Kim Scott, Author @ Radical Candor. How to create a radically candid environment where A Players can thrive.A-Players - The top startups' recipes to build teams of top performers
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- 16 Mar 2021
Hiring is but the beginning - now you've built that team of A-Players, you need to create the perfect ecosystem for them to thrive. Learn how to get, give and encourage both praise and criticism, organize 1:1s, develop their careers. Kim Scott is the author of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing your Humanity. She led AdSense, YouTube and Doubleclick teams at Google and worked with Sheryl Sandberg.
Hear from a management coach praised by top CEOs world-class tech companies (Dropbox, Qualtrics, Twitter, etc.) - and enjoy our great season finale!
More on Kim Scott and Radical Candor on www.radicalcandor.com.
Talent wins games, but teamwork wins championships.
Welcome to a players, guess what? We'll tell you how to target, hire, retain and train top performers for your team.
The most important thing and if all your listeners do as a result of this podcast is this one thing, it'll be time really well spent. The one thing you can do is think about how you're going to ask for feedback, because if you go to somebody and you say, do you have any feedback for me, you are wasting your breath.
I am rubbing shows you at higher suites and we are sourcing automation software that helps of the tech companies hire the best talent at me. And follow me now on LinkedIn Schwann to keep an eye on this. Hey, everyone, today I am very happy to have Kim Scott from a personal big Santa for book Radical Candor, and she has a lot to share about creating a thriving environment for top performers, for managers, a lot of tricks. I'm very, very, very honored to have you here today, Kim, for this final episode of the season, one of the players.
So welcome. And can you tell us a bit more about yourself, radical candor, your own experience, and then we'll dive into what the book covers?
Sure, absolutely. It's a great honor to be here. And I only wish I were actually in Paris and not in the bedroom.
So I wrote the book Radical Candor. Be a Kick Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity. That's the American title anyway. The British title.
I think it's more polite and I have always wanted to be a writer, but in order to subsidize my writing habit, I had a career in business. So I started up a couple of failed startups and then I got a job at Google that worked out much better where I, I led 10 to YouTube and DoubleClick there at Google. And then I woke up one morning and realized the thing that really gave work meaning for me was not cost per click, although that was going pretty well at Google, but it was really building the team and the management side of things.
And there wasn't a full time job at Google that would allow me to to sort of go deep there. But my favorite professor from business school, Richard Tedlow, had just left Harvard to join Apple and he said that Steve Jobs was looking to throw away all the management training at Apple and start from a blank piece of paper and that I want to go and be part of that team. So that sounded like a great way to learn about a whole different method of innovation from Google's and also to pursue the thing that I really cared about most at work, which was these questions of management.
So I spent a few years at Apple and then a friend of mine from Google became the CEO of Twitter, and he called me and said, could I help him design a class called Managing at Twitter? And lo and behold, managing a Twitter looked an awful lot like managing at Apple. And I sort of realized it was management was the same. The bit the core skills of management were the same anywhere in tech or in heavy industry or in doing a gardening project, sort of what do managers do?
They give feedback to teams in order to get results. And so feedback sort of creating a culture of feedback, building a great team and getting results. Those are pretty universal. And so that was that was how radical Cantor was born. I became a CEO coach, which was a great way for me to put the ideas in the book and to practice as I was writing it and also gave me enough time to write. Since then, I've been started a company that helps organizations roll out radical candor, and that company is called Radical Candor.
I'm about to publish a new book called Just Work, Get Shit Done Fast and Fair, and it's about how to build more equitable work environments. And I'm cofounding with Chair Bryant, a company to help organizations put those ideas into practice. Cool.
And can you summarize the main thesis behind radical candor, which is a term that you can, right? Absolutely.
So radical candor means care personally at the same time that you challenge directly. So that hardly sounds too radical. It sounds pretty basic. And yet the reason why I call it radical is because it's so rare. Much more often we make a mistake on one dimension or another. So one good way to understand what radical candor is, is to think about what it is not. So radical candor. Very often we do remember to challenge directly, but we forget to show that we care personally.
And that is not radical candor. It's obnoxious aggression. Now, very often one of the problems with obnoxious aggression, with acting like a jerk is that when we realize we've been a jerk, rather than going the right way on the personal dimension of radical candor, we go the wrong way on challenge directly and we wind up in the worst place of all manipulative insincerity. This is where backstabbing behavior, political behavior, passive aggressive behavior creeps in. And it's kind of fun to tell stories about obnoxious aggression and manipulative insincerity.
If you watch the office, the TV show or the TV show Silicon Valley, the HBO show Silicon Valley, you'll see a lot of stories about obnoxious aggression and manipulative insincerity. If you read the comic strip Dilbert, same thing. But the fact of the matter is the vast majority of us make the vast majority of our mistakes when we do remember to show that we care personally because it turns out most. People are actually pretty nice people, but we're so concerned about not hurting someone's feelings that we fail to tell them something they'd be better off knowing, and that is what I call ruinous empathy.
So there's one way to get radical candor, right? It's to care personally and challenge directly at the same time. But there's a lot of different ways to get it wrong. Right.
And so one of major aspects of radical candor is obviously giving feedback, giving criticism and also giving praise. Can you tell us more about the different tips and tricks that you have here?
Sure, absolutely. There's actually there's sort of an order of operations to radical candor. And it all begins not with giving praise or criticism, but with soliciting criticism. You don't want to dish it out before you prove that you can take it. And so the first thing to do is to think about how are you going to get the people who you work with to tell you what they really think about the work you're doing, about the way you're doing the work, about the relationships that you're forming so that you can improve all of those things.
And so I'm going to give you a few specific things you can do in order to solicit feedback better.
The most important thing, and if all your listeners do as a result of this podcast is this one thing. It'll be time really well spent. The one thing you can do is think about how you're going to ask for feedback, because if you go to somebody and you say, do you have any feedback from me, you are wasting your breath. I can already tell you what the answer is. Oh, no, everything's fine. So you've got to ask the question in a way that really demands an answer.
So how can you do that? One of my mentors, Fred Kaufmann, suggested that a really good question is what could I do or stop doing that would make it easier to work with me? And I really like that question. And I used it a lot. But the problem with it is that if everybody starts using that question, nobody is going to sound sincere. You've got to use the question that works for you. In fact, I was coaching Krista Quarrels when she was the CEO of Open Table, and she said to me, I could never imagine those words coming out of my mouth.
The question I like to ask is, tell me why I'm smoking crack. OK, that's fine. You can ask the question that way. The important thing is that you show that you sincerely want to know the answer to the question. So that's sort of a few tips on your go to question. And then once you've asked somebody this question, you've got to embrace the discomfort. The person will probably you're going to have an awkward moment, I can promise you that.
And there's no getting around that awkward moment. You just have to go through it. And so the best advice I have on enduring that awkward moment is just to count to six in your head. Only made it to three just then, and it probably seems like in a eternity, so almost nobody can endure six full seconds of silence. So you want to make sure that you ask the question, you keep your mouth shut, you let the person say something.
So now you've dragged this poor soul out on a conversational limb that they never wanted to go on. It is vital when they say something that you listen with the intent to understand, not to respond, because it's so tempting to jump in and defend yourself like you're probably even though you just solicited feedback, you're probably going to feel a little bit defensive.
And that's OK. It doesn't mean you're a bad human being, doesn't mean you can't take the feedback. It just means you're a person and it's natural to get defensive. So you got to manage that normal defensive reaction and really try to understand what the person is saying to you. And then last but not least, you've got to reward the candor. When somebody offers you a little bit of criticism, they're taking a real risk, especially if you're the boss.
And if you do not reward that risk richly, they're never going to offer you feedback again. So that's my first and most important suggestion is don't dish it out before you can take it. Make sure you're soliciting feedback.
OK, OK, so number one step of giving feedback is actually asking for feedback yourself. And then how do you give actual feedback? So your boss ask you the question, what should I start doing or stop doing? How do you tell her the right answer or the answer in the way that she's most likely to receive it the right way?
It's really important. And of course, there's no there's no magic solution to this, but nine times out of ten when you tell the person they're going to be happy about it. But here here are some quick thoughts about how to go into a conversation where you're giving feedback.
Remember that feedback or as I call it in the book, guidance is about both praise and criticism. So I really do not believe in the feedback so much. I think there's there's a less polite term for that.
I really don't I really don't believe in this sort of kissme kick. Makes me kind of formula. Anything that feels formulaic is going to feel bad. But you do want to focus on the good stuff. You do want to make sure not just in this conversation, but in general, that you're focusing on the good stuff, that you're giving more praise and criticism. So that's just something to keep in mind generally. But OK, so now we're at this moment where it's time for you to give criticism.
You want first and foremost to go into that conversation humbly. You don't want to say, I'm going to tell you the truth, because that implies that you know the truth and the other person doesn't know shit from Shinola.
And that's not a great way to start a conversation. So you want to make sure that you are really going into the conversation with the attitude of I'm going to share with you my understanding of the situation. And I'm also curious about your understanding of the situation. We want to get to a shared understanding of what's going on. So you want to go in humbly. You want to state your intention to be helpful. You want to offer especially critical feedback, but also praise immediately.
The purpose of praise is to tell people what to do. More of the purpose of criticism is to tell them what to do less of. Like, why wait? Tell them right away. Feedback has a short half life in the before times. I used to say the next step is to do it in person. That's often not possible right now. And so my advice is that to make sure that you are having this conversation synchronously, either over video chat or over the phone, because you want to gauge how it's landing for the other person, you want to make sure that you understand whether you need to take a moment to move up on the air personally.
Dimension of radical candor. If they're really upset or really angry, you want to take a moment to move up on the air personally dimension. Or maybe you need to move over. You need to go further out on the challenge directly dimension of radical candor. Maybe you've worked up your courage to say this thing to this person and they just haven't heard you. So you need to say it again even more clearly. So it's really important that you have this conversation synchronously so that you can adjust what you're saying.
So that's Synchronoss. Then you also want to think about making sure that you're praising and public and criticizing in private. And last but not least, you don't want to offer feedback about someone's personality because a fundamental personality attribute is really difficult to change. And the whole point of radical candor is to have a growth mindset and to identify things that people can change and improve upon. And so you want to offer radical candor, really focus. Based on a person's on situation, behavior impact in the meeting, when you said every third word and made you sound stupid.
Let me introduce you to a speech coach. So that's a very bold piece of feedback.
OK, the question for you here. So I've been trying to practice myself radical candor both in my personal and professional life since I've read the book two years ago. The question that I have is sometimes you want to give feedback and want to provide feedback. If you do it in person, you make it look like it's a big thing and sometimes it's just small feedback in person. Don't take it personally. And that would you say, OK, oh yeah.
So I guess all feedback should be done formally and personally and sometimes you can just drop a line. So how do you would you agree with that or would you say that needs to be synchronous and you need to talk to that person? And do you see that maybe when the trust improves through the person then you can afford more like Rapid-fire Shidduch?
As a general rule, I really believe that the best feedback I've ever gotten or given in my career has always happened in these impromptu two minute conversations. So I agree with you that it shouldn't feel like this formal meeting. On the other hand, so recently I'm working with someone who I know very well. I'm very close to this person. And we were busy and we were filming something together and she was kind of rocking back and forth in her chair.
And so I thought, well, this is like barely even criticism. I'm just going to send her a text saying, stop rocking back and forth in your chair.
And as it turned out, she had a back injury and that text was upsetting. And so it is almost always better to talk to the person synchronously to take that extra moment, to pick up the phone and call and say, how's it going? And if I picked up the phone and called, I would have started by saying, how are you doing? And she would have said, Oh, my back is killing me.
And then I would have said, Oh, that's probably why you're rocking back and forth in your chair.
And it would have actually been more efficient. It always feels more efficient to fire off an email or a text. But if you think about those moments in your life when those emails or texts sort of blew up into something that you didn't mean for them to blow up into, then you realize it's actually more efficient to pick up the phone. Those two minute conversations can save hours of problems.
OK, another question for you. So there's the praise in public in criticizing private thing. My question here with the should it always be the case? And let's settle that once and for all. In his book, The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Benowitz gives an example of what he calls a wartime CEO who criticizes someone which is late at a meeting, and he sees that a wartime CEOs can actually give criticism in public and they actually should give criticism in public.
So what do you think about that? Do you feel there are exceptions to this rule?
I really do not believe there's any such thing as an absolute rule. So, yes, there's certainly exceptions. I mean, one exception that I have encountered often is that there are some people who are so shy that public praise is cruel and unusual punishment for them. So you want to make sure that you're adapting either your praise or your criticism for the person. I also think that there's kind of a fine line sometimes between criticism and sort of debate or critique.
Like if somebody is going through a strategy, let's say, and you're the leader and you disagree with something in the strategy that is not a criticism of the person you're going to want to start a public debate about this topic and debate must happen in public. I think what you want to do around debate, though, is you want to make sure that when you're debating an idea, you're not debating a person, that a person's ego doesn't get attached to their ideas or their strategies or their marketing plans.
So that's really important. In terms of being late, I would say that it's fine to say, look, we all are committed.
We've all got to commit to being on time if somebody walks in late. I don't think that's like a major criticism. That's just like a there's a standard here. And it's my job to make sure we're all living in accordance with the standard, I think was something different in the book.
But I'm OK. Yeah. In general, I love that book.
The hard thing about hard things, but I'm sure there's some things we disagree with. All right.
And so a lot of this feedback is happening during one on one sessions between managers and employees.
This is an important point. So it is my firm belief that a one on one between a man and. And employ the agenda for that meeting ought to be owned by the employee, so it's not a good idea for a manager to sort of save up feedback for a one on one meeting. That's better than saving it up for annual performance review. But don't save it up for you one on one. I think the best feedback is given in these impromptu two minute conversations, sort of in between meetings.
I do think that we talked earlier about the importance of soliciting feedback. I do think it's a great idea for managers to reserve five minutes at the end of the one on one to solicit feedback. But again, the best feedback I've ever gotten has happened in these impromptu two minute conversations in between meetings, which means, by the way, that it's really important to have some slack time in between meetings in your calendar. And that is hard to do. But at the very least, make all your 30 minute meetings, twenty five minute meetings and all your hour long meetings, 50 minute meetings, and then you have time to give feedback and go to the bathroom and get a cup of tea in between your meetings to attend to your needs and the needs of those around you.
And so you actually talk about this whole interview. This whole focus is about allowing a players to perform to the top performance level and obviously create an ecosystem in which they can thrive. You actually talk about eight players in your book and you say that people tend to think of players as superstars, but you also believe they could be rock stars. So can you tell us a bit more about this?
Absolutely. So I also said in the book that there's no such thing as a B player.
And I really believe that to my core, I really believe that every single human being that is on this earth can do work that is productive and meaningful, and they can do it at a high level of excellence. So I really don't I guess that the corollary of there's no such thing as a B players, that there's no such thing as a player. We're all human beings and we're all it is a leader's job and a recruiter's job to find the people who are going to be right for specific roles.
So what do I mean by the difference between people who are in rock star mode and people who are in superstar mode? And it sounds like I'm sort of getting into semantics. But a really important point here is not to call people rock stars and call people superstars, because every one of us spend some time in rock star mode and in superstar mode in our career. So what in the world does this mean? It's the first time somebody told me about rock star mode and superstar mode.
I had no idea what they meant. And so here's what they explained to me. She said, you know, if you are going to be a great leader and you are going to manage people on your team correctly, you need to understand when people are in rock star mode and by rock star mode, I mean, like the Rock of Gibraltar, these are the people on your team who are great at their job. They're doing excellent work. You give them top performance ratings.
But these are not the people who want your job or your boss's job or to be Steve Jobs. These are the people on your team. I was working at Apple at the time. These are the people on your team who are great at what they do and they will keep doing it for years if you don't screw it up. These are the people on your team who are the source of stability, she said. The people who when they are in superstar mode, however, these are people who are great at what they're doing, but they've already got their eye on the next job.
They are on a super steep growth trajectory. You can almost think of people and superstar mode as shooting stars because they're not going to stay in your orbit for very long. And so when you've got people in superstar mode, you want to be helping them think about their path to promotion. You want to be constantly throwing new challenges at them, and you want to make sure that you have a succession plan because these people are not going to they may not stay on your team for that long.
So you want to make sure that you're not clipping their wings.
On the other hand, people, when they are in rock star mode, they don't necessarily want the next promotion. They might be sick. They might have gotten to a place in their career where they're great at their job. They can almost do that job in their sleep and they're conserving their energy for something that is happening outside of work. And that is OK. These could be people like T.S. Eliot who worked in a bank or an insurance company or something while he was writing the poetry that would wind up winning him the Nobel Prize.
And his boss, who is sort of a pompous asshole, said, I see no reason why Elliot may not be an associate branch manager. And time, Monju and time and like Elliott was doing great work. It turns out he was really. Good at his job, but he did not care about that promotion, he wanted to put his extra energy into his writing and there's a million reasons why people might be and rock star mode. I mean, especially now in covid, we have increased demands on our time from our families.
If we have a family or we have kids at home, we have parents who are far away and sort of managing the health of people who are far away is quite time consuming. So there's all these different constraints. There's a lot of people who are spending more time doing volunteer work now. So there's a lot of different constraints that people have on their time. And I think honor, there's no shame. I think one of the problems in the tech industry is we imagine that there's shame and being great at your job, but not necessarily being ambitious to climb the corporate ladder.
And there is no shame in being great at your job and not necessarily wanting the next big job, OK?
But that question whether a players do or don't exist, that's a debate we have here in this. But again and again and again and is a different thesis on this. I think what we can agree on is that there are ecosystems in which people will thrive and reach performance and be players in this company and other ecosystems where it will affect the performance and the performance will be worse because they don't align with the goals, values or because they're not happy with their managers.
So that that can happen. Yes.
I mean, the one thing we can totally agree on is that not everybody is good at every job. Like I once I once was a teller in the bank and this was not a job that I was I was terrible and I only balanced. At the end of the day, you have to make sure you haven't given away too much of the bank's money. And every day I had miscounted money for people and the mistakes necessarily got caught more often in one direction than in the other.
I was horrible and my boss kept telling me, if you just try, you can do better. And the fact. And so now it became sort of like a moral failing as well as a practical failing. I just wasn't trying hard enough and it would have been actually much kinder just to fire me. I was I was not cut out for that job.
Yeah. And I wondered if you had numbers to share or results to share on implementing radical candor in an organization, allowed it to perform better. Can you. Sure. If you use cases on this. Absolutely.
So we have worked with organizations ranging from tech start ups to giant tech companies to manufacturers of elevators, to manufacturers of power systems that make flaps go up and down on airplanes, a wide range of industries. We've also worked with police departments and fire departments, and we've worked with teachers and non-profits and arts organizations. So we've rolled radical candor out and a very wide variety of industries. And the thing that people most consistently say is that not only does their ability to achieve their objectives, their goals are OK, as we call them here in Silicon Valley increase.
But more importantly, even not only are they doing better work, they're enjoying working together and their relationships at work are improving. And as the relationships improve, the quality of the work improves. And it's what was a vicious cycle becomes a virtuous cycle. So we hear things like that over and over again. I also often hear you sort of said you've been putting it into practice at home and at work. I often hear people will come to me afterwards and they'll say, gosh, if I had only heard this talk five years ago, I wouldn't be divorced right now.
I'll say, well, what I learned about radical candor really helped me get out of a bad relationship and into a good relationship in my personal life. So so it's been very gratifying to work with all these different kinds of organizations.
Yeah, totally agree on that. And another thing that you say and that's important here is that you should bring your whole self to work and well, all these frameworks and actually frameworks, it's not like the feedback sandwich that you mentioned before. We give positive than negative than positive feedback. It's not actually treats is not framework's is just rethinking the way you interact with others. Would you agree on that? Yeah, exactly.
I mean, I sort of think of if you think about what is the radical candor framework, imagine a big plus sign. And on the vertical axis is care personally and on the horizontal axis is challenged directly.
And if you think of radical candor in that upper right hand quadrant, you can then begin to use the framework, this radical candor framework, like a compass to guide specific conversations with specific people to a better place so you can start to feel when you're slipping into ruin a sympathy or obnoxious. Aggression or manipulative insincerity, and one of the things that I did when I tried to write the book in a way that it felt more like a book of short stories than a dry management book.
So one of the things I would encourage all your listeners to do is to think about what's that moment in your career when someone told you something that maybe stung a little bit at the time, but then stood you in good stead for the next 10 years? And if you go into these conversations thinking of that story and what an act of kindness that was, then you can really begin to deliver a radical candor in a way that that shows you care.
That's sort of compassionate candor.
OK, cool. So we reached the end of the 30 minutes. I could speak for hours. And this, again, I'm a big fan, so I wanted to save this episode for the final episode or a first season. Thanks a lot for being here today, Kim, and have a great day and literature radical candor on this thing.
Great. Thank you so much. Really a fun conversation. Thanks for listening. The podcast till the end if you're still with us. It's probably that you enjoy the players pay players is brought to you by myself and higher suites. We are building a sourcing automation software and we already have that. The companies hire the best science to know more about us. Go to W-W the hire suites dot com or you can add me on LinkedIn. I'm pretty responsive and always happy to check the more subscribers the best.
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