I heard this old song recently and it stuck in my head.
“You’ve gotta be cruel to be kind, in the right measure…”
That’s about the only line I know, but it made me think about the way we deliver or avoid messages.
Are you familiar with “Radical Candor”? It’s a book by Kim Scott which tackles honesty in feedback. It’s about how to have the conversation you don’t really want to have, tell someone what they need to know but don’t want to hear, and do it in a way which is honest and clear.
Scott says, “It’s true, challenging people generally pisses them off. But challenging people is the way you can help them improve, and when you’re the boss, it’s one of the best ways to show you care.”
Brene Brown has also written along the same lines.
In her article, “Clear is Kind. Unclear is Unkind” she says “Of the ten behaviors and cultural issues that leaders identified as barriers to courage, there was one issue that leaders ranked as the greatest concern: Avoiding tough conversations, including giving honest, productive feedback.”
I’ve been on the receiving end of some “helpful feedback” on occasion and I quite clearly remember how I felt afterwards. Sometimes I felt angry and confused about how to make things right. At other times, although I didn’t like to hear that I’d messed up, I knew the feedback came from a good place. It was guidance, not just criticism.
I’m sure you can work out which form of feedback produced the best results.
Radical candour means being clear to be kind and there are two key elements involved: honesty and genuine care. It’s putting the humanity back into those difficult conversations.
A leader’s ability to have courageous conversations which strengthen relationships and produce improved performance comes down to caring about and understanding her people.
Be honest and specific with your message, acknowledge how the listener will be feeling, and guide them towards a solution.
If you’re a leader who avoids these difficult conversations, ask yourself this.
Am I focusing on the problem or the solution?
The problem is the smallest part of the conversation you should be having. Stop thinking about yourself and how you’ll cope and start caring about your team.
Changing behaviour is always a challenge for leaders. Changing your own leadership behaviour is even harder.
If the concept of radical candour worries you, talk to me. You can contact me here (link) and together we’ll polish your feedback skills and learn to show you care.
If you haven’t read Radical Candor, I encourage you to get your hands on a copy. It’s well worth reading.