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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.

Work Martyr Compete

Keeping it Real

The good news is that the term “Radical Candor” has entered the lexicon. The bad news is that there’s a risk it becomes a meaningless buzzword.

We need your help to fight this. Please let us know which ideas in the book or the podcast you have rolled out with your team. What’s working? What’s not? If you’re willing, we will feature your stories in our blog and email newsletter. If you want it kept confidential, we will honor that and still use what you’ve learned to help others.

Radical Candor on HBO’s Silicon Valley

One of the most amusing but simultaneously painful examples of Radical Candor as meaningless buzzword was the way it was recently featured on the HBO show Silicon Valley (Season 5/Episode 3).

The real moment of Radical Candor on the show came when Jared told Richard, his boss, “If you’re really going to start working with Ben, at least give Dana [Ben’s current boss] the common courtesy of telling him the truth about what you are doing. Because if you don’t tell him, you’re the dog.” But that didn’t get called out as Radical Candor.

Silicon Valley Radical Candor

HBO’s Silicon Valley “Radical Candor”

The Asshole's Journey

“In the spirit of Radical Candor…”

Instead, COO wannabe Ben claims he’s being Radically Candid when actually he’s just acting like a garden variety jerk, kicking down and kissing up. I call this the Asshole’s Journey from Obnoxious Aggression to Manipulative Insincerity. Now I’m being obnoxiously aggressive towards Ben but since he’s a fictional character it’s legitimately instructive :).

This was funny, but it was also painful because I’ve seen it happen in real life. I’ve been in a meeting where someone said, “In the spirit of Radical Candor…” and proceeded to be really cruel.

Also, I recently got this email from one of you: “I gave some feedback – with a specific example – to my boss that the way he is addressing the team (in large team settings) is making them fearful to speak up. A harsh/dismissive tone that shuts a conversation down and often embarrasses the team member that spoke up. Many on the team have shared this sentiment with him already. After the director received this feedback, he responded by saying that he’s using radical candor. I feel this is the wrong application of radical candor, specifically finding your quote that ‘Radical Candor is kind and helpful.’”

Unfortunately, this is a pretty common experience, so I’ll share the articles I suggested this person send to the director to explain the difference between Radical Candor and Obnoxious Aggression.

Are you seeing examples of people confusing Obnoxious Aggression with Radical Candor? Let us know, and thanks for Caring (Personally).

Radical Candor in the Grocery Store

On Sunday I took my 8 year-old daughter to the grocery store after her Little League game to pick up something for dinner. She and I were both a little tired and grouchy, and beginning to snip at each other. She was cold and wanted to make it a quick trip; I shared, and magnified, her impatience. At one point we were in a narrow section between the olive bar and the bananas and my daughter stopped in her tracks, distracted by one of the many thousands of sugar ambushes that make any trip to the grocery store with a child utter hell.

“Will you please move so we can get a move on!” I said, my tone full of irritation, pretty deep in the obnoxious aggression quadrant.

An older lady to my left looked up surprised and moved her cart out of the way.

“Oh, I’m sorry, I wasn’t talking to you, I was talking to my daughter,” I said with a laugh, embarrassed at what must’ve seemed to her an unbearably rude tone if she thought I was talking to her.

“But she looks so cute in her uniform!” the lady said with an understanding smile.

It was a small criticism kindly delivered, but an enormously helpful one. What she was saying, in the gentlest possible way, was, “Why would you use a tone of voice you wouldn’t even use with a stranger with your precious daughter?”

Maybe I was reading too much “Care Personally” into her smile, but her expression said to me pretty clearly, “Who hasn’t been annoyed by their children in the grocery?” She seemed sympathetic with the universal plight of all parents with young children in the grocery store. But her words and maybe a slight sadness in her eyes reminded me to take a step back and look at my child. She really did look cute in her baseball uniform. And the fact the lady speaking to me was older reminded me that my daughter’s childhood is fleeting, and in a few years I’d be alone in the grocery store.

Why in the world would I talk to her with a tone I wouldn’t even use with a stranger? I should use a more, not a less, loving tone with the people I love best.

I’ve been grateful for that lady’s Radical Candor ever since–as has my daughter!

A Radical Candor Rollout: Interview with Gather

We recently got the chance to talk with another leader who has rolled out Radical Candor on his team, and we wanted to share his experiences with you. Nicholas Miller is the co-founder and CEO of Gather, a company creating event management software for restaurants and other venues. Here’s how he introduced Radical Candor at Gather, and how it has helped them evolve their feedback culture.

How did you hear about Radical Candor, and how did you introduce it to your team?

I first read about the idea of Radical Candor in Kim Scott’s First Round Review article (Radical Candor — The Surprising Secret to Being a Good Boss), and it stuck with me. After reading about Kim’s success rolling the management style out across teams at multiple companies, I started to consider the positive impact it could have on our team at Gather. So first, I introduced the idea to the leadership team by simply sharing the article. Later, we read the book as a team in our Leadership Team Book Club.

More recently, we’ve incorporated many of the concepts in Radical Candor into our new manager training program. For example, we encourage our managers to empower their teams to “get it right,” not “be right,” and invest in building meaningful relationships with their direct reports.

What was the initial reception like in your company?

We’ve had great reception from the leadership team! The most consistent feedback we received previously was that our managers were only providing feedback during performance reviews, which meant that reviews were approached with apprehension. The idea that “Reviews should be a Summary” instantly struck a chord throughout the company. We now really encourage our managers to provide immediate direct feedback.

We also promote Radical Candor’s approach of constructive feedback in private and praise in public. Though it may seem like common sense, it’s not always obvious that constructive feedback should always be a private discussion. And it’s also a great reminder to focus not just on the things our team can do better, but the things they’re doing well today. Too much focus on improvements is certainly something I’ve been guilty of!

Why is the idea of Radical Candor important for Gather?

We move extremely quickly as a company. Everyone needs to know where they stand at any given moment – meaning managers don’t have time to skirt around the issues. It’s essential that they’re always aligned with their direct reports and the concepts in Radical Candor provide a frame of reference for doing so efficiently and effectively.

Additionally, we love promoting from within whenever we can – and as a result a lot of our middle management is comprised of new managers. We’ve been able to bring new managers up to speed more effectively with a framework for educating new managers on how to effectively develop relationships with direct reports. Basically, Radical Candor has provided a great high-level way to think about being a great manager at Gather.

What has been the impact of Radical Candor on your team?

It’s had a significant impact on our team. Overall, it’s encouraged our managers to step outside of their comfort zones, engage in healthy debates, and think about feedback in a different light. It’s helped us open all lines of communication between manager and direct reports, and implementing the concepts in Radical Candor has been a positive experience for everyone.

As an example — we had a situation where one of our managers felt like he was struggling to communicate effectively with his direct reports. He didn’t feel like he was having open, honest conversations, and felt like the root cause could be his communication style. He started using the Care Personally, Challenge Directly chart at the end of conversations with them, asking them to tell him where on the chart they felt the conversation had landed. This led to a greater understanding of his team, stronger relationships with direct reports and, ultimately, a better functioning team.

Another recent example is when I noticed a new direct report of mine didn’t seem to love getting direct feedback from me. To create an open relationship, I asked him to share feedback on how I was doing after every single meeting we were both a part of, including one-on-ones, and then actively solicited it. Slowly, the dialogue evolved into two-way feedback. Now we have more frequent and explicit conversations about feedback than I do with any of my other direct reports!

What recommendations do you have for other teams that want to start introducing Radical Candor?

Like anything else, it’s not something you need to introduce all at once. There are a lot of piecemeal concepts that can have an impact on your team, or may even just impact the way you think about certain people operations challenges as you scale.

Gradually rolling out the ideas and concepts in Radical Candor that resonate with you makes it easier for teams to grasp the concepts and gives them the opportunity to put them into action at their own pace.

 

Thanks so much to Nick and Gather for sharing their Radical Candor experiences with us!

What to Do When a Peer’s Feedback Annoys You

We recently received a listener question about peer feedback, and it’s one that I come across often in conversations with readers. Russ and I talked about why peer feedback is so important in episode 23 of the podcast. Here, I’ll give some additional advice about how to approach peer feedback.

…this has to do with a part-time job in retail. I am 56 and have a coworker who is 22 or so. She has been there 3 years and I only 6 weeks. I’m still learning and she is often there and expected to train me. She is a horrible communicator. One quick example: A customer did an online order in the store with me and left. A few minutes later the young co-worker approached me and said the customer was back and “you forgot to print a receipt”. She rubs me the wrong way all the time. She needs to be taught to say, “she left without a receipt”, i.e., non accusatory language. So here’s the question: When dealing with a peer, is it my job to teach them better ways of communicating? Or, do I go to the boss and tell them the individual needs coaching in communicating? Thanks!

Thank you for sending in this question! Here are my thoughts:

Give Feedback Directly to Peers, Not to Your Boss

I think it’s always best to talk to somebody directly. When you go to the boss without having talked to the person directly first, it can feel like you are trying to get them into trouble rather than to help them improve. It doesn’t feel Radically Candid — Challenge Directly and Care Personally at the same time — it feels like Manipulative Insincerity, or like back-stabbing. I know that is not the intention you’d have going to your boss. But that is what it would likely feel like to the other person.

Let Your Emotions Cool Off First

One thing you may be struggling with right now is that you feel so annoyed by your coworker’s communication that it’s pretty hard to go into a conversation in a Radically Candid way. When you’re really annoyed it’s hard to Care Personally. Try to take some time to let your annoyance cool off before having the conversation, and remember to go into it with the intention to be helpful.

Treat Criticism as a Gift

Also remember that when you get feedback from a coworker, it’s really important not to criticize the criticism. Even if you don’t like the way she told you, she did tell you that you made a mistake. Start by simply trying to feel glad she let you know. Aren’t you glad she didn’t go to your boss and tell your boss instead of telling you?? If you are, tell her that.

Ask for Feedback

Next, try to imagine what you might be doing that could be contributing to her poor communication. Try asking her to give you feedback. “Is there anything I could do or stop doing that would make it easier to work with me?” But only ask this question when you’re ready to hear some feedback. And buckle your seatbelt because you probably won’t like the way she says whatever is on her mind. Your goal is to model how to receive feedback well: to listen with the intent to understand, and then to reward (not punish) the candor.

Focus on the Good Stuff

Before you launch into criticism of your peer, try to think of what you do like about working with her. Often, by the time we’ve decided to give somebody criticism, we are so annoyed that we shift into “you’re a horrible human being” mode without meaning to. If you take a moment to think about the things you like about your peer, to see her as another human being who you basically care about it will help. If you can give voice to some of the things you like — if you can offer a bit of sincere praise — so much the better. But don’t mingle the praise with the criticism or your message will get muddled, and you risk sounding insincere.

Share Your Perspective

Now, hopefully, you’ve shown her that you appreciate feedback, that you care about her personally, and you care about your working relationship. Now it’s safe to offer some criticism.

Try telling her, “Sometimes, when you tell me I’ve screwed up, it’s hard for me to hear. May I explain why?” And then explain to her that you feel she’s accusing you rather than trying to help you when she tells you about mistakes you’ve made.

Does that make sense? Let me know how else I can help with giving feedback to your peers.

Send Your Boss Radical Candor

We often hear from fans of Radical Candor:

“Gosh, I wish my boss would read this!”

Or:

“How can I tell my boss about Radical Candor without implying I think she’s bad at it?”

We’ve said before that it can be risky to Challenge your boss Directly, even when you show you Care Personally. We’ve shared some tips on our podcast for giving feedback to your boss, but it’s definitely a tricky situation. Not everyone feels comfortable starting out this conversation, especially if the boss hasn’t been particularly open to feedback.

Buy Radical Candor for your boss

We’re here to help! We’ve set up a new site with our friends at BookPal to help you give the gift of Radical Candor. At sendyourbossabook.com, you can purchase a copy of Radical Candor, and we’ll take care of sending it directly to your boss. If you feel comfortable sending it openly, we’ll let them know it’s from you, but if not, we’ll send it anonymously!

What your boss will get

When you buy a copy of Radical Candor from sendyourbossabook.com, we’ll send:

  • A signed copy of Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity
  • A letter from Kim Scott to your boss
  • A reading guide to help your boss and to provide ideas for rolling out Radical Candor to your whole team

Wait, doesn’t it seem counter-Radical Candor to send the book anonymously?

It’s a fair point that sending the book anonymously could seem passive aggressive — you’re not Challenging Directly. But you are showing that you care by doing something to try to help your boss. And if you’re familiar with the book, you’ll know about Kim’s Orange Box story: to get a culture of feedback started, it sometimes helps to start with anonymous feedback and build trust so that people feel comfortable sharing their thoughts openly.

Kim’s letter to your boss will acknowledge these points, that speaking truth to power is hard, and she’ll provide some advice for where to start with the book.

We’d love to know what you think of this program! Let us know in the comments below, or reach out at BuyYourBossABook@radicalcandor.com.

Reacting to Trump’s Bloviating BS with Radical Candor

Today I turn for inspiration to Daryl Davis, the R&B musician who helped persuade Roger Kelly, Imperial Wizard, to quit the KKK.

“While you are actively learning about someone else you are passively teaching them about yourself. So if you have an adversary, an opponent with a opposing point of view, give that person a platform. Allow them to air that point of view regardless of how extreme it may be. And believe me I’ve heard some things so extreme at these rallies it will cut you to the bone. Give them a platform. You challenge them. But you don’t challenge them rudely or violently. You do it politely and intelligently. And when you do things that way, chances are they will reciprocate and give you a platform.”

(You can hear him talk on this podcast. His book needs to be re-printed!!)

Like so many people watching Trump’s press conference yesterday, I woke up this morning with a pit in my stomach. Did the President really defend white supremacists yesterday? How have we elected a man with so little understanding of what is great and what is shameful about our history that he puts Robert E. Lee, defender of slavery which defines the very worst of what we did as a nation, with George Washington, who symbolizes our highest ideals?

Trump’s words are putting my ideals and philosophy to the test. I believe in Radical Candor–challenging others while still caring about them as fellow human beings. Do I really have to care about Donald Trump? Since I don’t know him, I can’t care personally. But is showing common human decency in the face of his bloviating bullshit even desirable?

Yes! One of the most evil, and oldest political tricks in the book is gain power by sowing fear and hatred in the population at large. I’m saddened but not surprised at what Trump said yesterday. What alarms me most is how many ordinary Americans have reacted to it by hating each other. In his book On Human Nature, EO Wilson explains the danger of dividing ourselves into artificial tribes, democrat and republican.

In all periods of life there is an equally powerful urge to dichotomize, to classify other human beings into two artificially sharpened categories. We seem to be able to be fully comfortable only when… humanity can be labeled as members versus non members, kin versus nonkin, friend versus foe. Erik Erikson has written on the proneness of people everywhere to perform pseudospeciation, the reduction of alien societies to the status of inferior species, not fully human, who can be degraded without conscience.

That’s why I am so alarmed when those who find what Trump said abhorrent, as I do, resort to hurling insults and saying that everyone who voted for Trump is evil. The reaction will allow him to gain more power by sowing hatred in our country. Trump’s press conference set off an explosion of “degrading each other without conscience.” When we fight hatred with hatred, when hurl insults at one another without regard for our common humanity, we are risking everything we hold dear.

It doesn’t begin and end with one man, unfortunately. But both of our political parties have contributed to the mess we are in. Michael Porter and Katherine Gehl explain why politics is failing America. The more fear and loathing of the other party there is, the more money each party raises. The more cooperation in congress there is, the more the American people benefit, but the less money each party can raise.

But it’s not just the political parties. It’s all of us. Too many of us, those who agree but also who disagree with Trump, have followed his lead in how we Tweet and how we talk to each other. We “pseudospeciate.” We divide all of America into two groups, and assign all kinds of traits to the other side that justifies our very worst behavior.

This is especially dangerous because our country has broken itself down into super-majorities by region. Even when a supermajority sees itself as committed to civil discourse, if you’re in the minority, you’re likely to feel shouted down by sheer numbers. And in today’s political environment, both the left and the right seem more committed to unmeasured vituperation rather than open dialogue. So you probably don’t just feel shouted down, you probably are, literally, shouted down with rude and painful insults.

In San Francisco-Hayward-Oakland, 76.7% of people voted for Clinton; in Silicon Valley (Sunnyvale, San Jose, Sana Clara), it was 72.9%1. In the Bronx it was 88%, and in Manhattan it was 86%2. In Birmingham, AL 58.6% of people voted for Trump; in Oklahoma city it was 58.5%3; in Staten Island, it was 57%4. In metros with less than 250,000 people Trump won on average 57% of the vote. But major metropolitan areas are not the place to look for a conservative supermajority. It is places like King County, TX (west of Dallas, east of Amarillo) where 91% of people voted for Trump5.

It’s hard to be a minority voice in a supermajority. It is hard to be a conservative in Silicon Valley. And I imagine it was hard to be one of the five people in King County, TX who voted for Clinton. This difficulty is tearing our nation, our companies, our friendships, and our families apart.

Today, try to have a radically candid political conversation–one in which you challenge somebody’s political position but still show you care about that person. Choose a topic you have strong views on, but not one that makes you see red. Choose a person whom you respect and get along with easily. Start by asking why they have the opinion they have on some policy. Listen with the intent to understand. Repeat what they’ve said to you to make sure you understood correctly. Ask more questions. Then ask if they’d like to hear about your point of view. Only if they seem genuine when you proceed should you continue. Explain your position. If the conversation is going reasonably well but you still don’t agree, try switching sides. Ask the other person to take your position, and you take theirs.

Don’t judge the success of the conversation on whether you change the other person’s mind, or change your mind. You just have to be willing hear the issues from the other person’s perspective, and to express your point of view with respect but with unstinting clarity–all the while, not losing sight of the fact that you actually like the person you’re talking to, even if you don’t agree about abortion or healthcare or gun control, even if they don’t share your feelings about what Trump said yesterday.

This conversation going to feel unnatural. Why should you have it?

Because it’s your job. If you are an American citizen, you are a leader. The founding fathers made each and every citizen of this country a boss. It’s the job of all of us–we the people–to choose our executives, legislators, and judges carefully. It’s our ability to hold them accountable for good governance. And it’s our job to elect somebody different if they are failing us. In other words, we hire, hold accountable, and fire the team who governs this nation. That’s a very basic job description of a manager. You might not want to be a manager. But if you vote (or even if you should’ve voted but didn’t), you are one!

If we can’t lead by example–if we can’t discuss the important topics of our time with each other in a civil way–then it’s going to be difficult for us to insist that our elected officials do so. History is as much a bottoms-up process as it is top down. Your words matter.

If we can’t find a way to disagree while still seeing the person we are disagreeing with as a fellow human being, our democracy may fail. Too many people seem to think that in order to challenge effectively, we have to hate. Nothing could be further from the truth. In order to challenge ideas we disagree with, find abhorrent, or even evil, we must not ourselves become evil. To be effective, we must bring our full humanity to bear, and see humanity in those with whom we disagree, as never before.

  1. https://www.citylab.com/equity/2016/12/mapping-how-americas-metro-areas-voted/508313/
  2. http://abc7ny.com/politics/how-each-nyc-borough-voted-(hint-clinton-didnt-win-them-all)/1598306/
  3. https://www.citylab.com/equity/2016/12/mapping-how-americas-metro-areas-voted/508313/
  4. http://abc7ny.com/politics/how-each-nyc-borough-voted-(hint-clinton-didnt-win-them-all)/1598306/
  5. https://www.cnbc.com/election-2016-the-counties-that-led-to-a-trump-victory/

An Open Letter to James Damore

James, you’ve touched the third rail that is gender. I’m writing not to add to the abuse pouring down on you, but because I believe that third rail is hurting not just you but all of us. I’m writing an open letter because I know that there are a lot of others who believe what you believe but are remaining silent. I think this stuff is better out in the open.

I’ll admit as a liberal, a woman, and a former Googler who led a 700-person team, I can knowledgeably – and vehemently – disagree with most of what you wrote.

But, I’m also glad you wrote it. Seriously. When you say what you really think, you give others a chance to challenge your thinking. And in return I promise to be open to giving you a chance to change my thinking.

Let’s start with where we agree: “We all have biases which are invisible to us. Thankfully, open and honest discussion with those who disagree can highlight our blind spots and help us grow.” Amen!

I also agree that “Google has several biases and honest discussion about these biases is being silenced by the dominant ideology.” I have several conservative friends at Google. While I don’t share their politics, I hate the reality that they often feel invisible and unable to speak their minds. This shouldn’t happen at a global champion of free expression that prides itself on building a reasonable culture where people are expected to disagree and argue fiercely and respectfully. Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai and pretty much every leader I know there is deeply committed to making sure everyone has a voice at Google. But they’ve got a ways to go; I have total confidence openness to diverse views will continue to improve there. Conservative Googlers have both Sundar and you to thank for that.

If you have views but can’t give voice to them you don’t have a sense of psychological safety. Getting fired certainly didn’t contribute to your feeling of psychological safety. I care about psychological safety in general, and your psychological safety in particular. I wish you’d had a boss or a mentor who could have helped you to find a more productive way to express yourself, and to challenge some of your views.

To that end, and in the spirit of Radical Candor, I’d like to explain where I think you mis-stepped, and to offer some ideas for how you can find a way to share your opinions more productively in the future. In general, it’s better to criticize in private, but when an issue is so public an open letter will scale. However, I’m also happy to have a private conversation.

Of course, you probably thought you wrote in the spirit of Radical Candor as well. But Radical Candor gets measured at the other person’s ear, not at your mouth.

When you make an argument that shows no concern for the people you’re talking to, and exhibits little awareness that your argument is more an ensemble of opinion than proven science or fact, others will experience your words as Obnoxious Aggression.  This makes them reluctant to engage in productive conversation with you—you’ve lost credibility and hurt your relationships all in one fell swoop.

In what you wrote, you didn’t quite come out and say that you thought the gender problem in tech is that women are stupider and more neurotic than men.  But you came pretty damn close–“the left tends to deny science concerning biological differences between people (e.g., IQ and sex differences)” and “Women, on average, have more neuroticism (higher anxiety, lower stress tolerance).”

When writing about IQ, you alluded one body of research showing men have a higher IQ, but failed to acknowledge the other body of research that shows they don’t. More importantly, the real world suggests IQ doesn’t matter in the way you assert that it does. As EO Wilson wrote, “Isn’t the cutting edge a place only for geniuses? No, fortunately…in most fields most of the time, extreme brightness may be a detriment.”

When you imply that the problem with women in tech is the size of the female brain, you are ignoring both your intellect and your emotional intelligence. I have no doubt you are a rational thinker, and that you are a decent human being, but what you wrote about IQ/neuroticism and their role in the small percentage of female tech leaders was neither smart nor true.

Of course, you are far, far from alone in your assumptions. My own son asserted that boys were smarter than girls when he was six. He now understands that’s not accurate and the dangers of gross generalizations and prejudice. I just hope I’ve educated him with love, not by pressing his hand to the third rail. Perhaps you have some advice for me there?

I would be interested in having a conversation about whether or not it makes sense to mandate unconscious bias training for all promotion committees, and a number of other suggestions you make. BUT I’m not eager to have that conversation with a person who indicated, perhaps without meaning to or even really believing it, that I’m likely to be stupider and more neurotic than he is.

Not being obnoxious doesn’t mean you have to become Ruinously Empathetic, as you indicated in what you wrote. I agree that it’s a terrible mistake to be so concerned for somebody else’s feelings that you can’t point out a problem when you see one. But thinking you must choose between Obnoxious Aggression and Ruinous Empathy is just a false dichotomy. You don’t.

Of course much worse than caring so much we don’t challenge or challenging so hard we forget to care is Manipulative Insincerity, what happens when we neither care nor challenge but fume silently. And all too often the current climate of gender politics pushes both men and women to be manipulatively insincere on the topic. I am guessing that is in part what you were reacting to and why you wrote as you did. In today’s legal climate, it’s hardly surprising that Google fired you for writing what you did; if your words had gone unchallenged many people would have felt the company was not doing enough to prevent a hostile work environment. I’ll confess I wouldn’t want to work as your peer or your employee after what you wrote. However, my offer of coaching does stand if you’d like it. That’s because I believe the laws that have been put in place to protect women from discrimination sometimes make open conversations in which we explore ideas (and get some things wrong) too dangerous. That is a shame and I’d like to find a way forward. And get your thoughts on that as well.

You don’t have to become emotionally unengaged to avoid Ruinous Empathy. When you pretend the emotional factors that govern all of us–even you–don’t exist, you don’t become more rational, you just fall prey to self-deception and become a worse communicator. You don’t need to choose between your mind and your emotions. You can be the master of both. You can care and challenge.

Google’s founders showed how to do that at a company meeting in 2004 when an engineer asked why Google’s executives were spending so much time getting a daycare set up. Why was it such a priority? There were a lot of abstract reasons given, but the best answer was Larry’s. He said, to the best of my memory, “Well, Susan just returned from maternity leave. We love working with her, and if she wants to come back to work, we want to make it as easy as possible for her.” Susan figured out how to make brand advertising work at Google, a multi-billion- dollar business, and she’s now CEO of YouTube. I’d say that explaining the decision through an anecdote was more effective than stats, and that building the daycare center paid off, wouldn’t you?

Roll Out Radical Candor on Your Team

A number of you have asked how to roll out Radical Candor on your team. How can you get started with some of the ideas from the book and the podcast as a group? Last year, I wrote an Advice Column post answering a CEO’s question about introducing the concepts and starting to build a Radically Candid culture. But let’s get more specific. Here are a few simple things you can do:

1) Start a book discussion group.

Have your team read a chapter of the book each week and use our questions to get the conversation started.

2) Print the Radical Candor framework.

Put up the printouts in conference rooms, 1:1 rooms, or wherever your team will see it regularly. Having the ideas top of mind can help when a feedback situation arises.


3) Share your own stories.

Think of your own stories in each quadrant and share them with your team. When did somebody give you some Radically Candid feedback that maybe stung a little bit in the moment but stood you in good stead for the rest of your career?

 

For more ideas, read about this company who created a Radical Candor award. What other things have you and your team done to get started with Radical Candor?

A Big Change for Candor, Inc.

This year was a big year for Candor, Inc. We launched a podcast, Radical Candor: How Not To Hate the Boss You Have or Be the Boss You Hate. We also launched a new app, the Candor Coach. It was also a big year for me personally. In March, my book Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity was published, after four years spent writing it, and it hit both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal bestseller lists for several weeks running.

Russ and I recently put our podcast on hold to focus on our product, the Candor Coach. The value of focus was that it forced us to see facts more clearly: the 3 different apps we’d built didn’t help people to have more Radically Candid conversations. Our investors told us they didn’t think we could develop a software platform on the kind of time frame demanded by venture capital. This was hard to hear. Like most entrepreneurial teams, all of us at Candor, Inc. resisted this conclusion. We wanted to keep trying. We still had money in the bank. Why not keep going?

Over a bunch of sleepless nights, I realized something important. When we started the company, we thought some lightweight tips and reminders to solicit feedback and to have impromptu 2 minute praise/criticism conversations would really help people improve their feedback. Now, we realized we were dealing with changing deeply rooted human behavior: the tendency to avoid hearing, giving, or encouraging feedback. Tips and reminders weren’t enough. Tracking conversations wasn’t enough. We needed to help people change their mindset and their behavior. A software system that could change behavior was going to take significantly more time and investment than we had bargained for. I still believe it’s a nut that can be cracked. But not in 18 months, which was about how much cash we had left.

Watching my daughter perform in a play recently, I realized there was another big problem as well. I was using my iPhone to record her performance. About a minute in, I looked up from the tiny screen in my hand and actually watched my daughter herself, not my daughter in my phone, sing, “Believe it or not, I’m walking on air.” Tears immediately swam in my eyes. The emotional impact of watching my daughter rather than my phone was incredible. In that moment I really understood something that we’d talked about while developing the app. We were trying to build an app that would prompt people to put their phones down, look their colleagues in the eye, and have real conversations. We could not employ any of the usual tricks to make our app addictive, as the whole point was to get out of the app and into the real world. Yet we were competing with all the addictive apps. Another reason why building the right thing was going to take a lot longer than 18 months.

The app wasn’t getting much traction, but meanwhile Radical Candor was becoming a thing. The term Radical Candor is popping up in unexpected places — it is now a meme. It’s spreading to all different kinds of companies all over the world. It’s even getting preached in churches and rolled out in synagogues, and gaining traction in Washington of all places. Hundreds of CEO’s are rolling it out in their companies top down. Thousands of young employees are taking the initiative to try to improve the culture at some of America’s largest corporations from the bottom up.

In other words, the book and the podcast have begun to shift people’s mindset and their behavior. We get messages every day like this one:

Kim’s book has struck so many chords for me and my company (and I suspect many companies). It’s one of those, “of course! She’s found a way to define the thing that has seemed so hard to verbalize, but what I knew to be true.” My colleague heard her last week and came to me and said, “we’re a product of ruinous empathy!” Yep. And I asked our co-founder to read the book, and he said he had multiple epiphanies in the first few chapters.

Or this one

I’m about 75% done with Radical Candor. I’ve found the stories really interesting and can relate to many of them since I’ve made the same mistakes or witnessed them. I’m going to focus on being a better listener and soliciting feedback regularly. I thought doing it once a year was adequate. I realize how wrong that logic is now. I’ve always prided myself on being a good, fast, logical decision maker and now realize that I need to include others more in that process. There are so many things to put in practice!

Notes like those, in addition to being enormously reassuring, have provided important guidance. These notes showed us that the best course of action is to keep doing what is working–the podcast, writing, telling stories, doing workshops–and pause our efforts to develop the software. It makes sense to continue investing in the things that are working, and to stop investing in the things that aren’t. The book, the podcast, the talks, the workshops, the in-person coaching–all these words and human connections are what has been working and where we need to focus. Not the software. We are in Silicon Valley, so seeing this felt a little like realizing the earth was not at the center of the universe. But it isn’t, in fact…

So here is what’s coming next. Russ, the Candor Coaches and I will continue to do talks and workshops for companies who are rolling out Radical Candor. Russ and I are going to re-start the podcast in the fall. Russ and I will do everything in our power to help everyone on the Candor Inc. team find a job they are thrilled about. Not that they need my help. They are some of the best engineers, product managers, UX designers, content marketers in the industry, all very much in demand. Our failure to build a great product lies entirely with me–I didn’t appreciate the magnitude of the behavior-change problem that we were wading into, and so for the first year of the company’s life we were building the wrong type of product.

As for me, I’ve come to realize that the best thing I can do to support people who want to make Radical Candor a reality in their organizations and in their lives is to focus on doing the thing that I most love to do: to write. So expect more blog posts, social media musings, further announcements about forthcoming articles, a new book, and maybe even a TV show based on Radical Candor. I’d love to hear from you about what I can do in these areas to help you with your efforts around Radical Candor. Because we won’t have any engineers to fix things when they break (which they inevitably do) we are going to disable Candor Coach and the Candor Gauge.

Thank you for all your support for Radical Candor so far, and I look forward to engaging more with all of you through my writing, and, more importantly, encouraging you to engage with each other, live and in person!

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