Radical CandorOn October 10, 2018 in peopleware • 4 minutes read
Table of Contents
This book by Kim Scott promotes the idea that a successful leader is both blunt and empathetic at the same time (radically candid, but caring at the same time). She is not a tyrant, and not a sensitive quiet type either.
Types of feedback
“The source of everything respectable in man, either as an intellectual or a moral being is that his errors are corrigible…. he is capable of rectifying his mistakes, by discussion and experience. Not by experience alone. There must be discussion, to show how experience is to be interpreted…. The whole strength and value of human judgment depends on the property that it can be set right when it is wrong” — JS Mill, Philosopher, 1916
The book recognises the following types of feedback:
- Radical Candor: Care personally and challenge directly. When you are honest and direct, staff will pick up on that, and will feel free to return feedback back to you about your performance as a manager.
- Ruinous empathy: When you care personally without challenging directly. This hurts the employee more in the long term, due to a lack of overall potential improvement.
- Obnoxious aggression: When you challenge directly but fail to care personally. This can destroy morale fast, create enemies and can result in people leaving their jobs.
- Manipulative insecurity: When you both fail to care personally and fail to challenge directly. Avoid this approach, as it will produce poor quality output, and breed more laziness.
Radical Candor is what you want to aim for in your feedback, that perfect balance between caring and challenging. In many ways, it’s completely intuitive. If you care about someone, you’ll want them to succeed. When you care, you will be motivated to give direct feedback for their benefit, not for any other reason.
Radical Candor doesn’t always come easily. We’ve grown up being told that if you haven’t got something nice to say, then don’t say anything at all. Of course it’s easier to let these opportunities slip by, to not take the time to build the necessary relationships.
As leaders, however, the truth is that it’s not only our job to do this, it’s our moral obligation. This guide looks at making it easier.
- Embrace the discomfort: Your teammate might not necessarily want to give you feedback when you ask for it, but embrace the discomfort and leave the opportunity open. One way is to ask for feedback, then shut your mouth and count to 6. You will get something in return for the silence.
- Listen with the intent to understand, not to respond: It’s that simple, and that hard at the same time.
- Respond positively, even if you don’t agree: You need to show them that you are listening to incentivise their continued talking and stating their opinions.
- Reward the candor: Thank the person for sharing feedback with you. Especially if it was a hard word for you to hear, all the more important that you heard it.
- Give more praise than criticism: Remember that part about people remembering more negative feedback than positive? Keep the positive reinforcement up.
- Be humble: Everyone is biased; your read on every situation is not 100% accurate. Keep that in mind when offering your feedback.
- Be helpful: Share your intention to be helpful.
- Do it immediately: There’s no reason to delay when you’re trying to help somebody.
- Don’t make it about personality: It is very hard to change your personality, it is more possible to change your behavior.
- Do it in person: Or video chat if you can’t meet face to face.
- Criticize in private, praise in public.
Making backstabbing impossible
- Don’t let people talk badly about each other to you.
- Ask if someone has tried to work it out directly.
- If they can’t, ask them to come to you together.
- Be as fair and fast as possible.
Making it easier to speak truth to power
- Explain process to everyone
- Gather feedback from directs on manager
- Focus on the reason (being a better manager)
- “Not for attribution”
- Prioritise issues
- Send notes to manager at the end of the meeting
- Require manager to make and communicate changes
Support employees true motivations
While there’s nothing wrong with working a job just to pay the bills, you’re bound to have people in your team who have big dreams they’re hoping to realize.
Managers should support the dreams of their staff and help them approach those dreams in a realistic fashion.
To do this, you must first talk (and listen) to your employees so that you understand their aspirations, and they know that you are personally invested in helping them get on the right path.
To understand your employees’ dreams and identify those important motivators, use one of three kinds of conversations.
- The first is the life story conversation where the employee tells you everything leading up to the present day, and you try to find their motivating factors.
- The second is the dream job conversation, where they describe their biggest career desire.
- The third is the 18-month plan conversation, where they look into the immediate future, and you identify everything that can be done to keep them on the right track.