Stardate S02E08

Mood: 😲. Digging, and trying to get at the heart of the matter.

Fresh blooms in St. James’s Park — is it safe to say spring is here?

🌹 What am I grateful for this week?

I started with a new mentee this week, and initially it wasn’t clear what value I could offer given our very different backgrounds. But through our conversation I realized that just sharing an industry view would be enough, and that we could take it slow and see where it goes. Glad I’m continuing to engage with mentoring programs and help where I can.

Friday brought with it an unexpected note, thanking me for a time I was willing to say I’d gotten something wrong in a meeting.* I really didn’t think anything of it at the time, but the fact that it was noticed is a renewed reminder for me to keep holding myself accountable in front of others.

I’m also grateful for getting called out in a different meeting, and it being a safe enough space for that to happen. More on that in a bit!

🍀 What surprised me this week?

Definitely the twists and turns of a Wednesday night chat that initially started as a catch-up with an old contact, and quickly turned into an impromptu career coaching session! Such interesting and thoughtful questions to help me examine what’s bringing me satisfaction in my work and what may be pulling or pushing me in new directions next.

I have some homework for next time to think about mental models and frameworks that I’ve discarded as time went on, in addition to frameworks I’ve picked up. Where my head is at the moment:

  • Retired: PM as the mini-CEO
  • Retired: binary either-or models; thinking in spectrums instead
  • Acquired: measuring team health via its 1:1 relationships network
  • Acquired: thinking of oscillations as delays in a system
  • Acquired: framing interactions as negotiations

🌵 What do I wish could have gone differently?

In a candid chat this week, I was asked how I might open up a tenuous discussion about what we could be doing better across our team. I felt comfortable with my approach — leaning into the discomfort and showing some vulnerability in asking, am I doing enough to support the team? Am I actually doing a good job in my role? How could I improve?

But the follow-up question was more direct, about what I personally felt we could be doing better across our team. Here, I answered with something vague enough to trigger a polite reply: “well that was a political answer.” I’m not the best at leading with my opinion as I often temper it based on where the rest of the group stands, so it’s really good to be called out when I do that. I hope my second attempt** made up for it!

🔮 What do I still need to take care of?

It came to the wire on Friday but I did push last week’s blog draft over the line into review, so hoping to publish next week. Work on our go-to-market plans is picking up pace in the meantime and will be a large part of our Cell’s focus in the coming days. More time with the delivery team is on the docket as well — trying to find the source of latent frustration that is taking some of the wind out of our sails as a group.

💡 What do I need to remember?

A really insightful conversation with Andy this week helped remind me of a basic truth of community management: it needs to not become a burden. Who wants to be part of a community that saps the energy of its members? Some interactions inevitably will be chores, but the whole needs to be positive-sum in order for the community to not go into decline.

Perceived effort (to engage) is a leading indicator of community health.

Keeping with the back to basics theme, I got a good reminder from Meg about where psychological safety comes from. It isn’t created at an organizational level from the top down; it emerges from the bottom up with the local leaders of smaller working groups. For signaling from the top to actually work, it needs to build upon healthy foundations from all the layers below. Thus when the signaling isn’t working, likely there is an unsafe link somewhere in the chain that needs to be sorted out.

To move a larger group towards psychological safety, start with its subgroups, and the local leaders who can foster safety at smaller scales.

📚 What did I discover?

We talk so much about value creation in product circles but we often fail to differentiate it from extraction… this is a great treatise on the ‘extraction economy’ and the perils therein for Airbnb.

I admire the clarity of Simon Sinek’s thinking, so I love it even more when someone challenges his foundational ideas and I find myself nodding along.

“How big is the market for that?” The technique used in case interviews for management consulting is a useful starting point when you need to get to a quick answer.

Courtesy Holly Davis for tweeting this link, it’s a smart way to ask the difficult questions of an organization: are we living our values? Such a retro naturally leads to more questions about fulfilling company mission & purpose — all healthy conversations to have, in order to help us course-correct if we believe it’s not happening.


“Writing for yourself is fun, and it shows. Writing for others is work, and it shows.” Amen weeknotes!

*Have come to realize this is a pet peeve of mine, when I encounter folks who can never seem to admit they get anything wrong. Part of why I strive not to do that, as well as deliberately keep a ‘thorn’ prompt in my weeknotes. 🌵

**In a nutshell, it’s external outreach. Something we all need to get better at across Red Badger is working in the open (while respecting client NDAs, of course). A challenge, sure, but not impossible — there are so many interesting and thoughtful conversations that never leave our own echo chamber.




Reflecting through #weeknotes. Learning what works. You’re welcome to read over my shoulder while I do.

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Sean K. Gabriel

Sean K. Gabriel

Kindness first. Lean product aficionado tweeting @skaulana, web @ Finds you interesting. (づ。◕‿‿◕。)づ

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