Weeknotes SE02E09 — ALGEE and a tagine disaster

A week of training, the first of the end-of-year performance and development check-ins with my team, some actions for our Community of Practice for 2021/22 and sharing about inclusive meetings.

Monday and Tuesday

Matt White (Head of Delivery) and I attended a two-day Mental Health First Aid training course, run by Mental Health First Aid England.

We both really enjoyed the training and for me, the mix of learning was awesome — we had a hard copy manual and workbook for reading and our own reflections and activities to complete, online sessions, videos and quizzes to help digest and reiterate the reading and learning, and then online sessions with a brilliant trainer called Kim Barclay and breakout sessions with our co-attendees. (and a good long break in-between, which given it was all on Zoom, was most welcome! Breaks people — BREAKS!).

The sessions on anxiety and depression struck a chord with me (you may have read my blog on World Mental Health Day, REBT and me from back in 2019) and made me reflect on the many people in my life who struggle with these things amongst others, which contribute to mental health challenges. I now feel in a much better position to follow the ALGEE action plan:

A — Approach the person, assess and assist with any crisis

L — Listen and communicate non-judgmentally

G — Give support and information

E — Encourage appropriate professional help

E — Encourage other supports

Matt and I will be coming up with a plan to do some comms to the team about our new certifications and when, how and why to contact us for mental health first aid in the coming weeks.


I did the first of the new end-of-year performance and development check-ins with my direct report Kay. We used a jamboard (which I’ve shared as a template for anyone else who likes to ‘Post-It to the max’ to get ideas and updates out, before capturing things in a doc!).

We looked at:

  • Objectives (achievements, skills and competencies used, living our organisational values, and any challenges, plus initial ideas for objectives for next year)
  • Development (skills and behaviours developed, challenges or barriers, career aspirations and development for this year)
  • Feedback (capturing positive and constructive feedback from the year and feedback from me as line manager)
  • Support and how we work together (anything Kay needs support on from me, any reasonable adjustments required, any changes for how we work together in terms of meetings, ways of communicating, coaching, feedback etc.).

I’m really looking forward to doing these with the rest of my team over the next week!


I met with Ros Fane (Director of Planning, Performance and Projects), Alan Ferrari (Head of Project Management Office) and Nicola Clarke (Company Secretary) to have a chat about making meetings inclusive, encouraging participation and remote facilitation.

I always love meeting colleagues from outside of my immediate sphere at Citizens Advice and hopefully shared some useful ideas and examples from what we’ve been doing in the Delivery Community of Practice.

Some of the things we covered were:

  • User manuals — which their teams are already using — yay!
  • Our remote facilitation resources we created last year — see our Blog, Video and Tip sheet.
  • Making space / setting the scene for the meeting — e.g. a videos on vs. videos off rule, highlighting comfort as a priority in meetings (being clear that it’s fine to stand up, lie down, take breaks, knit or doodle if that helps you focus), ice-breakers, using an imaginary ball to ensure everyone has a chance to speak, the Pass Protocol etc.
  • Pre-work, post-meeting follow-up — thinking about how people can contribute before and after meetings in a way which works for them, e.g. using Jamboards, Google Forms, living documents, emails, rather than only ‘speaking up in the moment’.
  • How can people contribute in the meeting — we all know some people hate speaking in front of others, some people hate Post-Its (or Jamboards or Mural in these remote times!)and some people hate PowerPoints! So specifically finding out how the group would prefer to contribute to get to an action or an outcome. We also spoke about the silent meeting format — see this blog for more.
  • Team Alliance or Charters — to agree and commit to how you’re going to work together and contribute — I shared our Delivery Community of Practice one as an example:
  1. We’ll provide feedback constructively, and openly welcome it.
  2. Our events must be full of value, yet voluntary. We’ll come and be committed.
  3. We’ll have fun respectfully, but still use time effectively.
  4. We’ll ask for help, and share our knowledge and experience when others do so.
  5. We’ll make sure actions are shared between members.
  6. We’ll minimise specifics coming into the room, and make sure they don’t come out of the room.
  7. We’ll be inclusive and respectful of each other. This looks like:
  • Listening first
  • Asking questions second
  • Sharing opinions last

8. We’ll encourage each other to innovate and create space to share and support each other in success and failure.


Today I want to follow-up on my meeting with Martyn and Maja yesterday, who are the lovely discipline reps for our Community of Practice. We talked about how we’re going to action changes suggested for 2021/22 from the futurespective we did last week and the top line on things we’re planning are:

  • Discipline reps — getting an extra person on board to support our work and turn out trio into a foursome!
  • Who we are — setting up a space on Confluence with all our delivery folks, details on their teams, links to core docs like roadmaps etc.
  • Health checks for DMs — how we use our existing forums together, relationships and buddying to support our DMS.
  • Consultancy and light-touch coaching — how we provide one-off support to teams without DMS as a way to help but also give people exposure to different types of teams and work.
  • Facilitation swapsies — facilitating some of each other’s ceremonies to again, get exposure to different teams and types of work but also allow DMS to input or participate when helpful to do so.
  • Blog series — getting our voices and experiences out there to the wider world!

Launderettes, penknives, creative writing, recipes and other stuff…

In my latest cooking adventure, I went to make a tagine on Wednesday (first time!) and was happily cooking away, I had Bob Marley playing, I was getting excited about how delicious it would be, when the casserole dish I was using on a hob exploded!

Chicken thighs, apricots and chickpeas everywhere! The worktop was covered, hobs were covered, the sauce was all splashed up the walls and even on the kick boards under the oven…

I squealed like a pig (I lost some of my soft butch credentials for that, I’m sure!) and my adrenaline levels were off the charts! My girlfriend ran in to see what had happened and I just felt extremely lucky I didn’t end up with a gutful of glass.

On reflection, I guess I KNEW it needed to be some kind of Le Creuset-style casserole dish if I was going to use the hob, but I’d gone all zen with my Bob Marley on and was ravenous, so foolishly cracked on, thinking it would only take a few mins then it’d be in the oven.

So let that be a lesson to anyone else in a rush to get their dinner done and down their gullet!