Effective Collaboration: The Last Goal of Radical Candor

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Radical Candor" by Kim Scott. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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How do you encourage effective collaboration at work? How does radical candor help support collaborative relationships?

Effective collaboration allows for better results and a more satisfied team. To get to collaborative relationships, there are seven steps that you should follow.

Keep reading for the seven steps for facilitating effective collaboration.

Effective Collaboration

The fourth goal of a radically candid workplace is building a highly collaborative atmosphere and a team that works together to accomplish much more than you could individually. The principle of caring personally is especially important to a collaborative atmosphere, for several reasons. First, it allows you to invite an exchange of perspectives—that is, incorporating another’s way of thinking or doing things into your own way of thinking or doing things. Second, caring interrupts the self-interested mindset of focusing only on results. 

Charging ahead toward decisions and results—without caring about the people you work with—can cause a breakdown in your team. For example, at Google, Scott tried to change team structures and responsibilities drastically, without letting her team in on her decision-making process. While her ideas were good, the team fell apart. Because she’d acted alone, her team felt confused or personally targeted by her changes, and some people chose to ignore the proposed workflow. Some people, angry that she’d acted alone in such a drastic decision, even quit her team.

Accomplishments don’t come from diving into a problem alone, telling people what to do, and focusing only on results. They come from approaching problems and solutions collaboratively, setting your power aside, and focusing on your team members.

The Seven Steps

Effective Collaboration is a long process that should, at some point, involve every member of your team who will be affected by the outcome. There are seven steps to effective collaboration: listening, clarifying, debating, deciding, persuading, executing, and learning. While you want to move your team through the steps quickly, so that collaboration feels like a worthwhile task instead of a burdensome chore, don’t skimp on or skip over any of the seven steps for facilitating effective collaboration. The success of each step builds on the success of the one before.

Step 1: Listening

Your job as a leader is to listen to every person on your team, with the goal of amplifying their voice. You’ll usually resort to one of two types of listening: quiet listening and loud listening. It’s likely that you’ve already adopted one of these listening styles over your lifetime. You don’t need to change your listening style when you become a boss, but you do need to learn how to use your particular listening style effectively, and be in tune with how others receive it. 

Step 2: Clarifying

Ideas that aren’t totally clear or well thought-out are likely to be dismissed or rejected when presented to others—your job as a boss is to help your team members clarify their ideas for an audience. Your commitment to caring personally is helpful here, because your clarification suggestions will be most effective when you know who your team member is as a person and understand who she’ll be presenting her ideas to. Clarification has two main parts: letting your team member bounce ideas off you, and helping your team member know her audience. 

Step 3: Debating

Debate is an essential step in getting good results. When ideas can be discussed and improved, it leads to better decision-making and easier persuasion of the people who are going to execute or be affected by the decision. Some bosses think it’s better to make decisions on behalf of their team—it’s quicker and avoids the friction that often comes with debate—but not allowing team members to debate and talk through decisions creates distrust and feelings of being “left out,” which will make it harder to persuade people to future decisions. 

As the boss, you don’t need to be in every debate. However, you do need to foster a healthy debate culture among your team. Healthy debate culture doesn’t imply debates where there’s no real friction or big ideas to wrestle with. It means that debate is structured in such a way that it makes sense, is respectful, and doesn’t take too much emotional energy out of your team. There are six ways that you can help create a healthy debate culture.

Step 4: Deciding

When it comes time to make a decision, make sure the right people are the decision-makers. Keep in mind that the most senior people—and you, as the boss—are often considered decision-makers, but they’re not necessarily the people with the best information. Furthermore, know that the people who demand to make decisions shouldn’t be decision-makers. They tend to think they’re always right, and the refusal to consider any other perspectives or information leads to poor decision-making. 

Your decision-makers should be those who are close to the facts surrounding a situation, and thus have the best possible information to make a decision. Good bosses make sure that these people are given the clearance to make as many decisions as possible, instead of creating decision-making processes that favor senior people or higher management. 

Step 5: Persuading

It might feel pointless to put effort into persuading people to go along with a decision once you’ve already made it, but it’s critical that everyone who will be helping you execute the decision is persuaded of its value—skipping this step leaves key people feeling unimportant and disconnected. There are three steps to effective persuasion: listen to your audience’s feelings about the decision, prove the credibility of the person making the decision, and explain the logic behind the decision. 

Step 6: Executing

Your job as a boss is to get your team through the steps of collaboration as efficiently as possible, so they have time to execute on their ideas. You can accomplish this by keeping things efficient and scheduling execution time. 

  • Keep things efficient. Don’t waste your team’s time—make meetings as efficient as possible by starting on time or having your employees bring you a list of problems they need to sort out. Wrap up debates that are dragging on by appointing a decision-maker and setting a decision deadline. Do your best to protect your team from time-wasting policies from higher management. These efforts on your part give your team extra time to work on the things they need to execute, as well as the answers, clearance, or help they need to push toward results. 
  • Schedule execution time. Have your team members block off time in their calendars every week that’s dedicated to executing on ideas. Remind them that this should be considered as important a commitment as any other meeting.

While much of your contribution to collaborative work should be in the form of meetings and clearing the path for your employees, you shouldn’t stop all execution duties when you become a boss. It’s important to flex your own execution muscles from time to time. When you’re too separated from your team’s work or what it looks like to execute decisions in your organization, you won’t know how to adequately clarify their ideas or prepare them for debate or persuasion meetings. Stay connected by doing some of the work yourself.

Step 7: Learning

It’s crucial to examine results and note the ways that the collaborative process could have gone more smoothly or been improved, because this is where growth happens. It’s fairly common sense that you learn equally valuable lessons from your successes and your failures—but denial is a much more frequent reaction to failure than learning is. There are two reasons for this: expectations of consistency and burnout.

After you realize you’ve made a bad decision and have learned from it, you may find that people’s expectations of consistency drive them to blame your changing opinion on a lack of integrity. You can work against this by clearly communicating what new information caused you to change your mind 

Burnout and being worn down by issues in your work or personal life also makes failure difficult to learn from. It takes much less effort to move on quickly from the failure without looking at it too closely. You can work against this by remembering to practice your self-care method, which should help keep you centered in stressful situations. For example, Dick Costolo, the CEO of Twitter, practiced self-care by focusing on family time. He often turned down incredible opportunities and invitations to have dinner with his family almost every night. This commitment to his self-care helped him make tough decisions and stay calm even in the face of incredible backlash.

Effective Collaboration: The Last Goal of Radical Candor

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Kim Scott's "Radical Candor" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Radical Candor summary:

  • How you have to be direct with people while also caring sincerely for them
  • Why relationships are an essential part of successful leadership
  • How to create a strong team culture that delivers better results

Rina Shah

An avid reader for as long as she can remember, Rina’s love for books began with The Boxcar Children. Her penchant for always having a book nearby has never faded, though her reading tastes have since evolved. Rina reads around 100 books every year, with a fairly even split between fiction and non-fiction. Her favorite genres are memoirs, public health, and locked room mysteries. As an attorney, Rina can’t help analyzing and deconstructing arguments in any book she reads.

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