Earlier this month, the local San Diego Ellevate Network chapter met at Lestat’s Coffee Shop in Hillcrest to discuss Kim Scott’s leadership book, Radical Candor. The subtitle, “How to be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity,” is a great, catchy summary of the book.
Ten professional women discussed the book, in a conversation led by one of the Ellevate chapter leaders. In addition to giving the group information about some of the key points from the book, the questions were carefully prepared so even people who have not read the book could easily participate in a discussion about bosses, employees, and teams.
Radical candor is described in the book as having two dimensions.
- Caring personally – finding a connection and understanding needs
- Challenging directly – telling people when work is good enough and when it isn’t
In our conversation, we delved into the caring personally topic, talking about the importance of setting expectations of boundaries between work and personal life. Several managers in the group discussed how hard it was to set those boundaries after working with people a while, so it’s best to set them up front, especially in casual offices.
Another management topic we discussed included the qualities of a good boss. Our group said a good boss doesn’t micromanage, gives feedback, accepts and asks for feedback, give clear expectations, empowers people with processes/checklists/information, has integrity (does what they say they’ll do), has vision/direction of where you are going and how to get there, leads by example, gets to know their team to understand strengths, understands individual differences in management needs, and cultivates a human connection.
An additional “good boss” quality is acting as a guide and not a boss, described as guiding employees’ careers and being transparent about whether tasks are important and what tasks achieve in relation to business goals. An interesting debate in this subtopic was the “compliment sandwich” strategy of giving feedback: saying something positive, then negative (what needs improvement), then more positive feedback. Another group member pointed out this sandwich isn’t always the best idea, because a lot of people only remember the last thing you said to them, not the part about needing improvement. I found this note interesting because it speaks to the conflicting advice found in different business books and resources. There isn’t one technique or example that applies to everything.
We discussed another part of the book about knowing the difference between employees who are rock start and employees who are superstars. Rockstars are good at what they do and happy to stay at their current level … it was news to me that not everyone wants to move up the ladder in their career. Superstars want a growth trajectory and a plan to move up.
One group member said her company has a book club where the team reads books such as Radical Candor, and then they discuss the books. She said this is helpful for bringing up discussions like this in a safe environment and not just at performance review time, when it could be too late to make a difference.
I met some new friends and neighbors at the coffee break and look forward to seeing them again at future Ellevate events! The next event is a pay negotiation workshop at Hera Hub Sorrento Valley on June 12. Last week there was a Women Leaders panel, I’ll post about it soon. If you’re not in San Diego, Ellevate has chapters around the country, so I hope you find an amazing group in your city!
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