Taking People With You

"This is a book that will help you become not just a better leader, but also a better person, by making you more self-aware and showing you how to build up the people around you."

-  Taking People With You, page 4

Have you ever wished you could be a fly on the wall to find out how successful organizations train their top talent? Wouldn’t it be great to hear the CEO teaching his most prized lessons?

David Novak is the chairman and CEO of Yum! Brands, Inc., which operates in more than 117 countries and employs 1.4 million people. Haven’t heard of them? Bet you have purchased something from them! They are the world’s largest restaurant company and own the brands of KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell. They have experienced extraordinary success including 13 percent growth for each of the last nine years.

Novak spends several weeks a year teaching his leadership program to thousands of managers. He believes there is no skill more important in business than learning how to “take people with you” as he calls it, or influence others. And now, you can benefit from his teaching too. He has packaged his program into a great book called Taking People With You and on top of that, is donating all author proceeds to the United Nations World Food Programme.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book


"A recent study of soccer players, for example, found that the team that celebrated goals with the most enthusiasm typically won the game."
- Taking People With You, page 203

Throughout the book, you get a sense for what it’s like to work for Novak. You would be recognized, affirmed, awarded, and trusted. He says he is best known within his organization for casting a shadow of recognition and positive energy.

He warns us not to wait for the wins or until your cross the finish line. If you just drill people about performance without pausing to celebrate the small victories, you will wear them out.

He cautions us to be careful when celebrating victories so that you are measuring the right thing. For example, it’s not the number of sales calls that are as important as the degree to which the customer was influenced in the sales call. It’s not achieving expectations that deserves celebration but achieving measurable, tangible results.

He assures us that recognition and awards don’t have to be expensive. He shows us that the celebrations don’t have to be a trip to Hawaii. When he started giving out awards he decided they should be more memorable than the typical plaque or pen so he gave out floppy rubber chickens. Each leader followed suit and took the time to personalize awards so the recognition was more meaningful and fun.

And the celebration needs to be at the basic level of showing appreciation. He says that to truly motivate people, you need a positive work environment where all members know they count and feel appreciated and respected.

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Always Be Learning

"…when people ask me what I look for when hiring someone, an avid learner tops the list."
- Taking People With You, page 55

If I were to ask you if you wanted to grow and be your best self you would undoubtedly say “Of course”. Novak suggests the best way for you to do that is to always be learning. He believes that being an avid learner is the single biggest thing that separates a good leader from a great one. (Good for you for prioritizing your learning by reading this!)

Have you ever noticed that when you are around someone who loves to learn you feel inspired by his or her passion and curiosity? This person can energize a team and bring new ideas. Look around you – is it true that the best in your industry are always learning, always raising their game, always in a high performance mindset where they are open to learning how to get better and reach the top?

While Novak admits there are many people out there smarter than him, he attributes much of his success to prioritizing knowledge and ideas over ownership and ego. As an added tip he suggests that just by telling people you would like to learn from them, you can open doors.

He created a culture of commitment to always be learning at YUM!. As a leader, he suggests you need to seek out opportunities for both yourself and your team to expand your knowledge about your business.

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Believe in People

"I also believe deep down in my bones that all people, when given a choice, have an inherent desire to do the right thing, to contribute, and to make a positive difference through the work that they do."
- Taking People With You, page 64

Novak says he is absolutely convinced that it is crucial to have this mindset in order to get the most from your team. He sees his role as a leader to unleash each person’s potential. And by firmly believing they want to do the right thing, he inspires them to do just that.

How do you see people? Which quote resonates with you more?

A) “Give people an inch, and they’ll take a mile.”


B) “Believe in people, and they’ll believe in you in return.”

When you put faith and believe in people good things happen. They:

  • do things even they didn’t know they could do
  • become more invested in their work
  • rise to the occasion

So, go to work everyday trusting that people want to contribute. Have you ever trusted someone who doesn’t trust you? Show people you trust them. After all, 99.9 percent of them want to do good and try hard. Don’t go looking for the 0.1 percent who want to mess things up. It starts with you – give the trust and you will receive it.
If you want to “take people with you”, where do you begin?

Before Novak embarked on teaching leadership, he looked long and hard in the mirror to determine exactly what was key to taking people with him. He investigated how he was able to get people on the same page and marching to the same drum. He concluded that getting inside the head of those you need is the starting place to take them with you.

You can never make big things happen unless you know how to take people with you. And maybe your first step should be to read Novak’s book!

How can you create a culture of learning, trusting, and acknowledging in your organization…. What will you do to start with you?

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Jill Donahue

ABOUT Jill Donahue

Everything I do is focused on improving patient outcomes. I do that by being a student and teacher of ethical, effective influence. I teach pharma people and health care professionals how to improve their ability to influence others...
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