May 13, 2018

By Farhan Orzin

Who doesn’t love to get soft soap from their bosses? None would mind about that because sweet talk is always soothing. But, think of a bigger picture of you as a boss. Your perpetual sweet talk will always undermine your employee’s weaknesses and there will be none to point out what’s wrong. Then again, we’re not comfortable with harsh words from bosses either. Harsh leadership style won’t make you employee’s champion, that’s for sure. As a boss, it’s your moral obligation to clearly make your apprentice understand, what went right and most importantly, what went wrong. Great managers always keep a balance between guidance and dominance, which Tim Scott, CEO of Candor Inc., would like to call ‘Radical candor’.

When we enter into jobs, we are always advised to be professional. But, professionalism doesn’t mean to leave our humane characteristics behind. That is probably one of the very big mistakes in our leadership practice. Leaders need to provide continuous feedback to articulate each individual’s standing. Feedback is basically a combination of praise and criticism. The language of your feedback will set the tone of your message. But most importantly, the missing component in our culture is impromptu feedback. Saying ‘Okay’ after a presentation and ‘You could’ve done a lot better’ personally, can lead towards a massively different outcome. Bashing that individual formally could set negatively deceiving image of him. On the other hand, articulating what went wrong and how to tackle that, you’re showing two things: that individual’s weakness and your empathy towards him. This ‘caring personally’ is one crucial component of radical candor.

In order to practice best leadership style, you need to make your apprentice feel that you care personally. So that employees don’t need to rush for self-motivation, motivation should be right within the environment. Only caring won’t result in better performance. You need to blend another component for this secret recipe.

That other component is called ‘challenging directly’. Being a good boss, you not only need to care for people but also challenge them directly for any actions. Sometimes, challenging employees might sound impolite, but this leads to gain better judgement acuteness from your people. When people are accountable for their action, earnestness escalates within. Say what you think. Criticizing is considered negative in our society, but is necessary to make everyone understand what you wanted, how you wanted and what went wrong.

Now, let’s turn the table around. Being a boss you might be wrong sometimes. Can your employees criticize your decisions? If you are a great boss and run a successful company, you should provide the right, to criticize yourself, to the employees. Clarity leads towards better working environment and leadership practice. Great leaders believe in appraising each individual’s opinion, inferiority complex is just an outdated term for them. As a boss you should accept your mistake and not nag at your employees. 

Talking of radical candor, let’s explore the other quadrants a bit. If your boss is too polite and positive with you, he’s ruining your career unconsciously for sure. Kim Scott, who previously led AdSense, YouTube, Doubleclick Online Sales and Operations at Google, named this part ‘ruinous empathy’ and most of the management mistakes happen for this. Kim herself fell into this loop for a long time. Once she had an employee named Bob, who was terrible as his job. Kim waited nearly a year for Bob to improve by undermining his weaknesses, which was the terrible mistake she ever committed. Being unfairly treated, Bob’s performance impacted the whole team evidently. When Bob was first criticized, his first expression was ‘Why didn’t anyone tell me this before!’ That is the common mistake ‘too nice bosses’ make.

If you’re continuously challenging your employee’s performance without empathy, you fall in the ‘obnoxious aggression’ group. Most of the bosses who are goal oriented by any means, should fall in this group. This leaves us with the worst possible group ‘manipulative insincerity’: not challenging, not caring. Most of the time, we slide out of this behavior at our high school days and is pretty rare as well.

Great leaders of a company can’t ensure better environment unless they incorporate this practice to everyone. Leaders are for inspiring people and people make things happen. You won’t be considered a good leader unless you can influence your own people with your style. Do great business models always ensure best working environment? – No. Great model means great business, not great environment. There are companies making tons of money but not caring about their people just because ‘money is coming automatically’. However, better leadership practice with a blend of guidance and dominance can make your company a great one, which is proven.

Hence, it doesn’t matter whether you’re the boss who guides or dominates people, rather it matters how well balanced you are between these. Blending guidance with dominance is the secret recipe to your success. What should be the proportion? – You know it better for your environment.  Let’s break the stereotype of “bosses need to only dominate” or “bosses need to only guide”. Bosses should always deliver sweet criticism to guide you.

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