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Radical Candor is Growing Because Relationships May Not Scale, But Culture Does

What started as an epiphany after receiving candid advice from a stranger (“it’s not mean, it’s clear”) has not only become a bestselling book – Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity – it’s also blossomed into a company dedicated to bringing Radical Candor to teams around the world. Over the past year, we’ve seen a huge appetite for the management philosophy and its practices, and as a result, Radical Candor the company is growing.

While almost all the problems we’ve seen companies encounter are covered in the book, and in suggestions for Rolling Out Radical Candor, there are limitations to how much people can put the Radical Candor framework into practice from a book. Because, let’s face it, some things are still better explained by a real live human being. This is why we believe that the best way to spend our time is focusing on supporting people and teams who want to transform their work by developing a culture of Radical Candor. 

To put this into practice, Jason Rosoff – former chief people officer and chief product officer at Khan Academy – joined me in 2017 to co-found Radical Candor, LLC., a training and development company based on the Radical Candor management principles.

Radical Candor

Radical Candor CEO + Candor Coach Jason Rosoff

Previously, working in partnership with The Gates Foundation and Google, Jason helped Khan Academy improve educational outcomes for over 100 million students and teachers worldwide. Prior to that, Jason was a product leader at Fog Creek where he helped build the teams that created StackOverflow and Trello. Early in his career, Jason led engineering operations at a white-label producer of photo books for Apple. 

Jason is the yin to my yang, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to have him as a partner on this journey.”

Because Jason and I want to help managers be kick-ass bosses instead of having employees who want to kick their asses, we began building a team. Working with our Candor Coaches – management and leadership experts who share our passion for bringing Radical Candor to life – we spend most of our time delivering talks and workshops to teams around the world, helping them develop a culture of Radical Candor. 

As the Radical Candor, LLC., CEO, Jason’s ability to focus on growing our business allows me to do what I love most – write.  I’m working on my next book, exploring how the principles of Radical Candor can be applied to gender dynamics in the workplace

Radical Candor

Radical Candor CMO + Candor Coach Amy Sandler

To help the spread the message of Radical Candor, Amy Sandler has joined the team as chief marketing officer and globetrotting Candor Coach. After business school, while most of us were getting jobs  in something called “the internet,” Amy moved to Los Angeles and got an MFA in Screenwriting from UCLA while also continuing to deepen her practice of yoga and meditation. 

As a speaker and coach, Amy helps leaders and teams align their purpose and optimize performance through mindfulness and resilience-training. As one of the first certified teachers of the Search Inside Yourself program developed at Google, she really knows her stuff. And after a career leading marketing teaming at organizations like YPO, Vistage and UCLA, Amy has now come full circle, bringing Radical Candor to companies like Facebook, Uber, and Google. I am so excited to have her on the team! And, of course I’m still in close touch with the fabulous Russ Laraway, former COO and co-founder of Candor, Inc., who is vice president of people at Qualtrics.

More than 20 years after Amy and I attended Harvard Business School together, we’ve reconnected to help rid the world of bad bosses.”

As Radical Candor continues to evolve, some of you may remember that we built three apps before it became clear that the reason they weren’t working is because when you’re trying to get people to put their phones away, look each other in the eye, and have a real human conversation, an app is counter intuitive. This is why we’ve pivoted to focus on the things that do work: working with companies to roll out Radical Candor.

By working with teams in person, we’re able to actively help people change their mindset and their behavior. As we continue to grow, we’re listening and learning, discovering what’s working and what’s not, and doing our best to help you put these ideas into practice. Have questions about Radical Candor? We’d love to hear from you!

CEO Coach

What Jonathan Courtney, Co-Founder of AJ&Smart, Learned From Silicon Valley’s Top CEO Coach On Being a Better Boss

Go to the profile of Jonathan Courtney

Jonathan Courtney: For anyone who doesn’t know, Kim Scott is the co-founder of Radical Candor, LLC, and is a well-known CEO coach in Silicon Valley. She was a member of the faculty of Apple University, where she did a lot of teaching. Before that, she worked at Google where she led AdSense, Youtube, and the DoubleClick teams. Earlier in her career, she was a co-founder and CEO of a software start-up, managed a pediatric clinic in war-torn Kosovo and built a diamond cutting factory in Russia. Kim: you need to chill, you’re making everyone else look bad!

She also wrote this pretty spectacular New York Times bestselling book called Radical Candor: Be A Kickass Without Losing Your Humanity.

Radical Candor

Radical Candor was a book that just came into my life at the best possible time. It was when my agency, AJ&Smart was growing, and I was having a lot of struggles as a boss and CEO. New people were coming into the company and I was really struggling with delivering honest feedback and having hard and uncomfortable discussions that are often necessary when you’re running a company.

Somehow, and I really can’t even remember why or where it came from, I picked up Kim’s book, Radical Candor, How to be a Great Boss Without Losing Your Humanity, and it completely blew me away. It’s honestly the best management book I’ve ever read.

If you are a manager and you have to give feedback to other human beings, buy Radical Candor. I’ll wait.

I’ve got to be honest and say that I was a little bit nervous doing this interview because Kim is a total legend, but she was really, really great interviewee. I could have chatted with her for hours and hours, asking her endless questions about her career and getting her advice on my specific situation, however we only had 30 minutes and I was keen to GO DEEP into some of the stories she shares in the book and have her expand on them.

I wanted to pull out some key points from the conversation for this article, points which I feel that if any manager (or anyone, really) started to bring into their life then their career and working relationships would benefit massively. So here they are…

Management doesn’t come naturally to everyone

Kim Scott: You spend years becoming an engineer or even learning how to sell and yet for one of the most important jobs that any of us ever have, we get very little help.

Often if you’re hardworking and driven you’ll eventually fall into a management position, very often without training. I know for me personally there are a lot of things I wish I knew before I started managing people, and while reading Radical Candor I saw myself in so many of the situations.

It’s funny because I remember going through these things thinking it was only me experiencing this, and that the situation was unique to me and my company, but I got a huge sense of relief when reading Kim’s stories — this happens to the best of us.

One thing that I really got from speaking to Kim is that we should treat being a manager as we would any other career path — you need to train yourself and work on those skills, and it’s always a work in progress.

Care personally, Challenge Directly

One of the key messages in Kim’s book, and one of them that really stuck with me, and that I reference all the time, is the idea of caring personally and challenging directly. In the book, and when we spoke in our interview, Kim shared the story of how her manager at the time (SHERYL SANDBERG!?!) had to deliver very direct and feedback to Kim about her presentation style. The way she did it is something that had a huge impact on the rest of Kim’s career…

Kim: She never she let her concern for our short term feelings get in the way of telling us things that we really needed to know, that we really needed to hear about. It was simple. It was challenge directly and care personally at the same time. That was the essence of good guidance, both praise and criticism.

Kim continues and importantly empathises with the fact that regardless of how ‘harsh’ it may seem, delivering candid, clear feedback is in their best interest, because you care about them and their development…

Kim: Your job as a boss is to make things clear to people and very often we’ll actually say the thing, but we won’t be heard. It’s our job to make ourselves heard. Sometimes the key to making yourself heard is to take a moment and to address the emotions in the room. To reassure someone that the reason you’re telling them this thing is that you care about them and that you care about their professional growth. Very often the job of the boss is to move further out on the challenge directly dimension. Sometimes giving feedback feels like you’re having to pick up a 2” x 4″ and hit somebody over the head to get through to them…It’s unkind not to be clear.

Being nice isn’t always nice: Create an environment that evokes praise AND criticism

If you’ve read Radical Candor then you’ll be familiar with the Bob story. The heartbreaking tale of a loveable employee and teammate, who everyone has a soft spot for, but who just isn’t performing. To cut a long story short, at the risk of hurting Bob’s feelings and/or looking like a jerk in front of the rest of her team, Kim Scott avoided giving Bob honest feedback, but as time went on she realised that if she didn’t let Bob go, she’d lose some of her best performers who had become disgruntled by picking up Bob’s slack, so she fired him only to realise that he would have loved, and appreciated, to have heard this earlier so he could have changed.

Kim: I didn’t solicit guidance, praise and criticism, most importantly criticism, from Bob. I also failed to give him praise that was meaningful. The kind of praise I gave him was really just a head fake or an ego self. I failed to tell Bob when his work wasn’t nearly good enough. I failed to give Bob criticism. Probably worst of all I failed to create the kind of environment in which everyone would give Bob the kind of praise and the kind of criticism he needed to be successful in which everyone would tell Bob what was genuinely good about his work and also working with him but also would tell Bob when he was going off the rails. Because I had failed in all these different very important ways I’m now having to fire Bob because of it.

For me personally, being liked as a manager was always something I’d prioritise over most other things. Regardless of whether or not the person was underperforming, I’d prefer that they liked me rather than addressing the issue, which of course isn’t the best thing for them, the company, or their teammates.

Kim: It’s the most natural thing in the world to want to be liked. Don’t worry so much about whether or not people like you, but focus on whether or not you’re doing the kind thing for those other people. Are you putting their interests ahead of your own interests? That makes it much easier to do the things you need to do to be an effective leader because I think that very often we have this notion that we have to choose between being a total jerk and being really effective. That’s a false choice, we don’t have to make that choice.

Keep your star performers top of mind.

Something that very often happens at companies is that the managers spend most of their time dealing with troublemakers and underperformers, assuming that the stars in the company are fine to get on with things on their own. This makes sense, I get this rationale and have experienced this myself, but Kim makes a great point about why it’s important for the individual, and the company, that you don’t do this…

Kim: If you really focus on putting your time into helping the people who are doing the very best work, continue to improve on being a really good thought partner for those people, you will help not only those people, but the whole team. If you think about your time, pretend that it’s money, would it be fair to give equal bonuses to everybody regardless of performance? No, obviously, that wouldn’t be fair. The same thing is true of your time. Your time is really a valuable currency and you should invest it where you and the team are going to get the biggest returns.

Kim continues with a KILLER metaphor that I think nails this mindset perfectly…

Kim: Some people even will say, my approach to management is to hire right, and then give them full autonomy and basically ignore them. That’s like saying, the best way to have a good marriage is to marry the very right person, and then refuse to spend another moment with that person.

When I read this in Radical Candor it completely resonated with me. It inspires me a lot more as a manager to move something that is great to something who is stunningly great, rather than something that is bad to mediocre.

Kim: Management is not Marxism. You don’t need to give all your time to the people who are neediest.

Let your reports set the agenda for your 1-to-1s

A very practical (and super easily applicable) learning for me is having regular 1-to-1s with my direct reports, and letting them set the agenda for these meetings. I really like Kim’s thoughts on this…

Kim: I would remind people that anything was fair game, from strategy to furniture to stuff going on in your personal life. The one-on-one was the time I set aside for each direct report to talk to me about what was on their mind.

It’s easy as a busy manager to want to reduce meeting time and free-up space in your calendar, especially when you think the 1-to-1 might not be needed because the person is doing great, however I’m realising the importance of keeping these things going, because it’s a space where brainstorming and problem solving happens. A suggestion from Kim that I regularly use in my 1-to-1’s…

Kim: It shouldn’t feel like calendar clutter, or something like that. That’s why it’s useful to do it over lunch, or over a coffee or taking a walk or in some way that the human connection is more likely to be front and center, than the updates or the agenda or anything like that.

Remember to praise.

Kim: If you think about praise and criticism, praise helps people see what to do more of and criticism helps them see what to do less of.

Being totally honest, praise is something I’ve struggled with. We’ve tried a few different approaches at AJ&Smart, like bonus programmes where you can reward colleagues for doing something great, and I still haven’t found something that’s really stuck, because for me praise shouldn’t just be about making someone feel good — it should instead be about really directing people in the right direction and rewarding positive action. Kim’s advice really drove home to me the importance of praise and its impact…

Kim: Your job as a leader is to fundamentally show people what success looks like. Praise is a much more powerful tool for showing people what success looks like than criticism. Criticism just shows them what it doesn’t look like.

So to summarize…

  1. Management doesn’t always come naturally to everyone. It’s your job as a manager to continually better yourself and seek out growth opportunities.
  2. Care personally, challenge directly: it’s unkind not to be clear.
  3. Being nice isn’t always nice: create an environment that evokes praise AND criticism.
  4. Keep your star performers top of mind: focus on bringing things from great to amazing, rather than bad to mediocre.
  5. Let your reports set the agenda for your 1-to-1s: anything is fair-game.
  6. Remember to praise: show people what success looks like.

Managing people is hard, no doubt about it, and I think any managers reading this (if they’re honest) will admit that they too have fallen short at times and can relate with Kim’s stories, however by following guidance from seasoned pros like Kim and even implementing just 1 or 2 of the suggestions, you’ll be WAY further ahead than most, and your team will notice (and appreciate) your efforts.

Full interview on the Product Breakfast Club

A version of this story was published on Medium by Jonathan Courtney.

Don't Compete Work Martyr

To Compete With a Work Martyr, Don’t Play the Game

compete work martyr It’s frustrating to work with somebody who expects to be rewarded for being more miserable than you are, who’s constantly trying to engage in a contest about who can work longer hours, who has masochism confused with commitment. These people are known as work martyrs. And if your boss is too blind to see what’s going on, it’s even harder. I used to try to compete with work martyrs.

But, truth be told, work martyrs aren’t always as bad as you think. I once worked with a group who worked all the time: 90-hour weeks were common. At first, I thought of them as work martyrs and that made me feel resentful. Over time though, I realized they just wanted to live differently than I did. For them, work was the safest, happiest place on earth. They actually liked being at the office all the time.

Rather than trying to compete with these people, continue striving to do your best. And when you feel like you’re getting sucked into work martyrdom, keep these tips in mind.

Do’s and Don’ts When You’re Tempted to Compete With Work Martyrs

Do prioritize your work. Identify all the things you’re doing that aren’t necessary and just quit doing them. Extra time in the office, for example, is rarely imperative. If you still have too much work to do, make sure you understand your team’s top priorities, and put low priority work on a “do not do” list. (One note: seek explicit agreement from your boss that you’ve gotten the priorities correct, and that it’s OK not to do the less important stuff so you can focus on what really matters.)

Don’t enter competitions you don’t want to win. That means not attempting to put in more hours than the people around you. You’ll probably lose if you try, and if you win, you lose in the end when you find yourself burned out and resentful.

compete work martyrDo set your own boundaries, and let others work the way that works for them. When I was in a similar position and relayed to my team how much I was realistically willing to work, they were absolutely fine with it. They didn’t care if I was there 40 hours or 70.

But they didn’t want to be kept to a maximum either. I knew not to insist they work less if they were genuinely eager to be there. So be clear with your colleagues where your boundaries are — and respect that theirs may be different.

Don’t become promotion-obsessed. We live in a culture fixated on external rather than internal validation. At work, this often plays out in an over-emphasis on promotions, title changes, and expanded responsibilities instead of the often more meaningful professional growth and stability.

Do focus on what’s most important to you, and to getting it. Working fewer hours does not have to translate to lower ambition. It does have to mean really clear thinking, greater efficiency, and more ruthless prioritization.

Don’t concede defeat if you do want to move up but you simply can’t put in the hours because of demands from your personal life. If you prioritize wisely, and don’t waste time at work, you’ll be amazed how much you can get done. When I asked Susan Wojcicki, the CEO of YouTube, about balancing work and parenthood, she had a simple formula: “You work less.”

And there you go, a few guiding tips for when you’re worried about competing with people who are putting in more hours. Remember: Success isn’t measured by the hours you spent sitting in front of your computer. Success is measured by your results, and how fulfilled you feel achieving those results.

A version of this story was originally published on Ask a Candid Boss on The Muse.

Growth Stability Career

A Happy Marriage of Growth and Stability

I recently learned that my great-grandfather Taylor Malone started a company with my husband’s great-great uncle, Joe Hyde, in Memphis, Tenn., my hometown. Oddly, it took us 11 years of marriage to learn this. We just found out thanks to a visit to a cemetery in Connecticut, but we’re happy to know now. It’s a great story about how we all need a balance of growth and stability to build great teams, to have successful careers, and to live the lives we imagine.

Listening helps achieve growth or stability for your life and career.

The whole story nicely illustrates something I learned about building cohesive teams from an executive at Apple. If I’d just been listening around the dinner table, maybe I could have learned it much sooner.

For much of my career, I tended to focus on hiring only the most hyper-ambitious people. I assumed that was the only way to succeed. Then a leader at Apple pointed out to me that all teams need stability as well as growth to function properly; nothing works well if everyone is gunning for the next promotion.

She called the people on her team who got exceptional results but who were on a more gradual growth trajectory “rock stars” because they were like the Rock of Gibraltar of her team.

These people loved their work and were world-class at it, but they didn’t want her job or her boss’s job or to be Steve Jobs. They were happy where they were.

The people who were on a steeper growth trajectory—the ones who’d go crazy if they were still doing the same job in a year—she called “superstars.” They were the source of growth on any team. She was explicit about needing a balance of both.

This was a revelation. Apple was big but still growing like crazy. And yet Apple made room for people with all sorts of different ambitions. You had to be great at what you did and you had to love your work, but you did not have to be promotion-obsessed to have a fulfilling career at Apple.growth career stability

For most of my career I’d systematically undervalued the so-called “rock stars.” This mistake had caused a lot of unhappiness for people who contributed significantly.  (To learn more about balancing superstar mode and rock star mode, read chapters three and seven of Radical Candor.)

Taylor Malone was the ultimate rock star, a man focused on stability. He started Malone and Hyde to support his family, not because he had a passion for business. His passion was fishing. He worked hard, and the company did well. He fished on the weekends.

Joe Hyde was the ultimate superstar, an ambitious man focused on growth. His passion was to build a big business. The company did well, and he wanted to take on debt to grow faster.

Taylor Malone was worried about what the stress of debt and growth would do to his fishing weekends. He decided he’d rather give control to Joe Hyde, let him build on the foundation they’d dug together, forego much of the financial upside, and spend the time taking his grandkids, including my father, fishing.

Lest we leave our female forebears out of the story: My great-grandmother was so loved by her children and grandchildren that nobody could talk about her after she died without bursting into tears. So all I know about her is that she was much loved. But that’s enough to know…growth and stability for your career

Both Joe Hyde and Taylor Malone got what they wanted. My great-grandfather now fished three times a week, and Andy’s great-great uncle built their little store into Malone and Hyde, one of the largest food distributors in the country.

Both Joe Hyde and Taylor Malone’s decisions have contributed to our family’s psychological freedom to do what we want. They also remind us of the courage and clarity it takes to figure out what we really want.

Joe Hyde reminds us we can take risks and build something big when that’s what we want. Taylor Malone reminds us that may not be what we want, and we can live life at a slower pace and still be productive .

If you can build a team that balances growth and stability, that allows everyone to take a step in direction of their dreams, the benefits to you, your business can be surprising and delightful for generations to come.

Being A Manager Feels Like A Lonely One-way Street

What’s the Ideal Manager-Employee Relationship?

You may have seen me featured as “The Candid Boss” for The Muse, an online career resource destination. One of the questions I am often asked is, can managers and employees be friends at work?

An even more essential question to ask is, what does an ideal manager-employee relationship look like? How is it different from a friendship?

The “boss-employee” relationship is relatively new. For most of human history, we accomplished our great collaborative feats through terrible brutality forced labor.

During the Industrial Revolution, we replaced brutality with bureaucracy; a giant step in the right direction, but hardly inspiring. In today’s economy, companies like Google have shown there’s a more productive, more human way to work than command and control.  

And at the center of a manager’s ability to fulfill their core responsibilities is a good relationship.manager employee relationship

 

The relationship a manager has with an employee is definitely not a friendship, which may be described as a two-way street. As such, being a manager often feels like a lonely, one-way, pay-it-forward street. 

While it’s not a friendship, you need to care personally about your employee. This doesn’t mean you need to go out to drinks with them every night (or know the exact date of their Golden Retriever’s birthday).

It does mean you need to give a damn about them, and understand what’s important to them (hiking with their Golden Retriever). 

Being a manager feels like a lonely one-way street

An important part of your job as a manager is to provide your employee with frequent guidance as well as with the necessary challenges and opportunities to support their ongoing growth.

Caring personally means it’s your job to listen to people’s stories, to get to know them well enough to understand what motivates them, to encourage them to take a step in the direction of their dreams, and to help them do the best work of their lives.

Caring personally means you are willing to find time for real conversations.

This takes a lot of emotional energy. It requires a commitment to your team member’s ongoing success and a desire to help them grow in the way they want to grow in their careers.

If you don’t genuinely care about the people who work for you, you’re going to struggle with this.

manager employee conversations

If you’ve ever had a great boss, you know it’s also one of the most deeply personal and meaningful relationships life can offer.

The manager-employee relationship is not a friendship. But it is a deeply human relationship, and when it works, it unlocks human potential.

Learn more about the manager-employee relationship, and check out the rest of my Ask a Candid Boss Q&As.

Radical Candor Intern

The Star Intern: A Mentor’s Radical Candor Journey

 

Radical Candor Intern

We recently heard from Dimitar Simeonov, who shared his story about reading Radical Candor while managing an intern when he was working at Twitter as a senior data scientist. While Dimitar’s no longer at Twitter, at the time he had been there for four years and was responsible for the intern’s technical mentorship. Thanks for sharing the learning and the love, Dimitar!

***

Two weeks in as an intern mentor, I had a dilemma. My intern was performing with the cadence and quality of a full-time engineer. I felt I needed to challenge him and help him learn further. I felt like he hadn’t reached his potential and I needed to help his growth. I thought if I didn’t do it, he might get bored and start underperforming, not get a return offer, or not be interested in a return offer. Most important, the internship wouldn’t have been worth his time.

Dimitar Simeonov

This was the first time I was a mentor, and I was quite anxious, feeling unease about providing personal criticism from a point of authority. I was happy with the progress, but also worried, because it made the task of giving critical feedback harder for me.

I didn’t feel like criticizing him at all. There weren’t many things to criticize. I was afraid that if I spent too much time on minor issues, I might come off as complaining too much. That he might feel discouraged, and we’d have a harder time building camaraderie.

To contrast personal and technical feedback, I am very happy to go into a technical argument, but very rarely, or never would go and criticize the approach of others. I was providing technical feedback to my intern all the time, on the code reviews, without having to wait until the next 1:1.

So technical feedback was not an issue for me — I could go into a technical argument with other engineers, focused entirely on technical merit, and emerge without me or them feeling personally insulted. The code is the code, but people are hard for me.

Having recently read Radical Candor, I knew that if I didn’t point things out, complacency could sneak in, and he’ll have a “meh” experience. I would have failed as a mentor to do my job.

I used two techniques for overcoming my dilemma.

The first technique I learned from the Radical Candor book, that if I am more receptive to feedback, and listening earnestly, then he in turn would be more receptive, because he’ll see that I care personally through my actions. During our one-on-one meetings I was trying to extract things I could have done better, asking the same questions every time, and providing enough pause so he could answer.

I asked for things I could do or stop doing to make it easier for him. I asked for feedback from him. I also repeatedly asked him about the direction of his career, whether he’d prefer to learn more about code patterns and how to write great quality code, or whether he’d be more interested in product development. 

I saw these kinds of career questions in Radical Candor, and I thought it would be a good way to break the ice and show that I care. After several weeks of bringing up these questions, my intern started answering them. He chose to focus more on the product aspects and I assigned him more product-related tasks. He provided feedback to me that having a written plan for the work we were doing together helped him understand more easily the scope and importance of the various tasks.

I heeded his comment. I made sure to always have a written up-to-date plan, which helped us collaborate more closely as his internship progressed. This written plan evolved into a wiki page containing all the current, past and future work on the project, broken up with milestones and tickets’ statuses. Having learned this from my intern, I used the same format for my other projects.

The second technique was to create a dedicated space for suggestions for improvement during our 1:1. I structured the meeting in a way that we talked about feedback and career prospects for him before discussing any kind of “status updates” or technical issues.

After the first few weeks, I told him, ‘Hey, let’s try the following approach. Every week, during 1:1, I will talk about one thing that you could have done better during the last week.’ This provided me a cover to discuss seemingly minor things without being petty. What’s more, focusing on a single thing per week provided more clarity to him about what I thought was important.

Instead of saying three things and noticing that the next week he has improved on two of them, but not the most important one, we would instead focus on the most important thing first.

One of the weeks he did a great job on his project, and I didn’t really have much critical feedback — he even made a presentation to the team that he delivered well. That week I gave him feedback that he did great and the only improvement that I see is that he used the word “study” incorrectly, instead of “experiment” during the presentation. This showed that I still paid attention to his work through the week and valued it, and still helped him make a minor adjustment.

At the end of the internship, he did a presentation about his work and there was a slide in it that made me happy. The slide was about what he learned during the summer. He started mentioning things that would appear as bullet points on the slide.

But when the space on the screen was full he kept on going … new bullet points appeared all over the place, overlapping at angles with the pre-existing ones, faster and faster.  It was a pour of learnings. He said, “I learned so much.” Everyone laughed and clapped.

I cannot claim credit for all the learnings, but as his mentor I’d like to think that my behavior and feedback during the 1:1 meetings helped, and that Radical Candor helped me challenge directly and care personally.

***

You can continue following Dimitar’s journey on his blog and on Twitter. And let us know how you are bringing Radical Candor to your team, too!

A Great Start to a Radical Candor Journey

A few weeks ago, we received an amazing email from Samir Sagar, Director at Manubhai Jewellers. He had shared some of our blog posts and videos with his team several weeks prior, and on the day of the email to us, had held a meeting with his five direct reports to ask for feedback.

I told my team that I am at fault for not creating an atmosphere in which they can bring their honest feedback …and that I never intended it to be that way. I asked them to tell me – to my face – whatever they think of my suggestions/ideas/opinions – anything. I would appreciate that.

In this meeting, his team began to open up and give him feedback. Hearing from them and opening this line of communication had a strong impact on Samir.

Honestly, about 6 to 7 hours after that conversation, I am still dazed.

This is going to be a great journey.

My heartfelt thanks to Kim, Russ, and the entire Candor team. The intense feeling that I am feeling right now cannot be expressed in words.

We were inspired by Samir’s email and immediately wanted to hear more of his story. I talked with him and one of his team members to learn how it all came about. Check out both sides of the story!

Samir’s Story

Samir’s company, Manubhai Jewellers, is a family-owned business in Mumbai. Samir joined the company straight out of school at 17 years old. He says, because it was a family-owned business, “No one challenges you. You get the notion that everything you do is right.” This continued for many years, and suddenly about five years ago, something changed. He began to notice the tone in the office and realized that he had mostly been behaving rudely as a manager, that he had been yelling at people. When he realized this, he thought, “This is not correct.” Samir started looking at management books and got a coach. He became more self-aware and started making changes.

Looking back now, Samir describes the changes he made. “I stopped yelling and being angry with people to their face, but I didn’t get better at empathy. I think the last 2 years has been a lot of Manipulative Insincerity.”

Several months ago, Samir thought again, “There’s something wrong.” Around that same time, he came across Radical Candor and started reading the blog, listening to the podcast, and reading the book. He started to try to be more open and get to know his team members a little more, but he wanted to learn all he could about the topic and not rush into things as he had done in the past.

When he was partway through reading Radical Candor, Samir decided to share Kim’s First Round video and some of the blog posts with his team. He said, “Let’s meet after you look at them.”

Starting By Soliciting Criticism

The team got together for this first conversation, the meeting that prompted Samir’s email to Candor, Inc. The meeting started on a different note, but as the topic wrapped up Samir asked if the team had watched the video. They had.

He said, “I’m sorry for creating an environment that is kind of authoritarian.” He acknowledged where he knew he had made mistakes and talked about his journey over the last couple of years. He told the team that he wants to do better, to create a culture of Radical Candor and give people the chance to tell him when he’s wrong.

After opening up about his mistakes and reassuring the team that he really wanted to hear their thoughts, Samir invited them to bring their views to the table. They were a bit hesitant at first, but they eventually opened up. “Since we are being Radically Candid,” they started, and so began a 30-40 minute open discussion with the team. They told him what bothered them, what made it harder for them to do their jobs, and where they thought things could improve.

Samir listened, acknowledged their opinions, and thanked them for sharing what they thought. He let them know what he planned to work on as a result of their conversation and encouraged them to keep telling him their thoughts. He acknowledged that he would sometimes have an immediate defensive reaction, but reiterated that he really did appreciate the challenge. “Tell me, ‘Samir you cannot do this to me.’ Tell me whatever way it works for you.”

I asked Samir how he felt during and after the meeting. Was it hard? Hearing all that feedback at once must have been difficult. He said, “It was completely surreal. It wasn’t hard, it was liberating. A big, big burden off my chest.”

Transformed Relationships

When Samir and I talked, three days had passed since that meeting, and Samir was experiencing a visible difference in the way the team interacted with him. He told me about one of his reports coming to him to talk about her goals and how she would fit into the organization in the future. Samir said, “She wouldn’t have come to me with that kind of conversation before. We would have only talked about the business questions.”

He gave another example of a report asking to extend their weekly meeting and diving into some topics close to her heart.

With another report, Samir was offering a Direct Challenge. In the past, Samir would have expected a defensive reaction. This time, the reaction was inquisitive instead. “Could you explain more? What is your expectation?”

It seems a miraculous turnaround, and Samir himself said that it feels unreal that so much change could happen from one conversation. Of course not everyone can expect this kind of immediate and significant change from introducing Radical Candor, and as you’ll learn further on in this story, maybe Samir’s turnaround wasn’t as miraculous as he perceived. (And that’s ok! These things take time.)

Samir has enormous hope for future changes in the company. In the past, the family has made most of the business decisions, but Samir now sees that he can empower others to have more ownership. “The people in this company are talented. The value they can bring by taking decisions themselves and running their departments individually will make it possible for us to grow to a second location, to scale the company.”

Janice’s Story

Of course, there are two sides to every story, and we often encourage managers to check how a conversation felt for the other person. In this case, when I finished talking with Samir, he said, “Would you like to talk with one of my team members as well?” He was already thinking about the different perspectives on this experience.

Samir connected me with one of his team, Janice Godinho, Brand and Communications Manager at Manubhai Jewelers. Janice has been with the company for close to six years, and has worked closely with Samir. When I asked her how she would describe the atmosphere of the company before the last few months, she said, “The culture has always been warm and friendly. Of course there have been issues here and there, but it hasn’t been a toxic environment, and the fact that most of us here have been with the organization for 5 years and above shows that.”

But she says that as a traditionally run family business, there has always been a very top-down approach. Team members could share their ideas, but they were mostly limited to smaller parts of the larger projects and tasks the Directors assigned.

Janice started to see a change in that dynamic over the past year (around the time when Samir was thinking again that something wasn’t right). She has seen more junior team members taking more responsibility and wanting to learn more; senior team leaders have been accountable for their teams more often. She thinks the Directors are providing more criticism to help people grow as well, and that has made it so that more deadlines are being met and the staff is having more fun at work. “However, I still feel there is a long way to go.”

Opening the Lines of Communication

The feedback session that Samir initiated with the team was different in that it encouraged a more open discussion than Janice had seen previously. She told me that there had been confusion about why certain projects had been prioritized, a feeling of achievements with large impact being ignored, and frustrating, unexplained changes in late stages of projects. “For a while, we were confused about what we were doing wrong or if we were actually doing something right.” It had felt like there wasn’t an open flow of communication between the Directors and the teams.

When Samir opened up in the meeting about some of the things that had been going on, it helped everyone get a better sense for why things were the way they were. And when Samir asked for their thoughts, and gave them the chance to share their perspectives on the right way to approach the projects, the team felt the tension lift and opened up.

Janice says the team members had gotten used to not questioning their managers about why they were working on specific projects. “We just stopped asking, as long as nothing went wrong and we didn’t get reprimanded, it was all good.” And Janice thinks that same issues that she and her peers experienced with the Directors then spread to their own direct reports as well. “We don’t appreciate work done within deadlines or small achievements, nor do we stop and advise them on what went wrong. And invariably as team leaders we end up doing their work instead of taking out the time to correct them on their mistakes or offer a positive reinforcement of a good job done.”

The feedback session that Samir initiated reminded everyone that the communication between managers and direct reports needed to go both ways — they needed to be questioning decisions and ideas and providing feedback when something was great or needed improvement. “It was a lovely session. I am hoping we can do this across teams and team leaders as well.”

Hopes for the Future

Since that conversation, Janice has noticed that more discussions are taking place — teams are sharing their thoughts with each other.

For Janice, the overall culture change hasn’t felt drastic. She thinks things have been improving for a while, and relationships have been growing stronger. This was another step in the right direction, and an accelerator, even, in the progress she’s been seeing. She’s careful to acknowledge that there is still a long way to go — she doesn’t see this one session as a magic moment that will set everything on a path to success. There is still more work to do, but she’s optimistic. “Since we spend most of our waking hours at work and with colleagues, I am hoping for [the move towards Radical Candor] to create an open atmosphere for everyone to share what they think without hesitation. I hope to see all of us working as a cohesive unit, trying to contribute actively to the growth of the company. I know it seems idealistic :) but it’s something I hope for.”

 

Thank you so much to Samir and Janice for sharing their stories with us!

What If You Need to Interrupt?

In episode 12 of the Radical Candor podcast, Kim and Russ talked about how to give feedback to someone who frequently interrupts in meetings. Then a few weeks ago, we also shared advice for how to stop your own habit of interrupting. There’s one more question we’ve been getting about this topic…What if you need to interrupt someone?

How do you go about gently telling a person that’s speaking for way too long in a meeting, that his time’s up? And how do we do this without interrupting?

Both Kim and Russ weigh in on this question.

Kim says:

When this happens in a meeting, I think there are a few options. If you’re in front of a group giving a presentation, it can be useful to walk up to the person, so you’re sort of blocking them from the rest of the group with your body, say thanks, and call on somebody else.

If you’re around a table, I’d say something like, “I want to make sure everyone has a chance to speak.”

Russ’s thoughts:

I would agree with Kim, but I would reserve these approaches for times when the person has really been stealing the show over and over in that meeting. If that’s the case, I would first try Kim’s “interrupt with body language” idea. Then when the person takes a breath, make the point that you and the group want to hear from others. You can immediately facilitate to other people, almost like a pre-emptive interruption. So this might mean that you’ve been watching others’ body language and noticed someone who has something to add, and you serve the conversation in their direction.

Another little trick: as you facilitate a new question in the meeting, do what my teachers did in elementary school and say, “What do you think, and someone other than Timmy this time.” It makes Timmy feel like he’s contributing and also sends the message for him to ease back and for others to step up.

After the meeting, and especially if the person is a repeat offender, I think it’s time to offer some feedback. Something like, “You have valuable input and I don’t want that to stop, but I think you’re taking a little too much airtime in our meetings.” Remember to only say these things if they are true! If you’d like, show some research about the most effective teams sharing airtime. You can finish with, “I want to reiterate that your input is valuable, but we need to give others a chance, too. Can you help with that?”

An important guideline to remember: don’t criticize in public. Make sure you’re communicating this feedback to the person after the meeting, in private, rather than in front of the whole team. Realize that while it’s frustrating that the person is talking too much, you do have to be careful about losing his engagement. Offering a correction at all, even if necessary, presents a risk of him retreating. Offering that correction in front of everyone almost guarantees he will retreat.

What ways have you tried to make sure that everyone’s voices are heard in meetings? Share your tips with us in the comments below!

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