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Communicate Hope in multiple ways to multiple audiences 

Leaders, in crisis and under stress, often retreat to dominate traits. Personality inventories (there are many) often divide the world into four “types.” Each type respond differently – especially when we retreat to our preferred safe zone..  Use,

True Colors

One of the personality inventories, for example, is True Colors.  The four personality types they describe are:

  • Blue = Relational – compassionate

  • Red = Dependable – follow the rules

  • Green = Analytical – seek out information and solutions

  • Orange = Creative – like variety and adventure

A dozen ways to convey hope – to each personality type

Don’t leave three-fourths of your team behind.  Consider a dozen ways that we, as leaders, can convey hope … to better meet the needs of our entire team – individually and collectively.  Consider these alternatives for communicating with the four True Colors personalities:


Check in regularly to take the pulse of the group.  Listen to their concerns.  Find ways to keep people together and moving in the same direction. 

  1. Start each meeting with a check-in: Ask what one thing is going well; one new thing you are learning; one thing you are grateful for.  Use breakouts to give everyone a chance to share.  Ask them to post to the zoom whiteboard or chat.
  2. Be empathetic to those who are feeling the loss. Acknowledge complaints. You might say, I can tell this is really hard for you. Add complaints to flip chart as “parking lot” items to be considered later; circle back later to respond.
  3. And if relationships are not your primary strength, you might assign a team to be responsible for member-care. They might divide up the group and make contact 1:1 to check in personally to see how each member is doing and what they need.


This fits educators well.  Proportionally, more teachers are likely to fall into this area than any of the others. 

  1. Communicate often – more often than you might like. Weekly at least, ideally every few days.  In times of stress rumors fill the vacuum.  Share what you do know.
  2. Admit what you don’t know and (if you can) say when you might know. For many, just knowing that the item is tracking on your radar buys a little time.
  3. Translate information into action. Individuals in this area often say, Just tell me what to do.  When they do, be as clear as possible by answering four questions:  What am I expected to do? Why is it important? How will I know how I am doing? Where do I go to get help?


These individuals may be thinking several steps ahead, raising ‘what if’ questions, or pointing out potential flaws. 

  1. Check in regularly with each affinity group to see what they know and what they need. Gather the facts and the feelings.  Share back … this is what I am hearing.
  2. Turn unknowns into knowns. Paint a clearer picture of trends that are emerging.  Start problem identification.
  3. Identify options. Invite input on pros and cons.  Let staff see their words, their finger-prints on the working documents.   Share your thinking on what might be coming next. 


These are the adventurers and may actually fare better in a crisis than many of the others. 

  1. Celebrate the journey, the adventure. Be a third less serious.  Laugh at yourself.  Anticipate mis-steps and let people know it will be a challenge.  Celebrate small wins.
  2. Brainstorm; engage staff in problem solving. Ask them to work together on teams to consider options and bring back recommendations.
  3. Make meaning through constant reminders of how we make a difference.


For all of the above, meet often, share what you know, admit what you don’t know, outline the challenges ahead.  Ask them how they are doing, let them know you heard them and care about them.  Do what you can to support them.  Share progress.  Say thank you and remind them of our core values – our main mission – serving our students.



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Larry Nyland – Leadership Coach and Consultant.
Seattle Schools superintendent 2014-2018

To talk about growing extraordinary "high capacity" leadership for your team …
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