How To Give Feedback Using Radical Candor

How do I give someone constructive feedback?

Hand up if the thought of giving someone constructive feedback sends you down an analysis paralysis spiral.

If this is you, no need to stress. First of all you aren’t alone. One of the reasons I wanted to write this article is relationship management is one of the most frequent coaching topics my coaching clients come to the table with.

Relationships are part of business and having to manage those relationships by providing feedback is inevitable.

The good news is giving feedback doesn’t need to be stressful. There is a way to get good at giving feedback that lands and actually strengthens the relationship.

This post isn’t going to be a “7 steps to giving effective feedback” kind of post, because let’s be honest getting feedback that feels scripted sucks. So instead of a scripted process, I’m going to share with you a framework and three distinctions you can use to prepare for the conversation and set yourself up to go into any feedback conversation with clarity and authenticity.

How To Give Feedback Using Radical Candor

The framework I want to introduce you to is called Radical Candor. This framework was created by Kim Scott. Kim has a whole book on how to communicate with Radical Candor but I’ll break it down into one basic idea for you here:

Give feedback that challenges directly and is rooted in caring deeply for the individual.

The radical candor model is a typical two axis model. Axis one, is caring deeply, axis two is challenging directly. From here there are one of four quadrants you can land in when giving feedback.

The first quadrant we will talk about is the “Obnoxious Aggression” aka asshole box. From my experience the fear of coming across as an asshole is what hangs most people up when giving feedback. One of the reasons I love this model so much is that it gives you a way out of coming across as an asshole. The only reason you would come across as an asshole is if your feedback was directly challenging without coming from a place of care. As long as you remember to root your feedback in a place of care with the intention to help you will not fall into this box.

In fact, from my experience where most people land is in the
“Ruinous Empathy” box. Caring so much that the communication is indirect and unclear. The result is the person receiving the feedback is unclear about what just happened. You beat around the bush out of fear of hurting the person’s feelings but now they have no idea how and where to make any meaningful changes.

If you remember one thing about this, remember this…. when you communicate directly and from a place of care feedback is a gift. Radical Candor is just this, a gift.

At its essence this idea is simple, that’s why it’s so great.

The radical candor model is really effective at outlining how to deliver feedback but it  doesn’t deal with the content of the feedback.

“What exactly should I say?”, is a question I get asked a lot.

Again, no script is ever going to come across authentically and with a high level of care so ditch the idea of having to say things just so. Instead two guardrails to guide the content of your feedback are:

  1. Facts
  2. Observational Feedback

Ok, so what are facts? Facts are what is, NOT what you made something mean.

Let’s work with an example here to make this point clear; say, you need to give a team member some feedback on the quality of their work. You have noticed that it has been going downhill over the past four months ever since you have started to let this team member work from home.

So let’s pull apart what is fact and what might be some story elements that could get conflated.

The fact might be that they have had some grammar and spelling errors in the last two presentations they shared.

The story you might add to it is that this is the result of being able to work from home, that they they are checked out, that they aren’t spending the same amount of time on their work as they once were.… none of these things are what is, they are possible interpretations of the facts.

Getting crystal clear on what is fact vs. story ahead of time is key to ensuring you are dealing with tangible things that can be addressed.

Once you are clear on this you want to make sure to share your feedback from a place of your perspective / observations.

This is an important distinction to make. Effective, direct feedback that is challenging, should be framed as an observation rather than an accusation. To continue with our example, sharing something like, “I’d like to share with you an observation I had around your last two presentations. I know it is important to you to present your best in those meetings and your last two presentation decks had multiple spelling and grammar errors, were you aware of this?”

Clear, direct, no story.

This example also leads us to the final point I want to make on what makes an effective feedback conversation.  This is meant to be a conversation, not, a monologue. Get into dialogue around the feedback asking for the other person’s perspective. Ask, then really listen and get curious. From here real change can be made and each person will leave the conversation feeling seen, heard, and understood even if it wasn ‘t the most comfortable feedback to get.  

So let’s recap:

  1. Communicate with radical candor
  2. Separate out story from fact
  3. Share observational feedback
  4. Create a two way dialogue

Getting good at giving and receiving feedback is essential as a leader. Like a muscle, this skill can be strengthened with practice. The more you lean into these conversations the more easeful they will become and your relationships will start thriving through your courage to truly lead.

Supporting leaders with these types of skills is something I’m passionate about as a coach.

If you want more support with leadership skills like this head on over the the Winning Academy website to learn more about the workshops and coaching programs that can support you in elevating and optimizing your effectiveness as the leader of your life.

Kristin Constable | Signature

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