Biweekly Notes: S2 E7

Gardening, psychological safety and other thoughts

Biweekly Notes: S2 E7
Photo by Alex Ware on Unsplash

Good news bad news: I’m saddened this morning by the death of Prince Phillip. He was far from perfect but he was a beloved husband, father and grandfather. His death for me would always connect back to my own dad, both because of the memory of the loss itself, and wishing I could talk to my dad about it. He worked closely with the royal family for a time while in the Air Force and I just loved hearing his stories. He really liked Prince Phillip and would be saddened to hear of his passing.

But I’ve got a lot to be grateful for lately. My partner’s immigration process is finally moving in a positive direction, our move is coming up, warm spring temperatures have landed in Ottawa finally, and I’m feeling really good about life and work, feeling more like myself after a long period of overwhelming self doubt.

Three things that went well:

  • I‘ve been working on writing a service overview to develop a common understanding of how we see the service and product we deliver. It’s been a really helpful exercise, putting it down on paper, and I’ve had some helpful feedback.
  • With the new fiscal year beginning, I’ve been pulled into planning our roadmapping session. Although I’ve participated in many of these, I’ve never been on the planning side (in past teams that’s been done by leaders and product managers.) It’s been challenging in a good way.
  • I’ve been doing a fair bit of analysis on research findings — something I’ve done lots of over the years. It feels familiar and comforting.

Three things that challenged me:

  • Staying focused — with multiple things on my plate, I’ve been having trouble switching between them and figuring out how much time is enough or too much for each task.
  • Only UK public servants will be able to relate but I’m having to deal with a SSCL (payroll) issue and, like, how do they manage to get it wrong so often?! I don’t even work there now …. ?
  • I’ve been talking and thinking a lot about tools lately — I get a lot of “this tool will be great for x” and “these people say they want this tool so let’s get it.” It’s a tricky balance: User want vs user need, cutting through hype and sale pitch to figure out if it really solves a problem. I’ve been grateful for strong leaders who ask those tough questions and have a cynical eye on hype, and I’ve been wishing I was the one to ask those tough questions.

Three things that inspired me

  • This article on working at google and psychological safety is making the rounds and it’s one that I can’t get out of my head. I haven’t dealt with the same situation as the author but in reading it, it struck me that one of the reasons I left my most recent job was because I sometimes didn’t feel psychologically safe. And yet, everyone seemed so nice so I felt like it must be in my head. It led me down a rabbit hole of psychological safety at work and I pondered some of the things that were missing for me: Trust, feedback, inclusivity, deep kindness, honest conversations, feeling truly valued. These things can’t be faked or covered by niceness.
  • I absolutely love the analogies of what we do in government being similar to gardening. Some favourite comparisons: planting acorns, soil conditions, earthworming. This great blog post by a former colleague really brings that together in a lovely way.
  • Designing collaboration from spydergrrl is full of really great practical tips on bringing people together.

Reading watching listening

  • From the Ashes is a fantastic memoir on homelessness, addiction, trauma and racism in Canada.
  • Probably the last person on earth to get into this but I’ve finally started watching the Mandalorian.
  • My latest podcast find is Lost Hills. If you like crime stuff, it’s a good one.