How to Spot the One Employee Who Should Never Work at Your Company

We’ve been honored to pick the brains of numerous leaders throughout our careers. In fact, we often discuss how lucky we both are to get a glimpse into how many of these leaders think. However, during one interview, we were more than surprised when David Novak, the former CEO of one of the world’s largest restaurant companies shared some advice that initially caught us off guard. “I’ll tell you the secret to great leadership,” Novak told us. “It’s to never have a certain type of person working for your organization.”

stop-vector-manThat comment got our attention. At first, it was actually a little unsettling—especially coming from a guy with the credentials of Novak. Yum! Brands, Inc., has more than 43,000 restaurants in more than 130 countries and territories—think Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC. As a leader, Novak has been recognized as “2012 CEO of the Year” by Chief Executive magazine, one of the world’s “30 Best CEOs” by Barron’s and one of the “100 Best-Performing CEOs in the World” by Harvard Business Review. He’s world-renowned expert on recognition. And, he’s currently the Founder of oGoLead, a digital platform created to help build stronger leaders, as well as the author of two bestselling books.

“These people should never exist in your company,” he told us. “For me, it was a guy named Bob.”

“Tell us more,” we asked. “Employers, recruiters, and managers struggle to find the best people, develop the best teams, and avoid hiring mistakes. They want to find ways to create the best culture. And you’re saying an aspect of good leadership is to avoid a certain type of person?”

“Yes,” replied Novak. “But it’s your fault if you have people like Bob. It’s not Bob’s fault.”

He continued. “I was working in operations for PepsiCo,” Novak told us. “I was going out and doing roundtables with teams at various plants. My job was to talk to the front lines. So, one day I was in St. Louis talking to a team at a plant about merchandising. I asked what they were seeing, what they were learning. Everyone on the team starting raving about this guy named Bob. One person mentioned Bob taught them more in four hours than they had learned in four years. Another described how Bob had shown them everything they knew about great customer service. Everyone was raving about Bob.”

“And, Bob’s not a guy you want working for your company?” we asked.

“Well, as everyone was sharing their favorite story about Bob I looked to the end of the table. There was Bob, sitting at the end of the table. He was crying. I asked him why he was crying. And, that’s when I realized I never wanted a guy like Bob to work for me ever again.”

Apparently, through tears, Bob answered David’s question. “Bob told me that he had been working for the company for 47 years, and during that meeting was the first time he had heard how his colleagues felt about him. It was the first time he felt appreciated. So, no, I don’t want anyone like Bob to feel that way ever again. That’s when I realized we had to really focus on the power of recognition. It catapulted me into thinking that no matter what I do, and where I go, at any company or team I lead, recognition will be at the top of our values. No one should ever feel like Bob.”

Since that day, David Novak has made recognition a focal point of his leadership.

“I realized in my career that you can’t and don’t do anything alone,” he told us. “I learned throughout my career how to build and support strong teams. And, I realized that recognition is a big part of why some teams are so successful and others—no matter what they look like on paper—are not.”

Novak writes about the power of great teams in his New York Times bestseller Taking People With You. And, David’s latest book O Great One!, celebrates the power of recognition.

Our interview with David Novak made us wonder, “Do you have any Bobs working at your company—people who have no idea how appreciated they are?”

None of us want unappreciated people working in our organizations. But if you find yourself wondering how, when and why to show your appreciation, look for these three naturally occurring areas.

People giving their best effort. Sometimes the work we do doesn’t always create the results we were hoping to achieve. Nevertheless, when employees are giving you their effort and energy, they deserve to be cheered for along the way.

People accomplished a goal. Results come in all shapes and sizes. And, big or small, those results deserve to be rewarded. So, look for employees who are accomplishing their goals, daily, monthly or even longer, and reward them with something that shows your gratitude for their accomplishment. People are celebrating a milestone. People are committing a large portion of their lives to your organization. So, with each milestone that passes, so often does their connection to the team, the vision, and the company. Celebrate people’s milestones with them. Show them how much you appreciate their commitment.

Yes, it’s true, there are people you don’t want working in your organizations—those who feel under-valued, unappreciated, and unrecognized. …because there’s nothing worse than feeling like your work doesn’t matter.

Originally published by Forbes

David Sturt contributed to this article. Our latest book is Appreciate: Celebrating People, Inspiring Greatness, or learn more about the NYT Bestselling book Great Work: How to Make a Difference People Love.

Todd Nordstrom

Todd Nordstrom

As host of the popular “Great Work Insights” podcast, weekly contributor to,, Director for the O.C. Tanner Institute and co-author of Appreciate, Todd Nordstrom’s career is full of insight based on thousands of in-depth interviews from around the globe. He has spoken to a wide range of audiences, from introducing rock bands in arenas, to countless on-air interviews with C-suite leaders from a plethora of industries, to all types of executives attending conferences around the world.

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