Could this performance management trend turn your company around?
A lot has been said about ‘radical candour’ — an increasingly popular performance management trend that is gathering significant media coverage. Radical candour has been described as a “harsh but true” approach to feedback and has been tipped as the key to business success. It is a communication and feedback style utilised by Google and Twitter, but what exactly is radical candour, how can it impact our workplaces and how can we incorporate it into our performance management processes?
Radical candour is direct, authentic communication
Radical candour is a term coined by Google executive Kim Scott. As an example of radical candour, Scott points to an incident that happened to her following a presentation. Her boss approached her and Scott anticipated overt praise for her performance. Instead, her manager cautioned her about ‘umming’ and ‘ahhing’ during her speech. Scott waved off her constructive criticism, stating that in the grand scheme of things, the issue was hardly pressing. Her manager tried a few more times but to no avail. Finally, Scott’s manager bluntly told her that dropping the word ‘umm’ every three words made her sound stupid.
Though this might sound harsh, Scott states that this feedback was the kindest thing her manager had ever done for her. Scott states, “If she hadn’t said it just that way, I would have kept blowing her off. I wouldn’t have addressed the problem. And what a silly thing to trip you up!”
Scott’s manager’s blunt words showed her that she cared and respected her enough to speak directly and honestly. The forthrightness of the feedback not only made it simple for her to put her mistake right, but it became a philosophy she incorporated into every single professional relationship.
Radical candour is firm, but not cruel
One problem that might be encountered with the radical candour approach is that it is altogether too easy to cross the line that divides honesty and rudeness. Professionals shouldn’t use radical candour as an excuse to do and say what they please. At all times, employees and managers should consider whether their feedback is clear, constructive, objective and actionable. Scott insists that radical candour maintains a spirit of generosity. Done right, those who are given radical candour should be more confident in their ability to solve problems as they arise.
Millennials are eager for radical candour
Millennials, now the majority of the active workforce, want regular communication about their performance. They crave authenticity and transparency and it is only fair that they are given this standard of feedback. The alternative is a company of individuals who aren’t quite certain what they are doing or how they are performing. Companies that insist on sticking to old-fashioned methods of delivering feedback are going to find it increasingly difficult to retain quality employees who are serious about improving their performance.
Modern companies have already begun to adapt to this growing demand for real-time feedback, with the slow eradication of the annual performance review and the introduction of continuous performance management. Managers need to go one step further and stop tip-toeing around the feelings of millennials, who are far better at accepting negative feedback than popular stereotypes would have us believe. The key to getting employees to take constructive criticism on board and implement relevant suggestions is to be direct. Managers should avoid falling victim to “ruinous empathy” — the failure to have the courage to say what needs to be said.
Radical candour must work both ways
It should be noted that radical candour must work both ways. Employees need to feel free to give constructive feedback to management when needed. Managers shouldn’t get indignant when this occurs, but should instead accept the transparency, knowing that it will help to encourage real improvements in terms of work processes.
Introducing radical candour into your performance management system
If open and honest communication isn’t already part of your company culture, introducing it will require careful planning. This approach might need to be worked up to gradually and it will be infinitely easier if performance discussions are regular. Begin by introducing regular check-ins with your employees and encourage real-time feedback to be given between these discussions. Performance management software can streamline these processes and save everyone time. During check-in meetings, encourage open communication and honesty in relation to goal progress, strengths and areas for development. In time, you will be rewarded with a more productive and better performing organisation.