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102 – Empathy in Action: A Story of Transformation Inside Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley

Discover How Our Foundation is Working Alongside Multiple Organizations to Transform the Entire Colorado Valley—You Won’t Believe the Impact!

If this story of the Chapman Foundation for Caring Communities and the Roaring Fork Valley sparks your interest, we invite you to connect with us for more information on how we can assist your team. Your journey toward a more empathetic and cohesive workplace begins here: CLICK HERE

What you will learn in this episode:

   •The significance of effective communication and continuous learning in fostering caring communities.

   •Personal insights and experiences with the program’s impact on increasing empathy and understanding among individuals and teams.

   •Strategies for cultivating a culture of care and the broader benefits of applying these principles in various settings.

“Empathy in Action” dives deep into the heart of The Roaring Fork Valley, Colorado, where the Chapman Foundation for Caring Communities is sparking a revolution. Witness firsthand how empathy, understanding, and continuous learning reshape workplaces and lives. This compelling narrative brings you stories of transformation, showcasing the power of caring and creating a legacy.

Stay tuned to hear from CFCC’s Community Relationship Specialist and Facilitator, Mary-Margaret Thomas. She is a resident of the Roaring Fork Valley and has been a facilitator for 10 years. Mary-Margaret discusses the valley’s history of change from her perspective, the skills that have stood out over time, and her excitement about adding the Our Community Serves class to her facilitating tool belt.

0:00-15:10 – The Story of Transformation in the Roaring Fork Valley
15:15 – Conversation begins w/Mary-Margaret Thomas

AI-generated dictation of the podcast audio

Please note that this transcription was completed using AI software.  Occasionally, unanticipated grammatical, syntax, homophones, and other interpretive errors are inadvertently transcribed by the software. Please excuse any errors that have escaped final proofreading.

Speaker 1 0:09
On the listen first podcast, you’ll join us as we connect with an array of fascinating guests from varied backgrounds and perspectives to explore how we can build and become leaders that transform their families, workplaces and communities. Tune in for insight on mastering skills like active listening, verbal and nonverbal communication, understanding behavioral tendencies and appreciating individuality.

Adam Salgat 0:46
Hello, and welcome to the listen first podcast. I’m your host Ansel. Today, we take you into the Roaring Fork Valley in Colorado, a place known for its breathtaking landscapes and more recently, quickly becoming known for its commitment to fostering caring communities.

Adam Salgat 1:08
In the heart of Colorado, nestled in the Roaring Fork Valley, a story of transformation unfolds. Here, the towns and communities are witnessing a remarkable change not just in their organizations, but in the very fabric of their daily lives. Thanks to their efforts with the Chapman foundation for caring communities, a new legacy of empathy, understanding, and continuous learning is being woven into the tapestry of Pitkin County, Snowmass Village, Aspen and beyond. Join us as we explore the profound impact of caring on both a personal and professional level. We’ll hear firsthand testimonials from residents about how the foundational classes our community listens, serves and transforms has changed their workplaces, their city and their lives, then discover how their continuous learning and the pursuit of a caring workplace designation are making all the difference. are over 11 years this deep foundation of caring has been built into the valley and as you’ll hear, as told through his assistant director and interpreter Adriana Tippett Martelly when Aspen High School Athletic Director John because Tracy first arrived, he heard quickly about the class many had taken.

John Castrese 2:30
When I first arrived here, a lot of people were telling me a lot about our community listens. I kept hearing about it. I said, What does that have to do with athletics, and then I met Mary Margaret. And she happened to be one of our parents here at the school. And she teaches the class and so she encouraged me to sign up. And really Oh, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a great experience for me. The skills that I learned in our community listens courses, definitely 100% helped me a lot. And it was such a pleasure to take that course.

Greg Wolf 2:59
Starting with picking County and learning about their partnership with the Chapman foundation.

Adam Salgat 3:06
I knew right away something was different. I knew that this was a more caring work environment than I’ve been used to in the past. That was Greg wolf Pitkin County’s mental health programs adviser. He went on to say that he believes adopting these principles could transform all communities into a happier and healthier place, creating citizens with more mental resilience, which could enhance confidence, enrich personal relationships, and make social interactions less daunting, leading to a more connected community. Next, we’ll hear from Greg LeBlanc, Assistant town manager and Snowmass Village, who continues to convey the community impact, the closeness being felt around Roaring Fork Valley, and comments on the ease of working with the Chapman foundation to make it all happen.

Greg LeBlanc 3:55
Comparing my experience at the town of Snowmass Village, I’ve been here just shy of two years, to my experience with other organizations, it is a lot more friendly, it allows me to have that work life integration that I spoke to earlier, because the organization and all of our partner organizations such as the county or the city of aspen, also have embraced these skills. And so we believe that not just at our professional organization level, but we believe it all at a community level. In a small valley like this, I see people I work with all the time at the grocery store, at the mall on the slopes, and knowing that we’re all committed towards a caring community using skills to have effective communication, caring about one another. It makes me feel part of a community whether I’m in the office or elsewhere. And so what’s been great about stepping into my role here with the town of Snowmass Village is the hard works been done. Somebody before me decided, let’s bring these folks in. Let’s have this conversation. And what I’ve observed since I’ve been here is that’s all you have To do Chapman foundation makes it easy lowers the barrier to entry, to have these conversations with your staff, of how you want to be an effective communicator, how you want to be an effective employee, and how you want to be an effective member of your community.

Talita Garcia 5:17
I love the classes offered by the Chapman foundation because I always learn tools that I can apply and make me a better professional, a better community member, a better mom a better wife, for example, I am halfway through transforms now and I loved every single lesson so far. It’s really for me so far a compilation of great things that I’ve seen in my HR and learning past, but it really helps you to understand how to apply that you know, to your workplace and your personal relationships as well. And I also love how it brings me the opportunity to reflect on some uncomfortable topics, but I learned also how to deal with them in a very caring and assertive manner.

Adam Salgat 6:01
That was the voice of Talita Garcia, the human resources director for the town of Snowmass Village, she has been one of the catalysts for the town looking to earn the caring workplace designation from the Chapman Foundation, according to Talita partnering with them brings a lot of support and connection.

Talita Garcia 6:18
As an HR professional partner with the Chapman foundation, you just have, you know, a great logistics a great content, a lot of caring people that they really care about you and they see you as an individual and they will talk to you and they will help you through whatever obstacles you think you have to make it all happen. So I think all the the Chapman Foundation offers through the caring, workplace and caring communities really brings that to any organization that has the value you know, of like, okay, we love our employees, really appreciate them. We want them to only get better individually, and also bring that to work as well. In my opinion, what sets the champion foundation apart from other organizations is really the interest in building a relationship. Not just with me, because I’m the point person here to organize the trainings, but also with every employee. You know, I love to see when we have a facilitator from listen seeing some other employees that serves and they remember them and they remember the DiSC style, and they remember a lot about them.

Adam Salgat 7:30
As we leave behind heartwarming testimonials, we pivot our focus, let’s shift our lens towards the practical application of these ideals. We’ll begin by digging into the transformative learning experiences provided by the first foundational class, our community lessons. This part of our story reveals how Pitkin County’s Human Resources team leveraged these learning opportunities to foster better communication and resolve miscommunication issues across departments. Get ready to discover the tangible tools and teachings that make this profound change possible. So let’s begin with commentary from Jeff Henneberry Pitkin County’s human resources manager, he praises the Chapman foundation for its unique approach to continuous learning, adding that there our community listens, serves and transforms classes go beyond the traditional done in one day type trainings.

Jeff Hembury 8:23
Compared to other initiatives, what I really like about what the Chapman Foundation offers with our community listens our community serves our community transforms, is the fact that it’s not just a one and done kind of training. So you don’t go through the course put the certificate on the wall and just leave it there. It’s continuous. I really liked the fact that we can reinforce the learning through employment through roundtables. So people can gather and get reminders about the different concepts and our community lessons. It keeps the learning alive. The Chapman foundation really kind of lights of sparking people to continue that learning to continue their self improvement journey. That you know, putting a certificate on the wall doesn’t like that learning is dead. If you don’t use it, Chapman Foundation does a really good job of building different levels of training to keep that to keep that muscle exercised.

Adam Salgat 9:15
Jeff has over 17 years of experience working in human resources and his beliefs continue to evolve. As he continues listen closely as to how the Chapman foundation classes have been formed in STEM and what he wants to share with other HR professionals about it. You

Jeff Hembury 9:31
know, my approach to professional development has changed since taking our community lessons our community service, maybe earlier in my career, I would have said that there’s such a thing as a good employee and a bad employee. Now I would say that’s not necessarily the case. It’s an employee that’s understood or an employee that’s not understood. And that’s really where the OCR curriculum has helped me be able to connect with people on a different level. Everybody is essentially a good person doing the best they can and Some need some guidance that starts with listening to them. I think the impact that I would reflect on with another HR professional or a group of professionals is that this is a really powerful curriculum. Changing the default mindset from reaction to responding is really powerful. And it goes back to miscommunication with a lot of what we deal with at the Human Resources level. When we’re helping, team members in other areas communicate better. So anything that can help us as HR team members to coach others in the organization is really priceless.

Adam Salgat 10:30
Talita Garcia also appreciates the continuous learning provided by the Chapman Foundation, and highlighted its role in cultivating the culture of care and understanding within their workplace. She went on to say that they have used the skills to enhance their hiring practices, specifically through disc assessments. This is a great first step towards helping her organization with retention. But she also believes something else will come into play. Having

Talita Garcia 10:54
leaders like the town manager, Assistant town manager and other directors department heads that embrace the skills and the values of caring workplace and all of our partnership with Chapman foundation really makes a great impact on me as an employee, because that aligns with some of my values, one of my values is purpose. And I do find a lot of purpose working in a place that I know we care about people getting better professional development opportunities, you know about them learning about themselves, and how to better communicate with others, you know, how do they want to show up bringing all those reflections, I love the recognition messages, and even a confrontation or how you’re giving people skills to do hard things and good things, but in a purposeful way. And as an HR director, it’s really like the best of the world. I tell them, I want to stay here for however long it can because they really live and breathe those values and their actions. And it comes from the top. Gartner

Adam Salgat 12:02
HR research identifies the three key components of human leadership as authenticity, empathy, and the ability to adapt. However, only 29% of employees perceive their leaders as embodying these qualities of human leadership. So if leaders buy in and lead the way with care, it can make an immediate difference in a company’s culture. Let’s hear again from Greg Leblanc. Stepping

Greg LeBlanc 12:29
into this role. It’s been fun to actually see what leadership means in this context of empowering people. Being a member of a caring community, because even other places I’ve worked, we talk about this a lot. And now I know how easy it can be to step into an organization that just values being caring.

Adam Salgat 13:00
Moving from the impacts on individuals, organizations, and then communities, let’s start thinking long term. The care and empathy being woven into the fabric of the Roaring Fork Valley marks our exploration of how these principles are not just shaping professional environments, but are also laying the groundwork for a legacy of compassion and understanding this state of wonderment about the deeper impact often grabbed the whole of Greg LeBlanc is mine. I think

Greg LeBlanc 13:29
about legacy often. And so decades from now, when the next round of managers are here leading the town, when they look back at what mattered for this time period. Will it be public works projects? Will it be other large capital improvement projects that we achieve? Will that be the legacy? I don’t necessarily think so. I think it really speaks to the culture of the organization and the broader community that we’ve embraced this not only now, but will embrace it into the future. That’s the legacy I think that will be told that will be remembered that will be valued decades from now. And to circle back to a question you asked earlier. That’s really ultimately why I ended up in Snowmass Village because I could see that from day one. Like it comes from a place of caring, and it doesn’t happen by accident. It takes some work. And for us, it just so happened to be inviting the Chapman foundation into our organization. In

Adam Salgat 14:30
our modern world initiatives, like those of the Chapman foundation for caring communities remind us of the power of human connection and empathy. The changes within the Roaring Fork Valley serve as a blueprint for what’s possible when communities and organizations prioritize compassion. This narrative challenges us to rethink our roles within our own communities and workplaces. As we wrap up today’s episode, consider how we can apply these lessons of empathy and caring into our lives. driving forward a legacy of compassion and connectedness. Thank you for joining us. And I hope this story inspires you to drive change in your own corner of the world. Hello, and welcome to the skills snippet portion of our episode today. And I’d like to welcome in a very special guest, someone who’s deeply connected with Roaring Fork Valley, someone who is a resident of Roaring Fork Valley and has been very instrumental in bringing in all of the Chapman foundation classes to the region. Mary Margaret Thomas, welcome to the podcast.

Unknown Speaker 15:35
Thanks, Adam. Great to be here.

Adam Salgat 15:38
So Mary Margaret, you recently facilitated your 65th class over the last 10 years, I did a little bit of math around that, which is difficult for me, even with a calculator. And I averaged out, let’s say 25 people are in a class 25 times 60 to 1500 people that you’ve had an effect on, you’ve had an impact on. And if you think about even one person in that person’s life, that they’ve been had an effect on that ripple effect, essentially, that we talked about so often. That’s 3000 people. And you could keep going and keep going and keep going. But we’re already into the 1000s. So what I’m curious to hear from you a little bit is, how does it make you feel when someone says you have had an effect and impact on 1000s of people’s lives?

Mary-Margaret Thomas 16:28
Well, initially, it’s it’s not me as much as it is what CFCC has done in developing the curriculum, because it is brilliant curriculum. And I don’t ever have to think about stories, you know, we often tell stories within class to really drive the learning home. Because after 10 years, you you live it, and you do it all the time you see stories every single day. And after 60 classes, frankly, I get bored with my stories. So I changed them up a lot. And it’s just, it’s wonderful to see how it is influenced our entire community to be far more caring.

Adam Salgat 17:07
So that’s exactly where I wanted to take the rest of this conversation. But before I do that, I want to say thank you for your dedication. Thank you for your graciousness, because I agree it is a great set of curriculum, but you need a human being to deliver it. And you have been a wonderful person to bring it out. People have mentioned you in interviews that I’ve done with them in that region, many times about the impact that Mary Margaret made on them. So

Speaker 2 17:35
I just character that you know that. Oh, that’s sweet. They are definitely my people. You know, I don’t it’s a small valley. And regardless of where you go, whether you go to the grocery store, or into you know, I want to I don’t, I rarely go somewhere where I don’t see people I know. And I think I’ve mentioned this to you, I’m not great at remembering names, but I’m really good with faces. So I will just own it and say, Hey, I’m sorry, I don’t remember your name. But I do remember your face. And I think you are in class. And it’s been wonderful. And people really want to I have someone who every time I see her and it was in one of the classes 10 years ago, talks to me about the impact of the class every single time that I see her. So it’s fabulous. And

Adam Salgat 18:17
Wonderful to hear from someone who’s directly having that impact on them after we just listened to those stories of you know, Tonto Snowmass Village, Aspen School District, and Pitkin County, know that it really is becoming a caring community out there and thankful that you’re helping lead the way. In many respects,

Speaker 2 18:36
it is. And it’s really exciting now, because we’re we’re involving a lot more organizations to become a caring community throughout the valley, not just the organizations you mentioned. And I’m really excited to what’s gonna happen with that as well.

Adam Salgat 18:49
Well, that’s a little teaser of, you know, a second level of where we’re going with things as an organization. But before we get there, tell me a little bit about what you heard in listening to those stories that I just mentioned in the first part of our podcast, and how the our community listens, curriculum has had an impact.

Speaker 2 19:09
One of the major things is the impact of listening and how we often forget that simple piece, or we listen without the entire skill set. And our community listens talks about the specific tools that you need to be that good empathetic listener. And the fact one of the wonderful things about that piece is that you don’t have to have been born a fantastic listener. These are skills that you can learn, and you can craft and work on till you have them. You know, as a tool, I often talk about that everyone has a set of tools, but we can always improve upon those tools. So with empathetic listening, we can really try to understand it from the other person’s perspective and know that they are really seeing it oftentimes different than we are, we also use a lot of empathy when we’re talking about, you know, getting ready if things aren’t going well in a relationship to have a, a confrontation, where we want to have really thoughtfully prepared thinking about what feelings, what behaviors and what impact has been the the impetus to have this conversation. And if we go to it with a great deal of empathy, the likelihood for resolution is that much higher.

Adam Salgat 20:30
I love everything that you stated in there. And that’s a little small piece of what we’re considering our skilled refresher today is the idea of all of the lessons that we learned in our community lessons. You mentioned reflective listening, leading with empathy. Well, it’s all encompassed in empathy. Correct. And then we’ve got reflective listening, and you mentioned FBI statements. And I know that for our, let’s say, our little more in depth skills snippet you want to you want to bring us into our second foundational course, our community serves, let me ask you, first of all, I know that material was kind of fresh to you, how many classes have you facilitated in serve so far,

Speaker 2 21:15
I have facilitated for so far. And I think I have six more on the books for the rest of the year. So I will continually advance in my skills there. And I just, I love the curriculum so much, it’s so exciting, to be able to take people who are alone of the our community lessons class, and take it one step further. So just as the our community listens, class, each day builds, this two day course builds as well. And we step into that zone of, of perspective in a way that we just start to touch upon and listens. So in the serves, we really think about how often times we consider that the way that we see something is the way that it is. And that has been a stark realization to participants in class when they realize that, oh, this is my unique lens of life, that I’m viewing the world and I take it everywhere I go. And so if we can consider somebody else, having that perspective, and address them with empathy, to try to understand them better, then we can all just get along so much, so much more clear, our communication can be clear, we oftentimes have a new respect for something that in the past just confused us. Right. So I really, really love that aspect. And it culminates over the two days of the our community service class in that we start an exercise that we refreshed throughout the two days to really try to look at an issue or a confrontation, you know, the things we talked about and listened. And what if we had a do over? What if we could look at it again, with more empathy and, and try to gain perspective from that other person. And it has really transformed a lot of people and gotten them to the place of wow, I could have done so much better in that situation?

Adam Salgat 23:14
Well, it’s wonderful to hear, is there a particular skill or anything directly from serves that you want to mention as a key takeaway today, for our listeners,

Speaker 2 23:23
I think that the skill of really understanding we talked about emotional intelligence, which is wonderful. And so many of these things when we talk about them initially, like listening in the first, in our first foundational class, we think of, well, you’re either good listener, or you’re not, no, you can work on them. And you either have emotional intelligence, or you don’t know you can work on these. That’s why there’s such powerful skills that you can put the work in, and increase your skill set around those things. So I would say, between the emotional intelligence, and really thinking about perspective, and seeing how our perspective differs so much person to person, we’re also we’re all you know, we have 25 people in the room and two facilitators, and we’re all looking at it through our very unique lens of life. So it was just really an eye opening concept, both when I took serves, and now that I’m in the classroom with participants, to see that enormous Aha, that happens when we start going down this path

Adam Salgat 24:27
as well. That’s what I was going to ask about if you’re seeing any aha moments and serves the same way that I’m sure in the 50 Plus classes of our community lessons that you’ve taught over the years that you’ve seen those aha moments and it sounds like you have inserts Yeah,

Speaker 2 24:42
and it’s really you know, we talk about it in the mage main concept was serves is shifting from a me centric leadership style to a we centric and service and our community service is not community service. It’s not service in the military, but it’s an really shifting operation. packed up to see places and opportunities to serve, and a multitude of ways. And like I said, in the valley, we’re committed, we want this entire valley to have that caring community, and really want the best for one another. So when we can add this second class as part of our skill set, we’re gonna get there so much sooner.

Adam Salgat 25:22
Well, what a great way to bring it right back to where we started with Roaring Fork Valley. And I’m looking forward to the continued growth. I’m looking forward to the opportunity for you to affect and impact and have a handle on more people’s lives of Is there anything else that you’d like to add about the Chapman Foundation and the work that’s being done in the Roaring Fork Valley,

Speaker 2 25:42
just the fact that we are pushing and part of that teaser we are pushing to try to have a an entire community, from Glenwood Springs to Aspen and beyond where we all have similar skills, have similar verbiage, and work on the concept that everybody does, in fact, matter. And all the things that we’re working on in classes can help us stay on track because we all you know, anybody can have a bad day. If you’re that lets us know that that doesn’t define us and we can go back to some extent we can go back and, you know, show our human condition and realize the mistakes we made and try to mend our relationships.

Adam Salgat 26:24
What a great reminder, Mary Margaret, we are recording this a couple of days before Mother’s Day. And I just wanted to make sure that I take the opportunity to say Happy Mother’s Day to you. Thank

Speaker 2 26:34
you, and my son is home so it’s extra special. Enjoy

Adam Salgat 26:38
your time with your boy before he heads back to college. Enjoy everything that is happening there in the Roaring Fork Valley and know that you are having a great impact on it. Thank you so much for joining me today. Thanks,

Unknown Speaker 26:51
Adam. I thoroughly enjoyed it.