Candour – the essence of feedback

A while back I remember @donjled talking to a group of managers and emphasising the difference between candour and honesty. For me, honesty can be restricted to facts, even to a subset of facts. By contrast, candour engages our emotions and challenges us to deal with ‘the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth’.

This memory was rekindled when I read an article about Kim Scott (@kimballscott). Scott talks about the value of radical candour, which see describes as a combination of challenging directly and caring personally.

“Caring personally makes it much easier to do the next thing you have to do as a good boss, which is being willing to piss people off.”

“It sounds so simple to say that bosses need to tell employees when they’re screwing up. But it very rarely happens.

She goes on to talk about criticising in private and praising in public, which is perfectly valid but not really new ground. Where Scott surprised me was when she talked about the graph shown below.

radical candorShe advocates that we should operate in the upper right quadrant – it may be hard, but it’s the best place to be. The surprise comes with her choice of second best – it’s lower right.

“If you can’t offer radical candor, the second best thing you can do is be an asshole.”

I recognise the sense in this, but it feels like an alien place to be. But if my interest is in the greater good, I need to buckle up and go to that uncomfortable place. Any thoughts?

(Kim Scott also refers to guidance instead of feedback. I like this as it embraces the notion of direction, pointing to improvement that is key to good feedback.)

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