Additionally, the majority of Canadians say that COVID-19 is having a negative impact on their mental health. More than 50% of our Canadian citizens report this to be the case.

The impact on our workplaces is potentially devastating. What do leaders need to know, do and say to take care of their own well-being as they support their teams? Communicating authentically is an important and accessible part of the answer.

What is authentic communication? Authentic communication is honest, transparent, timely and flows in all directions.

The challenge for leaders is: While employees report elevated feelings of security when effective knowledge sharing is perceived to exist, judgement is required regarding what information is actually useful and what could have a detrimental effect. That doesn’t mean critical information be avoided, but rather be positioned with thought to solutions, gathering innovative ideas and the light at the end of the tunnel rather than generating fear and uncertainty.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson, a 19th century American Transcendentalist poet, philosopher and essayist, said, “Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” This is a time to tap the ingenuity and creativity of your team.


What is required for such inspired leadership? First of all, you as a leader need to ensure your own well-being. This is a time of potential stress given the ambiguity, financial pressure and changing workplace. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  1. What is your reaction to the current situation?

  2. With whom do you share your thoughts and feelings?

  3. Do you have a circle of people with whom you can brainstorm options and possibilities?

  4. Are you getting enough sleep, exercise and downtime to cope effectively?

Taking care of yourself is an important first step.

The next step is to hold authentic conversations with your team, as outlined in my previous article found in the July 2020 issue of Progressive Dairy. Talking is part of the interaction, but listening is even more significant.

There is a tool that can help you manage conversations effectively during emotionally charged situations called Stop, Notice, Inquire, Plan (SNIP) (Figure 1).

SNIP - Stop, Notice, Inquire, Plan

It is an emotional intelligence approach to monitor and manage yourself as well as notice and adjust to your listeners.

“SNIP before you snap” can stop you from saying or doing something you regret. It requires that you pay attention to your own reactions (thoughts and feelings) and the reactions of others (words and emotional state).

Here is an example of how the tool can be applied:

Case One – Self management

Situation: You are talking to your team about how to increase production and lower expenses. The team members begin asking questions that are too personal and would require revealing financial information irrelevant to the discussion which you do not want to disclose.

Stop – Pause. Be silent for a few minutes to give yourself time to take a breath and think. Breathing deeply ensures more oxygen in your bloodstream, which helps you gain control and think more clearly.

Notice – What is happening to you? Are you feeling irritated or experiencing some other emotion? Is your heart racing? What is happening to you physically?

Inquire – What is the situation, and what outcome do you want? Be clear in your intention. You could say something like: “I hear that you are worried about what will happen. Personal information doesn’t help us get through the current situation. What facts do you need to brainstorm production and expense ideas?”

Plan – If the team accepts your decision to move on and discuss specific ideas, then move on and brainstorm constructive ideas.

Case Two – Managing the emotions of others

Situation: Same situation as Case One, but the team is too emotional to move on.

Stop, notice and inquire are the same as case one, but the plan is different.

Plan – If the team is still pushing you to reveal information that is too personal or not relevant, then plan a different approach. You might want to apply Listen-Acknowledge-Ask, which was also described in my previous article. It might sound like:

  • “You sound very anxious and want specific information I believe is irrelevant. At this point, the information that is most useful is the following (provide relevant information).”

  • If people accept this information and are able to move on to a productive discussion, do so.

  • If there is still focus on irrelevant information, and emotions are roiling, then re-schedule the conversation. This might sound like, “Let’s reschedule and find a time to specifically focus on how to increase production and decrease costs. Please let me know ahead of time if you are not comfortable participating in this brainstorming session.”

  • If anyone comes to you individually and is emotional, again listen supportively using the Listen-Acknowledge-Ask model. You might say, “You sound really scared about our future. Can you tell me what you are most worried about happening?”

  • Don’t ever reject or minimize their feelings. They are real and belong to them. The key is to understand the root cause of their worries and find a solution that is honest and offers progress.

This is a difficult time. You as the leader are required to be authentically inspirational while you are experiencing your own worries. Being inspirational means to focus, as much as possible, on a vision of how to involve everyone in being part of the solution. Be close to your team, both individually and as a group. Hearing each other out and making progress, however small, is a constructive step and will help everyone and your business. end mark

PHOTO: Photo by Mike Dixon.

Kathleen Redmond, MA, MCC, serves leaders as an executive coach, corporate facilitator, author and adjunct professor at the University of Guelph. Her areas of focus are character, culture and communication. Listen-Acknowledge-Ask and SNIP are fully described in her book called: Leadership by Engagement, leading through authentic character to attract, retain and energize.

References omitted but are available upon request. Click here to email an editor.

Kathleen Redmond
  • Kathleen Redmond

  • Executive Coach,Adjunct Professor
  • University of Guelph,Corporate Facilitator, Author
  • Email Kathleen Redmondk