It can be challenging to manage people. If you provide too much criticism, you can offend your staff, making it difficult to retain current employees. However, if you do not give enough feedback, their career objectives may not be met, resulting in inferior products and services. 

Many great managers have learned to embrace change and adopt a new communication tool called radical candor to avoid this. This term was initially coined by former Google and Apple leader, Kim Scott. In 2017 Scott published her book, Radical Candor, and even though it was a global sensation, most businesses today still struggle to adopt this type of communication structure.

This article focuses on what radical candor is, how to give constructive feedback, and at the same time, respond positively to criticism. You will also learn steps to implement radical candor in your organization to start building the best relationships of your career. 

What Is Radical Candor?

As a business owner or manager, the most critical factor that determines the success of an organization is the relationships you have with your team members. It would help if you established an unwavering commitment to being genuine, caring, and reliably honest. These are all elements that represent radical candor.

“Radical Candor is about caring personally and challenging directly, about soliciting criticism to improve your leadership and also providing guidance that helps others grow. It focuses on praise but doesn’t shy away from criticism―to help you love your work and the people you work with.” Kim Scott

Within an organization that practices radical candor, the purpose of management is to guide individuals to become better at what they do and enjoy their jobs more. Managers must “care personally” and “challenge directly” and develop these relationships with their team members. This level of trust and support is ever-present, even when delivering criticism. 

For example, you hired a new salesperson to sell your product, and she is doing a phenomenal job. You have tripled your sales this month alone, and she is just getting off the ground. However, you noticed that she says the word “like” a lot during her presentations. After a while, you lose track of what she is saying because all you hear is “like” repeatedly.

Many owners and managers would ignore it because she still produces impressive results. However, you must care about the individual personally and challenge them directly under radical candor. You would be doing your salesperson a disservice if you did not communicate this with her because you can directly see how she is holding herself back. 

Radical candor is the ability to establish trust and open the door for more direct conversations with your employees to manage them more effectively. 

How to Provide Feedback

Most of us were told that if you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all. However, radical candor flips the switch and says, if you can’t say anything nice, it is your job to say something. 

To make the unnatural the norm, a great place to start is to ask for and encourage feedback from your employees. Doing this will create a platform of welcoming and delivering constructive criticism, providing team members a safe space to embrace honesty.

A great way to employ this cultural shift during one-on-one sessions is to ask them to provide feedback they are afraid to give because they think it will offend you. Give them time to answer and, most importantly, respond positively.

Responding to Criticism

Many of us have been conditioned to avoid hurting people’s feelings since childhood, even if it makes us disingenuous. However, when that happens, we stop improving because we cannot see these weaknesses. 

This is why it is essential to respond properly when guidance is offered. 

    • Repeat the feedback to them out loud to ensure you heard them correctly.
    • Thank them for their radical candor, as most people have difficulty presenting this information.
    • Lastly, tell them what you intend to change after receiving this feedback.

A good rule of thumb is the worse the criticism is, the more you need to hear it. 

Imposter syndrome is typical when starting a new role or a new company. Many individuals become fearful when they are being challenged by their co-workers, fearing losing respect from their team. Therefore, responding to this criticism can unleash many pent-up emotions and expose a confidence gap. 

However, consistently providing this guidance is a great way to confront and rout imposter syndrome. Radical candor takes away the personal attachments and concentrates on the methodologies and areas that need more individual attention. 

If done correctly, radical candor feedback becomes a welcomed act. Many workers know that something is missing or holding them back from advancing. Identifying this is a sort of freedom, not a question of the individual’s value or worth. 

Steps to Implement

    1. Train all new employees on radical candor. The first time you introduce this concept can be a shock because people tend to avoid hurting other people’s feelings. Therefore, you must create this understanding on Day One when a new person starts work. The more it is practiced, the less of a shock it will be for someone to implement. 
    2. Lead by example. Communicating that you want to improve will demonstrate your seriousness about the cultural shift. Create monthly meetings where your staff is encouraged to provide feedback in areas that require improvement. 
    3. Commit to the journey. It is vital to explain to your team that this new communication approach does not hurt their confidence but builds it up. Employing a consistent two-way communication policy will increase team harmony and decrease employee attrition. 

Conclusion

Receiving praise and criticism in your business is a powerful tool that makes your organization stronger and better. But receiving this feedback isn’t always easy to manifest. Learning how to encourage this guidance with your employees is a critical step to employing radical candor within your company.

We were instructed to “be professional” when we were young, just entering the workforce. We then translated this phrase to “be emotionless” or leave your identity behind. However, being professional doesn’t mean we need to show up to work like a robot. We need to be more than professional and create an environment where we can develop genuine human relationships at work. 

The kinds of relationships that are achieved with radical candor are not trivial. It is the difference between workers punching a clock and individuals striving to realize their purpose and dreams. 

 

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