Saturday, July 28, 2018

Radical Candor

Radical Candor explores the best ways to give feedback to others in constructive ways. It uses a few different quadrants to identify types of employee trajectories as well as the means of giving feedback. "Radical Candor" is feedback given in a truthful, empathetic manner. An alternative is being blunt and mean without being empathetic. This is actually preferable to being too empathetic, but not telling people what they are doing wrong. (You may think you are being kind, but this often just postpones the big nasty confrontation and doesn't give the person the chance to change.) Employees trajectories use different axes of performance and growth. Some employees want to become excellent at what they are doing and do not want to grow to other positions, while others want to grow. Different life events can impact the phase that an employee is in. Bosses need to understand that and give appropriate feedback.
The author has worked in tech startups as well as with Google and Apple. She gives many examples from her experience, including a large number where she made mistakes and how she would have done it better. Sometimes being "nice" ended up making things much worse for everybody in the long run. It is better to provide truthful, accurate feedback than to try to whitewash everything. Putting on a nice front, while being passive aggressive internally does not help. She provides interesting comparisons between the two cultures. At Apple people tend to get really good at certain things, while at Google, they are always looking for new challenges.
It is also important to get buy in from others when doing something - even if the something seems good. She gave an example of a failure at Google where she had attempted to implement a top-down reorganization. It was a valuable restructure, but she did not have buy-in from her direct reports and many ended up leaving. Luckily, she had the opportunity to try again, and was able to do it successfully after working with her team, rather than imposing her will.
The book contains many tools to help encourage radical candor at work. Much of it must originate from above. However, anybody can try to bring it about, though they must be cautious in how they do it. (She does tell a horror story of a worker that was fired for being radically candid with his boss. Luckily, this worker ended up in a better job.) In the end more open communication can help everybody to succeed.

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