Rick: Michael, you cite that the most important thing in the game is how you act, and I assume you’re talking about the leader. It is first, last, and always about how you act your role. How you act establishes how you’ll be regarded by the other players.
You seem to be talking about congruency both for the leader as well as the employee. What advice do you have for both of them on that point?
Michael: You see what we need to do in this languaging of ours is to come back to basics. And that means when I described earlier that a company must possess a story, and that story must be a story that’s told, and that means told continuously it’s a live story, it’s a living story, it’s a purposeful story, it’s a meaningful story. It talks about the impact the company intends to have on the world, that it has the determination to shape, that story has to be alive in the leader. It has to be alive in the leader if it’s ever going to be alive in the people who report to the leader.
And if it’s ever to be alive in the people who report to the people who report to the leader it’s got to be alive within them as well. You understand this story has to live at the heart of the company. In every way, shape, or form you and I can think of to bring that story to life is a critical focus of our attention.
That means when we talk about the leader with the cliché walking his or her talk, and I say talking his or her walk, effectively what I’m saying is that’s all we need to know. We don’t need to become super focused on tools, we need to be focused on meaning. And that means what do we mean when we say meaning? And you can look at a picture and feel the meaning of it, a mother with her daughter, a father with his son, a leader with his gang.
In short you can express those stories in many, many ways that touch the people who hear them because they’re true stories. They’re not made-up stories. You follow me?
Rick: Yeah. And true stories have to come from actions, right?
Michael: Absolutely. True stories all lead to behavior, because behavior is everything. We can feign our belief in our company, and we do, most people do, or we can truly believe in what we do in our company and the role I play in it.
How to turn that from some artificial expression of me too to a truly visceral expression of meaning. When we say the words God bless America, those words become meaningless to countless people in America. And that’s because, and hear this, this is the political effect. That’s because God has been made meaningless in America. And you take God out of America, and you take America out of America.
Rick: I couldn’t agree more.
Michael: And so when we say that and we say that in our meeting, for example with our key people, we say that in a way that’s authentically expressive. The truth of that, take God out of America and you take America out of America. And that’s why we’re experiencing the divisiveness we’re experiencing in our country today.
But that’s also why we’re experiencing the divisiveness we experienced in our companies today because the authentic meaning, what it authentically means to be a human being under God has been lost.
Rick: I couldn’t agree more. All that authenticity in your opinion comes from God.
Michael: What am I to say? I’m going to say I’m bringing the conversation to the fore to suggest that this is what the difference between an authentic conversation and an artificial conversation. That when one says God one’s eliciting awe.
Rick: And it has meaning.
Michael: It’s beyond understanding. It’s beyond manipulation. It’s beyond artificial talk. I can’t even comprehend it. Do you understand?
Rick: I do understand.
Michael: You have to understand, because how could we not understand that? It’s impossible to understand where we came from.
When you think of the universe billions and billions and billions of years, and then you think of human beings only 70,000 years where we did we come from?
Hear me, you ask that question but when we ask that question we’re asking the question there is no answer to.
Rick: Right. It requires faith.
Michael: Or it requires a blank piece of paper in beginner’s mind with the passion to ask the most important questions, and to live those questions authentically. And so that’s what we get to talk to our people about.
Rick: And you went all the way to the Great Almighty, the great I am, when they should know their God. Let’s just bring it down to the company and we’ll go back there. In a company we might not invoke the creator, but it sounds like on a miniaturized level we need to get back to those fundamental truths, their authentic truth.
Michael: Absolutely, clearly necessary. Effectively if we don’t realize that we’re mortal, that we’re only here for a few days, that in a span of time we’re here and gone. And if that’s true, and of course it’s true, then how do we spend our time here is truly important.
We could spend our time watching TV. We could spend our time being oblivious to the bigger questions about what it means to be here, the gift of life, the challenge of life. And when we begin to do that we begin to truly come alive.
Rick: What’s the question we need to be asking ourselves as business leaders, as employees within those businesses? It sounds like it’s begging a question Michael.
Michael: It’s begging the question why are we here and what are we hear to do? Why am I here and what am I here to do? I want to create the best company on the planet. We want to do that as an expression to every human being that we come into contact with that in fact you can become the best company on the planet. See, we did it.
Rick: And then that response has to be authentic if I hear you correctly.
Michael: Of course.
Rick: 100% authentic.
Michael: You see, I’m not making this up. I’m not saying, “Here’s a great strategy. Try this.” I’m not saying that. You can’t try this. You can’t do what I just said inauthentically and have it come off at all. And raise that issue.
Rick: We’re just fooling ourselves.
Michael: Not only fooling yourself, it’s absurd. You’re a fool.
Rick: I agree.