leadership, Skills & Growth | Article

Using Radical Candor™ to Elevate Your People and Your Communication

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by Andrew Bishop, General Manager – RecogNation

As we approach year end, it feels like the appropriate time to make a shift in the topic of communication. We’ve stressed the importance of frequent communications, but, what we haven’t touched on yet is the difficult discussions with employees. And, with annual reviews coming up for many leaders, it’s inevitable that there will be some that need to be had.

To be candid, this is certainly an area that has become increasingly difficult for me over the past 5+ years. Prior to joining Baudville Brands, my upbringing through the world of sports, business school, and early career experiences led to more direct and blunt conversations. Self-admittedly, sometimes too blunt and direct, which was not effective in building a culture of inspired individuals through difficult conversations at work.

Then, enter Baudville Brands, a culture of recognition, appreciation, praise, shout-outs, and more. Which, for this competition-oriented and results-driven leader, felt foreign at first. “What was this land of warm fuzzies” and “Where are the rainbows and unicorns hidden?,” I wondered. I had to adapt my communication style, learn the psychology behind this approach, and incorporate it into my communication rhythm and cadences. Soon, I realized the benefits associated with positive affirmation and leading with gratitude, recognition, and praise. And, as I acclimated more and more to this type of communication rhythm and culture, I found the tough conversations becoming more problematic—but why?

Fast forward several years to the fall of 2019 when I found myself reading the book: “Radical Candor” by Kim Scott—one of a few must reads for any leader, in which I found the answers I was searching for in having difficult conversations with employees.

The concept defined in this book by Ms. Scott is as follows: Radical Candor™ is achieving the intersection of “Caring Personally” while “Challenging Directly”—a healthy balance of the communications styles I had experienced and utilized throughout my career. The challenge is that when you truly care deeply for someone it can become difficult to challenge them directly, in fear of hurting their feelings, especially in a professional setting. But, if you don’t, you could find yourself down another dangerous path: one of “Ruinous Empathy” that Ms. Scott details in her book.

Most impactful for me was an analogy outlined in the book that focused on the frequency associated with the different types of communication. Ms. Scott likened positive affirmation, recognition, and praise to a gas pedal in your vehicle and the tough and direct conversations to the brake pedal. If you want to go anywhere in your vehicle, you need to spend more time on the gas pedal than the brake. That acknowledged, you would be considered a reckless driver if you did nothing but lay on the gas pedal and never used the brakes.

As leaders, we need to tap the brakes from time to time and have those direct and challenging conversations for our team members growth and development. If the foundation of trust and “Caring Personally” is properly established, these conversations can be transformative and propel our team members to new heights.

The proper balance in how and what we communicate is critical for developing high performing teams and cultures. As we think about the year-end performance conversation, I encourage all of us to remember and employ the “gas pedal and brake pedal” analogy with our feedback. Additionally, I want to lay out the challenge to read this book or check out some of Ms. Scott’s YouTube videos on this topic. It has certainly been transformative for me and I hope that it is for you as well!