By: David Novak, Co-Founder & CEO of David Novak Leadership
What’s your leadership mindset? Do you believe that you have to know more than everyone else on the team? Effective leaders know they don’t have all the answers. They approach each day with the mindset that there is always more to learn, and everyone I meet knows something I don’t.
I’m convinced that one of the keys to my success is I always make an effort to prioritize knowledge and ideas over ego and ownership. Why is this so important? Well, obviously the more I know about a problem, the more likely I am to make a good decision. But even more important than that, being able to admit up front that I don’t have all the answers helps establish an atmosphere in which the people I lead are more willing to share what they think and what they know. And if all members of your team are actively learning all they can about a problem and freely sharing their wisdom with you and with each other, then that’s the best chance you’ve got of coming up with a solution that makes your business a whole lot better.
As the CEO of Yum! Brands, I worked hard to cultivate a companywide commitment to always be learning, to being “know-how junkies.” The examples below are tangible benefits that came out of that commitment. They should give you some ideas about how you, as leader, can seek out opportunities for both you and your team to expand your knowledge about your business.
Breakfast at Taco Bell
The breakfast concept the company first developed seemed to fit perfectly with the Taco Bell brand. “Breakfast that wakes you up” integrated Mexican inspired flavors into breakfast products, like fiesta salsa, zesty sausage, and bacon grilled stuffed burrito. But after a highly disappointing test run (thirty days of advertising and people were only trickling into the restaurant), the team had to figure out what was going wrong. They found the new breakfast products and advertising were scaring people. Customers didn’t want a lot of “zesty” in the morning. They wanted to ease into their days with minimal excitement, and Taco Bell was offering the exact opposite of that. But rather than giving up on the opportunity, the Taco Bell team went to work building their know-how.
Former Taco Bell CEO, Brian Niccol, created a learning culture in the brand. He pointed out that while some people say “don’t be afraid to fail”, he thinks the right term is “don’t be afraid to iterate.” Niccol says, “Iterating is a way to learn, then taking those learnings and figuring out what we’re going to do next.” The team took the learnings and partnered with well-known and approachable brands like Seattle’s Best Coffee, Johnsonville Sausage, Quaker and Cinnabon. And instead of focusing on spicy ingredients, they appealed to customers by offering them value with the “Why Pay More for Breakfast!” campaign. By becoming know-how junkies, Taco Bell has significantly grown their business by successfully launching a new daypart that no one thought was possible. You can hear more of the Taco Bell story in the oGoInsider podcast with CEO, Brian Niccol.
Sharing on iChing
Yum! Brands is such a big company and there is so much know-how within it that one of our biggest challenges was figuring out how to share that knowledge efficiently and effectively. To figure out how we could make sharing easier, we assembled a cross-functional team that visited IBM, P&G, and Microsoft to find out about their systems for sharing knowledge. The result was iChing, our own internal network for connecting to each other and sharing ideas and knowledge no matter where we are around the globe. And the most amazing part is that the system was so successful, that other companies began looking at Yum! Brands as a best-in-class example of sharing know-how. We’ve shared our story with companies like Kimberly-Clark, Marriott, Best Buy and Disney, among many others.
I have found that for any problem you need to solve, learning all you can about it is the best place to start. As a leader, you need to recognize that you don’t have all the answers. You need to create a learning culture and encourage everyone on your team to become know-how junkies.
You can download this guide to learn four specific tactics to help you and your team become better know-how junkies. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.” Are you someone who willingly engages in hard, solid thinking by becoming a know-how junkie?
Maybe your team needs some encouragement when it comes to building their know-how. Share this oGoInspire blog and guide with them and schedule some time to discuss how together, you can commit to becoming know-how junkies. Inviting them to join you shows you care and that you’re learning too. Go Lead!
David’s passion is to make the world a better place by developing leaders at all ages through David Novak Leadership, his family’s Lift-a-Life Foundation, Lead4Change, Global Game Changers and The Novak Leadership Institute at the University of Missouri.
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, one of the “Top People in Business” by FORTUNE and one of the “100 Best-Performing CEOs in the World” by Harvard Business Review…
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