5 tactics to implement radical candor and boost morale at work

Credit to https://www.radicalcandor.com/our-approach/

I am a huge fan of Kim Scott and believe that her radical candor philosophy is the most powerful tool to 1. create a great place to work, 2. prevent negativity, 3. prevent politics. This positivity leads to higher employee engagement.

In case you’re not familiar, radical candor is a framework for giving and receiving feedback that is rooted in caring personally about your colleagues while challenging them directly. If you are being radically candid, you won’t gossip behind people’s backs, you won’t brush issues off, and you won’t come off as a jerk. You will have those difficult conversations with your colleagues because you truly want them to learn, grow, and be better at their jobs. By eliminating these situations that foster negativity, you can create a work culture that boosts employee commitment, engagement, performance, and happiness.

But, I’ll be the first to admit that in practice, radical candor is hard, and it is often difficult to know how to activate it in the workplace. So here are five things I’ve implemented at Front that have helped us all be more radically candid:

We train every new hire on radical candor

As part of our onboarding process, we train every new hire on the principles of radical candor and coach them through giving and receiving feedback. We set the expectation from day one that being open to and encouraging this kind of feedback is part of our work culture. If you’d like to start doing this too, here are the slides we use.

We built consistent feedback into our one-on-one model

As I’ve written about before, we have three types of one-on-ones at Front: the typical weekly one-on-one to connect on priorities and unblock issues, a monthly check-in to discuss what is making people happy and less happy at work, and bi-annual career development conversations. In each of these conversations, we have standing agenda items for people to ask questions or share feedback. You can find templates with a full list of the questions we ask here.

I use my CEO power for good

Whenever someone complains to me about something or someone, my first question is to always ask if the feedback has been shared with the responsible individual. It usually hasn’t so I will coach that person on how to best give that feedback and give them two weeks to go have that conversation. Two weeks later, I’ll ask them if the feedback has been shared and it always has. I do this because the first time is always the hardest.

I ask for critical feedback

I recently started doing the following and the conversations that have resulted have been incredibly powerful:

  • In a one-on-one, I will ask someone to think of feedback they are afraid to give me because they think it will offend me or hurt my feelings.
  • Then, I give them time to think.
  • After some time has passed (a few seconds), I ask them if they have that feedback in their heads.
  • When they say yes, I ask them to please share the feedback with me.

I think the trick here is that I give people time to collect that feedback in their head and then I give them permission to say it out loud. For this to work, a few things have to happen next 1) I repeat the feedback to make sure I’ve understood it correctly, 2) thank the person from the bottom of my heart, and 3) tell the person what I’m going to do about it. I encourage all managers at Front to use this approach to ask for tough feedback.

We discourage anonymity

Early on at Front, we created a way for employees to anonymously ask questions that I or another member of the team would answer at All Hands. The intent with making the questions anonymous was to encourage people to speak up and say what’s on their mind. Recently, however, we stopped making these questions anonymous. As we see on the Internet everyday, when a person can mask their true identity, their words and actions can be far more bold and hurtful. By removing the veil of anonymity, we hope to encourage constructive Q&A. Similarly, peer feedback as part of our annual performance reviews are not anonymous and we encourage reviewers to share their feedback in person before submitting so there are never any surprises.

None of this is easy, so why do it? Because I believe negativity is the worst thing that can happen to the culture of an organization. And always knowing where you stand with your team is one of the best human feelings 🙂

How do you encourage radically candid feedback? I’d love to hear your tips.

LEGO builder. Co-founder & CEO @ Front (frontapp.com)