My favorite running trail near home. Photo by me.

I want to share a story of immensely powerful leadership and strong psychological safety that I experienced firsthand recently.

I wasn’t in a great headspace last week, if I’m honest. I’m feeling a little crispy, primarily because a very dear friend of mine is really struggling with addiction and their struggle is reaching dangerous and frightening new peaks. With every phone call I receive from her area code I’m expecting to hear the worst possible news, and I feel powerless against it.

She’s down to 102 pounds. She’s 5'7". I love her like a sister, and watching her struggle and…

Photo courtesy of

A common new year resolution inside many organizations is one around continuous improvement, and in technology it’s often focused on the performance and delivery of their teams. The goal buzzwords might sound something like getting teams to “perform better” and “move faster,” maybe even “giving customers what they want.”

For me, it’s always important to believe that those leaders who set these goals have the best of intentions. I’ve been a part of new year planning conversations like this as a project manager, an engineering manager and a coach. It usually starts a little like this: here’s what we didn’t…

(Does this title sound familiar? It’s a play on my favorite short story writer Raymond Carver’s collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, and Murakami’s play on the same title, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. Both are phenomenal books and are favorites of mine — check them out.)

About 14 years ago, my father had a psychotic break.

Prior to this immense life-changing event my dad would have been described by many as a fairly successful man in middle-class America. He had worked at IBM for a multitude of years, then moved to…

5 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Started Coaching

For the greater part of my existence I had no idea what “agile” meant in the context of software development.

(Yes, I’m refusing to capitalize the “a” here).

Until 7 years ago I knew next to nothing about technology or the inner workings behind it, except I knew I loved learning how to use it. Computers, phones, any tech will do. I’m a writer and someone who spent a TON of time on the internet in high school thanks to having a computer in my room during the late 90's. …

How do we continue to lead teams through a devastating pandemic, when nothing is certain, while giving ourselves enough strength to keep moving forward? And how do we stay sane ourselves?

Bell Rock Trailhead, Sedona, Arizona.

What’s happening right now, with COVID-19, is unlike anything we have ever seen before. I said this in passing to my partner, a total history buff, who bocked sarcastically “but not wholly unlike the Spanish Flu of 1918!”

Okay, FINE. What I meant was unlike anything we’ve ever seen in OUR lifetime. Although when one looks at the statistics of the “Great Influenza,” in two years 675,000 people died…

My dear friend and mentor David Hussman passed away Saturday afternoon after an aggressive battle with cancer.

In January 2013, mere hours before I was supposed to have an interview with David at DevJam, I discovered via Google that David had been in a hair band, which was the most incredible discovery I could have ever made. If you know me you know my love for 80s hair bands knows no bounds, so I was STOKED. Probably too stoked? In fact, my wife made me promise not to bring it up during the interview.

Somehow I kept my mouth shut…

Tara Swanson

Human-centered coach, agile coach, writer. Passionate about helping people find their voice in the name of safety, growth and innovation.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store