Radical candour is the secret to being a great boss. Leadership guru and former Director of Google, Kim Scott, describes radical candour as an invitation to “say what you think” a simple invitation that Scott encourages us not to shy away from.
An invitation to say what you think or suck it up in disguise?
For many, the invitation to “say what you think” may, at the very least, arouse suspicion. The thought of toe curling exchanges with your team or co-workers might leave you gnawing at your desk in despair but hold fire and read on.
Radical candour, the secret to being a great boss?
For Scott, radical candour is all about being the kind of leader that inspires, motivates and develops others. In her forthcoming book, Scott argues that it’s the alternative to radical candour we should avoid and fear, explaining, “Bad bosses make people miserable. They also kill innovation, stifle growth, increase costs, and create instability. Well-meaning people become bad bosses without even realizing it.”
Encourage your team to be radically candid – caring is key
To see real progress and change within your team encourage all team members to be radically candid. When you implement this culture of guidance within your workplace ensure that everyone understands that caring is key. Radical candour combines a high level of genuine care about the person receiving the guidance along with a willingness to challenge them directly, empowering and enabling growth. For Scott, the element of caring is essential and when it is absent, we end up with a challenge that Scott describes as obnoxious aggression. None of us are aiming for second best, Scott argues, so why would we sell ourselves short or those we lead?
When we act from a position that lacks the essential element of care and fail to adequately challenge we risk what Scott terms ‘manipulative insincerity’. Conversely, when we fail to challenge under performance out of concern for others feelings we risk falling into a category Scott terms ‘ruinous empathy’, a category that many may have found themselves occupying at some point. Scott describes radical candour as an obligation, recalling the moment she realised she’d slipped into ruinous empathy as the worst moment of her career, resulting in her having to fire a team member who she’d failed to directly challenge for over a year.
A moral obligation
At First Round’s CEO summit Scott, renowned for her inspirational work with teams and ability to generate passion, energy and a motivation to excel, explains that it’s part of a leader’s moral obligation to be just as clear about what’s going wrong as well as what’s going right. Scott now works with the likes of Twitter and Rolltape, promoting a focus on giving, receiving and encouraging guidance.
Putting radical candour into practice
Scott has an acronym for getting radical candour right is HHIPP: Radical candor is
- H = humble,
- H = helpful,
- I = immediate
- P = in person—in private if it’s criticism and in public if it’s praise
- P = it is never personalized
Scott advocates four practices to foster a culture of guidance within the workplace
- Find opportunities for impromptu feedback – turn radical candour into routine daily communication, encouraging team members to categorise the feedback they receive into i) radical candour ii) obnoxious aggression iii) manipulative insincerity iv) ruinous empathy.
- Make backstabbing impossible – Be clear that politics and point scoring has no place in radical candour. As a leader encourage reports to resolve differences before stepping in.
- Make it easier to speak truth to power – provide safe opportunities for people to offer their guidance.
- Put your own oxygen mask on first – or practice what you preach.