Do you care about the people you work with? Do you challenge them if they need to change? Do you care for them and challenge them at the same time?
You’ve likely heard of Kim Scott’s ‘Radical Candor’ (book at Amazon) advocating the principles of ‘Caring Personally AND Challenging Directly’. Omission of one or both, argues Scott, makes for team dysfunction and reduced productivity.
Prioritising care can lead to ‘ruinous empathy‘: necessary (and difficult) professional feedback is withheld through fear of upset or ‘rocking the boat’. Overemphasising challenge is aggressive and causes fear, disengagement and conflict. If a leader lacks both you’ll know; manipulation and insincerity prevail.
But to care AND challenge is to have ‘Radical Candor‘ – you give essential, performance-related feedback for the sake of the other person’s growth and success. You care about them doing well. ‘I’m telling you what needs to change in your practice so that you can achieve more, can be more, can do more‘.
Of course, it can be hard to balance the two: picking your moment to give the tough message; reading the context, the other person, the risk; preserving their esteem, their control, their security. But here’s why taking the risk makes sense:
Receiving Radical Candor
Imagine that, even though you believe you’re doing the best job possible, you actually aren’t. You don’t know this; you haven’t realised; you think things are just fine as they are. After all, non-one’s told you anything different. But you are making things harder for yourself and running at 80% efficiency.
So, what if your manager knew of a couple of things you could do differently that would make your job easier and eventually get you promoted. You’d get more done; you’d enjoy the work more, you’d thrive. Would you want them to keep this to themselves?; keep quiet in case you get upset; or would you want them to come out with it? And if they did, how would you like to hear their message?
Giving Radical Candor
Here are a few phrases to get you started – whether your radical candor aims to help a team member, a child, a colleague, friend or even a family member:
I’ve noticed a few things that might help you get this done more effectively, may I share them?
There’s a difference between what we were expecting to see and what we’re actually seeing. Let’s talk about what might account for the difference.
I’m going to share a couple of ideas here that I need you take on board right now. Tell me what the positive impact might be for you…
And if you want to make this a whole lot easier in your organsiation, normalise it. Have the big discussion up front before anyone needs to use radical candor. Reach a shared understanding of what radical candor is, why it’s important and how you’ll all use it for the organisation’s benefit.
Then you’ll work in a culture where everyone cares personally and isn’t afraid to challenge directly.
Here’s Kim summarising the core concept.