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Radical Candor by Kim Scott is one of my top recommended reads for leaders. For any leader or those aspiring to be it’s packed with great advice around building relationships and should challenge or direct how we do things.

This blog is simply to highlight some of the areas that jumped out at me so there are plenty of quotes with some thoughts of my own.

Relationships and building trust

Whether we like it or not we are in the results business, companies survive or fail based on their success. But managers whose priority is on the results often miss the biggest factor to success which is building relationships with the team.

“Bosses guide a team to achieve results.”

A manager’s responsibilities revolve around guidance, team-building, results. They each interlink and are dependent on each other if there is a weak link somewhere it can impact in other areas e.g. a team that is not working well together may not be easy to spot from the outside but a negative effect on results will be.

“Relationships, not power, drive you forward”

Without getting know each person who reports to you it will be difficult to:

  • to create a culture of guidance (praise and criticism)
  • to understand what motivates each person enough to avoid burnout or boredom
  • to drive results collaboratively

“Your ability to build trusting, human connections with the people who report directly to you will determine the quality of everything that follows”

If I had a microphone I would drop it.

Care Personally & Challenge Directly

“To have a good relationship, you have to be your whole self and care about each of the people who work for you as a human being.”

“Bring your whole self to work.” Fred Kofman

It’s hard work being someone else! I find that people will tend to see through an act over time anyway as your natural self-shows up in certain situations. Relationships are built upon being genuine and open. People will not open up to you if you don’t do the same. Accept challenges as they come and take ownership over trying to resolve them. By showing you’re open to challenges provides the groundwork to challenge others directly. This openness and honesty will lead to getting better results.

“A good rule of thumb for any relationship is to leave three unimportant things unsaid each day”

We have to be genuine in the relationships, managers are not there to nitpick at things that don’t make a difference or talk for the sake of it. There are times when you have a number of things to go through with someone but stop yourself and check how important each one is. Save non-urgent items for another time so there’s space for the other person to talk!

Feedback

“It’s easier to find fault in that person than to look for the fault within the context of what that person is doing.”

Feedback is an essential part of a manager’s responsibilities that should be given regularly, not once or twice a year! Feedback should not be personalized either, don’t make it about the person set the context correctly and be specific about the feedback.

When feedback is to criticize, offering support is important to show you’re in it together and that you care about their future. Be invested in helping the person improve, the “why” has to be explained to give justification for the criticism.

“Is there anything I could do or stop doing that would make your lives better?”

Remember, criticism and feedback isn’t a one-way street, actively ask your team what you can do better. And then listen, don’t be defensive over anything that’s said. You’ve asked for feedback, show your team you’re open to that and respond once you’ve had time to think it over.

Praise

“I admire that about you”

Sharing what you like about a person not only can make them feel pleased but can also re-enforce that positive behavior which they will want keep up now it’s been recognized.

“Worry more about praise, less about criticism – but above all be sincere”

I do sometimes find it easier to criticize than to praise, in many ways I have high expectations on people so even if they do well I think they are simply doing their job. This is where I need to re-evaluate people’s work in reflection time to determine if I’ve missed out giving praise.

Praise, as well as criticism, needs to be done in a trusting relationship otherwise it could be seen as fake and have zero effect.

Care for your team

“Have I given everybody opportunities that are in line with what they really want?”

“What growth trajectory do my direct reports believe they are on?”

To care for your team is to work with them and to really know each person, only then can you work for them to open up opportunities for their growth. This also means providing a stable environment with the right working conditions so that their best work can be achieved and are able to find meaning and purpose in their role.

“The essence of making an idea clear requires a deep understanding not only of the idea but also of the person to whom one is explaining the idea.”

“Being a great boss involves constantly adjusting to the new reality of the day or week or year as it unfolds. But you can’t adjust if you haven’t been paying attention or if you don’t know the person well enough to notice that something significant has shifted.”

Once you have a relationship with each person in the team and you begin to know them you will understand how to work with them. Some people don’t need or want a lot of guidance, others like to have support early on in their work. One approach doesn’t fit all. As time goes by, the changes you make to the team will be because they are needed and you will be able to collaboratively work with the team on improvements instead of telling them what to do.

“Give the quiet ones a voice.” – Jony Ive

Even when you’re new to a team it’s not hard to identify the ones in a team with a voice. Strong personalities are fine and are needed in a team but everyone in the team still needs an opportunity to be heard and feel safe to do so. The manager’s responsibility is to make sure this happens.

Culture

A culture is shaped by the decisions everyone makes. We don’t want a mindset where work is seen as a place to do what you need to do then go home. It has to be more than this so people bring their best to work and know they can make a difference.

“Am I showing my team that I care personally?”

“Am I challenging each person directly?”

The manager influences the culture with their behavior. Throughout Radical Candor, Kim shows how good and bad leadership affects the teams. Every manager has a choice about how serious they take this but it does come down to whether the manager is there for the benefit of the team or personal gain!

Managing is being partners, working together to help each person in the team achieve their best work. Leadership can be so rewarding when you witness those in your team shine. But it does come down to us as managers to show our teams that we care about them. Show your team that you give a damn!

There is so much more in the book than I have covered here so highly recommend reading Radical Candor for yourself!

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