One bright Wednesday morning early in the pandemic I received an email consisting of no buildup, no background, and seven solitary words that spoke volumes. “A leader is a dealer in hope.” This quote from Napoleon Bonaparte, sent to me from Bob Chapman, the Chairman of our Board, has echoed in my mind and soul for the last four months.
Sometimes being a dealer in hope means offering encouraging words paired with shared inspirational vision. Sometimes it means equipping people with what they need to confidently and securely do their jobs. Sometimes it means just caring enough to be there, not with all the answers but with care and compassionate presence. I heard a story the other day about a Michigan leader who is doing just that.
Scott Ellis of Michigan took it upon himself to equip people in his care with the tool of empathy. Leading the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association, Ellis recognized service people are at-risk for conflict and violence. Following two tragic deaths in his state resulting from mask-related altercations, Ellis started a movement to equip barkeepers, restaurant workers, and other service professionals with the relational skills to de-escalate conflicts.
“Because of COVID and society being so charged up right now, we said, ‘all right, we got to do something specific to prevent disturbances.’” Through classes teaching empathetic listening and helping people avoid trigger phrases like, “you need to calm down,” Ellis is helping bring safety, community, connection and hope to his home state, one calm and kind bar visit at a time. He is acting as a dealer in hope in his area of service.
This inspired me because Ellis’s project mirrors a portion of what founded our organization and this movement for caring for others and improving relationships through the power of empathetic listening.
After a decade of making a difference in lives and communities, OCL decided to take a deeper look at how our work influences lives. We partnered with a research group to independently study our programming, alumni, and organizational outcomes. The result: listening and improved communication improves lives, deepens relationships, and brings about personal change. Over 90% of respondents who took our class say their lives are better as a result of empathetic listening and communication skills training. The results show improvement at work, at home, and in the community last even five years after taking the single three-day training and beyond.
We are in this unique time in history where connection with other people is different, distant, and perhaps more desired than ever before. For us, being “dealers in hope” means helping people connect peacefully, meaningfully, and authentically when needed most. And, it means expanding our offerings to provide more tools as well. In the fall of 2020, in celebration of our decade of difference through OCL, Our Community Listens will expand its family and deploy more offerings on service, leadership, and connection that will help build more caring communities.
Leaders everywhere should strive to give their followers hope, especially during times of unrest. Hope is the great motivator.