At 10Fold, we value our culture and see it as a differentiator for both our employees and clients. We define it with “TAFFI”: teamwork, accountability, fun, fascination and integrity. (Read more about that here.) But every company must intentionally “work on” their culture to ensure that it grows better over time. That effort led us to read and implement key points from Radical Candor by Kim Scott this year.
Before I read the book, I figured by its title that it was just a new excuse for people to be unnecessarily blunt in the workplace. Turns out I was wrong (it does happen!). For organizations that are really struggling with their culture, Radical Candor likely will seem very radical. For 10Fold, as we discussed our readings in 1:1s and in small groups, it felt like a natural progression of ideals we already held important.
No matter who you are or what the state of your organization, I recommend Radical Candor. If you take away nothing else, let it hit home that effective culture starts with you and the relationships that you build with your colleagues, up and down the chain. Beyond that, here are my top three takeaways from the experience of reading and implementing its tenets:
- Model what you want to see. While every company I’ve worked at talks about open and free-flowing feedback, it was always surprising to me that it never really happened. Radical Candor reveals the problem – managers must model what they want their direct reports to do. In short, start by asking for feedback often and take it with grace, even when it’s difficult. It’s only when employees realize that you will act on the feedback that it will truly be embedded in your culture.
- Care personally, challenge directly. Virtually everyone has worked with someone or had a manager that delivered feedback in a way that was not effective. Perhaps the person struggled to get to the point of the feedback and help you realize what you needed to differently (ruinous empathy). Conversely, the feedback might have come like a slap in the face and left you reeling (obnoxious aggression). Scott outlines a key point: for people to take your feedback, you must demonstrate that you care about them and their growth. If you start by building that relationship first, the feedback can be given and taken productively.
- Empower others to make decisions. As a manager, it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing you should have the answer to any problem that arises. The truth is that you have a team for a reason – and the functional expertise from that team is critical to decision making. Scott outlines a decision-making process that emphasizes listening, encouraging team members to argue opposite sides of issues and generally engage the team in coming to better solutions than you would by yourself. At 10Fold, we’ve implemented an “Ideals Council” made up of a group of staff at different levels of staff to take unfiltered recommendations from the broader team, process and implement the best ones. We can’t wait to see what they come up with!
Our culture will never be “complete.” We’ll seek ways to ensure our team is dedicated to growth that benefits employees and clients alike. That said, we’re already feeling the benefits of caring personally and challenging directly. It’s drawing our teams together and our business as a whole.