© Rahshia Sawyer 2021

2021 — Leading through the last mile

Everything I did in 2020 felt bass-ackwards; The playbook for Leading Through Chaos v0.1.

  1. Ambiguity is the enemy of certainty,
  2. Limited choice relieves anxiety,
  3. Right sized-challenges inspire us,
  4. 2021 is the year to delight!

First, a nod to what we lost.

What we gained from 2020.

We’re not out of the woods — yet.

  • “I’m having a hard time with [blank] and focusing on [blank]; how about you?”
  • What are you feeling?”
  • “I’m going to watch/do [blank], want to join me?”
  • “I’m curious, what is helping you right now?”
  • “Have you gotten into any good books/TV this week?”

The playbook — Leading Through Chaos v0.1.

Ambiguity is the enemy of certainty.

  1. Give more information by adding context to project goals, detailing out outcomes, or simply putting your brain on a loudspeaker in a weekly recap writeup.
  2. Define clear-er smaller goals. Climbing Mt. Everest can still be your goal; focus on near-term outcomes vs. getting to the top of the mountain.
  3. Focus on shorter timeframes, a quarter vs. the annual OKRs. Right now, in the last mile, 14 weeks will feel like a year.
  4. Set the bar and don’t raise it; this will be tough for high performing teams, but we can raise the bar at the end of this.
  5. When things go off the rails, ask, “What can we do right now to pull together to get through this?” The last nine months have already proven we will get through this together; focus on just this problem (not all the problems).

Limited choice relieves anxiety.

  1. Ask the team to come up with the “how” to solve project goals.
  2. Instead of outlining timelines and due dates, ask, “When can this be done?” or “What can you get done by X?”
  3. Set up different meeting formats; video, audio-only, and chat. Not everything needs to be over video or in real-time.
  4. Share information synchronous AND asynchronous, giving people space (and choice) to consume information at their pace.
  5. Have a variety of pulse-checks from asking, “What is the feeling right now, in this meeting?” to a weekly group message for everyone to share their Rose (a highlight), Thorn (a challenge), Bud (a new idea).

Right-sized-challenges inspire us.

  1. Identify bigger challenges than what feels physiological urgent at the moment.
  2. Remind the team that they are, in fact, good enough and can solve this problem.
  3. Create a source of truth. Project goals, decisions made, timelines, updates, assets, etc. It’s still hard to remember from one day to the next. We’re all remote, so a shared digital space (hopefully) is easier to maintain.
  4. Recognize successes and progress (even the small victories) to build back confidence.
  5. Be consistent in your actions and structures with weekly, monthly, and quarterly rituals for your team.

2021 is the year to delight!

  1. Meet new colleagues and grow your team’s network by inviting colleagues to informal coffee chats. You might be surprised how many people will jump at your invitation. It’s a win-win-win for delight.
  2. Organize cross-team events to encourage free-thinking, adding some organic collaborative quality back into our work.
  3. Challenge the team to experiment with new ways of working. See “Set up different meeting formats” for some thought starters.
  4. Spin up a virtual Appreciation prize wheel, where teams can submit about other team members they appreciate — and why. Once a month, spin the wheel a few times and whoever it lands on gets to choose from a pool of intriguing prizes. Choice and delight, that is a winning combo!
  5. Piquing curiosity is a delightful way to help teams stay engaged. Done well, it can interest people to stay engaged to find out what is on the other side.



Rahshia Sawyer is a creative professional and third-culture individual based in the Washington DC area.

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Rahshia Sawyer

Rahshia Sawyer is a creative professional and third-culture individual based in the Washington DC area.