1-250-514-8459 tamara@posminds.com
Leading to Flourish-Effective Communication in Times of Crisis

Leading to Flourish-Effective Communication in Times of Crisis

I held a webinar today for leaders of Canadian Independent Schools along with my colleague Ron Lalonde, who was the Middle East Director of the Institute of Positive Education. We explored the topic of leadership through the lens of Positive Psychology, or as I like to think of it, the science of living a good life.

This summary will explore the communication methods that work best during a crisis. It begins with including all voices to promote agency and buy-in.

Who Needs to be at the Table

Begin by thinking of all the voices to include. Students, parents, teachers, non-teaching staff and community are all stakeholders. Then take a moment to remind yourself that you have 2 ears and 1 mouth- this is also the ratio of speaking to listening you want to go for.


Assumptions are frequently made about what is best for student wellbeing, with little input from the students themselves. Stakeholder engagement happens when you connect meaningfully with, learn from and communicate with parents, teachers, students and staff. Engagement must be deliberate, structured and systematic, and stakeholders should have an influence throughout the decision-making process, not just at the end. The engagement cycle happens best if it includes an opportunity for communication in the planning, participation, analysis and sharing stages.

When leaders are in crisis mode the knee-jerk reaction is often believing that decision making lies firmly on the leader’s shoulders. Crisis makes it even more important to include stakeholder voice to hear great ideas, to address fears and to foster stronger buy-in across all stages. It is essential to keep in mind that the goal of communication isn’t only answers to your problems, it’s touching the lives of others in your community.


We recommend Charles Feltham’s model that requires 


  • You mean what you say


  • You keep your promises


  • You take on what you can perform well


  • You have people’s backs


Watch this clip of BC’s Dr. Bonnie Henry who is a textbook example of exceptional crisis communication thanks to her tone, her timing, the language she uses and her ability to create a sense of common humanity by an authentic sharing of emotions.

The Platform Hierarchy

When you are asking for input from stakeholders, there is a continuum of poor to effective communication.

Any time you can have an in-person conversation it is the most effective choice since you get the nuances of eye contact, body language and vocal tones. The next best is on a Zoom or Facetime call where you can see most of these things. A third choice would be having a phone conversation. And the least effective methods would be via survey or by email since so much is lost when using these limited methods.

If the structure does not permit
dialogue the structure must be
changed.                                                                Paulo Freire

Over the next few weeks, I will be featuring content that helps leaders and educators use the science of living a good life in school and at work. If you want to stay in the loop. please join the mailing list.



* indicates required
COVID-19 Mental Wellbeing Guide

COVID-19 Mental Wellbeing Guide


It’s a whole new world.

No, really! Everything we thought we knew about working and schooling and parenting has changed (and continues to change whether we like it or not). I am working from home, which is no big deal since I almost always work from home, but never before have I worked from home while my daughter finishes her final year of University from home and my sons learn online from home and my husband learns to work remotely from my office.

I have been collaborating with a team of educators, psychologists and counsellors from across North America to come up with some quick tips to make sure mental health is a priority and to help parents sift through all the “experts” telling them how they should be homeschooling. FYI, unless you were homeschooling before COVID-19 hit, you are not homeschooling, you are coping.
There is a difference. Homeschool is a choice. You didn’t choose this. It’s okay to be confused, sad, angry and scared. It’s also okay to feel grateful to have everyone back home. This is a time to work for the minimum viable product. Do the best you can with the least amount of stress. Period.
I hope you will check out our first tip about checking in regularly. We know it’s simple. Frankly, we aren’t Goop or Martha Stewart. We like simple!
I also want to share this link to a webinar I did about working and educating from home.
If you have questions for me or my gang, we’d love you to hop over to our Facebook group and post them. We will also have guest experts visiting the group for Q & A’s.


I’ll add a new tip every week for parenting. Here are a few more tips for general coping.


People living under quarantine can show symptoms aligned with those of post-traumatic stress disorder. The longer people are in quarantine, the more pronounced the symptoms tend to become.”

To counteract the effects of quarantine-induced anxiety: stay in touch, set boundaries, exercise, limit social media as needed, continue to see your healthcare provider, keep a routine you follow on a daily basis, find volunteer opportunities, and join group chats with co-workers, which is a well-researched intervention to help soothe the symptoms of PTSD.

Watch for signs of anxiety and depression in loved ones. Your intervention can be a straightforward observation like, “I’ve noticed that you’ve been expressing x, y, and z. I think it’s time for you to get help, talk to someone, call this hotline.”

Support employees’ or colleagues’ emotional health during the coronavirus quarantine by creating communities, over-communicating, holding fireside chats and openly discussing your own struggles, not allowing mental health challenges to be stigmatized, and doing fun things together.

Listen, acknowledge, support.

Positive Minds in Negative Times- Raising Resilient Learners

Positive Minds in Negative Times- Raising Resilient Learners

It is during uncertain times like our current COVID-19 crisis where we see Positive Psychology in practice. Since the world feels a little scary and very unpredictable right now, I thought we would take a deep dive into resilience. What is it? Are you born with it or is it acquired along the way? What can you do to get more?

Merriam Webster defines resilience as “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change”. Our team at Positive Minds International gives that definition 2 thumbs down! 

  1. Implying resilience is easy isn’t okay.
  2. Blaming misfortune denies your important role in resilience

We like to think of resilience as choosing to work through challenges so you become stronger than you were previously. 

It’s similar to the way our bones become stronger they more we use our muscles. No gain without a little pain! 



Another example is  Kintsugi 金継ぎ, the Japanese approach to ceramics founded in a belief that damaged pottery shouldn’t simply be neglected or thrown away. Repairing with enormous care symbolizes a sort of reconciliation with the flaws.



 Kin = golden

 tsugi = joinery

 Literally, ‘to join with gold’.


Resilience came from the word resiliens, used in the 1600s to describe how organic matter could bounce back to what it was before – like bamboo in the wind.


The American Psychological Association’s definition is more aligned with the  way we teach resilience- 

“Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or even significant sources of stress”

Some of our favourite research on resilience comes from the Institute for Child Development at the University of Minnesota where Ann Masten refers to resilience as “ordinary magic”. 

Masten’s checklist for resilient children includes:

  • Capable caregiving and parenting
  • Other close relationships
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Self-regulation skills
  • Motivation to succeed 
  • Self-efficacy
  • Faith, hope, belief life has meaning
  • Effective schools 
  • Effective communities
  • Effective cultural practices 


Here’s an excellent teaching story about resilience:

A young woman went to her mother and complained that everything in her life was going wrong; her relationship had fallen apart. She was in a job that felt repetitive and mindless and she was lonely- she felt she had hit rock bottom. As the young woman started to cry,  her mother went to the stove and put 3 pots of water on to boil. In one she placed a carrot, in one an egg, and in the last some coffee beans. The mother sat silently as the daughter dried her tears and watched all 3 pots boil. After a while the mother asked the daughter to feel the carrot which was soft, to crack the egg which was now hard, and to taste the coffee which was delicious. The mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity. When the carrot was placed in the water it had been strong, hard, unrelenting and yet it came out soft and weak. The egg had been fragile with a soft center and it came out hardened and unforgiving but still easy to crack. The coffee beans were unique- they had changed the water. In the face of adversity, the beans adapted by changing the world around them. 

As our team prepares this post the world has been rocked by COVID-19. Like many past challenges humans have encountered ( AIDs, smallpox, Y2K) the fear can either set off a panic ultimately leading to isolation and desperation or it can be the precursor to a new way of working together to overcome it. The difference that we see, the thing that separates the carrot and egg from the coffee bean, is hope.

How does this relate to you? If you are an educator or a parent, it’s important to note one recent study showed that better educational opportunities were associated with resilience, hope and emotional wellbeing. And yet, there has never been greater uncertainty around education than we see today. I like to see the opportunity this gives us- for far too long we have let the system of education dictate both what is and what is not possible for our children. I believe the chaos of COVID will settle, leaving in its wake an opportunity to rethink education. 

“It’s your reaction to adversity, not adversity itself that determines how your life’s story will develop.”

― Dieter F. Uchtdorf

I invite you to share your dreams for the future of education. Let’s imagine a system where every child’s strengths are seen and harnessed. where curiosity continues to flourish throughout the teen years and where we empowered learners with the skills they will need to be their best and do their best as lifelong learners and leaders.

Check out our Facebook group for ideas on helping children foster resilsince.