The radical candour approach to leadership

Some leaders really struggle when they are challenged by their team members. Even if the challenge is just an idea or an opinion, and one that shouldn’t warrant an emotional reaction.  

It’s difficult, especially for leaders under pressure, to keep it together, when everyone has got an idea on what could be improved. Or on how the team should be run… 

It is ok for your team to offer suggestions.  

It is probably better than ok; it’s a great thing that team members want to offer suggestions and have input into the team’s functioning. That needs to be tempered of course, because every new idea won’t fly, but it is not about giving team members a voice. Remember that, “If team members are not heard they are hurt”.  

But what is radical candour, and what has it got to do with team members having a voice. 

Radical candour was coined by Amy Edmondson, as part of her research into how to create psychologically safe teams. Psychological safety was defined by Edmondson as a team or workplace culture where it’s ok for team members ‘to take interpersonal risks’. Without the fear of rejection, resentment or ridicule. Taking interpersonal risks is another way of saying ‘speaking up without fear’. 

In short, radical candour is a leadership approach that doesn’t only make it ok for people to share ideas and information but encourages it. 

In relation to leading with radical candour (information reference below), there are three things to discourage in your team discussions, and there are three things to encourage. Let’s start with the discourage first. Because these are the behaviours that will reduce psychological safety in your team. 

When your team is sharing information, lean away from: 

Ruinous Empathy – Insincerity in your responses, feedback, or praises, particularly the sugar coating of criticism, so the other person doesn’t feel bad (this comes from a place of caring), 

Manipulative Insincerity – Insincerity in your responses, feedback or praises, without the sugar coating, that is delivered with the wrong intent – to hurt or harm (this does not come from a place of caring), 

Obnoxious Aggression – This is about being clear, and not kind (some people call it brutal honesty), and unlike manipulative insincerity, it is not meant to hurt, but it does, due to the poor delivery of the message. 

When your team is sharing information, lean into: 

Promoting Respect – We don’t have to agree, but we do need to respect each other, 

Welcoming Curiosity – Even team members with ideas might not have all the information required – encourage them to ask questions as much as they provide answers, 

Acknowledging Ideas – All ideas are relevant, when they are shared… it’s not until they are discussed that they can be discarded (might be a short discussion, or a long one). And, if they don’t fly, share why, and if they were the wrong idea, share the mistake, and the reasons why. 

If you can lean into these three leadership behaviours, you will create a psychologically safe team, you will be leading with radical candour and you will encourage your team to share and contribute ideas and opinions in a safe environment! Winner! 

And please click the image below if you’d like to chat about what leadership means to you.

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About Anton

Anton has dedicated his working life to helping leaders to upgrade their mindset, upskill their leadership, and uplift their teams! With a focus on helps leaders to better lead under pressure. Anton is an entrepreneur, speaker, consultant, bestselling author and founder of The Guinea Group. Over the past 19 years, Anton has worked with over 175+ global organisations, he has inspired workplace leadership, safety, and cultural change. He’s achieved this by combining his corporate expertise, education (Bachelor of HR and Psychology), and infectious energy levels.
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