10 Guiding Principles for Inspiring a Culture of Appreciation

In “O Great One!,” David Novak, co-founder of YUM! Brands shares ten guiding principles for inspiring a culture of recognition. If you’re a leader, you need remind yourself these principles every single day. His short read illustrates powerful ways every leader can harness the power of recognition.


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Recognition, or showing genuine gratitude, is the greatest form of encouragement and inspiration. Following these key principles will help you motivate the people around you, drive real results, and feed your soul and theirs.

Principle #1: People won’t care about you if you don’t care about them.

You have to show people you care about them before you do anything else or expect anything from them.

Principle #2: The best way to show people you care is to listen to them.

People won’t believe you care about them if you don’t take the time to hear and acknowledge what they have to say. Besides, you can safely assume that everyone knows something you don’t, so everyone is worth listening to.

Principle #3: A great idea can come from anywhere.

Great ideas don’t always come from the highest ranking or most experienced person in the room. IN fact, most of the time, they don’t. But great ideas are essential to the success of any organization, so they need to be sought out and supported. A good idea is simply a good idea no matter where it comes from, so view everyone as a potential source.

Principle #4: Recognize great work and great ideas whenever and wherever you see them.

Great leaders celebrate other people’s ideas as much as, or even more than, their own and they do it in a way that’s spontaneous, real, and from the heart. In fact, the more spontaneous you are, the better. Don’t wait for monthly meetings or annual performance reviews to show people you appreciate they do or believe in an idea they’ve come up with. Opportunities to recognize good work happen all the time, so look for those opportunities and make them count.


Principle #5: Make recognition a catalyst for results.

This isn’t about rewarding people just because they’ve stuck around for a long time. The reason you recognize someone has to be directly tied to the real world goals and objectives that you or your organization are trying to achieve. Reward the right things and more of the right things will happen. Reward the wrong things and you send the wrong message about what matters most. And believing in recognition doesn’t mean you let poor performance slide.

Principle #6: Make it fun.

Take the business seriously but not yourself. Everyone will want to be involved in recognition if you create shared experienced that are fun for everyone, and not just for the person being recognized.

Principle #7: Make it personal.

That is, make it personal to you and to the person you’re recognizing. Don’t just give out the typical certificate or plaque when you recognize someone’s contributions. Putting your personal stamp on the award makes it more meaning, memorable and fun for you and for those around you.

Principle #8: Recognition is universal.

No matter their age, status, or nationality, people love to be recognized for what they do well and who they are.

Principle #9: Giving recognition is a privilege.

Don’t think of it as just another item on your to-do list as a leader or manager. When exercised in the right way, giving recognition is a privilege that feeds people’s souls and make them feel great about themselves.

Principle #10: Say thank you every chance you get.

The two most powerful words in the English language are “Thank” and “you.” They are easy to say, and it doesn’t cost you a thing to use them- so use them often.