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Bring more winners along for the ride

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

David Novak learned an important lesson from John Calipari, a top college basketball coach. Novak is the chairman and CEO of Yum! Brands and Calipari is University of Kentucky’s head coach.

Calipari told Novak that in 2009, he recruited John Wall, one of the nation’s best high school stars, to enroll at the University of Kentucky. Sure enough, Wall quickly excelled.

Wall’s budding stardom garnered much attention, leaving some teammates jealous. They suspected Wall would go pro and abandon the team.

To keep the team together, Calipari met privately with Wall. But rather than lecture him about teamwork, the coach made an unusual request.

“John, you are definitely the star of this team and you are definitely going pro,” the coach said. “I want you to take as many of your teammates as you can with you. You need to help them be great too.”

From then on, Wall looked beyond perfecting his own performance so that he could elevate the performance of those around him. As a result, the team’s collective talent surged.

Novak took Calipari’s story to heart. He encourages employees to help their colleagues attain big goals.

At Yum! Brands, a fast-food behemoth that includes Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut, Novak likes to ask staffers, “What would you do if you had my job?” He’s always looking for ideas to lift teams to a higher level.

He also gives them autonomy to set their own goals. In India, for instance, the company’s employees sought to open at least one KFC in every major city run by a hearing- and speech-impaired crew. They replaced buzzers with lights in the kitchen to alert them when food is cooked, and they arranged for customers to order from a menu by pointing to the desired items.  

— Adapted from “Leadership tips from the top,” Gloria McDonough-Taub,

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