6 Ways Radical Candor Can Make You a Better Manager

They’re practicing the art of Radical Candor.

The Art of Radical Candor

After years of working for and managing teams at the Marine Corps, Google, and Twitter, Russ Laraway, a co-founder of Candor, Inc., has a unique perspective on management.

He’s been the good boss, the bad boss, and the terribly well-meaning boss. But it’s possible that Laraway has found the ideal compromise – it’s called Radical Candor.

Radical Candor is the notion that it’s possible to both care personally and challenge directly.

Caring personally doesn’t mean you need to be loved by all of your employees, but it does mean that as a boss you put your employee’s success and needs ahead of your own.

Challenging directly doesn’t mean brutal honesty, but it does require you to dole out specific, sincere criticism aimed at helping employees know what to do better.

We spoke to Laraway to learn how new managers and startup founders can best practice Radical Candor. Check out six great tips.

1. You are not an individual contributor anymore.

“There’s a real tendency in a lot of companies for a person who transitions into management to want to retain a lot of their individual contributor responsibilities,” Laraway said.

“There are a number of problems with this, but for me chief among them is if you believe that your job as a manger is to be in service to your team and to help them develop and grow, every time you take on meaningful individual contributor-type work, you’re robbing the people on your team of meaningful growth opportunities.”

2. You’ve really, genuinely got to care about the people on your team.

“Care about what they care about,” Laraway said.

“For my money, most people do care, what they often will do is fail to demonstrate it. I think that managing a team as a young manager you’re trying to build some trust. People need to ultimately trust their boss if you want them to fully engaged, to do their best work, to stay around for a while.

“And in my experience, trust doesn’t come because you’re the person with all the great ideas, or you’re the person with the most innovative concepts, trust comes for a boss from people on your team when people feel like you give a darn about them.”

3. Embrace ruthless prioritization.

“Whether it’s a really new manager or a person starting their own team, I think there’s a real tendency for people to feel like they need to boil the ocean, that high performance means doing as much as possible,” Laraway said.

“[Without priorities] the team just won’t perform well.

“There’s a mountain of research that shows that teams that are focused on a very small number of very high leverage things consistently perform much better than teams that have a diffuse set of activities.”

4. Don’t be soft on crime.

“A lot of times a young manager, not fully confident in their ability to create the right team to get the job done, will be a little too soft on crime, meaning tolerate low performance for too long. In variability, they think they’ll ruin moral if they let someone go off the team.

“One of the things that I wish someone whispered in my ear when I was younger is, ‘It’s ok to be tough on crime. It’s ok to say, this person is just not going to pull out of this performance problem, and we need to make a change.'”

5. Keep it sincere.

“The biggest thing that can wrong is that you as the ‘praiser’, or leader of the team, you start to lose credibility when you praise people.

“If you’re generally just handing out praise like candy and not being specific and choosing the moments that are truly worthy of praise, you just start to lose credibility.

“And the people that are the high performers on the team that are consistently doing things worthy of praise start to wonder if you even can tell.”

6. Don’t guess. Ask.

“A little too often people try to rely on reading others. And my biggest piece of advice is, just don’t guess. Make a habit of asking your team how they’re feeling about things,” Laraway said.

“We talk a lot about how to solicit feedback from your team as a leader, and you should do it, I think, obsessively. Why not at the end of each week or every couple of weeks, ask people some simple questions like ‘How happy are you here?’ ‘What went the way you had hoped it would go this week? What got in your way?’

“Radical Candor is a lot of things, but front and center is we’re trying to get rid of guessing games, and they’re unbelievable common in the workplace. We say just ask.”

Interview has been edited and condensed.

If you want to learn more about Radical Candor, check out their website, podcast, and app.

And Candor, Inc. cofounder Kim Scott also recently released a book:Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss without Losing Your Humanity.


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