Lesson #3 of Leading through a Crisis: Be Creative

This is the third post in a three-part series. (See the first: Lesson #1 of Leading through a Crisis: Be Human and second post: Lesson #2 of Leading through a Crisis: Be Persistent.)


Leading during normal times is challenging enough. Throw in a world-wide crisis and the stress to be effective and do what is right increases exponentially. People depend on their leader to take the necessary actions that are quick but thoughtful and strategic.

When our world turned topsy-turvy on us back in mid-March, it left us all scrambling to get our footing and gain some type of orientation, both personally and professionally. As is true during any perilous time, we lean on those around us to provide guidance, clarity, and assurance. Our friends and families are our support network at home and while at work, we need to prioritize being that for each other.

While I would argue these leadership lessons hold true in any situation, Patrick Lencioni (3 Thoughts for Leaders In a Perilous Time) offers three simple rules especially important for leading during perilous times:

  1. Be human.
  2. Be persistent.
  3. Be creative. 


Since we’re going to have to deal with a world-wide pandemic, we might as well use what we can as an opportunity to try something new. Creative leaders find ways to create experiences that will bond team members for years to come.

How does a leader “be creative?” Here are some ideas on how you might follow this simple rule:

“about to get happy up in here.” Playlist

Music has a way of evoking strong emotions like nothing else can. So why not use this to our advantage and create a collective, special and free experience?

Positive emotions dominate musical experiences. Pleasurable music may lead to the release of neurotransmitters associated with reward, such as dopamine. Listening to music is an easy way to alter mood or relieve stress.

Music, Emotion, and Well-Being: How does music affect the way we think, feel, and behave? Shahram Heshmat Ph.D.

After sending out a google form request asking staff members to submit their go-to “happy” song, I went to work adding these songs to a Spotify playlist and creating an image that would show the song titles and names of team members who submitted each song. Sharing this playlist connected us in an inspiring way and continues to be an uplifting boost for us.

List of songs with names of TM Leader
Spotify Playlist

Want to make your very own version? Feel free to copy and edit the playlist image above or the image used in Spotify.

Along Came a Game

During some of our (now virtual) morning huddles (Want to Inspire and Connect Your Team? Huddle Up), we took a few minutes to have some fun with these quick games. While there was a small prize ready for the winners, the real reward was a time for us to get a small reprieve and collectively kick our day off with some laughs.

  • Scavenger Hunt – We shared our screen and kept this list of items, along with a timer, up for three minutes while our peeps spent this time running around their house gathering as many things listed as they could. It was fun coming back together and sharing what we’d all found.
  • Gimme A Point – We tweaked a list like this one to fit our own team and current quarantine situation. Then we went through each, tallying up points and laughing with each other. We’ve also played a version of this while in person that was all about what is on your cellphone (last picture is of your pet, number of unread texts, etc.)
  • A Question of 3’s – To play this game, we first put everyone in breakout rooms with one partner. Every 10 seconds or so, we’d add one of these groups of three in the chat while the partners tried to figure out what each group had in common. When we came back together, we revealed the answers and the winner.
An “Egg”ceptional Idea

At our school, the approach of spring also means an anticipation of new little chicks hatching up in our 4th grade science classroom. When everything shut down, TM Leader Lisa Handlon went to work to figure out a way to continue this treasured learning opportunity. She took a quick video each morning (she learned how to make sure the video was in landscape mode by turning her phone sideways when filming) and we added this image and a quick tune in iMovie to publish to a YouTube playlist.

Our community was having so much fun getting a peak at these eggs and waiting on the arrival of these chicks, we added to the fun by watching this viral video that combines eggs and the feeling we were all having during quarantine. Have we mentioned the benefits of laughter?

Porch Ninjas

We typically give our staff a small Friday treat we affectionately call “Happy Cart” that has a very cheesy, “pun intended” note tagged to it. When our staff was working from home, we felt the need to continue to show our people we were thinking of them. So we became what our staff started calling “porch ninjas” where we dropped off goodies at their homes when they were least expecting it.

Our Bright Week care package (idea from my sister and Assistant Principal, Cynthia Bruno) included small yellow-themed items like Starbursts, a lottery ticket, a gold paper crown, a pack of lemonade and fun straw, lemon cakes, goldfish snack bags, yellow pens, and golden-wrapped chocolate along with these cards to share our love and care.

To make this happen logistically, we dropped our staff’s home addresses into Google Maps which allowed us to figure out how to separate the lists into three different and most efficient trips (where our assistant principal, counselor and myself were the porch ninjas.)

We did this several times, dropping off special items such as the bright week care package, yard signs or t-shirts. Each delivery was met with smiles and appreciation and was well worth the time and energy invested.

Where’s My Bitmoji TM Leader?

One of our 4th grade TM Leaders, Katelyn Callahan, saw an idea on Twitter and quickly went to work on getting our very own version of Where’s Waldo? going. We asked each staff member to send us a summer Bitmoji and then Katelyn used this Google Slide to design the beach scene along with challenge cards. We sent this out on social media as a way to say, “Happy Summer and we miss you!” to our students and community.


Spurred on by participating in a virtual Campfire event hosted by Danny Bauer, as we wrapped up the school year, we all gathered during a virtual TM Leader “Campfire.” Through Zoom, we spent an hour sharing stories, jokes, and music. One special activity we enjoyed was reading the first seven pages of The First Book of Rhythms by Langston Hughes. During this reading, each person was drawing their interpretation of the story on a blank piece of paper and then, afterwards, shared their drawings and take-aways in breakout rooms.

This informal time we had together was both different and special, giving us a moment in time to join and share before we dispersed for the summer.


When everything in our world has changed, we, as leaders, need to make sure we are being courageous enough to try new things. Being creative comes with risks, knowing that some ideas will fail. But not being creative comes with a sure-fire way to being mediocre. To move towards greatness, try something imaginative and you’ll be met with a more inspired team.

How do you add creativity into your leadership? Together we are brilliant, so I’d love to connect! Tweet and tag me (@me1odystacy) or feel free to start a conversation by commenting below.

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