CGE BlogTabatha Soltay
December 18, 2013

A Breath of Fresh Air

I believe that the most important things in life should be able to exist without me.

I just returned from vacation. I was totally disconnected, including four days with no access to anything digital (hard to do when you are on a boat off the coast of Thailand). I didn’t think about work, wasn’t concerned about a pile of briefing notes, or fretting over pending projects. And while I knew that there might be hundreds of emails awaiting me, I chose not to worry.

You could argue as a former public servant without too much “real” work coming my way it would be easy to not worry about briefing notes. I did mull over why I left the public service – the one place I always wanted to be. But apart from a few moments of weakness, I lived in the moment and reveled in the experience of being 12 time zones away.

However, even while I was a public servant I took my vacation time seriously and made every effort to let go. In every job I have ever had, my aim has been to make my position redundant and ensure that everyone in the organization was be able to step into my shoes. I would like to believe what I did was important and helped, but I didn’t want to be irreplaceable, because then I wouldn’t be able to go on vacation.

And becoming irreplaceable is bad for the institution. To be sustainable and relevant the public service has to be refreshed with new ideas, new tools, new techniques, and new people. It has to continue to exist without every one of us.

The public service is like a large house, with many rooms and exciting things happening in all of them – a buffet of activities and opportunities to choose from. But if the windows and doors are all closed, the air gets stale. If there are no new people to join the party, people get tired and bored; they need new energy and different ideas.

It is hard to accept that you are replaceable, because some would equate replaceable with unimportant. But your work is important; in fact, your work is too important, and that is why others need to be empowered to step in should you be unable to come into work for a day, a week, a month, or ever again.

There are others who are just as talented and just as passionate as each of us. These people can step up and do what you do. They might do it differently – but they are doing it because they believe in the cause too. Giving them an opportunity is like opening a window; they are the breeze filling the room.

Taking time off, empowering others to fill in while we are away, and really disengaging for a while also refreshes us. When we return we are more committed, have more energy, and we become the breeze too.

I was replaced. Someone else is doing the job I used to do and I am sure she is doing an incredible job. Sometimes it is hard to realize how easily someone stepped in and took over where I left off; it really is an exercise in humility and trust. There are moments where I wonder if I did the right thing, and it is often hard to find self-worth when I was so easily replaced. But by being replaceable and trusting, I am now freer than I have ever been. I can take on new challenges, empower others to step up to the plate, and encourage them to replace me in whatever I do next.

When we trust others to step in and help us, we can find real freedom. We throw the doors of the house open and everyone can breathe the fresh air.

This is my final regular post for CGE. I know others will continue to write and inspire. I am dedicating this to RP – thank you for replacing me.


Tabatha Soltay Tabatha Soltay: Agent of Chaos, General Do’er, innovator, and networker. Tabatha has a Master’s in Tree-Hugging from the University of Oxford, a minor in life, and applied experience in process design and facilitation. Tabatha has recently left the public service, but continues to share and apply what she has learned from various experiences, helping people become collaborative and creative one project at a time. While not plotting and scheming to help others, she travels and bakes. You can reach her on Twitter @tabtalks.

About this author

0 comments

There are no comments for this post yet.

Be the first to comment. Click here.

CGE Blog
 
By: Patrice Dutil The MindLab meets every expectation you might have...
 
Ducks look like they have it All Together. Above the water,...
 
I blogged in November 2012 about seeing Dr. Bernard Meyerson, VP Global Innovation, IBM, at...
 
Today’s newspapers are once again reading that bureaucrats, this time in...
 
When times get tough, we turn to leaders for courage. Yet...
 
In this month’s blog, I’m featuring Dylan Sherlock, Policy Analyst for...
 
A cryptic title, which may lead you to think this blog...
 
In starting the new year, my thoughts go to goals and...
 
In this month’s blog, I’m featuring Bette-Jo Hughes, Associate Deputy Minister...
 
Before I dive into the crux that is the title of...
 
I know I’m Civic Engagement’s equivalent to being a “Homer” …no,...
 
I had a fascinating month of reading. I am smack dab...
 
I write this blog because I have an unwavering belief in...
 
“Try never to be the smartest person in the room. And...
 
We all love the feeling of being inspired. But what does...
 
Looking beyond is a practice I try to cultivate daily. I...
 
I’m new to Ottawa, and as such, I decided to explore...
 
“So our message to students and graduates is, we need you...
 
In this month’s blog, I’m featuring Linda Beltrano, Executive Director of...
 
My biggest beef about most people is how they keep telling...
 
A number of people have reached out to me asking how...
 
It is just past mid-year review time. We sit with our...
 
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ny8uUVBVzFo]  Last week I attended the 2014 Government Technology Exhibition & Conference (GTEC) for the third time...
 
In•tra•pre•neur•ship (n) 1. Successful adaptation of entrepreneurial attitudes and strategies inside...
 
In February 2011, the U.S. Federal Cloud Computing Strategy (Cloud First...
 
I was waiting in line to have a smoked meat sandwich...
 
Measuring employee performance is hard. It’s one of the most difficult...
 
I had a busy month reading about governance, risk management and...
 
The real problem is not the lack of alternatives, but a...
 
This month’s blog features Andrew Treusch, Commissioner of Revenue and Chief...
 
“We have a temptation as human beings to think everyone else...
 
I have written previously about how metrics are crucial in the world of performance management . Used well, they create a...
 
Back in the 1960s, it looked as if computers might just...
 
For the past two-three years, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) has...
 
As you are all probably aware, we have a new Clerk...
 
This month, I shine the innovation spotlight on Greg Goodwin, an...
 
New Acquaintance: “Hi, I’m Bob. Pleased to meet you. What do...
 
On July 2nd, Richard Pietro packed up his things and set...
 
From time to time, the popular media jump on examples of...
 
If you work in government or in a large corporation, you...
 
“To be an effective public servant, the most important skills to...
 
“I often say that when you can measure what you are...
 
I’ve been giving 110 percent for as long as I can...
 
I have been working with government now for about 15 years...
 
Commitment to social justice can erode in times of austerity, change,...
 
Wanted: Government Intrapreneurs If you’re interested in exploring our collective capacity as collaborative leaders...
 
As next week marks National Public Service Week (NPSW), I have...
 
Remember New Year’s Day? It was a little over five months...
 
Disclaimer: Note that while I work as a public servant, this...
 
Maria David-Evans: Part III This is the final post in a...
 
Maria David-Evans: Part II This is a continuation of yesterday’s post , in...
 
Maria David-Evans: Part I In this month’s blog, I’m featuring Maria...
 
Awards and competition are ways to highlight the qualities that make...
 
Public Wi-Fi First Wave: Big Plans, Few Successes In about 2004,...
 
This week marks “Mental Health Week” – an annual national event...
 
“The first change we are making is to ensure that every...
 
Disclaimer: Note that while I work as a public servant, this...
 
I’m a big fan of promoting an intrapreneurial culture in the...
 
A few months back, I phoned Service Canada at their handy...
 
Disclaimer: Note that while I work as a public servant, this...
 
“Every organisation needs one core competence: innovation.” – Peter Drucker What...
 
CODE – the Canadian Open Data Experience Hackathon – took place February 28th to March...
 
Given upcoming municipal elections in some provinces and the current debate...
 
American President Harry S. Truman famously had a sign on his...
 
It’s early morning, and the stage is set. Our panelists will...
 
Disclaimer: Note that while I work as a public servant, this...
 
In my last blog, I wrote about the need for new...
 
What can the cloud do for you? IT in Canada is...
 
Canadian Government Executive is pleased to have Craig Killough, vice president...
 
It is hard to believe that ninety percent of the world’s...
 
Strong leadership is in highest demand during times of unpredictable change....
 
I was (and still am) an ardent supporter of Canada’s Public...
 
As we approach the 2014 Sochi Games, I can’t help but...
 
In November 2013, the Office of the Auditor General of Canada...
 
The Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) collected $419 billion in taxes and...
 
It’s the last day of January! Our summit is less than...
 
I recently read Matt Charlet’s blog post(1) in which he writes...
 
Canadian Government Executive is pleased to have Dr. David Ulrich, one...
 
On Wednesday, Jan. 22, members of the Canadian Armed Forces and...
 
The complexities of the 21st century are creating a “transformational storm,”...
 
What can often make or break one’s ability to lead in...
 
It’s week’s end already! Did you miss any of our content...
 
Let’s imagine for a moment. You’ve flown to England and joined...
 
We hope everyone had a great holiday and a happy New...
 
In an era where everything we do seems to be moving...
 
To close CGE’s 2014 Leadership Summit, a panel of speakers will...
 
During 2013, Canadian governments at all levels were continuing to join...
 
The question confronting the Canadian public service today isn’t whether it’s...
 
We hope everyone had a safe and happy holiday! We’ve rounded...
 
Happy holidays, everyone. This blog will be the next installation in...
 
I believe that the most important things in life should be...
 
The province of Ontario has proposed a new chair to lead...
 
Janice Baker, city manager and chief administrative officer with the City...
 
Last week Twitter, released its “Best Practices for Government” and it...
 
In this busy communications marketplace, governments are taking the way they...
 
Executives today live and work in a fish bowl. They conduct...
 
It’s Time for Talent Management The public service landscape has changed...
 
For many, Latin was one of those subjects that you had...
 
Innovation is a big deal when it comes to service delivery....
 
Kevin Leahy is looking to get the voices of Canada’s middle...
 
A few weeks ago, Roy Wiseman blogged about how, despite the...
 
It’s the last week of November! We hope everyone’s been bundling...
 
We keep hearing about how governments don’t appreciate their employees, so...
 
Note that while I work as a public servant, this is...
 
Did you miss any of our content this week? Have no...
 
Confessions of a Public Service Manager In my first supervisory position,...
 
Canada Health Infoway has been awarded the Global Project Management Office...
 
I’ve written previously questioning whether change is such a good thing. Even...
 
The government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) is looking to provide...
 
Winter is coming! We hope you bundled up warm this week....
 
We tend to talk a lot about partnership here at Canadian...
 
Zombie (noun): … person given the semblance of life, but mute...
 
Over the years I have had the chance to reflect upon...
 
We’ve had a lot of interesting articles this week. Did you...
 
Recently, I had the opportunity to virtually attend Impact 99 , an HR...
 
In an October 16, 2013 article (“Service Ontario’s web failing to...
 
Stephen Harper’s bullish foray into Commonwealth politics is a late entry...
 
Hello, all! We have a list of everything we’ve been talking...
 
I was thinking the other day, while I sat in my...
 
Happy Friday, everyone! Did you miss any of our content this...
 
The passage of the Safe Food for Canadians Act in November 2012 set the stage for...
 
Change seems to be everywhere in Canada’s federal public service lately....
 
Mel Cappe, former Clerk of the Privy Council, was at the...
 
Last month, we posted a poll on Canadian Government Executive that...
 
The future of mobile was a huge topic of discussion at...
 
The giraffe is a funny-looking animal. It has a very long...
 
The long Thanksgiving weekend is upon us! Before you go, make...
 
On Monday night, we gathered at the Ottawa Convention Centre to...
 
In 2006, a new budget watchdog, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, was...
 
Five years ago I took a Career Pathways course that discussed...
 
On returning from the Joint Councils meetings in Fort McMurray, I...
 
It’s Friday! Here’s our roundup of everything we’ve been talking about...
 
As of last week, residents of Newfoundland and Labrador can order...
 
Hello all. This post will be the first of a recurring...
 
Ms. Amanda Lang, CBC Senior Business Correspondent and co-host of its...
 
Is it Friday already? We’ve had a lot of content this...
 
An article in this week’s Harvard Business Review touts the importance...
 
Today’s Canadian Public Sector Quality Association (CPSQA) meeting in Ottawa featured...
 
I’m either the best person, or the worst person, to talk...
 
You know, I have been around long enough to know better,...
 
Happy Friday the 13th, everyone! We produced a lot of content...
 
Last night, we attended the welcoming reception for honourees of the...
 
September brings fresh starts and new beginnings, so it was very...
 
It’s hard to admit when the things we’re doing aren’t going...
 
It’s Friday already! If you’ve missed any of this week’s content...
 
Just like mushrooms, networks are popping up everywhere; they proliferate after...
 
If you want to talk about leadership, ask yourself: where is...
 
Clerk of the Privy Council Wayne Wouters advocates the need for...
 
“Bad times have a scientific value. These are occasions a good...
 
Another week has drawn to a close! If you’ve missed any...
 
“We succeed in enterprises which demand the positive qualities we possess,...
 
“Success is simply a matter of luck. Ask any failure.” Earl...
 
Note that while I work as a public servant, this is...
 
“Honesty is the key to a relationship. If you can fake...
 
“The problem with people with no vices is that, generally, you...
 
As human beings, it can often be difficult for us to...
 
“Failure doesn’t mean you are a failure. It does mean you...
 
“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its...
 
Make mistakes, but don’t overdo it. “If all else fails, immortality...
 
Did you miss any of our posts this week? No need...
 
“The person who makes no mistakes does not usually make anything.”...
 
“Mistakes are a fact of life. It is the response to...
 
I’d like to think that I do good work. Unfortunately, though,...
 
It’s an appropriate topic for the IPAC 2013 conference…rethinking public administration....
 
Did you miss any of our posts this week? Don’t worry...
 
There is an unfortunate divide between academics and practitioners in the...
 
“As she frequently remarked when she made any mistake, it would...
 
“But as to this retirement business, let me give a word...
 
I used to joke that boxes are for storing stuff, not...
 
“All this progress is marvelous. Now if only it would stop.”...
 
What word is even more ubiquitous in government circles than “change”?...
 
It’s been an exciting week! Our blog has only been live...
 
“True progress can come only as the result of thoughtful, continuous,...
 
“I will make mistakes, but I hope it will be said...
 
“Every reform, however necessary, will by weak minds be carried to...
 
He blew up the factory! Jack Welch, as CEO of General...
 
Welcome to our new blog. You found us… Our blog has...
 
Since the Clerk’s Blueprint 2020 launch in June, departments have been working full...
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
By: Patrice Dutil The MindLab meets every expectation you might have...