We recently had Kim Scott, a management and leadership expert hired by some of Silicon Valley's biggest tech firms, join us for Radiate. Her new book, Radical Candor, focuses on her distinct style of leadership coaching: advising managers and bosses to be open, honest, and direct in their feedback. In other words, radically candid.
We stumbled upon Scott's work through our research at Radiate, and I've become a big fan of Scott. I found her advice refreshing. Even more, her advice gave me permission to be direct when I otherwise would hem and haw, worrying I might be hurting the feelings of others. I just had an incident recently where I needed to be radically candid with my teammates. I'm sure I was not the most popular person in the room, but I was told later I was honest. And that was exactly the reaction I was looking for. After that, the focus turned to fixing the problem.
So what are the elements of this candidness? Below are some dos and don'ts.
...rip the Band-Aid off. Most managers think if they ease into a problem, it will take the sting out of the criticism. Wrong. State the problem right away. Don't couch it in flowery language. Tell the person what is wrong, but let them know you will help them fix it. Be up-front.
...be affirmative. If you're going to deliver criticism, don't put question marks all over it. In other words, don't say things like "I'm not sure" or "Maybe it's the case." Don't question your own wisdom or judgment for bringing up the topic. The person receiving the feedback is going to wonder what your other motivations are if you don't have any conviction behind your criticism.
...be engaged. Your job doesn't end when both of you walk out of the room. It's your obligation to continue to work with the person on the critique you just gave. Follow up. Stay engaged. If your feedback failed, it's because you were the problem. You didn't live up to your promise. There's a huge responsibility that comes along with delivering critical feedback, and if you can't live up to it, you shouldn't be dishing it out.
...try to end on a high note. I've done this before and I'm pretty sure people hated me afterward. You know what I'm talking about--giving people critical feedback and then telling them how great they are doing in the end. It's confusing and dishonest and leaves the person unfocused and possibly even more mad at you. You have one job when you give critical feedback, and that's to deliver it in the most effective way possible.
...be their best buddy. A lot of people find it difficult to give critical feedback because their teammates are also their friends. You get drinks together. Maybe you're the kind of boss who's so cool you hang out and party with your team members. Okay, that's fine...to a point. As a boss, you have to understand there are certain boundaries, and despite your desire to be everyone's buddy, you can't be. So temper the pleasure part of being a boss. Your best service to your teammates is not that you can do fun things with them, but that you can really help them in their careers.
...wait until it's too late. People hate delivering bad news. They hate hurting other people's feelings. So they wait. And wait. And wait. If you spot something that needs to be corrected, do it now. Pronto. Don't let bad habits fester. Sometimes by the time you deliver feedback, it's too late. Others may have noticed and maybe your boss's boss has noticed and wants to fire X person. You should have flagged it earlier. Just don't. Stop being selfish and protecting your own feelings. Help your team member. Point out the mistakes early so they can save their own job.
And if you want to see how CEOs deliver critical feedback, watch their advice below, featured on Radiate.