Radical Candor – Being a Better Leader

Leading a team is a journey, which is taken together as a single unit. The success enjoyed is from what the team achieves, not the individual. You are a leader; it is a scary, trying, but tremendously rewarding experience to take a collection of people into the fray daily and revel in the brilliance of camaraderie.

Having a vision

I was 21, had been with the company for 8 months and was given a team of 10 to lead. I had zero experience, even my fantasy football league team was in total disarray. However, what I did have was vision of what could be achieved. This was not a vision of what I could achieve personally or even the team; my vision was what the individual could achieve as being part of a cohesive unit.

Managers and Leaders can be guilty of only looking at the final goal, the overall target, and the bottom line. Whilst all of these things are important, the complexity of human goals can be lost in the shuffle. If focus is put on each team member, challenging them with direct goals and nurturing them, then not only will targets and bottom lines be achieved, but something you can’t measure, and is ultimately more important, will be achieved – engagement.

Why get out of bed!

Generally the higher up you go in an organisation the more motivated individuals are to get out of bed, get ready, travel to work and get things done. For some a little lower down the chain this attitude may not be as strong. As humans we need to feel valued, seek clarity to avoid confusion, and understand how our daily tasks make a difference, no one wants to be bored.

A good indicator for engagement is when members of the team ‘check in’ or seek updates and actively show signs that they feel the need to be in the loop and informed so they don’t miss out on anything. If this can be achieved, then things are on the right path resulting in everyone’s performance increasing and the number of ‘fires’ that need putting out decreases.

Over the last 11 years, I have managed a number of different teams, but the one constant has remained, compassion. I have cared personally for the team as well as challenging them. This is not just praising the members of the team when they have done something well, but also not beating around the bush and telling them directly when something hasn’t gone to plan. You will gain respect through honesty and your feedback will be appreciated. This sets very distinct expectations without dictating and lead to better, future outcomes.

6 of these years have been at Indigo Swan, where we have a diverse range of people and roles all with different time commitments, pressures & motivations which was something I hadn’t experienced previously. This has been a great opportunity to expand and adapt the skills I already had.

Positive cause & effect

Now I must admit that whilst leading the various teams over the years I didn’t have a clever management style that I told everybody about. Caring for your team on a personal level isn’t something that is covered in great detail during most leadership and management courses. This was just my nature and from day one this allowed me to get more out of my teams than I believe I would have been able to using traditional methods.

It is also important that when setting team members’ objectives that you explain why it is a benefit for them and not just the company. For example, if you want one of your team to assist you with a new training programme for new starters, don’t say “I need you to help me create a new training programme because the one we have isn’t very good.” Say something like “I would like to create a new training programme for new starters and I would really like you to help me. It will give you the opportunity to showcase your skills, create new opportunities for yourself and show your true value to the team and company.”

Radical Candor

A few months ago I came across an article by a lady called Kim Scott, called Radical Candor. Kim has been a director at Google as well as a faculty member of the Apple University, and when I read this I was blown away.

It completely summed up my management style and was so refreshing to hear someone talking about the type of things I had been using all these years. I have since had conversations with Kim and she was kind enough to share her thoughts on this article. Kim suggests remembering a handy acronym…

HHIPP: “Radical candor is humble, it’s helpful, it’s immediate, it’s in person — in private if its criticism and in public if it’s praise — and it doesn’t personalize.” That last P makes a key distinction: “My boss didn’t say, ‘You’re stupid.’ She said, ‘You sounded stupid when you said um.’ There’s a big difference between the two.”

The overall message of Radical Candor is to care personally and challenge directly. So do you and your team a favour and take a look around and ask yourself one question does this person understand why they are here? If the answer is no, then have a chat with them, find out what they want to achieve, what motivates them and most importantly set them some clear goals and don’t forget the follow up!

Enjoy it

Take the time to get to know each and every member of your team. Yes it’s tough but there will be something you both will connect on. Listen to them, be honest, be consistent and guide them on the journey with you and be the leader that you, they and your peers want you to be.

By James Groves
Head of Client Experience

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Posted by James Groves in Business