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Radical Candour: Marrying Two Core Values to Achieve a Desired Outcome

Kim Scott has an interesting book on the market at the moment called Radical Candour (yes, Canadian spelling imposed by yours truly). It deals with the age-old dilemma: do we speak our mind even if it is unpopular, or do we keep negative news and views to our self? Most of us have been taught that if we don’t have anything nice to say, it’s better not to say anything at all. While she claims this is a good adage for day-to-day life, it can be a disaster when adopted by managers.

Her book reminds me a lot of a leader I used to work with closely who valued being candid and direct above most other things. It gave him the reputation of being a straight-shooter, someone who lives by his principles, and eventually as someone who saved his company from potential ruin when faced with a public relations crisis. The downside was that people did not always like what he had to say. But at least you knew what he was thinking and therefore you could have a discussion and come to an agreement on critical issues. When agendas are hidden, it’s not so easy.

Here’s what Kim’s model looks like, a good old business school two by two matrix:

I find this a very apt model and useful for conversations with managers who are debating what to do with feedback for their direct reports. The insight in the model is that you can’t just challenge heartlessly. You need to come from a place of caring for people to buy into your constructive feedback and could potentially be taken the wrong way. That takes relationship-building first to build this understanding that you do indeed care. When we have a core value of transparency, sometimes we can develop the habit of just sharing all the time without thinking. This is because looking at the value in a vacuum teaches us to say what we mean, always. Stop and ask yourself, do I have the relationship with this person to pull this off effectively?

Similarly, when you care but don’t share, you’re being guilty of just being too nice. Your fear of hurting the other person with your feedback makes you hold back and then the other person never receives the gift you had to give. Because as a society we tend to hold back negative feedback, it means we hold back development when it comes to our direct reports. As an HR consultant, especially in career transition, I run across this in my work a lot: people are not getting the feedback that they critically need from their managers to be successful.

This concept that perhaps we need to marry two values together to get the desired outcome sparked a lot of thought for me. Innovation married with the Drive for Profitability, the latter that I saw in a company’s core values just today. Agility connected to being an Effective Change Agent. What values need to be looked at in tandem in your organization?

Sherry Pedersen-Ajmani is an Executive Coach and Organizational Development consultant in Toronto and Principal at Contact her at or follow her on Twitter @SP_talentcraft.

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