I recently read Kim Scott’s New York Times Bestseller, Radical Candor, and I feel it should be required reading for anyone who aspires to be a great leader and colleague.
The book offers actionable insights based on Scott’s experiences building and leading successful teams at Google and Apple. Scott shares her advice in a practical and often humorous way so that it resonates and inspires you to apply her teachings to your own life.
The book lays out a framework that divides management styles into four categories:
- Obnoxious Aggression: A boss who will challenge and criticize but does not genuinely care about the employees or the outcomes. Praise feels insincere and criticism isn’t delivered respectfully or kindly.
- Ruinous Empathy: A boss who genuinely cares but does not challenge their employees to improve. This person offers vague but sincere “surface level” praise and either offers no criticism or sugar coated and unclear (read useless) criticism.
- Manipulative Insincerity: A boss who neither cares nor challenges. Offers non-specific praise that comes across as fake and offers criticism that is neither constructive nor kind.
- Radical Candor: This is the goal! A healthy mix of genuine praise and constructive criticism that is delivered kindly and respectfully.
Achieving “radical candor” status takes a lot of work and relationship building. If you don’t have a foundation of mutual trust and respect your team will probably not believe you when you praise them, not take criticism well and likely will be too insecure to openly share their thoughts and criticisms of you as the leader of the team.
This creates a ripple effect of negative company culture. If you are at the top of the pyramid and your direct reports do not trust in your leadership abilities then they will project that same insecurity and uncertainty to their own direct reports and so on and so forth. Whether you manage 2 people or 2,000 people you need to set the right “tone at the top” to create the type of company culture that allows everyone to thrive and ultimately helps ensure the business will succeed.
Today’s job market is very competitive for employers; the era of working the same job for 30 years then retiring is long gone. Millennials (who are quickly becoming the majority of the workforce) do not hesitate to seek new employment if they feel they are undervalued or not in an environment that will encourage their growth and cultivate their skills.
To create a sustainable and successful business you need a confident, competent and motivated employee base. The way to recruit and retain the team you want is not through a glitzy benefits package or through unrealistic promises but rather by creating a company culture that is too good to walk away from.
A key learning I took away from Scott’s book is that achieving radical candor starts with me. If I want employees who accept constructive criticism well and actively work to implement my advice, then I must set the example by encouraging feedback from my team and not pacifying their concerns with empty promises that never get fulfilled or re-addressed.
In short: be the boss you wish you had. Set the right tone, offer direct criticism and genuine praise. Earn the respect of your team not by demanding it but rather by being worthy of it. Be kind and respectful when delivering (and receiving) criticism and always be open to change.
Radical Candor is a must read for learning how to build and inspire teams that are eager to learn and perform at a high level.