Speaker 1: 00:00:00 On this episode of EDGE of the Web.
Kim Scott: 00:00:04 If you criticize a person in front of their boss, odds are they’re going to feel more threatened, and when we feel threatened , our lizard brain turns on and we literally can’t hear what the other person is saying.
Speaker 1: 00:00:19 Your weekly digital marketing trends with industry trend setting guests, you’re listening and watching EDGE of the Web. Winners of Best Podcast from the Content Marketing Institute for 2017. Hear and see more at edgeofthewebradio.com. Now here’s your host, Erin Sparks.
Erin Sparks: 00:00:42 Hey, this is EDGE of the Web radio, episode 341 I’m your host Erin Sparks. Every week we bring you amazing guests to chat about trending digital marketing news and tactics. We unpack a key marketing topic for our digital marketing audience. Whether you are a part of an agency, or a freelancer, or part of a firm, this show is for you. Be sure to check out all the recent shows over at edgeofthewebradio.com. If you’re new to the show, here are the ropes, you’ll need to know that we go live each and every Monday as much as we can, about 3:00 PM Eastern. You can check that out. Be sure to subscribe, and get yourself a reminder when we do go live, because we do want to have that audience participation on the show. We’ll field your questions live to our guests that we’re interviewing.
Erin Sparks: 00:01:27 You can also find our podcast on all of the different platforms. iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, Spreaker, iHeartRadio player, FM, Spotify, TuneIn, Podbean. Where else? We got Libsyn, there’s so many, and if we’re not where you are listening to your podcast regularly, let us know. We’ll certainly get our RSS feed over there, but you can’t swing a dead cat and not hit us, I’ll tell you what. You get all the show information over an edgeofthewebradio.com, that’s edgeofthewebradio.com. You’ll be able to see the news, the show notes that we come up with, as well as the transcript of the show. So if you’re really interested in what we said at minute 15:38, you can go zip right there and be able to see what we were talking about, and sometimes we go bloody fast on this show. So it is a good way to keep ahold of all the great information that we get from our guests.
Erin Sparks: 00:02:18 The show’s actually brought to you by the title sponsor of the show Site Strategics. They are the pioneers in the agile digital marketing method, the core specialties are technical SEO, search engine marketing, social media marketing and management, conversion rate optimization, and the omni-channel media marketing of which the studio is part of. Every week we’re rolling out media content in the video side of things, audio side of things, blogs, social, all curated from these type of sessions for our clients. If you’re interested in what we can do for you, just give us a jingle on the old fashioned phone at 877 SEO for web, or (877) 736-4932, that’s (877) 736-4932, or just go over to sitestrategics.com and connect with us.
Erin Sparks: 00:03:07 You can chat with me right online as I’m fielding the chats every once in a while, and you can also just schedule a quick call with us. We’ll give you a free hour consultation, kind of unpack some of the digital tactics that could very well mean great digital success, and return on investment for your marketing plan. All right, so there’s the commercial and I’ll toss it over to Jacob in the studio. How you doing sir?
Jacob: 00:03:29 I’m good. How are you?
Erin Sparks: 00:03:30 Happy, what is it? Superbowl Monday?
Jacob: 00:03:34 Sure, that sounds good.
Erin Sparks: 00:03:36 And you showed up as well.
Jacob: 00:03:37 I did, it wasn’t my home team playing so.
Erin Sparks: 00:03:41 There’s a heck of lot of people that did not show up on Monday.
Jacob: 00:03:44 Well, yeah. I remember when our team played. Yeah, it was pretty…
Erin Sparks: 00:03:50 That was a week, right?
Jacob: 00:03:51 It was like at least a week. No, what’s funny is we were out of town for the weekend. We were coming back on Sunday, and my wife and I were tired, we were talking about it. I said, “Hey, do we have any plans for Superbowl?” Because I’ve got two texts from friends asking, and I had already told them we’re going to be coming back, probably not… Just kind of low key, we were kind of invited there, maybe. Maybe they were seeing if we were to invite them over. I’m not really sure, and she’s like, “Ah, I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about it. When is the Superbowl?” I said, “That’s tonight,” she thought it was in at least a week. That’s what happens sometimes I guess.
Erin Sparks: 00:04:27 I take it you didn’t have the party, right?
Jacob: 00:04:29 No, no. We just hung out at home.
Erin Sparks: 00:04:30 Don’t you hate that particular scenario? Where you don’t know whether you should ask, you don’t know if they’re going to ask you. It’s kind of like couples dating.
Jacob: 00:04:37 Well that’s how the text started, but I did see updates they were smoking wings, they are getting pizza.
Erin Sparks: 00:04:44 Oh wow. Okay.
Jacob: 00:04:45 I think we were being invited, but it was probably still good that we just took it easy.
Erin Sparks: 00:04:48 It just wasn’t clear.
Jacob: 00:04:49 It wasn’t. That’s the only reason. I watched maybe part of the first half, and then we had it turned off before the halftime show, and I never turned it back on. It was later on I checked the score.
Erin Sparks: 00:05:05 It wasn’t our team, so.
Jacob: 00:05:06 There was a lot going on.
Erin Sparks: 00:05:07 Good for the Chiefs though. First time in 50 years, that’s pretty fun, that coach was cool as a cucumber too.
Jacob: 00:05:14 Yeah, and I think the other stat I heard is he was the coach with the most wins that didn’t have a championship, so that’s always nice to see.
Erin Sparks: 00:05:23 Absolutely. You know who else is nice to see? All our guests that are coming up on the show. We have a slew of return guests for February. We’re going to be talking to Kim Scott here in a moment, but we want to make sure that you know who’s coming up. We’ve got Robert Rose next Monday. We have also Susan Wenograd, and Sherry Bonelli in the next Mondays as well. We have a whole bunch of return guests, and we’re also going to be out where you may very well be, coming February 19th and 20th, you’re going to have at San Jose SMX West put on by Third Door Media. If you haven’t come across an SMX, it’s fantastic, it’s an awesome conference. There’s so many speakers there that have been part of this show. If you want to see us out there, we’re actually going to be rolling around with the EDGE of the Web jacket. So reach out and grab us because we really want to hear from our audience while we’re out there.
Erin Sparks: 00:06:16 If you’re knowing of somebody who wants to be on the show, or somebody that we should talk to, let us know. Just email, firstname.lastname@example.org. So all the reminders on YouTube, so you get into the live channel with us as well. Again, speaking of SMX West, the dates are February 19th and 20th, and our relationship with Third Door Media, it gives us the ability to give you a great discount on those tickets. If you actually use the code, actually, if you go to edgeofthewebradio.com/smx, it gets you right over to the registration environment. Check it out, look at the agenda. I know it’s a fantastic conference, been there before. You can use the code EDGE15 for 15% off your ticket. It’s a world of savings, especially if you’re going there with a number of people. Simply search over there, and find SMX and enroll through that.
Erin Sparks: 00:07:08 You’re going to be seeing speakers like Kim Scott of today’s show. Brad Geddes, Tim Jensen, Elizabeth Marsten, Joe Martinez, Ginny Marvin, Lily Ray’s going to be there. Barry Schwartz, Aleyda Solis, Kirk Williams, Bruce Clay, so many have been on this show over the years, and it’s great to be able to go out there and touch base with them out in the field.
Erin Sparks: 00:07:28 Also, last bit of information. Want to make sure EDGE fans, we want to know a little bit about you, and what you want to hear on the show. So we’re running a quick poll on the website, just go over to the edgeofthewebradio.com, couple of questions completely anonymous about where you work, or what you do I should say, and what you’re interested in on the show. Just jump over there, and roll through that. It’s great feedback for us, and this show is about feedback, and we wanted to make sure that we get that poll out there as well. It’s going to be up for a while. Just let us know what you’re wanting to hear. You’re looking for more SEO discussions, advanced SEO, social media, conversion discussions, any of this stuff. If there’s something that we’re not covering, there’s an other field right there that you can fill in. So go on over to edgeofthewebradio.com and let us know.
Erin Sparks: 00:08:14 All right, that’s the show housekeeping notes. I want to wrap that up, and be sure to check out the news portion of this podcast on a separate podcast rolling out, had a great roll through some of the news, but we want to get to this week’s featured guest.
Speaker 1: 00:08:29 Now it’s time for EDGE of the Web featured interview with Kim Scott, co-founder at Radical Candor.
Erin Sparks: 00:08:39 All right, so this show’s about feedback, and we’re going to have a little bit of that today. I want to introduce our guest, Kim Scott. She’s a return guest to the EDGE, and she delivers the frank truth. Kim is a co-founder of Candor Inc, and the author of the book, Radical Candor, Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity. It’s been translated into 20 different languages, has launched a global executive education company. She’s also led at AdSense YouTube, Doubleclick Online Sales Operations over at Google. So she has been in the inner workings of a huge amount of digital agencies, and knows what it means to be able to have a good communication bond with employers and peers. Early career, she actually has worked as a senior policy advisor at the FCC, also managed a pediatric clinic and Kosovo, and started a diamond cutting factory in Moscow. Now I don’t know how all of that mixes together, but we certainly welcome her back on the show. Kim, how are you doing?
Kim Scott: 00:09:42 I am doing well. It’s great to be back. Thank you so much.
Erin Sparks: 00:09:45 You’re more than welcome. It always amazes me because I think you have probably the most unique bio of any of our guests. We have a couple of oddities, but I really don’t think we’ve had that type of polarity of actually running, or being part of a diamond cutting mine in, it was Russia, correct?
Kim Scott: 00:10:06 Yeah, diamond cutting factory based in Moscow. That was my first management experience, in fact.
Erin Sparks: 00:10:13 How did you get to, I mean, if that’s the first management, you certainly weren’t responding to a LinkedIn.
Kim Scott: 00:10:20 No, no.
Erin Sparks: 00:10:21 How’d you get there? I have to ask.
Kim Scott: 00:10:23 I moved to Russia right after college. I studied Russian, and I was working for a financial management company. They pulled out of what was then the Soviet Union, and like all things in life through a friend of a friend, I wound up with this diamond cutting factory. The interview was really interesting, it was sort of all about how the world’s changing, and all of the problems that seem so insurmountable, sort of totalitarian what was in the Soviet Union were ending. I went over there to help them figure out what their Russia strategy was, and wound up starting up this diamond cutting factory.
Kim Scott: 00:11:02 It was interesting, I thought that it was going to be easy to hire the workers for this factory because they had rubles, rubles were worthless, I had dollars, I was going to pay them a lot of them. I felt that was management, right? You pay people, that’s all there is to it. What can be so difficult? Turns out the diamond cutters did not want just the money. They wanted me to go on a picnic with them, and this was weird but what’s so hard about that? I went on the picnic, and it turned out by the end of the conversation, and the end of a bottle of vodka, I learned…
Erin Sparks: 00:11:37 Each, by the way. Everybody gets their own bottle of vodka.
Kim Scott: 00:11:42 Everybody gets their own bottle of vodka. I was a world class drinker at this point. So by the end of the bottle of vodka, I learned that what the workers wanted was not just money, they wanted to know that I gave a damn. They wanted to know that if things went to hell in Russia, I would help them and their families get out. I realized maybe management is more complicated, but also more interesting than I thought it was.
Erin Sparks: 00:12:09 Yeah, because they’re looking to trust you, and honestly if you can finish out a bottle of vodka to begin with, and stay vertical, there’s the first thing.
Kim Scott: 00:12:20 I’m not saying I stayed vertical.
Erin Sparks: 00:12:24 That’s kind of the key points, or the kickoff of the book that you wrote, Radical Candor. We interviewed you back in December, 2017 when you had first launched the book, and we come around again about a year and a half later, and actually a little bit more than that. All of a sudden you’re translated in 20 languages, and you’ve also kicked off, and there’s a cover of the book right there for our streaming audience and our video audience.
Kim Scott: 00:12:49 Love it.
Erin Sparks: 00:12:50 There we go. On top of that, you’ve also kicked off a new organization. You actually, you have rolled out an executive coaching company to be able to help companies around the world on how they can adopt this Radical Candor approach. You’ve also rolled out, along with the talks and workshops, Second City has actually embraced what you’re doing. Tell us about what Second City is doing with Radical Candor.
Kim Scott: 00:13:19 So if you write a book about feedback, you’re going to get a lot of feedback. One of the most common things that people have said to me is, “Radical Candor sounds so simple.” It’s really easy to say, “Be radically candid,” but it’s very hard to do it. I have enormous compassion for that because it’s true. The reason why I wrote the book is that I struggle to be radically candid myself. It does not come naturally. One of the things that happened shortly after I launched the book, published the book, or after St Martin’s Press published the book, I was on a podcast with Kelly Leonard from Second City, and we were talking about how improv can really help people develop practice, the practice of radical candor. This seemed like an interesting idea, but it took me a while to call Kelly back and say, “Hey, let’s really do that. Let’s actually help people develop some exercises, some drills, some improv drills that they can use to do things like listen with the intent to understand, solicit feedback before they offer it, and to gauge how your feedback is landing.”
Kim Scott: 00:14:35 Because Radical Candor is really not about talking as much as it is about listening. One of the things that improv does is in addition to teaching you to be very funny, it teaches you to listen with enormous compassion.
Erin Sparks: 00:14:51 Absolutely, and observe your colleague, observe who you’re interacting with. I’d go so far as Radical Candor, it’s not to read a book and know how to do it. You have to practice it. You have to embrace and try things out, because honestly you may have experienced so many different scenarios, but I’ve gotten it wrong a number of times.
Kim Scott: 00:15:15 Yes, you and me both.
Erin Sparks: 00:15:18 I’m still trying my best to be able to figure out how best to give good, constructive criticism, good candor conversation, and make sure that the listener, the employee or the individual, is hearing my intent, not just the words that I’m saying. That’s a huge factor of what you write about, right?
Kim Scott: 00:15:39 Yes, and make sure you’re adjusting for the person you’re talking to, and adjusting for the culture that you may be working with him because radical candor gets measured, not at my mouth, but at your ear. Of course, it’s difficult for me to know what’s going on at your ear, and it’s one of the things that the improv exercises that we’ve developed with Second City, that Second City really has developed over the course of 50 years, can help you learn to do, is to understand what’s what’s going on in someone else’s head.
Erin Sparks: 00:16:11 That’s awesome, and it gives us a workshop basically that we can actually take this, and try it out, and not fall flat on our face in front of an employee, but actually be able to get a little bit more well-oiled. Right?
Kim Scott: 00:16:24 Yeah. Yeah, because if you learn accounting, or if you learn to code, or if you learn to play baseball, or to play a musical instrument, you practice before you’re in the most important meeting of your career. Putting this in terms of confronting other people, in terms of challenging people in a way that is productive. We never practice this until we’re on the spot, and that’s a shame. So really what we’re talking about learning how to do is practice being better human beings.
Erin Sparks: 00:16:59 You’re practicing in this space, really executing probably the most uncomfortable scenario conversation in professional life, as well as in your life is nobody wants to hear that they’re failing at something. Nobody wants to hear that they’re not executing to the best degree. On top of that, you just don’t know how to deliver it.
Erin Sparks: 00:17:26 So before anything else, I want to catch up our listeners to the book. The book is called Radical Candor, it’s fully revised and updated edition. Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity. Again, congratulations on the wide acclaim. So there’s a need for this book as we’re starting to actually walk around, but if you could just let us know what radical candor is.
Kim Scott: 00:17:51 Sure. So radical candor is caring personally at the same time that you challenged directly. That’s what radical candor is, but it’s perhaps easier to understand what it is by thinking about what it isn’t, because we all screw it up all the time. One way to screw it up is to challenge directly without showing that you care personally, and that I call obnoxious aggression. Another way to screw it up is, and very often what happens when we realize we’ve fallen into the obnoxious aggression quadrant, or as some people like to call it the asshole quadrant. When we realize we’ve wound up there instead of moving the right way on care, personally, we back off our challenge and we wind up in the worst place of all. We wind up in what I call, the manipulative insincerity quadrant, and that’s bad.
Kim Scott: 00:18:42 That’s where toxic backstabbing, political, passive aggressive behavior happens. It’s fun to tell stories about obnoxious aggression, and also about manipulative insincerity, but the fact of the matter is the mistake that most of us make more often than any other, like 85, 90% of the time, is what happens when we do show the other person that we care personally about them. But because we’re so concerned about not hurting their feelings, we don’t tell them something that they’re better off knowing. We don’t challenge directly. So we do show we care personally, we fail to challenge directly, and that mistake I call ruinous empathy.
Kim Scott: 00:19:28 These are not novel ideas. We all know this stuff, but it’s been very helpful, I think, for people to have terms for these things that happen over and over and over again at work. Now, as I said before, when you write a book that talks a lot about feedback, you’re going to get a lot of feedback, and perhaps the most painful feedback I got about Radical Candor, was that people very often use it as an excuse to behave like a jerk. “In the spirit of radical candor,” somebody will say, and then they’ll proceed to act like a garden variety jerk. That’s not the spirit of radical candor, that’s the spirit of obnoxious aggression.
Erin Sparks: 00:20:05 You’ve kind of let loose the hounds of hell, so to speak.
Kim Scott: 00:20:08 I hope not.
Erin Sparks: 00:20:10 You’re absolutely right is that there’s an abuse of this, because you can certainly appreciate telling the truth concertedly, and with clarity and making sure that the audience knows that you’re doing it with the best intentions possible. But that comes with a level of maturity and you’re right, the grid that Kim has in her book is literally, it’s four quadrants. The upper left is ruinous empathy, upper right is radical candor, lower left is manipulative insincerity, and lower right is obnoxious aggression, for everybody who’s listening at home. You can move in those spaces on a regular basis. One of the toughest things is that ruinous empathy, because if you’re not going to be able to be bold enough to communicate clear issues, you can create such a false sense, or a false positive that in fact that person is doing a bang up job just because they’d say something otherwise. Right?
Kim Scott: 00:21:20 Yeah, absolutely. It’s not an act of kindness, not to say it. On the other hand, obnoxious aggression is also not an act of kindness. One of the things that I did in the second edition is for people who are concerned that perhaps their organization is abusing radical candor, and confusing radical candor and obnoxious aggression. I gave a new version of that framework you just described, in which the upper right hand quadrant is called compassionate candor, and getting people to understand the difference between compassionate candor and ruinous empathy is important. Compassion doesn’t tend to burn us out in the same way that empathy does. Compassion is saying, “I understand that what I’m about to say may sting a little bit, but I’m going to tell you because I care about helping you fix this problem,” for example.
Erin Sparks: 00:22:22 Absolutely. Absolutely. Have you renamed that entire quadrant? Because radical is still…
Kim Scott: 00:22:26 Radical candor is catchy, so I’m going to keep calling the book Radical Candor. It seems to sell.
Erin Sparks: 00:22:32 It does and it breaks down boundaries as well, because if one isn’t prone to compassionate behavior, radical can at least now get him square in the eyes, realizing that they have to break their particular paradigm, or break down how they process thing. Hopefully that stays core to everything that you’re delivering.
Kim Scott: 00:22:58 Yeah, radical candor is absolutely the central message, but for those who find themselves in a situation where somebody might be misunderstanding, I offer compassionate candor as an alternative term.
Erin Sparks: 00:23:10 I appreciate that because it can certainly get abused. There are a couple of things I want to talk about in society right now, but I do want to swing this back around regarding how it’s used, how radical candor can be used by employers first, because that management staff is always on the line to be able to give that type of performance review, that type of evaluation. If people fall back into their predilections for fear of upsetting someone, while you probably shouldn’t in that bloody position anyway, but if you are right, being able to actually deliver information correctly and with clarity. How have you seen this really embraced by employers, and what kind of mistakes have people made in those roles? Possibly brandishing radical candor without really appreciating the sensitivities there.
Kim Scott: 00:24:12 Yeah. I think there’s really four important, there’s kind of an order of operations if you’re a boss. Well, really if you’re anybody, this is true up, down and sideways. There’s an order of operations to radical candor, and the place to start no matter what your position is, whether you’re the boss, the employee, the peer, the spouse. The place to start is to solicit radical candor, and in particular to solicit criticism because that gives you an opportunity to lead by example, and to show that you viewed this kind of criticism as a gift. You want to sort of ask for it, and even demand it. You want to make sure you’re listening with the intent to understand, not to respond, and that you reward the candor, which doesn’t mean you’re always going to agree with the criticism.
Kim Scott: 00:25:00 Sometimes the best reward is just an explanation of why you disagree, but a respectful explanation. You want to solicit feedback first. Next, you want to focus on the good stuff. Another mistake that people make about radical candor is they think it’s all about the boss giving criticism to the employee. It’s first about soliciting criticism, and next it’s about focusing on the good stuff. Your job, if you’re the leader of a team, is to paint a picture of what success looks like. You want to describe what’s possible, and praise is actually a much better tool than criticism for doing that. But criticism is essential because if somebody’s going the wrong direction, it’s your job to tell them to change course, to offer what I call guidance rather than feedback. I think that’s really important to focus on the good stuff.
Kim Scott: 00:25:51 Okay, so finally it’s time to offer some criticism. I think a couple of things are really important. One is to make sure that you’re offering it in these sort of impromptu two minute conversations. Don’t save it up for your one-on-one conversation, and definitely don’t save it up for your performance review. What I’m talking about in Radical Candor, and there’s a bunch about this in the second edition, but what I’m talking about, it’s not performance management. It’s really developing people. It’s really these two minute impromptu conversations. By far and away the best radical candor I’ve ever gotten in my career has happened in these two minute conversations, where somebody would pull me aside right after a meeting, and we’re just walking to our next meeting. It’s no extra time, it doesn’t cost any money. All it takes is enormous emotional discipline. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it is fast, and it is free.
Kim Scott: 00:26:52 These two minute conversations, and you want to go into these two minute conversations making sure that you’re stating your intention to be helpful, and also in a very humble mindset, because you may be wrong about what you’re saying and that’s okay. You don’t have to be right about all your feedback. What you do have to do, is to make sure that you’re saying, “Look, here’s what I see, and I’m offering it to you as a gift.” It’s a gift in one of two ways, it’s either a gift because I’m right about what I see. By telling you about it, you can change it, or it’s a gift because I’m wrong about what I think, and only by telling you what I think, do I give you the opportunity to change my mind.
Erin Sparks: 00:27:36 Absolutely. It’s about delivering that context. Keep on going. You have one more tier of that, right?
Kim Scott: 00:27:43 Yeah. You want to be helpful, you want to be humble, you want to do it immediately. Don’t wait. You want to do it whenever possible in person. There’s something like 90% of communication it turns out is nonverbal, so that’s why it’s good you’re watching me. You can see all my hand gestures. You learn a lot from, I’m sure my hand gestures are perfect.
Erin Sparks: 00:28:03 Yeah, we had a 3D effect going on there for a second.
Kim Scott: 00:28:07 It is really important because as I said before, radical candor gets measured not at your mouth, but at the other person’s ear. It’s very hard to know over a tool, over chat, what’s going on at someone else’s ear. If you can’t do it in person, at least do it over video. Definitely not asynchronously. That’s really important.
Erin Sparks: 00:28:30 Absolutely. That’s incredibly important because there’s so many fallback points where people just email something, and not realizing how the tone can be perceived. So many things wrong with texting criticism.
Kim Scott: 00:28:44 Yeah, don’t break up over text, and don’t offer criticism over text.
Erin Sparks: 00:28:50 For that employer, that’s soliciting a candored queries before ever delivering their own. There’s also one important thing, and I’m sure you mentioned it, is they have to act upon some of that criticism that they receive, right?
Kim Scott: 00:29:10 Yeah. I think rewarding the candor is very important. If you’re the employee, and your boss criticizes you, if you agree with the problem, you better fix it. If you disagree with the problem, you need to offer some explanation of why you disagree, and that sounds scary. It sounds scary. Your boss gives you some feedback, you disagree with the feedback, and so what do you do? What do you do when you disagree with your boss’s feedback? Because you don’t want to look defensive. I think the most important thing is to find the five or 10% of whatever was said that you do agree with, and give voice to what you agree with, and then say, “I want to think about the rest of it, then I want to get back to you,” and then do get back to them.
Kim Scott: 00:30:02 By the way, this is also true if you’re the boss, and your employee gives you feedback. When you get back to them, you need to remember this, a good disagreement can often improve a relationship, but ignoring what the other person said to you has never improved any relationship to my knowledge. You want to make sure that you’re offering a fuller explanation of why you disagree, but you also want to offer this in the spirit of listen, challenge, commit. At some point, you’ve just got to get on board.
Erin Sparks: 00:30:35 There has to be action from those types of critiques. Where I was going regarding the employer, doesn’t that boss have to demonstrate whenever they’re soliciting that type of criticism, they’ve got to be able to establish trust that they’re going to act upon, that even if it’s a morsel of what the employees give them. That’s also something that could easily be ignored by that asshole boss, is that they’ll do it, and they’ll placate, but they’ll never actually listen, or use that as an actual olive branch to be able to create that bridge of trust. You’ve got to be able to act upon the things that people tell you.
Kim Scott: 00:31:17 Yeah, yeah, yeah. If all you do is you say, “Thank you for the feedback,” what the other person hears is, “F you.” I had a boss who really was not open to feedback, but he went on this listening tour, and all that listening tour meant was that everybody had to do a bunch of PowerPoint decks, and waste a bunch of time. Then he did what he was going to do in the first place, and it was one of the things that drove me out of that company. I hated it.
Erin Sparks: 00:31:46 Yeah, that’s pointless. I’m sure that as you’ve been consulting different organizations, you come across that high D, or that type A, that they’re not in the space of even thinking that they’re, they’re not beyond reproach, but they are certainly believing so, right?
Kim Scott: 00:32:07 Yes. Yes it is. It can be really difficult to break through to a person who is pretty convinced they’re always right. On the other hand, I will also say that it’s often easier than you think. People usually, even people who seem extremely confident, if you approach them in the right way and with the right level of question, and the right level of humility, it’s usually easier than you imagined to break through that kind of hyper confidence.
Erin Sparks: 00:32:41 Fear is the key component that keeps people from communicating with clarity, and intent, and care. There’s so much trepidation on, “I don’t know how he’s going to feel about this. I don’t know what she’s going to say. I’m just going to sit on my hands,” because it’s a lot easier to just be alone on the boat, than helping not only constructively in a particular project, but for a person.
Erin Sparks: 00:33:05 So this next chapter here, or I should say the next area of conversation is about employees. Certainly if you work in a space where the boss is actually open to criticism, open to candored conversation, what a fantastic environment, but I’m sure it’s a rarity.
Kim Scott: 00:33:25 It’s not as rare as you would imagine. I think often leaders, they want to be open to it. They know they should be open to it, but they don’t know how to approach it. I think also there’s… Very often we treat, and I’ve been guilty of this a lot myself, we treat our managers, our bosses, kind of like a projection screen for all our unresolved [inaudible 00:33:54]. We often kind of assume the worst possible intent of our bosses. Sometimes I think that one of the things about caring personally, if you imagine what moves us down on that dimension of radical candor, I think there’s a tendency at work to treat your peers like enemy combatants, to treat your boss like a tyrant to be toppled, and to treat your employees like pawns on a chessboard. If all of us can check that tendency, and to realize, “My boss is not this tyrant who I need to topple, all my boss is a human being with whom I can communicate.” I think the more we can put hierarchy to the side, all of us, the easier radical candor becomes.
Erin Sparks: 00:34:44 Absolutely. Absolutely. Speaking of that next step, thanks for the segue, is candor with your peers. Even removing the obvious combatant concept, feedback if it’s available or elicited, which is great if it’s elicited, but…
Kim Scott: 00:35:03 Often it’s not.
Erin Sparks: 00:35:05 On top of that, it can be perceived as manipulative very, very easily, where it could very well not be. Again, you have to deliver all candor through this, not filter, but this behavior of listening intently, and understanding that it’s the perception that they’re understanding, not what’s coming out of your mouth, right? How do you guide peers to be able to constructively criticize someone that they are right up against him in cubicle, or they are in charge of a particular project, and that person’s looking to be able to demonstrate to their boss how great they’re doing, and they’re not wired to actually be receptive of that criticism? How do you guide that employee?
Kim Scott: 00:35:55 Yeah. Yeah. It’s a really important question. One thing I think can help is make sure you have these conversations in private, whatever you do don’t criticize your peer in front of their boss. It sounds obvious, and yet often in a meeting, you forget that you could just pull that person aside after the meeting, and talk to them for two minutes in private.
Erin Sparks: 00:36:15 That’s incredibly important right there.
Kim Scott: 00:36:18 Yeah. Yeah, because if you criticize a person in front of their boss, odds are they’re going to feel more threatened. When we feel threatened, our lizard brain turns on, and we literally can’t hear what the other person is saying. If you turn on someone’s lizard brain, by doing that you’re really wasting your breath, because they actually just can’t hear you.
Erin Sparks: 00:36:43 That’s always that lizard brain triggers whenever there’s a flight response, or a threat.
Kim Scott: 00:36:50 Yeah. Fight or flight. Our brain turns off and our instinct of self preservation turns on.
Erin Sparks: 00:36:57 Love it, the lizard brain.
Kim Scott: 00:36:58 Yeah, watch out, watch out. Don’t try to turn on someone’s lizard brain. I think the other thing to remember for your peers, but really for everybody is that when it comes to social interactions, in general we have a negativity bias because we learn from our mistakes. But when it comes to social interactions, I think our negativity bias is especially strong. We’re especially afraid of what might happen, and that’s because for most of evolution, if we got thrown out of the tribe, we were dead. So we were very, very, very conservative about our social interactions. I would encourage people to try radical candor, and try it gently. Try it with spinach in your teeth, try it with little things.
Kim Scott: 00:37:42 You’ll find that nine times out of 10, people actually appreciate the stuff that you’re telling them.
Erin Sparks: 00:37:48 Absolutely.
Kim Scott: 00:37:51 One time out of 10, you’re going to have a radical candor train wreck. I don’t want to over promise, and I’ll talk to you about how to handle those radical candor train wrecks, but why would you optimize for the one time out of 10 that things are going to go badly, when nine times out of 10 they’re going to go well?Becoming more aware of your negativity bias around these kinds of interactions has been really helpful.
Kim Scott: 00:38:15 What do I mean? How can you be more aware of your negativity bias? It’s kind of abstract advice. Specifically what can you do? Think about a moment when your boss criticized you or somebody criticized you, and maybe it stung a little bit in the moment, but it helped you for the next 10 years. As you begin to see it as an act of kindness, you’ll be both more receptive to it, but you’ll also feel less afraid to offer it. I think storytelling is actually something that’s really important for radical candor. One of the things that we’ve really worked on with Second City, in fact, we’ve developed a sitcom with Second City, and the sitcom sort of makes fun of ourselves a little bit, makes fun of radical candor, shows a couple of radical candor trainer X. But it often shows how it goes well, and why it goes well, so it’s sort of a show, don’t tell.
Erin Sparks: 00:39:10 That is awesome. It puts it into practicality. What better a bridge creator than just humor, and be able to just laugh at yourself. It just breaks down all these barriers. So you do mention several times, you’ve mentioned praise sandwiches, and that focusing on the criticism is sometimes far outweighed then focusing on some of the praise. You got to be able to be careful of how you’re delivering that criticism, and you need to realize that it’s not, the praise, correct, praise type of scenario. That’s a praise sandwich, but yet you got to invest on both sides of that criticism.
Kim Scott: 00:39:55 Yes and no. Yes and, I guess. I’m going to use my good improv skills. Yes and, yes, it’s really important to remember to focus on the good stuff as I said before, and it’s also really important to be very specific and very sincere when you offer praise. I think one of the mistakes that people make about radical candor is that they think that praise is the way that you show you care, and criticism is the way that you challenge directly. Actually that’s not quite accurate, because good praise should both show you care, and it should also challenge people to do more of whatever was so great, and good criticism should show you care, and it should challenge people to do better in the future. I think it’s really important to think clearly about the importance of both praise and criticism, and to think about them as separate things.
Kim Scott: 00:41:01 I think one of the problems with the so-called feedback sandwich, I think there’s a less polite term for that. I don’t know if I’m allowed to say it, but one of the problems with that technique is that it tends to encourage people to say something they don’t really mean, sounding insincere, and then to say something really harsh, and then to say something else they don’t really mean. You want to make sure that your praise is important onto itself, that it’s its own thing. In fact, some advice that I offer to people is maybe get a little bit more nervous about your praise, and a little bit less nervous about your criticism.
Kim Scott: 00:41:44 One of the questions that one of my colleagues at Apple used to ask, and we taught this class managing at Apple was, “How much time do you spend thinking about the details when you’re going to praise someone? And how much time do you spend thinking about the details when you’re going to criticize?” Basically people spent no time thinking about their praise, and a lot of time thinking about their criticisms. One of the things that can be helpful is to remember that with your praise, if it’s something you would say to your dog or to a child, it’s not specific or sincere enough. Make sure that you use something like situation, behavior, impact, for both praise and criticism. Does that make sense?
Erin Sparks: 00:42:29 Absolutely. That’s where I was going is, you got to focus on it. Don’t get distracted, but at the same time know how you’re delivering it, because it really could fall like a thud and be disingenuous, perceived as disingenuous, and then ultimately nothing is really found through that particular exercise.
Erin Sparks: 00:42:50 I want to move outside of employment real quick, in the few minutes that we have left. Really, there’s so much inside of the employee employer relationship, and between employees. We certainly recommend our audience grab a hold of the book, because there’s great information there, but I do want to talk about external candor inside of a particular industry, or society collectively. Candor outside the workplace versus combativeness, and there’s such an environment now in social media where people think that they’re actually telling the truth, or that it’s valuable, this type of just raw critique that’s so pronounced in social media. Are people learning to distrust more and more that type of, even something a frank discussions, because of the abuse that they are actually seeing inside of society right now?
Kim Scott: 00:43:53 I think part of what is happening online, and our online lack of discourse, part of the problem is that we’re not offering our opinions in person, so we don’t get that feedback on what we’re saying. Also I think there’s kind of a measurement problem, because if you state an opinion with some sort of moral authority, and some outrage online, you’re more likely to get likes, you’re more likely to get a response.
Erin Sparks: 00:44:36 The dopamine injections is right there.
Kim Scott: 00:44:36 Yeah. Yeah, but if you said the same thing at a dinner party, you would not get likes. You would get frowns. You’d get some skeptical looks. Hypocrisy is ancient and moral grandstanding is ancient. I think that moral grandstanding when we’re at a dinner party, or talking to real people live, tends to get frowned upon. Whereas online, for whatever reason, it tends to get a positive response.
Erin Sparks: 00:45:10 It is literally one, you’re removing yourself out of the equation, because you have no direct consequence to that type of communication. On top of it, you’re getting affirmation along with that. It’s just a recipe for disaster. Are people more and more tone deaf to any type of criticism? I mean constructive criticism I should say, because we’re just in this society where if we don’t want to hear that particular message, we tune out. We tune out, we can unfollow so easily, you can very well unfollow a direct conversation that you’re having with an a peer.
Kim Scott: 00:45:53 Yeah, it’s interesting if you look at the demographics of our cities, and of our country, you actually find that something similar is happening with where we live. For example, I grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, and I love my hometown and I love my family, but I was super liberal, and Memphis, Tennessee was not. At least the part of Memphis where I grew up was not super liberal. I actually wound up leaving for that reason.
Kim Scott: 00:46:32 I didn’t think that I could start a career in my early internship in Memphis, a bank executive came up to me and he said, “Oh, you’re an intern. I didn’t know they let us hire pretty girls.” He didn’t mean any harm, he was actually just trying to be charming, but I was 18, I didn’t know what to say. I decided in that moment, “I’ll never be taken seriously here.” And his words, even though he didn’t mean any harm, they exiled me from my home, so I left town.
Kim Scott: 00:47:08 I think this also has happened, if you look at at New York or California, which are the places I moved besides Moscow, and you look at how people voted, the super majority is really large. If you look in different parts of the country, it’s a different large super-majority. I think it’s not entirely fair to blame only the internet on this, but the internet certainly exacerbates it.
Erin Sparks: 00:47:42 Absolutely, and you’re seeing kids more and more that can’t actually have a conversation, but they can certainly tweet or text themselves. Anyway, not to get in my old stodgy routine there, but my other question actually kind of connected and synced up with this, is politics and candor. Something I think is on people’s mind more and more, is what is supposed to be candor has made its way into politics. Now there’s literally, I mean, the biggest elephant in the room is Trump. Does he actually even use candor?
Kim Scott: 00:48:22 I wouldn’t say so. I don’t see a lot of care personally, in a lot of what he says. I think there’s kind of some movement, my sense is there’s some movement between obnoxious aggression, and manipulative insincerity. I can’t say what’s really on his mind, but that’s what it appears to me. I will also say this, it was really interesting. I was invited to speak at this group of policy thinkers, and I’m pretty outspoken as being super liberal on Twitter or whatever. I don’t hide my opinions, and I assumed incorrectly that this was a liberal policy group. I realized a couple of days before I went that it was a super conservative policy group, and so I thought, “Well this’ll be interesting. We’ll try to use radical candor to have a conversation,” not only about management because that’s what they were having me there for, but also about politics.
Kim Scott: 00:49:26 I think there’s this saying that politics divides, and I think we got out of the habit as a nation of having conversations about important political issues around the dinner table or whatever. I think that’s also if we could learn to have some in person conversations. So anyway, I went and I did the radical candor talk, and I mentioned this about can we learn how to be radically candid, not only about performance feedback at work, but about political issues? A woman came up to me afterwards and she said, she asked me my views on guns, abortion, a few things. She looked at me kind of surprised, and she said, “You don’t seem like an evil person.”
Erin Sparks: 00:50:14 Oh my gosh, are you serious?
Kim Scott: 00:50:18 I could laugh at her, but I had kind of, when I stood up in front of this audience, I looked out at these people and I was like, “These are my fellow citizens. These people are not my enemies. We should be talking to each other.” So I would love to have more conversations like that.
Erin Sparks: 00:50:37 The problem is when you bring radical candor outside of family, outside of the work environment, you’ve got one problem is that you still have to be able to present that you care about the opposing discussion, and not be combative. To your point, that’s what you’re trying to demonstrate is that you care about the debate, care about how to actually agree upon things, not just go to the fences and lambast, and just verbally abuse people because of the alternate position that they take. That humanity, that civility is just wrecked in politics, right?
Kim Scott: 00:51:22 It does seem to be wrecked. I think it’s important to think about the word civility, because there’s what to be angry about and it’s okay to be angry about these issues. These are issues that we care very much about. I think very often when I’m having a conversation with someone about something that I care deeply about, but I know that I disagree with them. I go into the conversation and I try to do a couple of things. One, I’m not actually trying to get to agreement with that person, because if I’m trying to change their mind, I’m probably going to be frustrated by the conversation.
Kim Scott: 00:52:00 So instead I have a couple of goals. One goal is to challenge my own thinking, and to clarify my own thinking. If this person can make an argument about something I disagree, take whatever issue, I think we should have more gun control. Maybe other people disagree with me. If they can make some new arguments that I haven’t heard before, and if they can challenge my thinking, even if I don’t change my mind and they don’t change their mind, I’ve improved my thinking, I’ve improved the quality of my thinking, for that I can be grateful. The other thing that helps is I’m trying to get to know this person better, and trying to understand this person better, I’m not necessarily trying to change this person.
Erin Sparks: 00:52:51 There it is right there, and that’s what we miss is that it’s perfectly legitimate to have an alternative position, getting to know the other part. That’s essential in debate training, defending yourself with the opponent’s argument, and be able to understand how they make up their argument is one of the best ways to be able to actually persuasively change the debate to a win there. But more importantly is that you got to show that you care about the situation, and you respect the individuals that are in there.
Erin Sparks: 00:53:24 I tell you what, it just turns into right now, verbal abuse, it’s immediate hate. I just want to reference Radical Candor, there’s a key concept of caring that’s right at the center of it. We certainly want this to be fostering more and more opportunities. You just kind of reprogram people. The sitcom concepts are fantastic because people can actually go through the process, but we do need to rewire ourselves to get back to the heart of, that person sitting across from you is a human being, has feelings, and you just don’t light the world on fire whenever they disagree with one iota of your particular position. Sorry, I’m on a rant here.
Kim Scott: 00:54:10 Yeah, amen. I agree with everything you’re saying. I think there’s another thing that that can be helpful as well, because very often we feel a great sense of morality around these issues that we’re disagreeing with. I think it’s so important to remember that you can still believe that the issue that you’re talking about, and that you’re disagreeing about, and that you’re debating about is a moral issue without dismissing the whole person as immoral.
Erin Sparks: 00:54:44 Yep. Well, it takes a maturity. It takes a maturity that I think we’ve lost as a society, or at least from the throws of social media, because there’s no immediate consequences there. You’re absolutely right, is that there does need to be that human factor appreciated above all other things, right?
Kim Scott: 00:55:05 Yes. It’s interesting, when I first published the book, I wanted to create an app to help people be more radically candid. Of course, I’m sitting here in Silicon Valley, what else would I do? There’s an app for that. I started this company with the co-founder, and we built one app and we built another app, and we built a third app, and none of them were working. Then I was watching my daughter at a performance, and she was up on stage, she was eight years old up on stage singing. Believe it or not, just me and I was filming it. I was sort of looking at her on my phone, and then I glanced up from my phone, and looked at my actual daughter on the actual stage, and my eyes filled with tears. A very different emotional response than I had to watching it on the phone.
Kim Scott: 00:55:52 I realized, this app is a value subtracting round trip. What we’re trying to do is teach people to put their phones away, look each other in the eye, and have a conversation, a real human conversation. That’s something that an app probably, we haven’t built that app yet, so we have to practice having conversations.
Erin Sparks: 00:56:12 The app is literally putting the phone down, face down. Well, Kim it’s always a pleasure to talk to you. I really appreciate the time spent today. We wish you all the best with the new release of the book, it’s already out, right?
Kim Scott: 00:56:26 Yes. It’s out.
Erin Sparks: 00:56:27 It’s out, moving. We certainly wish you all the best with your endeavors in the Second City realm, as well as your organization. You’re providing consultation for an enterprise level organizations around the planet. If you as an employee, or a COO, or a CEO of an organization needs this type of embrace inside your organization, reach out to Kim, and find an opportunity to be able to sit down and have at this radical candor discussion of what you really need, and solicit a little bit of a criticism.
Kim Scott: 00:57:03 Yes. Yeah. Try it. Try it. I promise you it works.
Erin Sparks: 00:57:06 It does work. It does work. Well, final thought here for our listeners who haven’t taken that particular road of being able to deliver caring, compassionate criticism, there’s a lot of fear there. What are your first recommendations for the employer? And then secondly, the employee.
Kim Scott: 00:57:28 My first recommendation for everyone is the same. That recommendation is right now take a moment, and think about what’s going to be your go to question for soliciting criticism. Because if all you do is you say, “Do you have any feedback for me?” I can already tell you the answer, “Oh no, everything’s fine,” nobody wants to give you criticism. What is going to be your question? The one that I like to use is, “What could I do, or stop doing that would make it easier to work with me?” But a woman, Christa Quarles, who I work with, she was the CEO of Open Table, she said, “I could never ask that.” My question is, “Tell me why I’m smoking crack.” So there’s a lot of different ways to ask a question. You got to ask it in a way that is authentic to you, and that shows the other person you really want to hear it.
Erin Sparks: 00:58:16 That goes in so many different conversations. It’s just not in the work environment. It’s in life, it’s in politics, it’s society in general. For our audience we certainly want you to find Kim on her Twitter handle @candor. Facebook is Radical Candor, LinkedIn Candor-Inc, and Instagram Radical Candor Official is their Instagram. We really thank you in all candor. Thank you very much for returning and unpacking this. I do appreciate it. I told you last time that it was a slap in the face to me, and I really do appreciate, and tried to embrace these principles regularly since I read your books. So thanks again for just creating it because it’s necessary for business owners like myself, to really realize what their role is, and they have to listen and they have to be open, and they have to deliver with compassion, any type of criticism. So thank you so much.
Kim Scott: 00:59:18 Well, thank you. A great conversation, and I hope that slap in the face was delivered with real compassion.
Erin Sparks: 00:59:25 It certainly was. All right, we’ll talk to you soon Kim.
Kim Scott: 00:59:27 All right. Thank you.
Erin Sparks: 00:59:29 All right, so don’t forget to like and subscribe to the EDGE of the Web YouTube channel. Make sure that you go live with us each and every Monday. If you’re feeling up to it, pop on over to our iTunes channel to be able to give us a review. We’d love to hear from you. Make sure you circle back around, and take your poll over an edgeofthewebradio.com. If you’re a listener, let us know how we’re doing, what you’d like to hear more of. Check all the insider information, videos, transcripts, much more. Join the newsletter as well.
Erin Sparks: 00:59:57 I forgot to mention the newsletter, text to the number 22828, the word edge, talk and join right there, or join on edgeofthewebradio.com. Next week we’re going to be talking to Robert Rose. Huge fan of his content, marketing perspectives, and don’t miss us at SMX, coming up to the 19th and the 20th of February. Do not be a piece of cyber driftwood. We’ll talk to you next week. Bye bye.