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.
Start by asking for criticism by not providing it. To build a culture of radical candor, start by asking your team members to criticize you. In this way you will show that you are aware that you are often wrong and that when this happens you want to be told, you will want to be tested, you will also learn how it feels to receive criticism.
Balance praise and criticism. Worry more about praise and less criticism, but above all be honest.
Praise is more important because it guides people in the right direction and encourages them to continue improving.
Don’t be too nervous when you have to criticize, just say it, don’t personalize, it’s the job you’re criticizing, not the person. For a criticism to be effective it must be clear and articulate and put the person who made the mistake on the right tracks. Be humble, offer immediate help.
Moving towards Radical Candor means being specific, going into details both in praise and criticism.
Understand what motivates every person on your team: Help people take a step in the direction of their dreams
To build a great team you need to understand what work represents within each person’s life goal. You have to have real relationships, which change with the changing of people. Putting the right person in the right role has an impact not only on his feelings, but on his earnings, on his career, on the possibility of getting what he wants from life.
To give each person the right role you need to know their ambitions. The “rock stars” are solid people who love their job and know how to do it well, do not want a new one, if you promote them in roles that are not for them you will lose them, if you honor them and reward them you can rely on them .
These people have a slow growth trajectory. The “superstars” , on the contrary, need to be challenged to continually have new growth opportunities. They will have a steep growth trajectory. Every team needs the right mix of rock stars and superstars, stability and drive.
Trajectories can change throughout life, it is important not to put permanent labels on people, you have to constantly ask yourself if you are giving everyone the right opportunities. Moving from a traditional “talent management” to a “growth management” mentality will help ensure that everyone on your team is heading in the direction of their dreams and that your team continues to improve collectively.
You have to understand on what kind of trajectory each person wants to be at a given moment and if this meets the needs of the team. You must not be an absent manager or a micromanager but a partner. You have to know the details of everyone’s work, understand its nuances if you want to help them overcome obstacles.
Being a good boss means continually adjusting the pull to the new reality of the day, week, year, not putting permanent labels, people change and you have to change with them.
Excellent performances on a gradual growth trajectory: recognize, reward but don’t promote. Promotions put these people in roles they don’t want and aren’t made for them. The key is to recognize their contribution in other ways: with bonuses or increases.
Excellent performance on a steep growth trajectory: the best way to make a superstar happy is to continually test her, make her continually learn. Make sure they teach their work to someone else on the team, because they won’t hold out in a role for long.
Understand when it’s time to fire someone
There are 3 questions to consider:
- have you given this person a radically candid guide? That is, have you shown that you care personally? Did you urge her to improve, did you provide specific and detailed praise? Have you provided humble and direct criticism? Have you offered your help to find a solution?
- Is this person’s negative performance affecting the rest of the team?
- Have you asked for a second opinion? Have you dealt with the problem with someone you trust?
If the answer to these questions is yes, it’s time to fire. Be radically candid with the person you’re firing, don’t distance yourself, think about a job you didn’t like and how good you felt when you stopped doing it, when you fire someone you’re giving them the opportunity to excel elsewhere , in a job more suitable for him.
Remember that holding back people who are doing a bad job is penalizing for those who are working well. Raise the bar, there are no Serie B players, anyone can be exceptional if he finds the right job. Mediocrity is not good for anyone.
Being able to get better results through collaboration
The ultimate goal of the Candore Radicale is to achieve through collaboration what you could never achieve individually. If you want your team to achieve something great, you need to take care of the people you work with. Don’t let your concentration on the results get in the way. You will get better results if you put your power aside and work more collaboratively.
The art of getting the job done without having to tell people what to do, is a process that will allow your team to achieve superior results than people could get individually, it is based on 7 steps: listening, clarifying, debate, decide, persuade, execute, learn.
You must listen to all the ideas that all the members of your team have and create a culture in which you listen to each other, so that the weight of listening does not fall entirely on you.
Clarify: you have to create spaces and times in which ideas can take shape, be clarified and transmitted. Make sure they are not crushed before everyone has fully understood their potential utility. You don’t have to judge ideas but help your direct collaborators to clarify their thoughts so that everyone can understand them.
Debate: the next step is to discuss each idea and test it rigorously. You have to create a culture of debate, make sure that the conversation is centered on ideas and not on egos, it reminds people that the goal is to find the best answer, that it is a collaboration between minds, not a race to affirm your ego.
Decide: it’s time to “push the decision into facts”, it is the facts that must be at the basis of the decisions, not the recommendations. The best bosses are not the ones who make the decisions themselves, but the ones who create a clear decision-making process that allows people closest to the facts to make as many decisions as possible. And even when you decide, you need to go to the root of the facts, to go into details you have to go to the source.
Persuade: once a decision has been made it is time to have as many people on board as possible. If you want a decision to be carried out efficiently, it is not enough to explain it rationally, you must also involve the emotions of your listeners.
Execute: as boss you have to take on the burden of the “collaboration fee” so that your team can focus on execution. To stay in touch with the job you can not only observe, you have to do the work yourself, if you get too far from the work that your team members are doing you cannot help them clarify their ideas.
Learn from the results, check if you have done the right thing or not, and start the whole process from the beginning, continuously.