The attitudes that can decree the bankruptcy of a company
When I started my first company my goal was to build an environment where people loved their jobs and loved each other. However, in an effort to create a positive and stress-free environment, I skipped over a fundamental part of being a boss: telling people clearly and directly that they are not doing their job well.
Bob was a pleasant and funny person, with an excellent CV and excellent references, he had only one problem: his job was terrible. It is difficult to tell people who are wrong, managing is hard work. So I didn’t say anything, I did Bob’s job myself, and so did his colleagues. I went on for ten months but eventually I had to fire him.
When he asked me why I had never said anything to him, I touched the lowest point of my career. I never made any criticism of Bob and, worse, I did not create an environment in which his peers could tell him that he was getting off the rails.
The lack of praise and criticism has had disastrous effects on the team and our results. It was not too late just for Bob, but for the whole company, shortly afterwards we went bankrupt.
How to build radically candid relationships with your team
We often underestimate the “emotional work” of being a boss, in fact this aspect is not only a part of the job but is the key to being a good boss. What does a boss, a manager, a leader do? Lead a team to achieve a result: leadership, team-building and results, these are the responsibilities of the leaders.
Relationships, not power, will carry you forward. The fundamental difficulty of management is to establish a relationship of trust with each person who reports directly to you. There are many things in between: dynamics of power, fear of conflict, boundaries between what is considered “professional” and what is not, fear of losing credibility, the pressure of time. Nonetheless, these relationships are fundamental for your work, they determine the possibility of satisfying the three responsibilities of a manager:
- build a culture of driving (through praise and criticism);
- understand what motivates each member of your team;
- achieve results collaboratively. You can only fulfill your responsibilities by building strong relationships.
Radical Candor is made up of two dimensions that must be balanced:
- take care personally
- challenge directly
The first dimension concerns being more than simply professional, it means sharing with those who report directly to you, something more than your own working self. It means worrying about who works with you as a human being, not just as a performer of a certain job.
The second dimension is the ability to tell people when their job is not good enough and when it is. When you put these two dimensions together you get the Radical Candor, the trust that opens the doors to that type of communication that helps you achieve the results you want.
When people trust and believe that you care about them, they accept your praise and criticism, they tell you what they really think, they behave like this among themselves, they embrace their role in the team, they focus on the results.
The social habit that often leads us to avoid saying what we really think to avoid conflict or embarrassment (“if you have nothing nice to say then don’t say anything”) is disastrous when you are a leader. If you are a boss, your duty is to say things as they are. When Radical Candor is encouraged and supported by the leader, communication flows, resentments come to the surface and resolve.
Taking care of ourselves : we often fail in this task because we are led to remain on a professional level forgetting that we are human beings, with human feelings, and that even at work we need to be seen as such.
When we have to hide what we really are to earn a living, we become alienated and end up hating our work. Fred Kofman, my coach at Google, had a mantra to contradict this “bring your whole being to work” belief.
Show your vulnerability and create a safe space so that your direct collaborators can do the same. Recognize that we are people with lives and aspirations that extend beyond those related to our shared work.
Challenge directly: it is important to bring out both the things that are going well and those that are going wrong. You must be eager to admit your mistakes and you must commit yourself to solving the mistakes that have been made.
To build trust, you must encourage people to challenge you, to tell you where you are wrong, to criticize yourself directly, just like you do with them. It is not Radical Candor if there is no humility, if you do not show that you care personally.
How to best manage the problems that may arise in the company
When a problem arises, you must expose it immediately to solve it as soon as possible, you must offer tangible help to solve it, the approach must be gentle but direct.
If the dimension of the challenge is lacking, you risk falling into ruinous empathy, if you don’t care personally you can risk falling into hateful aggression, if both are missing you get manipulative insincerity.
Hateful aggression: you have when you challenge openly but you forget to show that you care personally. When you criticize someone without taking even two seconds to show that you care, your guide is perceived as obnoxiously aggressive by whoever receives it.
Minimize employees, publicly embarrass them, cut them out. The worst part of this attitude is when you understand a person’s vulnerability and use it to impose his or her domination, a kind of cruel empathy.
It often happens that leaders consider employees as inferior beings to degrade, that employees see their leaders as tyrants to overthrow and colleagues consider each other to be enemies.
In this toxic culture, criticism becomes a weapon of power and not a tool for improvement.
Manipulative insincerity: occurs when you don’t care enough about a person to challenge them directly. Praise or manipulative criticism is made when one is focused on being well-liked or for gaining some political or personal advantage. It’s a passive-aggressive, double-player behavior.
Ruinous empathy: it is the most common management error, it consists in showing a personal interest but failing to challenge directly. You want to be nice, not to hurt anyone’s feelings, but in this way you don’t help people improve.
For fear of sowing discord, people are also encouraged to criticize each other. In doing so the leaders are not giving any growth opportunity to their team, this strategy does not build any trust.