Niecy Green doesn’t like to talk about herself. She’s big on recognition—and in fact has been coached not to go too far overboard with recognition—but that’s for others, not herself. “Niecy thinks she’s just doing her job. She doesn’t realize how above and beyond she goes in her role to make Pizza Hut a great place for team members and customers,” says April Balina, Niecy’s Region Coach.
After 30 years, we think it’s time that Niecy gets the recognition she deserves. Having started with the Yum! system in 1985, she’s certainly made an impression with team members and customers in each role she takes on. Niecy’s high standards and drive to do what is right for the business make her an invaluable asset to the brand, but more importantly her enthusiasm for coaching her teams is what sets her apart as an Area Coach. Frank Tobias, an RGM who’s worked with Niecy for over a year now, says “I love working with Niecy because of her positive attitude, no matter what the situation. She’s there for us wherever, whenever we need it—even if it’s nine at night, she’s there. Niecy doesn’t let anything bring her down, and that’s what I love about her.”
Niecy Green started with the Yum! system after the birth of her first child, with the intention of picking up some extra money as a server she could go back to school to become a teacher. Soon after she joined, however, a supervisor pulled her aside. Niecy says he coached her to think of her job as a career: “He said that no matter where you go and what you do, you should always think of advancement and the lessons you can take away from your job that will help you in life.” In that moment, it clicked for Niecy that she could go far with the Yum! system. She became a Shift Manager in 1986, and then moved through the ranks to become an Assistant Manager, Restaurant General Manager (RGM) and Training Manager before moving into the Area Coach role in 2010. “I really buckled down and took advantage of the opportunities that came to me. [Over time], my name was attached to a high standard of doing what was right,” explains Niecy.
Her reputation for high standards didn’t come without a learning curve, however, as Niecy will be the first to tell you. She uses a story from her own career when coaching her team members—a strategy that makes her at once relatable and authoritative for those she’s mentoring. As she tells it, early on in her career she was lax about enforcing brand standards on a day-to-day basis. Yet, when a coach came to check in, Niecy would be extra strict with her team, getting angry if they didn’t receive a perfect review. “A cook came up to me and said she hated that I let her and the team get away with not following the rules—right up until a supervisor came to check in on them. It was unfair for me to be so inconsistent with my expectations for them. I called the team together and apologized to them and asked them to hold me accountable as their manager. From that day forward, we followed every process and procedure consistently,” Niecy recalls.
When Niecy tells this story to a room of RGMs, you can see how well it resonates with the room. It’s the same type of “ah-ha!” moment that Niecy had with her supervisor long ago. That moment of transformation is what Niecy loves about her job. “I fell in love with training people. When I became a Restaurant Training Leader (RTL) and could see the impact of a well-trained team, and how successful they could be—it became my passion. I have to protect the brand, but I also have to protect the people who work for the brand, because without them we can’t make this whole thing work.”
She says her approach to training is grounded in this desire to make people successful in life, as well as in work. “I speak a lot about my life in my training. I’ve never wanted to be thought of as ‘the boss.’ I want people to feel comfortable to talk to me about anything: we work for Pizza Hut, but we’re also family. Whatever you’re going through, feel like you can come to me in confidence. It’s trust that I’ve earned. Integrity means a lot to me; I’m a leader with heart, I guess you would say.”
April agrees. When I ask her what word she would use to describe Niecy, she says, “She’s a superstar. Everything that’s expected of her, she goes above and beyond to achieve; but her biggest strength is her passion for people. She personally oversees the development of everyone looking to grow as a leader. It’s not just about doing the job—she teaches life skills. When I ask people about Niecy, they light up when they talk about her.”
After 30 years of dedication to growing people and protecting our brand, recognition is the least of what Niecy has earned. By the end of our conversation, however, she still feels a little self-conscious—“this is the most I’ve talked about myself, probably ever!” she laughs. We’re happy to get the chance to do the talking for her. Thanks Niecy, and cheers to 30 years!