This article was based on episode 236 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Members of the Modern Manager community get two months of Fast Forward membership for free. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.
I strongly dislike the feeling of having to give someone feedback. I feel a knot in my stomach. My heart starts racing. My mind begins imagining all the awful reactions the person might have, including arguing with my points, making excuses, crying, pointing out my faults, and more. But every time I’ve avoided giving feedback, it ends up being a much harder situation than if I’d just spoken up to begin with.
A few years ago, I read Kim Scott’s book Radical Candor and it changed my approach to giving feedback. In addition to Radical Candor, Kim is also the author of Just Work. She was a CEO coach at Dropbox, Qualtrics, Twitter, and other tech companies. She was a member of the faculty at Apple University and before that led AdSense, YouTube, and DoubleClick teams at Google.
I was lucky enough to speak with Kim to learn more about the radical candor approach and how managers can give and seek feedback in a productive manner.
THE FOUR APPROACHES TO GIVING FEEDBACK
In short, the idea of radical candor is that it’s possible to care personally and challenge directly at the same time. The framework makes it easy to understand. Care personally and challenge directly are two dimensions of how we give feedback. Each of the resulting four quadrants represent an approach.
Obnoxious Aggression (+ Challenge Directly | - Caring Personally)
The simplest way to describe obnoxious aggression is acting like a jerk when giving feedback. The problem with this approach is that, not only does it hurt to hear feedback this way, but it's incredibly inefficient. When you act like a jerk to someone else, they go into fight or flight mode. When someone is in that mode, they physically cannot hear what is being said.
Manipulative Insincerity (- Challenge Directly | - Caring Personally)
In this case, you’re being passive aggressive or politicking in an unhealthy way. Instead of giving clear, direct feedback to the person, you’re wishy-washy. The issue is that now, the person is confused about what the feedback is, or even if there is feedback they need to hear.
Ruinous Empathy (- Challenge Directly | + Caring Personally)
This is what I used to do. Ruinous empathy is caring so much about not hurting the other person that you avoid giving them the feedback that could benefit them. Under the guise of behind kind, they remain unaware, which often ends badly.
Radical Candor (+ Challenge Directly | + Caring Personally)
The optimal balance of sharing feedback clearly while holding the person’s humanity in mind lands you in the radical candor quadrant. Here, you’re saying what needs to be said in a way that the other person can truly hear it, even if it's uncomfortable.
3 TIPS FOR SPEAKING WITH RADICAL CANDOR
1. Remind yourself of when you haven’t given feedback in the past and how it turned out.
Almost everyone has had an experience where they wish they would have spoken up sooner. It almost never ends well when we avoid giving feedback, so give yourself a dose of bravery by remembering that it’s better to avoid regret later by speaking up now.
2. Say the small things so they don’t become big things.
We often let the small things go, because they don’t seem like a big deal. But if you keep letting a few grammar errors in client emails slide, or don’t raise the fact that your team member is constantly late to meetings, it eventually becomes much harder to say.
3. Say it until the person hears it.
If you’re like me, you may start high on caring and need to move up the challenge directly axis until the person receives the message. This means saying the feedback more than once, each time becoming a little more direct. Kim shared her experience of her manager repeating the feedback that Kim would benefit from a speech coach until it clicked.
Remember, feedback is a gift. By providing feedback in a caring and direct way, we enable our team members to gain greater self-awareness and make the changes they need to be successful now and in the future. While it may be uncomfortable, we’re all better off when we share feedback in ways that connect with the person’s humanity and enable them to hear what they need to hear.
KEEP UP WITH KIM
Radical Candor Website: www.radicalcandor.com
Just Work Website: www.justworktogether.com
Radical Candor Twitter: https://twitter.com/candor
Just Work Twitter: https://twitter.com/JustWorkBook
Personal Twitter: https://twitter.com/KimballScott
Get access 10% Off The Feedback Loop Course when you become a member of the Modern Manager community at themodernmanager.com/join.
This article was based on episode 236 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.