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Convergence Day Two: Learning to Be Radically Candid

Cornerstone Editors

Day two of Cornerstone's 16th annual Convergence conference kicked off with a simple but profound concept called Radical Candor, presented by Kim Scott, co-founder of Candor Inc. Radical Candor, is a framework for giving effective feedback which requires challenging directly while showing you care personally at the same time.

Scott and Russ Laraway founded Candor Inc. based on this idea, after their experiences at Google, Apple, Twitter and other organizations exposed them to some of the best and worst practices of managers. By teaching Radical Candor to your team, you can help them do their best work, and form mutually beneficial relationships with their colleagues.

How can organizational leaders actually implement Radical Candor?

Scott breaks it down into four components:

1) Get It

One of the best times to solicit Radical Candor is during one-on-one meetings with managers, says Scott. Asking, "What feedback do you have for me?" is not enough. Think of a specific question such as: "What can I do or stop doing that will make it easier to work with me?" Then, embrace the discomfort by silently waiting at least six seconds for a response. Listen with the intention of understanding, not responding, and repeat back what you heard, Scott recommends.

If you agree with the feedback, internalize and apply it. If you disagree, fight the urge to get defensive. Instead, identify the 5 to 10 percent of the candor (feedback) that you agree with and focus on those elements.

2) Give It (Both Praise and Criticism)

Praise is just as important as criticism, so make it detailed and sincere, says Scott. And, unlike criticism, praise should be given in public. When thinking about giving feedback, it should be more like brushing and flossing your teeth, rather than a root canal, says Scott. In other words, don't let feedback build up by waiting to share it at your annual review or even your next one-on-one—just deliver it in the moment.

Two-minute, impromptu talks are incredibly effective, says Scott. But, make sure to only provide feedback on something that is fixable. Discussing someone's personality, for example, is probably not going to be very helpful since they can't change it, says Scott.

3) Gauge It (Radical Candor Looks Different in Different Places)

Everyone receives and processes feedback in different ways, and managers must be respectful of that and tailor the delivery of any feedback to the individual receiving it.

"Radical candor is measured not by your mouth, but the other person's ears. Your job is to find the words that will make them understand," says Scott.

4) Encourage It

We all have office politics, Scott warns. Don't let that get in the way of Radical Candor. If someone comes up to you to speak badly about another employee, encourage them to speak directly to the person who is bothering them face-to-face. If they can't work it out, tell them to come back to you together. It's important to require "clean escalation" for radical candor to remain positive.

Scott ended her keynote by asking everyone in the audience to think about moments in their career during which someone provided feedback that stung in the moment but served them well for the rest of their career. It's not about being mean, it's being clear, says Scott, and clear, specific feedback goes a long way.

Check out what went down during Convergence day one here.

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