Budgeting and Planning: Why Is It So Important?

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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Are you trying to build a culture of candor in your organization? Do you need Radical Candor resources to help you with the feedback process?

A culture of radical candor includes giving and receiving direct and helpful feedback. These Radical Candor resources will show how to start the process by asking for feedback.

Keep reading for some Radical Candor resources on requesting feedback.

Radical Candor Resources on Feedback

It’s likely that you can’t jump straight into giving radically candid feedback—sincere criticism and praise can be off-putting if you’ve built a culture that relies on too-nice, dishonest feedback. You can get your team used to the concept of radical candor by first asking for radically candid guidance and modeling an appropriate response. Once you’ve built up trust in this way, you can move on to giving radically candid feedback. 

How to Ask for Radically Candid Feedback 

When you become a boss, you’ll likely find that people are more distrusting of your intent, or you may find that your new authority brings out a new side of you. Subsequently, your team won’t begin trusting you until you’re actively working on reasons that they should. At this stage, many bosses get caught up in trying to earn their team’s respect, but if you’re too interested in respect, you’re likely to feel defensive and reactive when you’re criticized. Instead, focus on learning how to accept criticism—seeing you react well to criticism will naturally build your team’s trust and their respect.  

You can jumpstart this trust-building process by asking your team to provide you with radically candid guidance and responding in a trustworthy manner. There are five steps to effectively soliciting and responding to criticism and pushing your conversations in a productive direction.

Step #1: Request Public Criticism 

Criticism of your employees should always happen in private, but as the boss, you need to be willing to be publicly criticized. This accomplishes several goals. First, you demonstrate to your team that there’s value in criticism, and that its intent is to make everyone better at their jobs—not to be hurtful. Second, responding well to criticism establishes you as a strong leader who isn’t afraid to make mistakes and is open to learning. And third, public criticism allows you to get everyone’s feedback as efficiently as possible—if you have a big team, you’d miss out on hearing many of your employees’ voices because it’s impossible to schedule everyone for a meeting. Furthermore, you’ll save time by hearing each criticism once, instead of over and over again across multiple meetings. 

Your employees will likely be hesitant to jump into this conversation, so you should find a team member who seems comfortable giving you feedback. Ask them to offer some criticism or disagreement at the next staff meeting. They might be uncomfortable with the request, but don’t back down on it—explain why it’s important to you to get feedback that everyone can see.

Step #2: Kick Things Off With a Question

It’s often uncomfortable for employees to criticize their boss, so keep a close eye on the balance of praise and criticism you’re receiving in public feedback sessions. If you find you’re getting mostly praise, directly ask for criticism. Asking questions can provide a jumping-off point for coming up with issues that need addressing, and helps cut through the discomfort of offering criticism. Helpful questions include, “How can I better support you?” or, “What is something I’m doing that you find frustrating?”

Step #3: Push Through Discomfort to Get Answers

Even with a prompt, your employees may still be hesitant to offer criticism. Don’t let their discomfort make you uncomfortable enough to wrap up the conversation quickly, or take their silence to mean there are no problems. Hesitation and silence don’t indicate an absence of issues—they indicate that you’ll have to keep pushing to get sincere feedback from your employees. There are several ways to accomplish this:

  • Create silence: Count to six after asking for criticism. Your employee may be more uncomfortable with silence than with criticizing you, and will say what’s on their mind to fill the space. 
  • Keep asking: Keep insisting that they come up with something. You could say, “You’re usually great at pinpointing improvements that need to be made, so I’m sure you have valuable feedback on how I can improve.” 
  • Notice body language: If someone says they have no criticism, but their body language clearly says otherwise, bring it to their attention. You could say, “You’re agreeing with me, but your face is tense and your arms are crossed. Tell me what’s really on your mind!”

Don’t be a bully about pushing for answers, however. If your employees really can’t think of any criticism, ask them to think about it and schedule a follow-up meeting to discuss. It’s vitally important that you stick to this follow-up meeting, so your employees understand that you truly care about getting their feedback. 

Step #4: Manage Your Response 

When someone offers you criticism, it’s crucial that you respond in a way that shows that their criticism is welcome and well-received—this is where trust is built. Don’t tell them how their criticism is wrong or not radically candid. Doing so will make them hesitant to share feedback again. Instead, try to listen for valuable parts of the criticism that you can act on or respond to. Additionally, be careful not to become angry or defensive in response to what they’re saying. Instead, listen with the intent to clarify and fully understand the criticism. You can do this by repeating what’s been said and checking that your interpretation is correct. 

Consciously managing your response is especially important if you’re the type of person who’s uncomfortable with criticism and isn’t used to welcoming it—if you’re not in control of your response, you’re likely to become defensive and destroy trust instead of demonstrating the value of criticism. 

Step #5: Demonstrate Your Gratitude 

Showing your gratitude for criticism encourages people to keep giving it. The best way to show gratitude for criticism is responding with demonstrated change. If it’s a change that can be done right away, do so. If it’s a change that can’t be accomplished right away, make a perceptible effort toward the change. Imagine that you’re told that you tend to use a condescending tone when employees are talking about setbacks or obstacles they bump into. This isn’t a problem you can correct overnight—you often don’t even realize you’re doing it. You ask your employees to help you correct this behavior over the long term by simply saying “tone” as soon as they hear you being condescending

It’s important to express gratitude for criticism even when you think it’s unfair, or don’t agree. Arguing with or dismissing criticism you disagree with will only serve to undermine the trust you’re trying to build, so instead focus on ways to work through it. First, find something in the criticism that you can agree with—this demonstrates your openness to guidance and that you’re not shutting down completely. Then, make sure you fully understand what the other person is expressing—repeat the criticism back to make sure you’re both on the same page. Finally, tell them you’d like to think about it and get back to them. In your follow-up, explain clearly why you disagree, or why making a change won’t be possible—the other person might end up agreeing with you, seeing a hole in your logic you hadn’t considered, or they’ll stand by their comments. In any case, they’ll see that you took the time to engage with their criticism instead of writing it off.

5 Radical Candor Resources to Help Ask for Feedback

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  • 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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