How To Make Sure That Everyone Feels Safe

Returning To The Workplace

Soon we will be able to reconnect with our family and friends, many of who have been separated from us overseas, as we see the restrictions being relaxed by the government. Red light? Green light? Maybe some of us are stuck at an “Orange light”, unsure which way we should be traveling.

As we ponder the challenges associated with returning to work, maybe we should think about the challenges others are facing. Is there a way that we can help people to feel safer as they tentatively return to the workplace?

I had the privilege of launching my latest book, “Leading From The Stop” recently. It coincided with the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It is about the leadership and resilience lessons learned from the people of Newfoundland, Canada in the aftermath of 9/11. You see, I was flying on one of the 38 planes that were diverted to Gander International Airport as a result of the terrorist attacks in NYC and DC. In fact, it was the day that the world came to a grinding halt.

In the book, I share a story that I think is relevant to what is going on today. This is a leadership lesson that I believe we should all be aware of in today’s turbulent times. Please indulge me as I share it again here…

It was an ordinary Tuesday. I was in town for a meeting when my phone buzzed. Waiting till my meeting had finished, I checked and saw that it was a text from my wife, Kay asking: “R u available sometime this arvo for a meeting with Darrell?” This was not a good message to receive.

“Darrell”, to whom the text referred, was the principal of the high school that my children attended.

I went through the mental checklist. My two eldest daughters as adults, living in Christchurch, were discounted out of the equation. Of my two younger children, my daughter had already graduated high school and was due to start at university. That only left my youngest – my son Nicholas.

I tried calling my wife, but each call ended in voicemail prison, so with a sense of disappointment and anxiety, I texted her back. “Sounds ominous. Just tried to call your mobile and your office number. Please call me when you’re able.”

When you are invited to attend a meeting with your child’s principal, you know something is up. I ran through a series of potential reasons in my mind… Was there a fight? Did someone get hurt? Was there spilling of blood involved? Did he win!

By the time we entered the Principal’s office a few hours later, we were reassured that Nicholas was not in trouble. The reason that we were asked in was that one of his teachers had noticed that he was rather lethargic and become disconnected in the classroom. Nicholas had fallen back in his contributions and wanting to help him, she instigated a meeting with Nicholas and the Principal.

During this initial meeting, Nicholas was asked if his attention was being distracted by his smartphone. He acknowledged that he was using it for Instagram, YouTube and the like, but hadn’t connected this with his changed engagement in class. When challenged on how much time he was spending on his device, Nicholas estimated it to be between 60 – 90 minutes. The ‘Digital Wellbeing’ report on his phone revealed that it was between five and six hours per day!

Principal Darrell’s youngest son was in the same class as Nicholas and it transpired it was common among young adults that they drastically underestimated the amount of time they actually spent on their smartphones.

Having taken his son through a similar conversation, Darrell helped Nicholas to become aware that the gulf between perception and reality was immense.

Our meeting with Darrell concluded as he pointed us towards some strategies and Apps that we could install onto Nicholas’s smartphone to help him manage, control and monitor the amount of time he spent online.

When we returned home that evening, Kay and I arranged for Nicholas to join us in my home office, where we had a heartfelt conversation. Sitting around the coffee table, Nicholas in the armchair directly in front of me and Kay to my left and Nicholas’s right.

I cleared my throat, and said, “Nicholas, let me kick off by stating three things. Number 1 – you’re not in trouble. Number two – we believe in you. And number three – we’re here to help.” I knew that it was important to frame our conversation and to ensure that Nicholas knew that he was in a safe space.

We talked through the issues and came to an agreement that Nicholas would allow us to download the app onto his phone, limiting his screen time to a maximum of an hour a day, Monday through Friday, and 2 hours on the weekend.

There was a sense of relief from Nicholas as he acknowledged that he had been feeling like he had had little control regulating his behavior and his emotions. What had been set in place would aid him with this and drawing the meeting to its natural conclusion, I re-iterated to Nicholas that there were three things:

  • You’re not in trouble
  • We believe in you
  • We’re here to help

As he left, my mind was drawn back to another Tuesday, nearly 18 years earlier, where I heard a similar message. It started off with the sentence, “Ladies and gentlemen, let me first reassure you that there is nothing wrong with this plane…”


The principle that I allude to in this story is found in scripture. Moses, speaking to the tribe of Israel before they crossed over the Jordan river to take their possession of the promised land said, “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy Chapter 31, verse 6.) Moses goes on to say in verses 7 and 8, “Be strong and of good courage… And the Lord … will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.”

Be a leader by helping others find their inner resilience. What you need to do is to stop people from panicking in a crisis. As a leader, you have to set the pace. You have to lead your team. When adversity hits, whether you are leading a multinational or simply leading your family, you need to create a safe platform for those who surround you.

Simply tell them,

  • You’re not in trouble,
  • We believe in you, and
  • We’re here to help.




Elias Kanaris helps leaders lead. He is a thought leader in the area of resilience, leadership and building trust. Elias is an author and speaker. He has written three books on leadership, resilience and finances, and has spoken in 13 countries, on four continents.

Elias is the CEO of the Insight and Strategy Group and has served as President of the Global Speakers Federation (2018-2019) and was the President of the National Speakers Association of New Zealand (2015-2017). He is also a Founding Partner of Maxwell Leadership® – the largest and fastest-growing leadership training organisation in the world – where he is a certified Coach, Trainer and Speaker in the Maxwell Methodology®.


In a time of need there is no better feeling than to know that someone, even a person you had never met before, truly cares about you. This was basically the approach of the citizens of Gander and the surrounding towns for the days that followed September 11, 2001. The needs, worries and care of others became ours. Through it all strangers became friends and then became family to us.


Elias has written a short Whitepaper on Building T.R.U.S.T. to help you, as a Christian Business Owner to build trust in your organisation, Get your FREE copy delivered straight to your inbox.


I think I dodged a bullet

I think I dodged a bullet

As an international keynoter who speaks on resilience, I often reflect on our experiences being stranded in Newfoundland, Canada as the result of the terrorist acts in NYC , DC and the Pentagon. Here are three points to ponder on for the next time you find yourself dealing with a crisis:

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