says, ‘I need other people.'” username=””]

You can do more virtually. It changed how we do things. You do so many things. You retired from Yum! in 2016. You’ve got this company, oGoLead, but you’ve also got some of the things you’re doing in education and I’d love to talk about that a little bit. What are you doing in education?

We have the Lift a Life Novak Family Foundation. Our goal is to help people achieve their potential, otherwise couldn’t achieve without our help. One of our focus areas is leadership development. First of all, we created this program called Lead for Change. It used to be Lead to Feed, but we changed the name to Lead for Change because it was growing so rapidly. We initially started out focusing on hunger. The idea there is I took my Taking People with You book and I created a curriculum for middle schools and high school teachers and then they get their kids to form project teams. Then they work on the leadership principles that I teach and tied into a service project that will improve the community.

Diane, I’m so proud of this. This is in all 50 states. We’ve reached over 1.5 million people. We’ve got about 8,000, 7,500 teachers signed up to teach this program. It’s the largest, fastest growing privately funded leadership program in middle schools and high schools. My daughter who runs our family foundation, she teamed up with this lady named Jan Helson who started this group called Global Game Changers. This is all about teaching elementary kids to understand what their real talent is and then put their heart into it and that becomes her superpower. You use that to ignite good in the world but it’s all about building self-esteem in elementary schools. We’re partnering with them and trying to help them take that national as we did with our Lead for Change program.

I also formed the Novak Leadership Institute at the University of Missouri, which is where I went to school, where we’re trying to create the best practice university for developing leaders and teaching leadership. We’ve got nine hours of courses there on Taking People with You. I’m proud we’re offering it to freshmen and sophomores in addition to what we call the Novak Scholar Program, which is for seniors. The idea is to develop leaders at every level. I don’t think you’re born a leader. I think you have to learn how to be a leader. Some people have more talent than others, no question. I’ve learned it by teaching people the importance of getting your mindset right. The importance of having self-awareness. The importance that you can collaborate and make a difference. When you teach people this, it’s amazing what happens and you don’t have to be born a leader.

You talk about IQ and EQ and the different types of things that we need. Are you focusing as much on the CQ, the cultural quotient, understanding people from their unique perceptions? I think it ties into emotional intelligence with empathy and all that. That’s something that I’d like to see at a young age too. Is that part of these programs at all?

We have people understand the differences that each other people have and the talents that they have. One of the exercises we do as a lifeline exercise where we have people plot their life on the horizontal line, that’s the baseline. They plot the ups and down episodes of their lives. They share that with the group and then people learn about each other and understand where everybody’s coming from and it’s the favorite exercise the kids do. They loved it. I think EQ, IQ all that stuff, to me is like, “The sooner you can start teaching people to value others and respect others and the individual talents that they have and their authenticity, the better.” That’s valuing others, recognizing others for what they do and appreciating others for what they do. Learning how to engage with people. Learning how to equip other people with the tools they need to be successful. Learning how to elevate people, make them feel good about what they do and how they contribute.

TTL 565 | Leadership Development
Leadership Development: The sooner you can start teaching people to value and respect others and the individual talents that they have, the better.


If you start teaching people these must-have skills, they’ll make a difference. I do these Skypes with the award-winning teams and they’re all proud of what they did. She said, “David, these five kids on the winning team were nerds.” None of them were a high school quarterback or the cheerleaders. These kids were basically the nerds of the school and they became so proud of what they did. Everybody else looked at them and they got a standing ovation when they went through what they did. That helped build their self-esteem. Those kids all know they’re capable of more. We started out this you never know what you’re capable of. I think good leaders, good coaches help people understand that they’ve got capabilities that you don’t even know you have, but they’re in you and we just have to bring them out.

I saw that you said the three pieces of career advice you’d give, the importance of recognition. Get in a grateful state of mind and be a know-how junkie and become an avid learner. How do we get people that want to strive to be more of an avid learner?

I think self-interest always counts. If you become an avid learner, it’s going to grow your career and you’re going to make more money and you’re going to get more satisfaction. You’re going to be able to help more people or you can sit back and not do anything and live an apathetic life. How do you get people to become an avid learner?

Especially in the workplace, is there something we could recognize?

What we did is we recognize know-how junkies. Whenever I saw somebody take an idea from somebody else, I recognize people for it. It all comes back to purposeful recognition. If you want to see a behavior, start recognizing people. They earn it because they’ve exhibited that behavior. I know that sounds common sense, but the problem with common sense is not that common. That’s how you do it. What is curiosity? What is an avid learner? I don’t know what that is. You’ve got to show people what it is. If you believe in avid learning and you believe in curiosity, make sure your people go to Apple. Make sure you go to California Pizza Kitchen. Make sure you go to the competitors. Go out with your team and take a look at what other people are doing. Show the way. If you show the way, people will follow. I always say leaders cast a shadow. People do what the leader does. If you’re an avid learner and you are know-how junkie and you’re curious and you know that’s a huge value that everybody knows that you have, it’s going to be amazing how many people become know-how junkies, curious and avid learners.

I think that’s important and I love that we ended on that note because I think that there’s so much that we can help people achieve if we model that behavior. I can’t think of a better model of so many things than you. You have had an amazing career. If people haven’t already read your books including Taking People with You and all your other books all your stuff, a lot of people want to know how can they find out more, how can they go to oGoLead and all that type of thing?

[bctt tweet=”If you want to see a behavior, start recognizing people when they earn it because they’ve exhibited that behavior.” username=””]

First of all, I enjoy being on this program with you and thank you for everything you’re doing to develop leaders because I think it’s critical. I’ve written two books that I love that everybody seems to like a lot. One is Taking People with You. The other one is my book called O Great One! It’s about the power of recognition. It’s a parable about a guy who comes in and he takes over this company that’s called Happy Face Toy Company, but nobody’s happy. What he does is that he uses recognition to turn the company around. It’s basically my life experiences told them in a parable form. It doesn’t take long to read and it’s a fantastic book and it’s taken off and doing well.

If you go to OgoLead.com, you can learn about our leadership development programs, this Purposeful Recognition Program that I’m launching. On OgoLead.com, you can listen to all my podcasts. These are fantastic and they’re fun. I love doing them because I learned so much from all these leaders, it’s unbelievable. I did one with Eric Yuan. I already talk about what I learned from him. The guy who took Zoom public. Go to oGoLead and on Twitter, @DavidNovakOGO. I try to tweet daily inspirations. I try to have a leadership message that I tweet every day and I try to share some of my learnings along the way on Instagram, Facebook and all that. I appreciate anybody falling in. More importantly, if you get any learning from whatever I do, pass it on. Help others do what they have to do. I tweeted, “Integrity is the gift you give yourself. Always strive to do the right things and the right things will happen.” I tweeted, “You have to care to be thoughtful enough to prepare helpful feedback. You don’t just tell people what to do. You give them insights and ask questions that will allow them to come to their own a-ha conclusions that truly drives personal progress and results.” I try to do a tweet like that every day and it gets me in a good mood.

I can see why. Those are motivational things. I’m curious why oGo? Where did that come from?

When I became a grandfather, I didn’t know what to call myself. I love my father-in-law’s name. He calls himself Great Jack. Jack’s a magical name. I said, “I’ll call myself Great David.” just came to me out of the blue. I said, “I’m going to call myself Ogo.” People will say, “What’s Ogo stands for?” I say, “O Great One.” I’m Ogo to grandkids and it’s been perfect. It’s easy for them to say. It’s not the most humble name in the world, but it came from Great Jack and that’s a great example of pattern thinking. I love Great Jack. My grandkids love Ogo and I wrote the book called O Great One! I talk about that story and it’s all in there. It’s a lot of fun that I’m having. I appreciate being able to tell my story.

Thank you again for being on the show. This has been so wonderful, David Novak. The most interesting thing that we could do is talk about how we can develop others and I thoroughly enjoyed this.

You’re welcome.

I’d like to thank David for being my guest. What a fascinating guy. He’s done it all. He has so much background in the areas that I find so fascinating to research. It ties in so well to my work with perception and curiosity. I love that he’s focusing on recognition for curiosity because I think a lot of organizations say they want to have people who are curious but then they don’t show any recognition of people who has great ideas. Many times people might have great ideas and then they get nominated to the committee and then not rewarded for it. They’re just given more work without anything positive associated with it sometimes. I’d like to see more organizations strive to do the things that David talked about.

I love that he’s dealing with this at a young age. I work on a board of advisors for LeaderKid Academy. We do something very similar there with getting young people very much interested in improving skills that are important for emotional intelligence at a young age. There’s so much that we can do in organizations. Speaking at SHRM about curiosity in the summer because there’s so much focus on innovation, on engagement and all of these pain points that organizations feel that that hurt productivity, but they’re not going back to the spark of what it helps people to become more creative and productive and all these things. To me, it’s curiosity. If you’re looking to find out more about how to develop curiosity, I think it’s important that you find out the things that keep people from being curious to begin with.

There are four things that I found in my research and that’s fear, assumptions, technology and environment. If your organizations are interested in taking the Curiosity Code Index assessment, they can go to CuriosityCode.com and take the assessment. If your HR people or if you have a leadership consultant or somebody who would like to take the training, we certify people to be CCI-certified. That also gives them five hours of SHRM recertification credit, which is nice and access to all kinds of materials and discounts on future assessments in that type of thing. There’s so much information in the website for that and you can find that information there.

If you’re looking for past episodes of Take The Lead Radio, you can find them at DrDianeHamiltonRadio.com and you can also contact me through my site at DrDianeHamilton.com for speaking, consulting and all the other things I do. Everything basically can be found there and you can navigate from there, even the curiosity information if you forget that website. I enjoyed talking to David. We get some past guests who are amazing and he’s definitely one of the most amazing people I get to talk to. I enjoyed the episode so much and I hope you did. I hope you join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.

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About David Novak

TTL 565 | Leadership DevelopmentDavid Novak is co-founder an CEO of oGolead and retired Chairman and CEO of Yum! Brands, which includes KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell. Yum! Brands is one of the world’s largest restaurant companies with over 45,000 restaurants in more than 135 countries and territories.

Novak was named one of the world’s “30 Best CEOs” by Barron’s, one of the “Top People in Business” by Fortune and one of the “100 Best-Performing CEOs in the World” by Harvard Business Review. Today, Novak is CEO of oGoLead, a digital leadership development platform he created to help people become better leaders. He’s also the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Taking People With You.


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