If I were featured as someone who is likeable, I might have mixed feelings about the honour. As I wrote about last week, likeability is a double-edged sword for me. Too fluffy? Superficial?
A deeper dive reveals that being deemed likeable over time requires people to have substance and competence, not just congeniality. And these folks I’m showcasing today definitely do. More than that, their experiences demonstrate that the ability to build deep and lasting relational currency with people can catalyze remarkable impact.
Last week I had the pleasure of spending a full day with John Neufeld, visiting various programs run by House of Friendship, the organization he leads. We talked about how hard it is to remember everyone’s name as the team has grown to 300 people…even as he walked through shelters, addiction services sites, community centres and food distribution sites, calling people by name and asking after their families. The tone was warm, positive and genuine. One of the most memorable stops for me was a visit to a hotel that HoF has purchased and is transforming into a 100-bed shelter that will also contain addiction and primary health care services on site. (See ShelterCare for more details). It’s a bold, quasi-experimental move involving all levels of government, and one that has required John to leverage all of his social capital, including with his own staff. It’s taken far more to make happen than I have space to describe here. The site opens later this month and will provide a dignified, integrated, much-needed base for men who are currently under-housed in Waterloo Region. The rapport John has built with the residents, his team and various collaborators has been a key ingredient to making this remarkable project happen.
Not far away in Hamilton, Ontario, Terry Cooke and Annette Aquin are getting ready to open a new building too. In their case, it’s the Coppley Building, a soon-to-be-restored 165-year-old landmark that will become a community-serving hub. It will house the Hamilton Community Foundation, that Terry and Annette lead, alongside other tenants. It will provide an inspiring headquarters from which to manage their impressive portfolio, which includes a $50 million donation pledged by a community-minded, local family in 2022 who recognized the “exceptional reputation” of the Foundation. A reputation like that is grounded in relationships of trust and in their case a deep commitment to the city they call home. Having a solid financial base has allowed HCF to turn its attention from fundraising to impact investing and grant-making that is truly transformative. Across several generations, the leaders of the Foundation have built the relationships that are so essential to its impact over time.
Personal relationships do more than smooth the collaborative path toward innovation — they are a necessary condition for it. I am grateful to support the strategies of these likeable, visionary leaders who are leveraging their exceptional relational skills for the benefit of their communities.