The Paradox of Being a Good Boss: Radical Candor
“Make sure that you are seeing each person on your team with fresh eyes every day. People evolve, and so your relationships must evolve with them. Care personally; don’t put people in boxes and leave them there.”- Kim Malone Scott
Anxious and Perplexed, I switched on the lights of the conference room, connected my laptop to the projector, and checked the sound settings. It was my first presentation at work. Being a fresher, a presentation in front of the Directors and my Bosses was a great deal, no cap. As I saw the clock ticking the presentation time, my nervousness knew no bounds and I seriously wanted to just skip the day but that very moment, my Director entered the Conference room. When I saw her excitement to take a look at my presentation, it just boosted my confidence somehow. The presentation went fairly well and I could put forward the points that I had prepared. After the presentation, my Director expressed how happy she was with the presentation considering that it was my first pitch ever, I could feel a “but” coming. Then she said, “But this needs a lot of work in terms of research and visualization”.
I didn’t see that coming, after all, I am naive to corporate presentations, and all I deserved was appreciation. But she was in no mood to give up. She went ahead to point out all the areas that needed improvements and even provided me with references. This hit me right at the spot. My first reaction was exactly how most of the employees would react to hearing criticism. We have grown up hearing ‘If you can’t speak well of someone, rather don’t say anything at all, but this does not hold true if you are a Manager. As a leader, it is important to let your subordinates know that they are on the wrong track. It involves providing them feedback, to be more precise, constructive feedback. This is called Radical Candor.
Kim Malone Scott came up with an acronym for Radical Candor HHIPP: “Radical candor is humble, it’s helpful, it’s immediate, it’s in-person — in private if it’s criticism and in public, if it’s praise — and it doesn’t personalize.
When my Director gave me the feedback, she didn’t tell me that I was wrong; she specifically pointed the things that were wrong and the things that could be worked upon. This particular thing makes the whole difference.
Managers need to strike the right balance between Care Personally and Challenge Directly. I could accept my Director’s feedback because I knew that she cared for my growth personally. On many occasions, she had taken out time from her busy schedule to understand my goals and aspirations in life and also shared her learnings that could help me in my career growth. Since I knew that she was concerned about my growth, her challenge directly seemed fine to me.
When it is not about Caring Personally and Only Challenging Directly, it is referred to as obnoxious aggression, which is bad. When you quit both Caring Personally and Challenging Directly, it is called manipulative insincerity, which is worse. The worst is when the manager is just caring personally and not providing any constructive feedback. It is referred to as ruinous empathy, as it ruins the career growth of the subordinate because he has no idea that he isn’t on the right track.
In fact, Managers and people in positions should create a culture in the organization where they can easily give feedback. They should strive to build a culture where employees have an open mind to hear and accept criticism from their bosses as well as they can let their colleagues know when they go off the rail. When there will be such a level of transparency in any Organization, then personal growth in particular and organizational growth, in general, will be easily achieved.
It is also important to hear what feedbacks subordinates have for their seniors, to show the employees that even the senior-level management is open to suggestions and they care about them.
The activity of providing feedback may seem simple, but it is not. You have to be willing to play the devil’s role in your subordinate’s life but that is exactly where the Paradox of being a ‘Good Boss’ enters the picture. You can either keep sugar-coating things by not telling your subordinates where they are going wrong and be a "Good Boss" or you can take up the charge of helping them grow and be a "Good Boss" in the real sense.