On Thursday evening I had the pleasure of attending the CEO of the Year Award in New York City. We began with cocktails on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, giving the attendees the opportunity to mingle, make connections, and exchange business cards. CEO’s in attendance came from $2 million startup companies to Alan Mulally, CEO of Ford Motor Company and the 2011 CEO of the Year Award Winner.

As I wandered the Stock Exchange floor and mingled with the group, I connected with 12 of these CEO’s and had an opportunity to ask them about their businesses. It was a thrill to listen to stories of success that included immigrants from South Africa that have been in business for 40 years, to the CEO of a Real Estate Trust with more than $5 billion in assets that went public 5 years ago and awards every single employee with stock each year. In almost every instance each of these successful CEO’s credited their success to a great idea and the execution of that idea by a great team – it was still all about the people.

As I probed a bit more I asked each of these individuals what their biggest challenge in growing their businesses was. Of the twelve, only one pointed to the current economy. The other 11 immediately pointed to the lack of qualified, self-motivated, future leaders – Again, it was all about the people. It was obvious that one of the major issues on the mind of CEO’s today is the ability to attract and retain the right team.

As we moved into the dining room on the 7th floor of the Exchange, the topic of great teams continued through the evening, including the acceptance speech from Dave Novak, CEO of YUM! Brands and the 2012 CEO of the Year award winner. What turned out to be a comical and energized speech, David Novak spent most of his time thanking his executive team (Many of which were in attendance), as well as thanking the thousands of ‘coaches’ YUM! has on its team. Coach is the term the organization uses for its managers, getting to the heart of what their jobs really entail. Coaches focus on one thing – winning. Creating the all-star team by developing their ‘players’ is at the heart of every successful team and company.

David Novak talked more about the success stories of YUM! team members than he did of his own accomplishments and awards. This focus on hiring the right players and developing them is the driving force behind the success of a brand that was previously spun off by PepsiCo. An average brand with average products was transformed into a great brand with products loved my millions around the world through the leadership of Novak and his team of coaches. This transformation confirms what too many organizations often forget – It’s not about filling a job with a body; it’s about finding the right talent, for the right role, for the right team, and working for the right coach.

Congrats again David Novak and to the great team of coaches, players, and talent scouts at YUM! Brands – the award was definitely a team effort!


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