I have always been surprised how candor is in such short supply even in the smallest companies. People are afraid to tell others what they really think for fear of hurting them or losing their job. But, candor in your culture will strengthen, not weaken your team.
This week, on the Small Business Radio Show, New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author, Kim Scott discusses why radical candor is so critical to the growth of your company. She defines this term as caring personally about people and at the same time, challenging them directly. Unfortunately, Kim believes we are taught that if “you don’t have nice things to say, then don’t say it at all” and this is what part of being “professional” at work means. She worries that this translates into many of us leaving our humanity at home and just doing a job.
In addition, according to Kim, radical candor is not just saying what’s on your mind with no filter. She states that “this is just being a jerk! She says challenging someone directly, but not caring about them is practicing “obnoxious aggression”. Alternately, she calls caring, but not challenging people is having “ruinous empathy”. Kim believes this is the most common mistake because people don’t want to hurt other’s feelings.
Introducing Radical Candor
If leaders want to practice radical candor in their company, Kim believes this is where they need to start:
1. Solicit feedback from your staff on how they think they are doing. This self-evaluation will give you insight into their performance and an opening to talk critical about it.
2. Give equal amounts of honest praise and criticism. Unfortunately, if you like someone, you have a tendency just to praise them and if you don’t like them, just to give criticism. This does not foster strong working relationships. Note how much praise and criticism you give to each person on your team.
Kim warns that while radical candor is “fast and free”, it does take courage and emotional discipline from you and your team. But she also has seen huge internal rewards inside companies from this practice including improving relationships at work, increasing employee retention, and making teams more productive.
Unfortunately, social media has hurt our ability to practice radical candor. So many people hide behind anonymous social media profiles to challenge others without really caring. Kim believes the worst part is so much of our communication is done electronically and the nonverbal part of it is lost. She suggests putting down your phone and go talk to people!