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Bob Chapman: I feel humbled to follow Michael’s wisdom. So, most of you are academics; Michael talked in an academic language. You’re looking at a simple accountant who ran a manufacturing business, talking to educators. I want to set the stage. I’m here because I believe I was blessed by some higher power with a vision of how the world was intended to be, where we genuinely care for each other. I feel called to share that transformation I experienced with you to invite you to join us. So, I’m going to walk you through this journey. We are creating a world where everybody matters. The book Raj and I wrote is a book entitled Everybody Matters. A drive towards Humanistic Leadership. I’m going to start by setting the stage. I have six kids and 20 grandkids. My granddaughter graduated from Aspen High School about five years ago.
I went to the graduation at the Aspen music festival. And as each student walked up to get their diploma, the families were cheering loudly for the celebration and recognition of their kids. As my granddaughter pictured here, Aiden walked up. I got tears in my eyes as opposed to joy. And let me tell you why. I’ve been giving this speech for about 15 years. What I’m going to share with you, nobody debates why, t a time of the greatest prosperity in the world, we have the highest level of depression, anxiety, and suicide among our youth and our adults. Why? Because people thought happiness was money. And I’m going to share with you my journey. So why did I have tears in my eyes today? Today, 88% of all people feel they work for an organization that does not care about them.
88% of the people, why would you want your precious children to get a job someday when there’s a high probability they’re gonna treat it, be treated as a function for the organization’s success? Three out of four people in the country are disengaged in what they’re doing. When I talk to CEOs, and they tell me they’re concerned about the cost of healthcare, I say, you are the problem. 74% of all illnesses are chronic. The biggest cause of chronic illnesses is stress, and the biggest cause of stress is work. Jeffrey Pfeiffer of Stanford wrote a book where he talks about our leadership model, and the title of the book is Dying for a Paycheck. And they don’t mean anxious to get one. He estimates we’re killing 120,000 people a year of work-related stress, much less all the illnesses they experience. Raj informed me there’s a 20% increase in heart attacks on Monday mornings when people have to go back to work.
We live in a country where we have T G I F; thank God it’s Friday. Get out of this place, have a beer, and get away from people. As you’ll see, I imagine a society where we have TGIM; thank goodness it’s Monday. Get away from the kids, the spouse, and be with a group of people I enjoy profoundly. So that is why I had tears in my eyes. And we’ve further learned from Gallup. When you put people in leadership positions, do you help them understand that in that role, they will be more impactful to the health of the people they lead than their family doctor? I was never told that. I was never aware of that. In my journey through education and business, I thought the way I ran Barry Waer would create shareholder value. I had no idea I would impact people’s lives at home.
I thought your personal life was your personal life. I’ll share with you that when we teach people to be leaders, 90% of the feedback we get is about how it affects their marriage and their kids. 90%, we had no idea when we taught people to become leaders; they would be better parents, spouses, and citizens. 65% of people in this country would give up a salary increase if they could fire their boss. Don’t all these things align? 58% of people say they would trust a stranger before they trust their boss. So what we are suffering from in this country is leadership malpractice. I speak in the military, I’ve spoken to Congress, I speak in healthcare, I speak in education in every part of our society. The issue we face is that we don’t have leaders; we have deans and professors. You know, we have administrators, we have bosses, supervisors.
We don’t have leaders who genuinely have the skills to care for the people they lead. Tom Friedman said that what we are suffering from in this country is not poverty of money but dignity. And when people don’t feel valued, you’ll see anger and unrest in your streets like you’ve never seen before because people will feel humiliated. So we have what we have since the industrial revolution is the creation of economic wealth. But we forgot the most important piece: human wealth and dignity. And we use people. So again, I’m sure all of you would like your children and people in your span of care to live a fulfilling, happy life. But Gallup surveyed over a hundred countries and found they thought wealth would create happiness, which is why we get a good education to get a good job and make money.
They found that it does not impact happiness after a certain income level. They thought it’d be your health. You’re blessed with good health. People take their health for granted. They found the world’s number one source of happiness is a good job doing meaningful work with people you enjoy. So what do we deny to 88% of the people in this country a source of happiness and dignity, and we can fix it. So again, referring to the United Nations, it’s within our business School walls that we develop the next generation of leaders. He didn’t say managers, did he? He said, leaders. And that’s why I’m here today. That’s what I’m committed to. We have to create leaders who have the skills and courage to care and understand the impact they’re gonna make on the people they have.
So we’re completely in alignment with the United Nations and their goal of humanistic leadership. For the first half of my career, you know I have a very traditional education and accounting. I got an MBA from Michigan. I went into a broken family company in 1969. And I took what I was trained with, which was to create shareholder value. In the first half of my career, I was extremely successful in creating value. And I thought that’s what business is all about. But through a series of revelations, which I will share with you, I have a totally different view of leadership, which is the second half of my career. So we have created a $3.5 billion global company. We operate from China to India, to Serbia, to Italy, to France.
We have people all over the world. What I’m sharing with you today is a global issue, not an American issue. Tomorrow I’m speaking to a thousand people in Saudi Arabia. Last week, I spoke to people in Lisbon. This is a universal message. I find no difference anywhere in the world. People simply want to know they matter. That is the issue we need to address. So again, and the reason I share with you the success we’ve had, we’ve actually outperformed Warren Buffet over the last 25 years. Our share price has gone up 14% a year, compounded for 25 years. Why do I say that? Because some people think caring costs money. Honestly, when you care for people, they will share gifts with you that they didn’t even know they had and go home feeling a sense of joy. So again, I’m bringing to you a totally different lens, not an academic lens.
And I’m not sharing you with an academic theory. I’m sharing with you this journey I’ve been blessed with that I feel called to share. I was shaped by three revelations. That’s the only way I can describe it. I didn’t have a mentor. I didn’t read a book. Nobody’s advised me. I had these revelations. The critical one that everybody remembers is when I was at my friend’s wedding in Aspen. He was walking his precious daughter down the aisle. And everybody was so impressed with how beautiful she looked, how handsome the young man was. The father was so proud, and they got to the altar, and he said her mother, and I give her daughter to be wed to this young man. And he sat down. Having walked my two precious daughters down the aisle, I know that’s what he was told to say at the rehearsal dinner.
That’s not what he wanted to say. It’s what he was told. What he wanted to say is, “Look, young man, Her mother and I brought this precious young lady into this world. We’ve given her all the love and care we could possibly give her so she could be who she’s intended to be.” And we expect you, young man, through your marriage to allow her to continue to be who she’s intended to be. Do you understand that?” That would be a serious, honest conversation with everybody. At that moment of that wedding, I had the revelation that people around the world resonate with the lens that I was taught in school and experienced in business. I saw people as a function of my success. I needed them for me to be successful. I was a nice guy. We had a nice company. But I hired engineers, accountants, hourly workers, and production workers for my success that day at the wedding; that lens through which I was taught and experienced in work was reversed.
Instead of seeing people as functions, I saw, like I saw that young man and young lady as somebody’s precious child that had been placed in my care, and the way I would treat them would have a profound impact on my life. And I would have forever been changed when that lens through which I saw people was dramatically changed. So when you look at your responsibility as a leader, and you look at those people, you don’t look at ’em as students or staff. You look ’em as somebody’s precious child, and you treat them with respect and dignity. We could heal the issues we have in this world. So that is the moment of transformation where my lens happened around 2000. I hate the word management; I hate it. It’s an abusive word. What? I took management classes, got a management degree, and got a job in management. So what did I think I was supposed to do? Manage people. Name anybody in your life you can manage. Name anybody in your life that wants to be managed.
In my view, management means manipulating others for your success. Leadership is a totally different lens. It’s a profound responsibility for the people you are privileged to lead. And as you see them as somebody’s precious child, you treat them with respect and dignity. We could heal the world’s brokenness, but we don’t teach people to be leaders. We teach we take management classes. Got a management degree. So leadership is the stewardship of the lives entrusted to. So we began, and when I had that revelation 20 years ago. I said we’ve been blessed with the message that could heal the world. What will we do to ensure it doesn’t die with me? And so we decided we had to start; we couldn’t send our people back to your universities because you don’t teach leadership.
So we had to create our own university. The good news, we had a whiteboard. We had no protocol. And we started, and the first class that our team demanded we teach to convert managers into leaders was empathetic listening. I thought that was stupid. Why would we teach adults to listen? We all know how to listen, right? I will stand here today, 20 years later, and tell you that the biggest issue we face in the world is that we don’t know how to listen. We teach speech. So you can articulate your views, and we teach debate for critical thinking. Still, we don’t teach the most important of the three, which is to listen, not to debate, not to judge, but to validate the person’s worth. What I’ve realized in this journey of listening, which is now the most profound thing we teach in our leadership company, which has created our culture, is that I thought we were born with uniquely different characteristics, but it turns out they were born with uniquely dis personalities.
Two people raised in the same house can see the same issue dramatically differently. But we don’t teach them to understand. We teach them to debate. I see it right, and you see it wrong. And we also teach recognition and celebration, which Cynthia and I learned in raising six kids. If you don’t spend five times more complimenting your kids rather than suggesting things they could do better, it’s harmful to your kids. Well, guess what? Adults are identical. The expression goes in business. I got 10 things right, and I have yet to hear a word. I got one thing wrong, and I got my butt chewed out. Recognition and celebration are teachable skills. And we shine a light in our organization, look for goodness, hold it up, and say thank you. And it’s profoundly important in our culture.
And it’s not for a tenth anniversary or five years, it’s, it’s for your goodness and culture of service seizing the opportunity to serve others. Raj, with who I’m incredibly blessed to share a message with; when he first heard about the company, I asked him to co-author a book with me. He said, Bob, I can’t write a book on every good company. And I said you’re right. So he said, well, I’ll come and visit someday. So he came and saw the culture. Talking to our people, saw grown men come to tears talking about what it feels like to be cared for. And Raj says, this is the message that has to be written, and I’m gonna write it. Simon Sinek is the first person that came because he said, and he wrote the book on Finding Your Why.
And Simon Senek said I’m no longer the idealist. I’ve just seen what I dream of. I dream of a world where you can walk and tap anybody on the shoulder, in any city in the world and say, do you like your job? And they say, no, I don’t like their job. I love my job. And Simon said, if it exists, it must be possible. So I’m not giving you an academic theory. I’m sharing with you a blessing that we’ve been given that I feel called to share so we can start bringing this to our youth so we don’t have to fix these adults. And then, Bill Urie, a world peace negotiator from Harvard, came because Simon said, you gotta see this Bill spent two days talking to her people, and he said, Bob, I saw the answer to world peace in Barry Wehmiller.
I said, Bill, how do you go to a manufacturing company and see the answer to world peace? He said I saw a place where people genuinely care for each other. Isn’t that the world that we admire and work for? And he said, I now realize, remember, go back to the listening class, which is foundational to our transformation. He said, I now realize I’ve been going to global peace talks for 30 years around the world. And that’s exactly what they are. They’re global peace talks. He said the problem we have in the world is nobody knows how to listen. I’m right, and you are wrong. Again, this outside observation of our culture, Harvard ended up writing a case study on our culture about seven years ago. It’s become one of Harvard’s bestselling cases, with 70 universities from Japan to India studying our culture, which I share with you to give validation.
So anyway, as I summarize, we are trying to live these values to show it’s possible and share these values. As the chairman of American Airlines said to me when he heard me speak, he said Bob, I thought my job was to build the world’s biggest airline, which I did. It never occurred to me to care for 130,000 people. And this is a man of great faith who met me at a church. And he said it’s given me a whole new purpose in American Airlines. So we have 60 people full-time now working with major corporations of the world, helping them awaken them to the need for caring in, in leadership. So again, we’re sharing this message with the world. Cynthia and I have a nonprofit that we’ve now taught 13,000 people in the United States. And one of the most significant is the police.
This policeman told me, Mr. Chapman, we take hundreds of hours to learn how to enforce the law. We are never taught how to care for people. And when you learn to listen in policing, we can heal a lot of the brokenness we see in policing. So, and what we’ve realized through our leadership institute, working with major executives in the world, why do we have to fix adults? Because our education system is the issue. So we need a hospital for adults who need reform, but we need the vaccine to prevent this. So we started working with universities to try and change the purpose of education, call it to a higher calling. Originally our education system was to have a democracy with an informed citizenry. But the industrial revolution came along and said we need skills. So our universities became skills factories, and we got the best raw material we could.
We process them through the system, and then we sell ’em to the market. And if we get a good price, we must be doing a good job at our university. Our position is universities need to transform into a vision. And this is my vision for universities, that we create tomorrow’s leaders who have the skills and courage to care. They go out into medicine, they go out into nonprofits, they go out into government. We need leaders in every part of our society, as you can see, who have the skills and courage to care for the people they have the privilege of leading. So again, Michael Pearson, we’ve been blessed to be introduced to Michael Pearson. The people at Harvard said you gotta get to know this kid. He is really good. He’s gonna make a difference. Donna Hicks says, said, we need to, Michael.
So we got aligned with the UN, and we’re working hand in hand to transform education. So again, to me, the key is we will never heal the brokenness we have in the world until education embraces its piece of this transformation and elevates its purpose to create tomorrow’s leaders who will go into our families, our communities, and our businesses with the human skills. In addition to academic skills, we are partnering with Charlotte Latin in Charlotte, North Carolina, K through 12, trying to integrate human skills from K to 12, and then Virginia Commonwealth University is ready to help us transform business education. And again, in our book, the manifesto was pretty simple. Everybody wants to do better. Trust them. Leaders are everywhere in your organization. Find them and recognize them. People achieve good things, big and small. Every day. Celebrate them. Some people wish things were different. Listen to them. Everybody matters. Show them. So I love this expression, and I think it will inspire us all. I think we’ve done the best we can, but now that we know better, let’s do better. Thank you.