Kim Scott, author of the New York Times & Wall Street Journal bestseller Radical Candor, talks to us about feedback, growth management and why reading novels is a great way to improve your management skills.
Scroll down to read the full transcript of our chat with Kim.
Kim’s quick fire answers
- Kim recommends reading novels. Her favourite is Middlemarch by George Eliot.
- Kim's favourite way to keep up with the industry is Twitter. She recommends following Walt Mossberg, Kara Swisher, and Dick Costolo.
- Kim is inspired by Jack Dorsey.
We also cover
- What is radical candor? [00:02:28]
- Compassionate candor as a way to avoid obnoxious aggression [00:03:20]
- Why Kim chose Radical Candor as the name for her book [00:03:55]
- Why our first job, and our upbring makes radical candor rare [00:05:56]
- Kim explains the quadrants of Radical Candor [00:08:16]
- How managers can help their teams to avoid obnoxious aggression and ruinous empathy [00:10:54]
- Focusing on the positives to help people see what success looks like [00:11:33]
- The Centre for Creative Leadership's Situation Behavior Impact framework [00:12:46]
- The Situation Impact Action framework [00:14:34]
- Removing emotion from feedback [00:14:51]
- How to get good at giving feedback [00:15:52]
- How Sheryl Sandberg gave Kim some painful criticism [00:18:03]
- Re-creating the 'walk with me to my office' feedback opportunity when working remotely [00:22:47]
- Tips for managing remote teams [00:25:09]
- Why Kim turned down the opportunity to be CEO at Twitter, and how she felt about it [00:27:06]
- Gradual and Steep growth trajectories [00:29:40]
- Rewarding Rockstar employees as well as Superstar employees [00:33:27]
- Fixing a 'promotion obsession' culture by rewarding Rockstars [00:38:38]
- How Apple rewards Rockstars with a glass apple [00:39:35]
- What can you do to build trust in a team [00:41:40]
- The Second City and why improv skills are really good CEO skills [00:43:20]
Find out more, and follow Kim
Find out more about Kim at RadicalCandor.com and ImprovisingRadicalCandor.com
Amy - Welcome to the Humans+Tech podcast. I'm Amy Phillips and this is Aaron Randall. Today, we're thrilled to be talking to Kim Scott, author of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal bestseller, Radical Candor. Kim's also led teams at Google and worked for Apple, as well as being a CEO coach for companies including Dropbox and Twitter. Kim, welcome to the show.
Kim - It's great to be here. Good to see everybody all over the globe. Hope everybody's doing all right.
Amy - And so you are famous for encouraging people to give good feedback. That's certainly where we kind of, like came, came across you and, like we've learned loads about that from you. So I'm gonna just start off by asking you to give us some feedback. So it's kind of tradition which each episode of Humans+Tech that we draw a picture of our guest so I'm just gonna share my screen, and show you your doodle we'd love to hear your feedback
Kim - and you're starting. My first feedback is you're starting in the right place with Radical Candor. You're soliciting feedback instead of giving it so Okay, so so I love the doodle. Here are the things that I love about the doodle. I love that the two by two is featured for I love a good two by two. And so, so you got the essence of the book there in the picture of the book and a very succinct way. Uh, those are my glasses, those are the glasses I'm wearing right now and and I love that I love the lines coming out towards it. If I had to say I miss one thing, I miss my nose. So how's that for feedback?
Aaron - You know, this is the best feedback I've ever got for a drawing. Yeah, I do. I tend to not draw noses on people for some reason. So that's that's fair feedback,
Amy - I think also, incredibly, polite. I think we just got the masterclass in how to give nice you know, constructive feedback
Kim - compassionate candor, hopefully
Amy - We're like going to go straight into the real stuff. I think we've kind of touched upon it already, but your book, Radical Candor. So it's kind of you, it feels that you single-handedly introduced the tech industry to feedback. Can you tell us exactly what you mean by Radical Candor and why did you choose that as the name for your book?
Kim - Sure. So Radical Candor is really about caring personally at the same time that you challenge directly. If you want to abstract even more, it's about love and truth at the same time. Now there's very often we have this idea in our mind that there's a false dichotomy between showing someone you care and telling them when they're screwing up. And the fact of the matter is that the two things are intimately linked, and so that's the idea of radical candor. Why did I call it Radical Candor? Uh, yeah, I got If you write a book about feedback, you're going to get a lot of feedback. And I did get some feedback that that is fair. That a lot of people were using the term radical candor is an excuse to act like a garden variety jerk. And that's not what I meant by radical candor and so, uh, in the second edition of the book, I actually call it compassionate candor. So if you're in an organization where people are are using radical candor is an excuse to behave badly, feel free to call it compassionate candor to remind them that there's a difference between radical candor and what I call obnoxious aggression , obnoxious aggression is what happens when you challenge directly. But you forget to show that you care. So why did I call it Radical Candor? Was it that was the second part of your question right now. So the reason The reason? Well, first of all, it sounds cool. Uh, in fact, I have to credit. I have to credit Dan Pink, who has written To Sell is Human, he wrote Drive, he's written a lot of great books. He wrote Win and I gave a presentation about radical candor. But at that point in time, I was calling it tough love. And Dan was like, I love your presentation, I love your ideas. But tough love just doesn't sound good. And we were in an elevator together, so he gave me some radical cantor and then he helped me come up with something better. Somewhere between the first floor and the 14th floor, tough love became radical candor. So thank you, Dan Pink for help naming the book. The reason why I liked radical candor is that radical to me imply something very fundamental. And as I said before, if you abstract up the idea of caring personally and challenging directly, it's really love and truths and these are very fundamental human values, love and truth. And so that's part of why I called it radical because it's fundamental. And then the other reason why I called it radical is because I think that to me it's rare. It's so rare that we get this at work in Tech or in any other industry. That's one of the things I've learned. And so that was also partly why I called it Radical Candor. And why candor? Why not truth? To me truth implies, if I tell you, I'm gonna tell you the truth. I'm kind of implying like I've got a pipeline to God and, you know, am I allowed to curse on this podcast?
Aaron - You can do what you want
Kim - okay? And you don't know shit from Shinola. That's an expression from the south of the US, and that's not a great way to start a conversation. So, to me, candor implies, Here's what I see. I want to share with you what I see. But I also want to hear how you see it. So that's why Radical Candor.
Aaron - Awesome. I wanna touch upon a point you made that quickly. Which is, you said, that radical candor is rare. Why do you think that is?
Kim - I think it's rare for a couple of reasons. I think so sort of what causes us to have a fail on the care personally dimension. I've worked with a lot of different leaders, a lot of different people, and I've never met anyone who said, I don't care about other people So I'm gonna be a great boss. But that's not what moves us down. I think the vast majority of people do have an instinct to care about others. So I think what happens on the care personally dimension begins when were about 18 19 20 years old. We're right at that moment in our lives when our egos are maximally fragile and our personas are beginning to solidify to protect those fragile egos. And right at that moment someone will come along and say, Be Professional and I think for a lot of people, sort of without even realizing what we're doing, we sort of translate that to mean and leave your emotions, Leave your true identity, leave your humanity, leave everything that's best about you at home and show up at work like some kind of robot. And you can't possibly show you care personally if you're showing up at work like some kind of robot. So so a big part of this book is about encouraging people and giving people specific suggestions about how you can bring your full humanity to work. So that's one problem. I think the second problem begins much earlier. It begins when we're 18 months old. We're just learning to speak and we're painfully honest as children and our parents say some version of us and every culture has a version of this saying. If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all and and so this has been pounded into our heads since we learned to speak, and now all of a sudden you become a leader, a boss, a manager, and it's your job to say it, and that is really hard. It's really hard to undo training that's been pounded into you since you got your first job and since you spoke your first word and so one of the things that I've done to try to make it a little bit easier for people to be radically candid. So that radical candor is more more common. And less rare is to give words to what happens when we fail on one dimension or another. You ready? Ready? Okay, here's the words. So So sometimes we remember to challenge directly. Remember to be honest with people about what we really think, and we forget to show them that we care personally and that I call obnoxious aggression. I mentioned that a moment ago, and sometimes people call obnoxious aggression sort of the asshole quadrant. But I decided not to call it that for a very specific reason. When I did that people would use the radical candor framework and used these terms I'm about to share with you as sort of a new Myers Briggs personality test, and I beg of you, don't use it this way. These are mistakes that we all make interpersonally and conversations day to day these are not personality types. We all are probably at least once today, obnoxiously aggressive and very often the problem when we when we are obnoxiously aggressive when we have challenged someone in a way that doesn't show them that we care when we realize we've been a jerk instead of moving the right way on the care personally dimension of radical candor we move the wrong way on challenge directly, and we wind up in the worst place of all what I call manipulative insincerity. And that's what happens when you're neither caring nor challenging. And that could be the false apology. It can also be simply the sort of a backstabbing. It could be passive aggressive behavior, and and that's the kind of stuff that really makes a workplace toxic. That sort of manipulative insincerity combined with obnoxious aggression, and it's kind of fun to tell stories about those experiences. But the fact of the matter is, the vast majority of us make the vast majority of our mistakes in what I call the ruinous empathy quadrant and ruinous empathy is what happens when you do show you care personally but you're so concerned about not hurting someone's feelings, not giving offense that you failed to tell them something that they'd be better off knowing. So that's radical candor, what it is and what it isn't.
Amy - Oh, yeah, I recognize so many of those. Yeah, and those the quadrants, then that you referenced in the beginning when you were giving us feedback.
Kim - exactly
Amy - so I one of the things. So I manage people. And I think quite a lot of people listening to this podcast manage teams. How do you help people who you manage learn to sort of move out off those different quadrants? Like, how do people actually build the confidence and the skills to be able to give feedback well?
Kim - I think there's there's kind of an order of operations to this, and the first thing you can do is you can model it by doing exactly what you did by starting with soliciting radical candor. Don't dish it out until you prove you can take it. So ask people on your team to give you feedback and then respond to it really well when you get it, and that can begin to build a culture of radical candor. The second thing to do is to really focus on the good stuff when you're a leader. Part of your job is to show people what the possibilities are to paint a picture of what success looks like and praise, as it turns out, is a much better tool for doing that than criticism is. Which is not to say that criticism is not important. So you start by soliciting criticism, then give praise. Next you've created a better mind space for yourself and for the other person to offer radical candor. And that's that when you when you offer criticism in a way that is humble in a way that states your intention to be to be helpful in a way that is quick, these conversations should be sort of two minute and impromptu conversations. It shouldn't feel like a root canal. It's more like brushing and flossing for your relationships when you when you want. When you praise in public and you criticize in private and when you offer the kind of criticism that's not about personality, but rather about something the person can change so you can use, The Centre for Creative Leadership has this framework called Situation Behavior Impact, and that's a great way to make sure you're focusing on something that that someone can change. So I think that that that you can really model this. But there's a 4th step here, and the fourth step is really, um, you you need to make sure you're gauging how what you're saying is landing. Because if I if I have a team, for example, if I have a team in Tokyo and another team in Tel Aviv, radical candor is going to sound very different in Tokyo than it does Tel Aviv. And so, in fact, when when I was in this situation, I called radical candor for the team, and in Japan, I called it polite persistence. But I would not have called it polite persistence for the team in Israel because they would have thought I was telling telling them not to be as clear as they wanted to be. And so so it's really important to adjust how you're talking for the culture that you're talking to, but also crucially for the person. So if you're being radically candid with me, you're gonna have to really go further out on the challenge directly dimension. Than maybe you're even comfortable doing cause I'm not always the best listener. But if you're being radically candid with my sister, who's a great listener and and maybe more more sensitive than I am. You're gonna have to really attend to the care personally. dimensions. So you need to adjust. You need to choose the right vector, depending on how the person is is responding. So I think that's really important. Does that make sense? Does that help a little bit
Aaron - Yeah, definitely, that's great. I actually love the fact that you brought up the model the SBI situation behavior impact model that you referenced there as a way to structure that Amy and I actually wrote a blog post on SIA, which is a very similar concept Situation Impact Action, but very, very similar. And as a manager, I actually have it written up in a book on my desk and I, whenever I know I've got feedback to give someone I always go back to the book before I give any feedback quickly, go back to refresh myself and talk through it and kind of remove the emotion and think about the fact and use that structure to give great feedback or hopefully great feedback.
Kim - Yeah, and I think it's you touch on something that's really important. You want to remove the emotion from yourself because if you get too angry or too frustrated or as least if I get too angry or I get too frustrated. That's my path to obnoxious aggression. But at the same time, I have to go into those conversations being willing to accept emotion from the other person. Because I think one bit of advice I have for people is just eliminate the phrase 'don't take it personally' from your vocabularies because we do take it personally when we get criticism and part of your job as a leader is to be almost like an emotional shock absorber.
Aaron - Definitely. And it's interesting you talk about it as someone who is a seasoned leader. But people that are listening to this podcast now particularly first time managers, I guess the question for them is people find this inherently difficult to give feedback. How do those people that are new to management, haven't had the practice over and over again get good at this?
Kim - Yeah, it is, you know, it's really interesting. First of all, if you're a first time manager, I feel your pain. It is really it is hard, and it is isolating, and the vast majority of first time managers don't get any management training at all. They just get thrown into the deep end. So it's and that's scary. It's a scary situation also, I think at least when I first became a manager, I had this very complicated relationship with the role a friend of mine put it this way. She's she said, Kim, you hate the man and now you are the man. But you're a woman, you know, very complicated and so, so the question is, how do you resolve your own sort of relationship with authority? And I think all of us have a complicated relationship with authority, and it becomes more complicated when you become the authority. So a couple of pieces of advice I have for new managers on on overcoming this one is that the vast majority of new manager's are reluctant to give feedback because they are reluctant to hurt someone's feelings there. Its ruinous empathy. And so I have two suggestions. One. Think about that moment in your career when someone gave you some feedback that may be stung a little bit in the moment, but stood you in good sted for the rest of your career, and then think about that moment in your career with when either you someone failed to give you some feedback and you wish you had gotten it or you failed to give someone some feedback. So I'll give you I'll share my stories with you. But if you can think of your stories than I think, it will really help you hook into that desire to be kind. And I don't want you to lose that. But to realize that the feedback can be an act of kindness when delivered correctly, does that make sense? All right, you want you want my You want my painful getting some painful criticism story. Okay, okay, So so that this happened. This is it's in the book, but I'll tell the story. So this happened shortly after I started working at Google, and I had to give a presentation to the founders and the CEO of a bunch of other executives about how the AdSense business was doing, and I walked into the room and they're in one corner. Was Sergey Brin standing on an elliptical trainer, peddling away wearing toe shoes, Not what I expected. And there in the other corner of the room was Eric Schmidt. He was CEO of the time, and he was so deep in his email it was like his brain was plugged into the machine and I wondered, how the world am I supposed to get these people's attention? I felt totally nervous. Luckily for me, the business was on fire, and when I said how many knew how many new people, how many new customers we had added over the last couple of months, Eric almost fell off his chair, said, What did you say? What do you need? How can we help you? Do you need more marketing dollars? Do you need more engineering resources so I'm feeling like the meeting's going okay. In fact, I now believe that I am a genius. And as I walked out the meeting, I walked past my boss, who is Sheryl Sandberg. And I'm expecting a high five, a pat on the back, and instead Cheryl says to me, Why don't you walk back to my office with me? And I thought, Gosh, I have screwed something up and I'm about to hear about it and Sheryl began the conversation by telling me about the things that had gone well in the meeting, not in the feedback sandwich or the shit sandwich sense of the word, but really seeming to mean what she was saying. But of course, all I wanted to hear about was what I had done wrong. And eventually, Cheryl said to me, You said um a lot in there. Were you aware of it? I kind of made this brush off gesture with my hand and I said, yeah, I know it's verbal tick No big deal, really? And then she said, I know this great speech coach I bet Google would pay for it. Would you like an introduction? And once again, I made this brush off gesture with my hand. I said, No, I'm busy. Didn't you hear about all these new customers I don't have time for a speech coach and then Sheryl stopped, She looked me right in the eye and she said, I can see when you do that thing with your hand and she made the same brush off gesture. I'm gonna have to be a lot more direct with you. When you say um every third word, it makes you sound stupid. Now she's got my full attention and some people might say it was mean of Sheryl to say I sounded stupid. But in fact, it was the kindest thing she could possibly have done for me in that moment, because when she said it to me just like that, that was when I knew I had to go to the speech coach. I probably wouldn't have gone otherwise. And by the way, she wouldn't have used those words with someone else on her team who was maybe a better listener that I was. But those were the words she had to use with me. And when I went to see the speech coach, I learned something important. She was not exaggerating. I literally said um every third word, and this was news to me because I had been giving presentations for my entire career. I had raised money millions of dollars for two startups giving presentations. I thought I was pretty good at it. It was almost like I had been walking through my whole career with a giant hunk of spinach between my teeth, and nobody had had the common courtesy to tell me it was there. And so this really made me wonder two things really What was it about Sheryl that made it so seemingly easy for her to tell me? But also why I had no one else told me. And and it was really thinking about that, that I came up with the care personally challenge directly because I knew Sheryl had my back. She really showed that she cared personally about not just at an employee level, but at a human level about everyone who worked directly with her. But she also was was not hesitant to tell us when we were growing up. If we needed to know about it.
Amy - Well, yeah, that's amazing. It's definitely one of my favorite parts of the whole book. Like, I think there are so many bits, like the fact that you know, so much. Like she had some positive feedback in there and the timing. And, you know, the fact that you say she was the first person to actually point out something that you know, everyone else that clearly had seen, Um, one thing I was really wondering about. So in the kind of current time most people are working remotely, sort of sort of successful pieces you said about that feedback was she grabbed you straight away, it was like a walk with me to my office. Immediate feedback. Yeah. Do you have any tips on how, like, how do you recreate that sort of walk with me to my office when everybody's remote?
Kim - Yeah, it is, really. It is really tough. I had was I have twins who are 11. But when when I was pregnant with them 11 years ago, I couldn't travel. I had teams all over the world and I couldn't travel. In fact, for the last couple of months, I couldn't get up off my couch. I was I was on bed rest, and so I had to sort of figure this out. And one of the things that I learned is that if you are working remotely and you're a manager, there's a couple of things that really can help it work. One is, to, if you're if you're on a call, let's say, with five people that one person makes a mistake. Just text them at the end of the moment at the end of the meeting. Do you have two minutes after this meeting and and and also work really hard not to schedule yourself and everybody else back to back. I know that there's a lot of people who are are advocating for Zoom in moderation and I agree be be conscious. Not everything needs to be synchronous. We can get a lot done, asynchronously So so if you have a couple of minutes after the meeting, just just create, recreate that moment and just make it a two minutes facetime chat or or Google Hangout or whatever technology you're using but do make it a video conversation, Because one of the things I found when when I had all these remote teams and I couldn't travel to them is that if you're very conscious of using video, you can get so you can't get 100% fidelity. But you can get, like 70% fidelity of the in person conversations because you see the person's expression, you see at least a little bit of body language, and that gives you a much better opportunity to do what I was talking about before to gauge their response to your feedback and to adjust how you're you're talking accordingly. So I think just two minutes right after it could be really helpful. Another thing for remote workers. That I think is for remote teams that I think is really important is if you're gonna have one on one meetings. Have more frequent one on one meetings, like instead of, ah, once a week or once every other week meeting for an hour. Have three or four meetings a week that are 5 10 minutes, that is. Actually, it's it's sort of counterintuitive, but especially right now when things are are so stressful, a lot happens for people in a week, and shorter check ins are really important. Have it's also easier to work in for people who have children at home and they're trying. They're suddenly have a second job of teaching. Uh, it can be easier to fit in a 10 minute meeting in between things than an hour long meeting. So So I think the fewer longer meetings you can have, the better in this in this time. Does that help? A little.
Amy - Yeah, that's great.
Aaron - I'm definitely as well a sucker for that back to back meetings thing. I love the idea of having a bit of space, so you got time for a feedback and also grab a cup of tea and your breath, so
Kim - yeah, yeah, I gotta go to the bathroom occasionally too. And that that was that was true before, But I think it's even more true now because I think before we were more conscious because you have to go from place to place. So 30 minute meetings for 25 minutes. It's still important to make a 30 minute meeting 25 minutes an hour long meeting, 50 minutes so that people can chat in between, can get a cuppa tea and go to the bathroom like we still have our physical needs.
Aaron - Definitely, definitely. I'm really glad, actually, that you brought up your family when you were sharing that story because it reminds me of another anecdote in your book and which is I hope is ok for me to hare this but back. In 2008 you were approached for the CEO role at Twitter and what you shared with you, what you shared in your book was at the time you were 40 years old and pregnant with twins and at that particular stage in your life, you said, I'm not saying I couldn't do the Twitter CEO role. I'm just saying that I didn't want to. What was it like for you going through that experience shifting between steep to stable growth in your career and actually having to say no to certain opportunities like that CEO role?
Kim - Yes, it was, really. First of all, it was It was a big mindshift for me when I when when someone called me and said, Would you be interested in throwing your hat in the ring? I thought about it and I called my my doctor, and I asked her what she thought and she said, Well, what's more important to you, the hearts and lungs of your children or this job? So she put it in very stark, and I don't I don't say this to be discouraging. Like most women who are pregnant are not 40, pregnant with twins. So I was in a very high risk pregnancy. There's plenty of other women who were pregnant who could have taken on that role. But but my my situation was specific and, you know, and I was 40 I might not get another. I was lucky that I got pregnant at all, and so I might not get another chance. So there was a lot of reasons why this was the stakes were especially high for this pregnancy, and I was really glad she put it to me that way because then it became I mean, it was easy. That became a very easy choice when she presented it to me that way. And but I still had to make my peace with it. And one of the things that I found is that I was doing. I have been, so at the time I was. I was working for the AdSense team, the YouTube team and the DoubleClick teams at Google, online sales and operations, and I'd been doing that role for a few years, so I was pretty good at it. And I had built a team that I could really rely on, and it turned out that Google was like the ideal place for a high risk pregnancy because there were snacks everywhere and there was like a lap pool that I could that I could swim on. There was there was actually a, uh, masseuse, who specialized in massage for pregnant women one floor up like so you couldn't have I, I will always always be grateful to Google for helping me through that that that time and and the fact of the matter was it wasn't like I couldn't work. I was still doing good work and I still had a job that was that was, ah, a big job. So so I could do that. And the reason I could do that was because I could be on gradual growth trajectory in that job because I had been doing that job. I knew how to do that job. I had a team I could rely on. And that was that was it was really important for me at that stage in my career to remain on a gradual growth trajectory not to not to take on a new role that was gonna require me to be on a very steep growth trajectory. And I think all of us at different phases in our career. We're all always, hopefully trying to do great work. To have very high performance, but at different moments you're on a steep growth trajectory where you really gunning for that next job and there are other moments when you're not on a steep growth trajectory. When you're on a gradual growth trajectory, and you want to save some of your energy for something outside of work, so it could be an artistic endeavor. It could be that you're a great painter and you want to get home and paint, or that you're a great actor and you want to be in all and shows after work. Or it could be family. You you could have an ill parent to take care of or you're starting a family. And so I think it's so important for managers to understand where people are in their growth trajectories and to make sure they're managing them appropriately. So I call it sort of sometimes your in superstar mode, and that's when you're in a steep growth trajectory and other times you're a rockstar mode, and that's where you're doing great work, and you'll continue doing great work. But you're not necessarily shooting for the next big job. You're you're solid as a rock in rockstar mode.
Amy - It's such an interesting like concept, like I think, so many companies and certainly maybe most companies in my experience seem to be really set on the idea of you're performing or you're not performing. This kind of like the there are different stages in life in different maybe just different times in life where you want to focus on other things.
Kim - Yes and actually, your focus on other things brings a richness to your work that wouldn't otherwise be there.
Amy - Yeah. Yeah, definitely. Funny, actually. Funny story, we had, I used to work at The Guardian newspaper and um I was leading a test team. We had to build like a little widget for the website to show cricket scores. And we had one tester who loved cricket and we were like, perfect. He can test the thing. No one understands cricket scores right now. Right on. Then, unfortunately, he was at a cricket match and he got hit on the head by a cricket ball. Spectating turns out it's really dangerous. He went off sick. We stepped in. Well, okay, we can do this. We don't know what the numbers are. We work with the Sports department, he comes back a few weeks later. He's like, What have you done the numbers are all totally wrong. Turns out nobody knows cricket scores. That was Yeah,
Kim - Well, yeah. You know, it's when people when people are great at something. What's impossible for others is easy for them.
Amy - Yeah, um, I really, uh I really interested, Like so as somebody who say working in a company as a manager. But maybe not the person who gets to decide how everything works. Like, have you got any advice about how does a manager maybe introduce more of a growth framework like growth management framework, maybe mindset or approach to a company, which is more is using more like traditional assessment models?
Kim - Yeah, I really feel for you. I think, in Tech very often there's there's a strong bias towards people in superstar mode and other companies in more stable companies. There can be a bias towards people in rockstar mode, and so sometimes you might have a boss who wants to clip the wings of people in superstar mode. And other times you have managers who don't appreciate the benefit of having people in rockstar mode. And so how can you communicate this to your boss? I had it was very interesting when I was when I was a Google, their was there was a guy on my team who, really he was a customer support and he loved his job. He really loved his job and he wasn't necessarily interested in the next big role. And and he was very, very, very good at his job. And we we were doing calibrations for for bonuses. And he didn't he didn't merit as big a bonus as his rating would imply. And the reason why that happened is that they were stuck in the calibration process. They were saving all the highest ratings for people who wanted a promotion, and he clearly didn't want a promotion. And he sat me down and he said, The promotion comes with its own reward. It comes with a big step up and equity and a big step up and salary. I'm not looking for that, but I do expect to be rewarded for the work that I am doing now, and I do expect you, Kim, to value that. And I remember going in to my and it was difficult because of these calibration meetings. I'm sure you've been in them. It gets more complicated as you go up. So I went into my boss and I said I made this very impassioned plea. I said If we care about the core work that we're doing, then we must paid bonuses, high bonuses we must pay. We can't save the highest bonuses for people only for people who are on promotion track. And we changed the way we calibrated, and we made sure that we said on for this kind of work sort of 60% of the people should be a rockstar mode and 40% of the people should be in superstar mode. And we've got to make sure that we're we're giving performance ratings and bonuses that reflect the work they did that quarter. Not sort of this. A lot of companies they have what's called the performance potential matrix. And if you're not, and if your high potential hypo then then that means your your on Superstar. Oh, you're on track to promotion. But there's no such thing as a low potential human being, and you certainly don't want to brand the people on your team who are who are in rockstar mode. As low potential like that's that. Then, of course, you're gonna not reward them properly. So So I really object to the performance potential matrix as a the words are wrong. That's why I replaced it with with growth and and you really need on a team to balance growth and stability. And you really need in a life to balance growth and stability. There are times when you're on a high growth mode and there times when you need to be in stability.
Amy - Yeah, it makes total sense.
Aaron - Yeah, definitely. I know from firsthand experience how much I've struggled with having rockstars and my team and, a system that only supports, um, promotions and title changes the way to essentially compensate people well.
Kim - Yeah, it's awful
Aaron - So it's good to hear. Yeah, but I don't think I fixed that or found a way to work around that. But it's great to hear there are ways of doing it. Particularly good ones
Kim - Yeah. I mean, there are a one way to do that is to make sure that there's that you're sort of explicit about what's the right balance of rockstar mode and superstar mode, and because sometimes we would be having these arguments. And the reason why they were unresolvable is because one person was thinking that the only people who should get the highest rating or people in superstar mode And so I was arguing for super high rating for someone in rockstar mode, and they were arguing. But they're not in super, so like it became circular. And so if you're very explicit, and if you make sure that you are clear with people that you're not gonna save all your highest ratings and all your bonuses for people who are on promotion path but like you don't want to create promotion, obsession in your company, you want people who are really good at their job and we'll keep doing their job if you don't screw it up for them by penalizing them for not wanting your job, like, why would you do that? And yet people do it all the time.
Amy - Yeah, definitely. It's an interesting one. So the whole kind of obsession with promotions, it's really difficult when when you do find that you sort of created that culture, I mean, is this the way to undo it like to actually just start rewarding people who are not on the promotion path?
Kim - Yes, absolutely. I mean, it was really interesting when I when I got to, I left Google and I went to Apple, and when we would start our classes. We would ask people how long they'd been at Apple. And there were people who had had the same job at Apple for a decade. And this was really striking to me, because if you had the same job at Google for more than about three or four years, it was like a badge of shame. And I think Google has fixed this has it. It was, you know, part of part of being in a super fast growing company. But I think Apple really honored did a really good job honoring people in rockstar mode because they did have a lot of people who have who were sort of like artists. They had this very special, very specialized talents and it and they didn't necessarily want to be to be leaders. But there had to be a way to honor people who had these talents that were contributing and not make them feel ashamed because they weren't taking on another bigger job. So one of the one of them, in one of the things that Apple did, for example, is they created this really beautiful, this really beautiful sort of glass apple and Jony Ive himself helped design it and it would get presented to people who had been in the same role for a long time in a way that was very meaningful for them and so there are a lot of sort of small things, I think, also setting up people who have a particular expertise as as the guru for this thing and allowing them to teach others if they if they have an interest. Not not everybody likes to teach others so you don't want to require. It needs to be a reward, not punishment. But But I think that that honoring expertise and craft is really important much more important than honoring someone who gets promoted to have a big team or something like that.
Aaron - Yeah, to think about I also did you get a glass apple?
Kim - No, I didn't. I did not stay at Apple nearly long. I was only there for 2.5 years, so I definitely did not earn my glass apple.
Aaron - Awesome. So we've covered feedback and we spoke about performance and growth, One of the things that you've also done in your career is and continue to so is coach a bunch of different CEOs in the industry. What's the biggest thing you've learned from coaching CEOs?
Kim - You know, it was really interesting and Radical Candor in the book, I tell a story about Ryan Smith is the CEO of Qualtrics, which is the survey company, and when I first met him, he was just assembling sort of a new team. So he had just hired four new people to work to start working together with with three veterans on the team, and he asked me a really important question. He said, What can I do to build trust with each of these people and to help them build trust with each other so that we can move quickly? And this is the central question I think of, of leadership and management is assuming you don't assuming that you believe like I do, that command and control is not the best way to to build an innovative team that's gonna do creative work. You have to replace those old notions of command and control with something, and the that something is really a human relationship that's based on trust, and the fastest way that I know of to build trust is to be honest with people about what you really think and to show them compassion at the same time is radical candor. And so that was something that that he and I really spent a lot of time thinking about. So I really admired him for asking the most important question first,
Aaron - nice. Must be quite refreshed when your people in that such senior positions that are asking those kind of powerful questions.
Kim - Yes, it really is. It really is. I mean, I always admired also Dick Costolo enormously when he was CEO of Twitter. He was, it turns out improv skills are really good CEO skills. That's a tactic if you're a CEO take an improv class. Ah, he's ah, he's a Second City alum And and he used humor with such grace, too. He was not. It wasn't one of those people that had a mean sense of humor. He had a kind sense of humor, and he used humor to share the truth with the whole company, but also to show compassion for the situation they often found themselves in. It was hard being in Twitter in those days, still is I imagine.
Aaron - Nice, unfortunately, Kim we are running out of time, um before we wrap. We have three quickfire questions, which we like to ask all our Humans+Tech guests so we'll dive straight in if that's okay? Um so. first question is, what's your top book recommendation?
Kim - I can't say Radical Candor. I guess. So I usually read novels, and my favorite novel of all time is Middlemarch by George Eliot. I think reading novels is the best way to develop compassion and empathy for other people. And so read novels. Read your favorite novels. Mine Is Middlemarch,
Aaron - which I never do either. I never read novels
Amy - We've talked about this. You need to read novels.
Aaron - I just read these kind of books
Kim - I tried to write that book to read more like a book of short stories for that reason because I think it is. It is all about developing compassion for other people,
Aaron - and the anecdotes really stand in your head as well those little stories as well, which remind you of the topics
Kim - it's easy to learn through fiction.
Amy - Yeah,
Aaron - you know it's okay. Quickfire question number two What or who is your number one tip that keeping up with the industry.
Kim - You know, I follow if you curate your Twitter feed very carefully. you will. You will find out what's happening. Err so who are some great follow Walt Mossberg follow Kara Swisher. Follow Dick Costolo. You'll see what's happening.
Aaron - Yeah, everyone says Twitter don't they? and finally number three who inspires you in Tech,
Kim - the people who I am actually very inspired by? Jack Dorsey in Tech, which I know is a controversial answer. But he is a person, I believe, of real principle, and I don't always understand why he makes the decisions he makes that I would sometimes make different ones. But I I I do find that if I'm able to listen to what he says and try to understand the reasons why he's doing what he's doing, there's a principle behind what he's doing. He's taking a principled approach. He's not. He's not, uh, he's not taking advantage of a situation for personal gain, and I really admire that
Aaron - Great Great and Kim where can people find out more about you?
Kim - RadicalCandor.com and ImprovisingRadicalCandor.com So RadicalCandor.com We offer talks and workshops, increasingly virtual talks and workshops to help people put these ideas into practice and Improvising Radical Candor. We actually made a sitcom a workplace comedy with the Second City, the improv group in Chicago and and it's ah, it's not your grandfather's management training. We came up with a really fun way to learn how to be a better boss.
Aaron - Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today. It's been so much fun. Great. thanks so much
Kim - Great, thanks so much,
Aaron - Thank you. We'll be linking to all the websites and doodles in our show notes. But if you haven't had a chance to read Radical Candor, grab yourself a copy and learn how to give amazing feedback and build trust with your teams. I'm Aaron Randall. This is Amy Phillips, and you've been listening to the Humans+Tech podcast.
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