I’m reading a book right now called Radical Candor, by the one and only Kim Scott, a woman who’s been an executive at a few reputable Silicon Valley companies including Google, Apple and Twitter, and has improved every environment she’s been part of simply by being a fantastic leader. While I recommend reading her book in detail and keeping it close to check back on it when needed, here are a few things that drew my attention about Radical Candor.
It reminded me of the importance of having a good manager. Looking back at my career, I can see clearly how different my work life was when I had a good manager, one who pushed me to be better every day and always expected the best from me, but at the same time reminded me how much he cares about me. And I’ve also had bad managers, the type who either have authority issues and are keen on proving every day that they are the boss by belittling the people around them or the ones who don’t really understand that being a leader might mean you can’t make everyone happy all the time, or the completely hands-off ones who don’t offer any guidance to their team.
According to Kim, “Radical Candor™ is the ability to Challenge Directly and show you Care Personally at the same time.” Depending on the relationship you have with each person, this can be an extremely direct approach that mostly emphasizes the “challenge” part because you’ve built so much of the “care” part over time that people already know how much you care about them. As you may have guessed, this is the best strategy of a good leader as it keeps the team growing, while at the same time making sure that everything that’s not ok gets addressed and improved.
Then there are three other ways of leading, that are used quite often, but often yield results that are not in the best interest of the team, the individuals, or the company.
“Obnoxious Aggression™ is what happens when you challenge but don’t care. It’s praise that doesn’t feel sincere or criticism that isn’t delivered kindly.
Ruinous Empathy™ is what happens when you care but don’t challenge. It’s praise that isn’t specific enough to help the person understand what was good or criticism that is sugarcoated and unclear.
Manipulative Insincerity™ is what happens when you neither care nor challenge. It’s praise that is non-specific and insincere or criticism that is neither clear nor kind.”
All of this got me thinking that maybe Radical Candor is not just about being a good manager, but being a good person in general, having the courage to bring challenges to light, while making sure that everyone around you knows you are bringing them from a place of love and care. Maybe we should all stop being a little too empathetic to ourselves and to our loved ones when it comes to things that don’t serve them and candidly address things that are not serving them in being the amazing people they could be.
Maybe creating a culture of feedback in our personal and professional lives, in which Radical Candor is the main ingredient, is truly the answer to living happily and thriving no matter what life throws at us.