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The Bold Art of Telling It Like It Is
The case for radical candor in the workplace
Over the years, I have learned to be more direct in my workplace communication. This approach has allowed me to quickly identify and address problems, making me more efficient overall. However, it's important to note that there is a right way to be direct. That's why Kim Scott's management philosophy of Radical Candor resonated with me so much when I first encountered it. I strongly encourage all my reports, especially leaders of leaders, to adopt this philosophy. Implementing Radical Candor may take some effort to fully embrace within an organization, but based on my experience, it is undoubtedly worth it. Now, let's explore this theory and discuss how to apply it in the workplace.
I’m going to be candid
Radical Candor emphasizes the significance of direct communication while genuinely caring about your employees. At its core, Radical Candor involves providing honest feedback in a manner that is both clear and kind.
The Radical Candor management philosophy is based on two axis:
The vertical axis of the model represents the degree to which you care personally about the people you work with. This means showing empathy, being kind, and building relationships with your team members. The more you care personally, the more you can create a trusting and supportive environment.
The horizontal axis of the model represents the degree to which you challenge directly. This means being honest, giving feedback, and holding people accountable. The more you challenge directly, the more you can help your team members grow and develop.
The idea of Radical Candor is that managers who exhibit both caring personally and challenging directly can create an environment of Radical Candor. This means being able to give feedback that is both honest and kind, and having conversations that lead to growth and development for everyone involved. By leveraging this framework, managers can create a culture of openness and transparency, where everyone feels comfortable sharing their ideas and opinions.
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How to foster candor and then dial it up to radical
As illustrated in the framework, you cannot reach Radical Candor until you genuinely care personally. Personally caring is demonstrated by building trust with your reports and establishing genuine connections with them at their own pace. Active listening, referencing previous discussions or shared stories, and consistently supporting them help create a foundation of trust. Once this foundation is established, you can work on developing an organization that embraces Radical Candor. It is essential to establish this supportive foundation first; otherwise, communication without this foundation may lead to obnoxious aggression, creating a negative work culture.
Practicing Radical Candor in my experience has led to better performing and closer knit organizations. Some additional benefits below:
Improved communication: By fostering an environment of open and honest communication, Radical Candor can help teams work more effectively and efficiently.
Better relationships: By caring personally about your employees and showing empathy, you can build stronger relationships and improve morale.
Increased accountability: By holding your employees accountable for their actions and providing clear feedback, you can help them grow and develop in their roles.
This ain’t easy
However, Radical Candor comes with its own set of challenges, such as:
Difficulty in practice: While Radical Candor may sound simple in theory, it can be difficult to put into practice. Giving honest feedback can be uncomfortable, and it can be challenging to balance directness with kindness.
Risk of hurting feelings: If not executed properly, Radical Candor can come across as abrasive or hurtful. It's important to be aware of your tone and delivery when giving feedback.
Not a one-size-fits-all approach: Every employee is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. Radical Candor may not be the right approach for everyone, and it's important to be flexible and adapt your management style as needed.
For real, thank you for the feedback
Radical Candor makes difficult conversations in the workplace much easier because it is built on a foundation of trust and genuine care. When your reports know that the feedback you provide comes from a well-intentioned place, it creates a more positive and receptive environment.
I’ll leave you with this adage from Theodore Roosevelt (yes, throwback!):
People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care
Lay the foundation for Radical Candor in your organization, practice it, and experience the benefits of a more communicative and fluid work environment. If you would like to dive deeper into this concept or create a plan for implementation, please don't hesitate to reach out!