"Value the other person. Challenge him/her with honesty."
Thanks to feedback we can become more than simple programs with simple reflexes, and develop more complex responses to the environment. Feedback allows animals like us to follow a purpose. Tom Stafford.
Agile, High-Performance Organizations such as Netflix and numerous of our clients, including Adevinta, a multinational listed at the Oslo Stock Exchange, have been successfully leveraging this idea as the bedrock of their culture: success as a team is based on honest communication and must be based on constant feedback. It must be based on Radical Candor.
Radical transparency, autonomy, self-responsibility and truth define the DNA of Agile, High-Performance Organizations. Likewise, people and teams interact continuously in these organizations and feedback is given and received to improve everything they do.
Radical Candor at leading organizations
Thanks to the radical transparency of their OKRs, and their projects, any colleague feels empowered to give feedback to another one and to receive it to help improve.
Therefore, it is a common habit: when you present your OKRs, everyone can join in giving you feedback,
Hence, it is a common habit: when you are presenting your OKRs, everyone can join in giving you feedback on them, regardless of the department and his/her hierarchical position. This is how all our clients practice it regardless of their sector: Unilever in FMCG, Danone in Food, Angelini in Pharma, Kendu in Retail, Adevinta in Digital, Marriott in Services, etc. By the way, this is right as we apply it in our team at ActioGlobal.
What really matters is the truth of the subject and the honesty of a feedback with the purpose to always help improve.
This also applies after any meeting or work session with colleagues of the organization.
Feedback is data. Data that we previously didn't know about but that help us improve now.
In the same way, all weekly check-ins between leader and staff include a 360º feedback about actions observed during the past week.
At Netflix or Adevinta, if people think they can help you improve, they will give you honest feedback with facts and data that will leave no room for interpretation.
The lifeblood of Agility and High-Performance
The problem is that the feedback many of us have experienced has not been positive, neither at the time of giving nor receiving it. Thus, feedback has become the Achilles´ heel of the personal and professional development of many people and organizations on the road to high performance.
Honest feedback is the lifeblood of high performance.
It helps us grow and become much more effective. In Spanish, the word feedback as it is defined in the Royal Spanish Academy dictionary, is a very significant word because it refers exactly to this: «returning energy or information output from a circuit to its input system». That is, from one person to another.
If you want to do just one thing right in your company, it' s all about establishing the right feedback culture.
What does feedback with Radical Candor mean?
«So… I sort of felt like the meeting went okay.»
Scott left the meeting satisfied. But after the meeting, Scott’s boss, Sheryl Sandberg, suggested they take a walk together.
She talked about the things she’d liked about the presentation and how impressed she was with the success the team was having – yet Scott could feel a «but» coming.
Finally, Sandberg said:
«…But you said um a lot.»
And Scott thought:
«Oh, no big deal. I know, I do that. But who cared if I said um when I had the tiger by the tail?»
Sandberg pushed forward, asking whether Scott’s ums were the result of nervousness. She even suggested that Google could hire a speaking coach to help.
Still, Scott brushed off the concern; it didn’t seem like an important issue.
Finally, Sandberg told her this:
«You know, Kim, I can tell I’m not really getting through to you. I’m going to have to be clearer here. When you say um every third word, it makes you sound stupid.’»
That really got Kim Scott’s attention, and she has remembered it forever.
For all of us, raised in a culture that preaches that if you´re not told something nice, you´ll feel awkward, the feedback above would not be perceived as very nice. But Kim Scott, today, knows it was the most honest thing Sandberg could have done for her.
«If she hadn’t said it just that way, I would’ve kept blowing her off. I wouldn’t have addressed the problem. And what a silly thing to let trip you up.»
In the years that followed, Kim Scott has worked to put into practice the form of feedback with Radical Candor that Sandberg taught her.
“Care and challenge to improve in an honest way.”
Understanding her needs to explain the four axes in the model above:
«Caring but not challenging»
Somehow, radical candor is almost intuitive in people because, if you take care of your colleagues, you want them to succeed and you want to communicate in a way that can be beneficial to them and for no other reason.
The story of Scott and Sandberg at Google I told you before, describes perfectly the effects of this feedback.
«Caring, but not challenging»
You have to be careful, yes, but you also have to be honest if you want to strengthen personal relationships in your teams.
Probably, our colleagues want and need our feedback because we can’t see ourselves (but we can listen to how others see us).
So don’t let someone you have a good relationship with have to say “why haven´t you told me?”. It’s like a small betrayal of trust.
«Not caring, but challenging»
People who receive feedback must be able to sense that we give it because we care for them and because we care about their well-being. It is this kind of radical candor that should really motivate us to give them our opinion.
Before giving feedback, we should ask ourselves whether what we are going to say is to develop or to hurt the other person.
«Neither caring nor challenging»
If you never want to arrive in this sector, always ask yourself before giving feedback: is what I am saying true?
Knowing the feedback sectors, which we should stay in, and understanding that total sincerity is our goal, we must take a step further and see how our communication can help other people succeed. It helps the whole team and also ourselves as an integral part of it, because understanding and adopting feedback of total sincerity, as they do in Netflix, can change the culture and life of our organization completely.
Be committed to give and receive better feedback in order to transform it into not only something positive but also into a tool for growth and learning towards success. So:
Accept the truth and take responsibility for it.
to embracing feedback with Radical Candor
Take it as an opportunity. It may not be comfortable at first, because it is not always given to us when we want or need it, but it must be transformed into an opportunity to become familiar with its use, to study how to receive and how to respond to it.
It’s about trying to understand, not just responding. It seems simple, but perhaps it is one of the greatest challenges of communication. So, a little trick is to take a deep breath and count to ten when you get feedback. Give room for understanding and don’t leave the communication in a vacuum of silence.
Being honest is something you should always be grateful for to people who invest their time to help you. This is especially true for something you are not pleased to hear and few people would dare to tell you. Say thank you – always.
Try to praise rather than criticize. We tend to focus on the negative when it comes to reinforcing the team. Always remember to also tell them when they do things right.
Help with your comments
React immediately. Give feedback as quickly as possible. If you can help someone, why not do it as soon as possible?
Do not prejudge. We are full of constricting beliefs, do not let yourself be blocked by your prejudices. Do it in person. In the closest possible way: face to face, through video or, if not possible, by phone. Use writing as the last option, think of all the non-verbal nuances we lose along the way.
Give feedback in private, praise in public.
If you have read this, I trust that you will be able to take the lead, encourage your team, all the people around you to communicate with others. Especially if you are in management positions, or lead teams, you need to deploy effective and sincere communication through example.
Don’t let people gossip or speak ill of others in front of you but behind their backs.
Ask if they are trying to improve in their communication, if they are trying to solve problems that may come up.
Suggest to enhance the quantity and quality of feedback between all of you.
In a nutshell, this is how to embrace feedback by Radical Candor:
And now it´s your turn
No matter what our current culture is like, with radical candor, we can transform it – now.
Let me ask you for this: Do give feedback. Accept feedback. Promote feedback. Improve it and remember: