This piece by Kim Scott on Radical Candor helped me think more deeply on what I do to successfully communicate with my team. Her four suggestions are:
Find opportunities for impromptu feedback
Make backstabbing impossible
Make it easier to speak truth to power
Put on your own oxygen mask first
Take a few minutes and check it out before reading my take.
I liked it but, AHHHHH what a feeling it must have been for Kim, while working at Google, to be told by Digital Royalty Cheryl Sandberg that using lots of “ums” in a presentation made her look stupid to Eric,Sergey and Larry. After I got over budding billionaires helping each other up to the next rung (Are there even ladders in their world?) I took a breath and repeated “Their voice recognition software still hears just one word at at time. Just like mine."
And, I still had a team to lead here in Buffalo and we are doing great work, some of the best work in the nation to drive down tobacco use. I also work with some of the best tobacco researchers at a leading cancer hospital. I have to remind myself that the stakes may be different here or there or anywhere and no matter what, all organizations continue to look for better methods of communication between leaders, managers and team members.
I have been leading projects for most of my professional career. I collaborated with hundreds of people over the years. While some weren't successful the projects reached their goals because I always managed to have buffers in place. If the person wasn't working out I had a reasonable solution on the ready to keep the project on track and it was ok to end the working relationship.
That is not possible when leading a team in a workplace where we all are employed 52 weeks a year. I saw that upon becoming director of Tobacco-Free WNY where I supervise a team of 8. Managing their performance comes under my responsibilities. There is no, “mutual agreement to end the relationship" over a project or work that isn't happening.
I really enjoy projects and some key experience from years of doing on my own helped me grow to succeed in leading a full time team.
1. I am happily curious about people. The more I get to know people the happier I am. I seek to open or close a conversation with a team member on a personal note. I believe it lets that person know that I care about what is important in their life.
2. My good friend, Coach Steve Sullivan, instilled in me that I should always be trying to catch people doing something right. When I see a goal achieved or a jump to a new level of experience, I make a mental note to give detailed praise soon after whether it be one-to-one or to the whole team.
3. I demand two-way communication with team-members in jargon-free language. Sometimes I think I talk too much, but I am comforted in the belief that they are getting a clear, up to date understanding of what we are working on and what is expected of them. When I hear the same from them I learn what they are expecting of me.
4. Concerns with team members go to the top of my to-do list. While not being a micro-manager, I follow my team’s work plan closely and keep an eye on our big picture to make sure we are moving steadily toward both our annual and long-range goals. As I do with praise, I will set up team or private meetings as needed to have the conversation that assesses what is not happening and seek input and agreement on what we need to do about it by when.
It took some time of operationalizing but eventually I realized that, much like my indy days, these four disciplines had become my new buffers. Each discipline, in its own way, reaffirms the team’s level of engagement to the work and my level of engagement to them. Instead of parting ways we have an open line to discuss and solve any challenge to keep projects moving forward. Call it my own version of radical candor.
Still, in some cases, a team member decided to close the conversation. While I haven’t had to fire anyone, when some have quit I was not surprised. When team members decided to opt of #3 & #4 it became clear he or she either didn't prefer the work or working with our team. I hope they found a path to radical candor on their own or with another supporter. I wish the best for everyone. We all have so much to give and it only happens when we stay open. How radical is that?