Good bosses challenge their employees.
The Whole Human

The best bosses see employees as humans

Former Apple and Google executive Kim Scott broke down the two essential discussions managers should have with their employees to better understand their goals in a recently-posted Business Insider video.

As the author of Radical Candor: Be A Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity, Scott’s philosophy provides insight on how to strengthen your feedback skills as a manager — and some things we can all ask of our bosses.

Learn about employees’ goals through their life stories and dreams

The first conversation Scott suggests having is about employees’ lives and how they grew up, “starting with kindergarten,” but emphasizing “pivots” they made as a way to find out what drives them.

Why hone in on the strategic changes your employees have made in life during this discussion?

Scott explains in her own words: “…So somebody was a cheerleader and then they became a swimmer because they really could see more results of time in the pool on the swim team than they could as a cheerleader then you know this person is results oriented. You start to see whether it’s hard work or what not that really motivates the person but you get a much richer more textured view of the person if you understand these sort of abstractions in the context of their actual life story.”

But she also cautions managers not to “be intrusive” if employees’ would rather keep private how they grew up. Keep their emotions in mind.

Next up? What Scott’s coined the “dreams conversation,” asking them about what their ideal situation would be, but not limiting them to only one.  This way, managers can see things including where the employees’ skills currently stack up and who they need to know to move forward to those aspirations.

Scott then adds specific ways managers can change employees’ jobs to help them work toward their dreams— even if their current position isn’t closely related—including, putting them on various “projects,” giving them “training” or academic opportunities or connecting them with others.

What Scott’s “radical candor” concept means

A quadrant displayed in an explanatory video displays the idea’s framework, and according to the labeled axes, it means to both “care personally” and “challenge directly.” That means that “nice” bosses have to still hold employees to high standards.

It’s a way of giving feedback to employees. As Scott urges in the video, “say what you think.”

On the other end, there are the pitfalls that bosses can fall into. The other three parts of the quadrant are “obnoxious aggression,” or just being a total jerk;  “manipulative insincerity,” in which bosses pretend to care, and “ruinous empathy,” in which bosses care too much about employees, avoiding all kinds of conflict or challenge, and end up ineffective as a result.

The website defines each one, saying that “obnoxious aggression” results “when you challenge but don’t care. It’s praise that doesn’t feel sincere or criticism that isn’t delivered kindly.”

The “manipulative insincerity” portion is defined as “when you neither care nor challenge. It’s praise that is non-specific and insincere or criticism that is neither clear nor kind.”

Lastly, “ruinous empathy” results ”when you care but don’t challenge. It’s praise that isn’t specific enough to help the person understand what was good or criticism that is sugarcoated and unclear.”

This is just part of the philosophy, but it illustrates what can happen when you dare to show employees you care, but stay honest and clear with them.

As a manager, getting to know more about employees’ lives and dreams can help you better understand what they want to accomplish, and giving proper feedback can help both them and you in the long run.