Radical Candor author Kim Scott on why exceptional leadership means giving honest feedbackKim Scott’s goal is to rid the world of bad bosses. Nobody, at least in her experience, sets out to say, “I really want to suck.” But unfortunately, it happens.
Many times, when an employee gets promoted to a position of managing other people, they are hired because of their job skills, not necessarily their people skills. And so, they struggle to become effective leaders.
An often overlooked aspect of digital transformation within an enterprise is the actual communication part; the way we actually talk to each other. Just like a massive digital transformation, leading a team of employees to personal and company success can be complicated and overwhelming with a lot of distrust floating around.
So, are you a good leader? How do you know?
Despite the misconception that you are either born with good leadership skills or you’re not, Scott believes it’s something that is very teachable. It’s why she wrote her book, Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity, and started her company, Candor, Inc.
Scott says that at the core of your ability to be a good boss is the ability to build good and trusting relationships with people who directly work for you. “It’s not about schmoozing. It’s about giving feedback, about the way you fulfill your three responsibilities as a manager, which are how you give, get, and encourage feedback on your team,” Scott says.
“It’s how to create a cohesive team and decide who gets what roles, and it’s about how you focus on achieving results collectively, not telling people what to do, but how you can achieve results collaboratively.”
But to reach true collaboration with their employees, leaders need to be able to talk honestly with them, which can sometimes be difficult. And in return, leaders need to be able to accept honest feedback from their employees.
“People are afraid that if they say what they really think, even if they do take the time to show they care, the other person sort of flips out emotionally,” says Scott. “I think more often than not, we’re more afraid than we need to be of offering radical candor, and when we just do it, when we just say what’s on our minds, people actually really appreciate it.”
Scott believes that “truth” is a dangerous word, because it can imply that someone knows something about you that you don’t know, and there’s not a lot of humility in that. When someone is offering, as Scott puts it, “radical candor”, it needs to be offered in the spirit of humility.
We’re trained from childhood that if we don’t have anything nice to say, then we shouldn’t say anything at all. To Scott, that’s a huge mistake because, as a boss, it’s your job to say things that might be perceived as hurtful in the workplace. It’s how people grow to be better employees.
Scott wants people to overcome the bad habit of not saying what we really think.Lack of clear, honest communication is not the only trap bosses can fall for. A lot of times, bosses have trouble differentiating between what Scott calls “rock stars” and “superstars.”
Managers can sometimes use their own ambitions as a template for measuring their employees’ success. If they are gunning for the next job, bosses tend to assume that all of their employees also should be gunning for the next job, to never be satisfied with their current role, to be “superstars.”
But sometimes, there are employees, or “rock stars”, who are completely fine staying in their current roles, and guess what? They are really good at what they do. And that should be fine for team leaders.
In fact, they should celebrate the fact that they have such talented, loyal employees. But sometimes those in charge can become suspicious of employees in rock star mode, wondering if there is an ulterior motive of if they are just underachievers.
Scott says that thinking can be detrimental to team morale.
“Recognize and honor that some people are on a super-steep growth trajectory, and it’s your job as a manager to help them achieve their dreams,” says Scott.
“But you also have your rockstars, as in solid as a rock, not as in Ozzy Osborne, and your rockstars are the people who are a force for stability on your team, and you want to make sure that you give them the respect that is their due.”
To be an effective boss, it all comes down to understanding yourself and the people around you. And to do that, you have to have start with honest conversations with your employees, and the ability to give and receive honest feedback, to build healthy relationships with your team, and to have radical candor.