Giving Feedback Using Radical Candor (or Candour for the Brits!)

Avoid the feedback sandwich – too much bun!

Kim Scott tells a great story about getting feedback from Sheryl Sandberg whilst working at Facebook. It goes roughly like this…

After a presentation, Sheryl said: ‘You know you say ‘um’ a lot.’ Kim, who thought she was a pretty good presenter brushed this off politely. Sheryl than added, ‘I know a good presentation coach’. Kim brushed this off saying she’d think about it. Sheryl went on to say, ‘You know, when you say ‘um’ every three words it makes you sound stupid!’.

Kim finally got the message (after the third attempt) and started wondering why nobody had told her this before.

She also wondered why she’d taken the feedback from Sheryl and concluded that it was because:

  • She had the skill to challenge me
  • She cared about my personal development

Obnoxious aggression, as demonstrated by the Meryl Streep character in The Devil Wears Prada, doesn’t work – lots of challenge but no care. Nor does what Kim calls Ruinous Empathy, where there is lots of care and consideration but not enough challenge.

Too many managers want to liked too much and are frightened to be more challenging. As Colin Powell said, rather bluntly: ‘You got to be willing to piss people off to be a good leader!’

And we need to be careful using the feedback sandwich. You know the sort of thing. Lots of bun (praise), a bit of meat (criticism) and lots more bun (praise). The criticism gets lost and we don’t enjoy the sandwich!

For more on motivating your team members see:

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