Over the course of several decades in business, David Novak has worked his way up in the Pepsi Cola North America Co. through sales and marketing, into what was then its fast food division. In the late 1990s, the restaurants were spun off into a separate company and Novak went with them.
I was at a plant in St. Louis, conducting a 6:00 A.M. roundtable meeting with a group of route salesman, when, over coffee and doughnuts, I asked what I thought was a pretty straightforward question about merchandising, which is all about the displays and visibility we get in convenience and grocery stores. I wanted to know what they thought was working and what wasn't. Right away, someone piped up, "Bob is the expert in that area. He can tell you how it's done." Someone else added, "Bob taught me more in one day than I'd learned in two years on the job." Every single person in the room agreed: Bob was the best there was. I looked over at Bob, thinking he must be thrilled by all this praise. Instead, I saw that he had tears running down his face. When I asked him what was wrong, Bob, who had been with the company for over forty years and was about to retire in just two weeks, said, "I never knew anyone felt this way about me." The rest of my visit to the plant went pretty well, but I walked away that day with an uneasy feeling. It was such a shame that Bob never felt appreciated. It was a missed opportunity for the business, too. We all could have benefited from his expertise, and more people could have learned from him. This guy was clearly great at what he did, but who knows how much better he could have been in a workplace that recognized and rewarded his knowledge. I knew that if he felt overlooked and underappreciated, others at the plant did too.Novak wrote that the experience profoundly changed him and made him determined to never be the kind of leader who would let someone move through his or her entire career without being appreciated or that she had the potential to be so much more. None of this is as fluffy as it sounds as, in addition to his insightful advice, Novak provides exercises, worksheets and other tools to help executives from any size company bring people with them. And does this stuff work? Consider that Yum! Brands' stock has grown in value by 13 percent or more for each of the last nine years, that the company operates in 112 countries and employs 1.4 million people. Taking People With You is destined to become a staple on the bookshelves of leaders. The advice is practical, effective and actionable. The cherry on top? Novak is giving his share of the proceeds from the sale of the book to the United Nations World Food Programme.