Google, Apple and other successful companies in the tech industry have recognized that by laying down unilateral power over their employees and giving them agency and accountability, they can drive innovation and achieve results. One way they make that work is by building a culture of feedback: getting, giving and encouraging 360-degree guidance. That’s where Kim Scott’s Radical Candor comes into play. Radical Candor provides advice on how to build effective relationships with your people, provide direct feedback and become a better boss. In short, we, as leaders, can encourage more honesty, more humanity and a healthier balance of power in the workplace by caring personally for our people and challenging them directly.
The principles and practices outlined in Radical Candor are not by themselves that radical. Much of the advice aligns with what any good boss should be doing. We’re just not always doing it — or we’re not doing it well. Sometimes the direct approach can put people on the defensive. According to Scott, that is why it is critical that we build trust with our people and care for them personally. That is what the “candor” part of radical candor is all about.
- Relationships are at the core of a good boss’s job and challenging each other is essential to doing great work and building great relationships.
- Listening is part of your job. Be OK with silence.
- As a boss, people will take your lead: A team’s culture has an enormous impact on its results, and a leader’s personality has a huge impact on a teams culture.
- You are responsible for how your feedback is perceived as “radical candor gets measured not at the speaker’s mouth but at the listener’s ear.”
- Avoid the fundamental attribution error (Lee Ross) or explaining someone else’s behavior as a result of their innate personality rather than a result of the situation. Say “that’s wrong” not “you’re wrong”.
- When providing feedback (good or bad), use the “situation, behavior, impact” model: the situation observed, what the person did or didn’t do and the impact of you saw. This helps you avoid making judgments about the person’s intelligence or innate goodness.
- People can be “rock stars” or “superstars” at different times in their career. Rock stars (AKA individual contributors) are the “gurus” that you can depend on to contribute technically year after year. These individuals do not want to be promoted to management and likely would be miserable or ineffective in management. Superstars are the employees with a steep growth trajectory. As leaders, we must continue to challenge and invest in the careers of both types of people.