Quality Bits

Radical Candor: Effective Feedback and Helping People We Work with Shine with Amy Sandler

March 06, 2023 Season 1 Episode 14
Quality Bits
Radical Candor: Effective Feedback and Helping People We Work with Shine with Amy Sandler
Show Notes Transcript

Amy Sandler is a lead coach and podcast host at Radical Candor. Most of the people in tech (and not only) know the Radical Candor framework and its bestselling book. In this story-fuelled podcast episode, you'll learn what the Radical Candor framework is, why dreams matter, what communication mistakes we make and how to avoid them, and how to give effective feedback and help people we work with shine.

Find Amy on:
- LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/amysandler/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/amysandler
- Amy's Website: https://www.amysandler.com/

Mentions and resources:

Links to books are to Amazon and as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases

Follow Quality Bits host Lina Zubyte on:
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/buggylina
- LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/linazubyte/
- Website: https://qualitybits.tech/

Follow Quality Bits on your favorite listening platform and Twitter: https://twitter.com/qualitybitstech to stay updated with future content.

If you like this podcast and would like to support its making, feel free to buy me a coffee: https://www.buymeacoffee.com/linazubyte

Thank you for listening! 

Lina Zubyte
Hi! Welcome to Quality Bits. A podcast about building high-quality products and teams. I'm your host - Lina Zubyte.

This is such a special episode. I was honored and extremely happy to talk to Amy Sandler. Amy is a part of the Radical Candor team and Radical Candor has been a framework that has changed the way communicate, the way I give feedback, and I keep on referencing it in almost every professional conversation. So, in this episode, we're talking about this framework, what it is, what are some of the main mistakes we do when we communicate, and how to give good feedback. It's such a lovely conversation that it's one of the longest episodes, but trust me - it's worth it. And, you're going to hear so many great thoughts and learn how to communicate better. Enjoy it!

Hi Amy! Welcome to Quality Bits. It's so nice to have you here today with me.

Amy Sandler
Thank you, Lina. I'm really excited to connect with you and your listeners.

Lina Zubyte
I'm so excited and so happy to have you as a guest because the whole story how we got to know each other is that... I was dreaming... I was dreaming really big. I was thinking what kind of conversations I would like to have on my podcast and I remembered a book I've read which is Radical Candor and I thought what if I just write to a Radical Candor team and say hey, what about someone coming to my podcast... And, I thought I will get a no, but to my surprise it was an introduction to you...  And it's a lesson that sometimes we have to ask and we may get a yes.

Amy Sandler
I love that story for so many reasons. First of all: fun for me to to connect and I always love sharing Radical Candor and meeting people doing great work in the world especially in different places in the world. It's one of my favorite things. I also love the idea of what we would call in radical candor - taking a step in the direction of our dreams. One of the things that we look at... especially for a manager... How can we help the people that are working for us, with us, take a step in the direction of our dreams? And how can all of us wherever we are at work and in our our lives outside of work explore what's possible? So I want to bring that spirit of co-creation and possibility and dreaming into our conversation and as you said, kind of counter-acting our negativity bias and our internal no and and critic.

Lina Zubyte
Before we start just to take one step back... Could you shortly introduce yourself? Who are you?

Amy Sandler
Absolutely! My name is Amy Sandler. I am based in Los Angeles, California. Originally from the East Coast of the US - Boston. So I'm someone who prefers warmer weather which is how I ended up here. I am the lead coach and podcast host at Radical Candor. Radical Candor is an executive education training company based on the bestselling book by Kim Scott, remarkably also called Radical Candor. I've had a couple other roles at Radical Candor: I've been chief marketing officer, chief content officer and this current role... And really that just also shows just as I continue to evolve and grow and focus on other things.... The very small company has continued to support that... following the dreams. And so I'm very grateful.

Lina Zubyte
So how did you discover Radical Candor?

Amy Sandler
I was introduced to Radical Candor through a mutual friend of mine. So Kim Scott and I actually went to business school together. We didn't know each other during business school. And we connected probably about ten/fifteen years ago... I was working in marketing at a leadership organization and she was involved in a group.  So we had some kind of a similar networking opportunity and we were connected and we realized we had actually heard of each other but had never met so we first met at that time and then what happened was... Before the book Radical Candor came out, it actually went viral as an idea.  And just sort of as a highlight of what the idea is... The idea is: you can actually succeed at work by by caring about the people you work with at the same time you're willing to challenge them. Can you succeed at work without being a jerk?  And the answer is the answer is yes! And so Kim did a talk at first round capital, probably 2016/2017, and it went kind of viral. So even before the book came out, there were all these companies wanting to get workshops and training and so this company  was originally born.

Amy Sandler
Originally the company was looking to build an app to support these different feedback conversations. And there's still very well may be a world for that, but what Kim found was that if we really want to have personal 1-on-1 connections, building these kind of radically candid relationships with the people we work with, we actually need to put our put our technology down and have real, in-person or virtual 1-on-1 conversations. Not necessarily sort of asynchronous or through a device. And so... The second iteration of the company - Jason Rosoff is Kim's co-founder - and this version is really focused on training, on education. We've created some some digital courses as well.

Lina Zubyte
Wow I did not know this story. It's fascinating to learn more.

Amy Sandler
Yeah, it is! You sort of realize, in Silicon Valley it's like oh here's an idea make a company make an app, right? So  that was kind of the original origin. And what we found now is really spreading the ideas through trainings and keynotes and podcasts and books... People learn in different ways, right? So we want to meet them where they are.

Lina Zubyte
Yeah. I really really like the book. When I read it I explained this framework briefly to my team. And after knowing it they started using it which was fascinating to see. How would you describe the Radical Candor to someone who has never heard of it?

Amy Sandler
It's a great question. I love that you're using it with with the team. It's actually a really really simple idea. When it comes to feedback, specifically: it's this idea of caring personally. Caring about the people we work with as real human beings at the same time that we're willing to challenge them directly. So if you can imagine like a 2 by 2 matrix. And Kim had gone to work in consulting. We both went to business school and so if you learn anything in consulting or business school just put any sort of problem into a 2 by 2 matrix. So if you can imagine sort of an x axis and a y axis: on one side is care personally on another side is challenge directly. And when we're doing both of those things, that's what we call Radical Candor. We can get into sort of what that actually looks like, but I think it's interesting to think about the mistakes that we make when we're not practicing Radical Candor. And so one of the things that I think is so brilliant and helpful about the framework is it helps us realize the mistakes that we make in any conversation. So one mistake we might make is we're challenging directly, but we're not caring personally. Now Kim Kim calls this the obnoxious aggression quadrant. Originally, it was called the asshole quadrant which you know seems a little more direct and clear. But first of all, it's not a very nice word. But I think even more important what we want is...

Amy Sandler
I go through the quadrant and these behaviors, I don't want people to start putting people's names in these boxes. This isn't a personality test. We all act this way and in fact, in one conversation we might engage in each of these behaviors. So, obnoxious aggression: you're challenging, but you're not caring personally. Examples like this are: you are criticizing someone in public whether it's through a group email, whether it's in a Zoom call publicly, rather than doing this privately. And so you know one of the things we like to do to kind of illuminate each of these quadrants in the Radical Candor framework is tell some stories. So, I was working on this technology project. My background was in marketing and communications and I spent all this time on research and content but there were so many technical problems in this project. My concerns were really far down on the priority list. In fact, nonexistent it felt like. This was also a time when calls were done just on a conference call. There was no video and I was the only person not in the home office. And I felt like my comments, my feedback was being ignored. And so I finally wrote this email...

Amy Sandler
I may have sent the email, Lina,  to the chairman of the board and the CEO explaining how this project owner was wasting millions of dollars and everyone's time on this project and first of all, it was probably a career limiting move. Although the email was quite satisfying to write but the real problem here was that just because this person was several layers above me in the organization, they still deserved me treating them like a human being: having this conversation 1-on-1. And so that's an example of obnoxious aggression. And often what happens after we've acted like jerks rather than what we would say sort of moving up on care personally, we tend to move over into... If you're imagining a 2 by 2 framework - the bottom left... What we call manipulative insincerity.

Amy Sandler
So manipulative insincerity... We're not caring. We're not challenging. And just to continue that story... I was still in this organization. Years passed. Project was still ongoing. It was one of these projects that would never die and there was a new project owner and the person comes in and says hey the reason why this project failed was because there was no research. Now this person had no idea who I was, what my background was. And instead of caring enough about this person to be helpful and instead of challenging them and saying hey we actually have a whole bunch of research... At that point I was so burnt out, Lina. I was so exhausted. I just was like oh yeah, good luck with that. So that's an example of manipulative insincerity and this can be really kind of fun to watch you know Netflix shows about this. This is like the gossip. This is the backstabbing. This is the office politics. But this is really the most toxic of workplaces, right?

Amy Sandler
So if you've obnoxious aggression: people are kind of saying it to your face, a phrase might be front stabbing. Manipulative insincerity: this is the meeting after the meeting, we're talking about people not to people. And so one of the things I like to do in my workshops is talk about like why do we do this? This is not behavior that any of us really wants to indulge in. But people will say things like you just feel like maybe nothing will change. Maybe you don't feel safe. We almost bond or connect by complaining. Maybe if I keep complaining all the time something will change. You know, maybe it's politics. But I'm curious as you hear me describing this, Lina, from your own experience. Why do you think people land in in that quadrant where we're not challenging, we're not caring?

Lina Zubyte
When you were telling your story I was thinking about the feeling of giving up. That is when you don't care anymore neither about your colleagues or as well challenging them or working for a certain goal. That is how I would see maybe manipulative insincerity. Even though the name itself would suggest something that may be... manipulative, right?

Amy Sandler
Yeah, and I really appreciate you saying that. You know these kind of phrases to describe the mistakes. So, obnoxious aggression when we're you know, high challenge low care, acting like a jerk. Manipulative insincerity... They're shorthand but we encourage people, especially if English isn't your first language or you have different cultures, to find words that actually work for you. These are kind of shorthands. It may or may not be "manipulative insincerity". Yeah, maybe because you're just burnt out. You're exhausted. You really don't even have it in you to care. You're doing all you can. And I think what you mentioned is so important. When we talk about care personally like why is it hard to think about even caring personally about the people that we work with? What happens is you know when we are you know, maybe 17/18/19 years old, we're going out into the world. And just when our kind of egos are starting to get solidified, we get this message to sort of "be professional." In many ways what that says is to kind of leave the best parts of ourselves at home, right? So the part of us that's not a robot. The parts that make Lina Lina and Amy Amy and I think one of the real gifts of the challenges of the last few years has been that people have been more able to see that human part of each other.

Amy Sandler
And so we really want people to not just be "professional at work" but to really build real human relationships. And this is hard. Again because we got that message to sort of "be professional." And the reason why it can be so hard because you think about: at the other end of this spectrum what's so bad about being professional? Well we start to have apathy. And at the far end of this is sort of this us versus them chip in how we're wired. I'm always really interested in the psychology behind this. And we tend to kind of other people. Maybe we other people: it's engineering versus marketing or finance versus HR. Maybe we're on the third floor and the people on the fourth floor just aren't quite as bright as we are on the third floor. We see this all the time, sort of human nature to do this, and the more distance there is the more kind of negative attributes we tend to put on other people. So at its core, can we give this sense of like common human decency for the the people that we work with? But if we're really lucky you know, almost this sense of of love. And not you know, sort of holiday office party gone wrong love but really a kind of a platonic collegial love where our lives are really intertwined with each other. We are invested in each other's success and that's really what we're talking about when we talk about care personally.

Lina Zubyte
What I'm thinking about is the definition of diversity and the two perspectives that you can take. One is you can see someone different than you and say "Hey, you're different" and othering them. And there's another perspective which would be "You're different, tell me more!" and this is where I see that love. This beauty in diversity. This beauty in different authentic strong personalities. This ability for us to learn and to grow because we learn from people that are different from us usually. So I feel that it's extremely important to feel this curiosity about others.

Amy Sandler
I love your reflection on that. You know one of the reasons why I love these conversations is: I I love to learn. I love to grow. I think if you need one real attribute here to practice Radical Candor it is that curiosity and that real interest to keep growing and to support other people's growth.  And as you were talking you know sometimes...  I'll share a quote from the late African-American poet Maya Angelou which says: "Love is that condition in the human spirit so profound that it empowers us to develop courage. To trust that courage and build bridges with it. To trust those bridges and cross over them so we can attempt to reach each other." And for me that really is the framing of exactly what you're talking about and really that muscle of trust, of developing courage and building bridges and we're going to mess up and we might not say it right, but my intention here is to reach this other person and maybe realize we actually have more in common than we might have thought as well. So for me one of the reasons why I teach Radical Candor is to keep building that muscle of courage because I do feel so committed to wanting to reach each other knowing that that's how I grow and that's how I believe I think we make the world a better place.

Amy Sandler
And why I think the courage is especially important is because the final quadrant, the mistake that we make when we're not practicing Radical Candor is ruinous empathy. And this is when we care so much about this other person but we're so afraid to hurt their feelings, we don't tell them the thing they need to know.  This is certainly the mistake that I tend to make the most. That we tend to see the most in the workplace. I really lost an important friendship, an important relationship because of my own ruinous empathy.  Someone that worked for me, you know, 9 times out of 10 went above and beyond. Every so often, out of the blue, they'd get really angry about something and I, at the time wasn't a fan of conflict. And all of a sudden we get this new boss. And months pass and the new boss says "You have to say something, you have to say something." I kept dancing around it. I would give if you're familiar with the phrase - the feedback sandwich - which we do not recommend. Another phrase if I may use a not so polite word is the shit sandwich where you have two pieces of praise encompassing the criticism.

Amy Sandler
So I'd say things like "Oh I love working with you so much. You're so great". And the criticism would be something like "I heard you through something at the meeting". You know, but I would barely be able to say because of "Oh but don't worry. It's so stressful. You're doing so great". So the main problem with this is the person is totally confused. They have no idea what's happening. We feel better because we feel like we did something but we actually confused them even more. And so ruinous empathy is this thing where we are caring so much about this other person's feelings, we don't tell them what they need to know.  What I think is really interesting about... If you're again, imagining sort of this 2 by 2 framework and you've got care personally is the vertical axis and challenge directly is the horizontal axis. On the other side, so when you're not challenging, you're either in ruinous empathy or maybe you're in manipulative insincerity. You're not caring. You're not challenging. Well often we're in both. And by that I mean part of me was really worried about hurting this person's feelings. But if I was really honest with myself I was also worried about myself. I wanted everyone to like me. I didn't want to be seen as you know the bad guy here. I didn't want to have to deal with this person's potential emotional reaction.

Amy Sandler
And so I think the framework is so helpful because it's so, in some ways, simple. But it's a really good shorthand for things that are often more complex. Why we don't say the thing? Why we're afraid? And for me it signals: "Okay, Amy, you've really got to move on challenge or you've got to move up on care". So it's a very helpful sort of in the moment almost like a compass to guide your conversations to a better place.

Lina Zubyte
I have seen so many companies and people I've worked with and myself including fall into ruinous empathy so often. But I've never thought that that could also hide a little bit of a selfish streak that you mentioned right now which is fascinating. So now I'm just... Wow.  I'm thinking....Yeah it wasn't as Samaritan or  good-willed as I thought. There was a little bit of insincerity there. I wanted to keep my face. I wanted to have people like me. The funny part is that reading Radical Candor what I realized was that even though I wanted to be nice to for example people I was mentoring in the company I did not realize that challenging is actually a gift. That I want to be given feedback and projects that improve me. I was not doing a service to my mentees. Not only to myself when I was not giving feedback but I also was not helping them grow. So it changed my whole mindset and the way I was at work radically. Pun not intended. Because I started telling people feedback. I said "Hey, what are your dreams? What do you want to achieve here?"

And sometimes I went also on a personal level because I really liked the examples that were in the book about talking about people's dreams, about their long-term vision. Maybe they do not want to work in tech, for example. But that doesn't mean that they do not have certain strengths that could be useful for us right now. And maybe we can do a win-win situation and help them grow to the direction where they want to grow and support them there. However, this is a personal conversation. This is a deep trust conversation where I also need to sort of earn this trust by challenging them directly which was always a big challenge to me. So I would be nice and I'd say "oh I really liked your job" but then I would be afraid to tell sometimes that "hey, maybe this thing would have been different". Maybe saving my face. Maybe being afraid to upset them. So how do we build this muscle of actually challenging people directly?

Amy Sandler
I love hearing your reflections. There's so much there. So many different directions we could go in. And I think first of all just to give ourselves a little bit of grace on this. Why this is hard. You know if it might be hard to sort of build real human relationships because of messages we got when we were sort of 17/18/19 years old. The challenge directly is hard because since so many of us got some message: "If you don't have anything nice to say don't say anything at all". I'm sure it's in different languages and different flavors. You know from more like eighteen months old. And it comes from this really good place. We want to be kind. We want to belong. But you know guess what? Now it's your job to say the not very nice thing. And, by the way, not just your job but we really feel like it's your obligation. And so, I'm going to share a story about a time when I received Radical Candor and then we can get into sort of the how to do it because we do have a recommendation of how to put this into practice. But I think it's really important to think about what does it look and feel like for each of us. This idea of care personally and challenge directly. And so one of the best ways we've found to do that is to is to share our stories and it could be really helpful on your teams and your groups to think about like...

What is it that makes something Radical Candor for me? So this was a time in my career when I was, you know, recently out of business school I thought I was the greatest thing since... I don't know if this is a phrase... Do you know this phrase "The greatest thing since sliced bread?" That might be very American.

Lina Zubyte

Amy Sandler
Yeah... I don't even... it's also probably very old. But anyhow I thought I was really pretty fantastic. High ego there.  And I was a manager running... We were trying to get a bunch of new websites published and we had a meeting with the CEO and the CFO. And after the meeting my boss Steve asked how I thought the meeting went. I said "Oh my gosh meeting was great! CEO was really happy with what he was hearing from the board and the CFO was really happy with the numbers." And I had just gotten this new branding project and I'd really wanted that. And Steve congratulated me. He knew how hard I worked. And then he asked "What do you think Brooke and Jenny thought of the meeting?" and I said "Oh  I'm sure they thought it was great". And Brooke was running the analytics and Jenny was running the content strategy. And Steve nodded and then he asked me a few questions. He said "Did you notice that when the CEO asked Jenny about the content strategy you interrupted her?" And I got really defensive and I was like "Yeah I did because she was rambling and the CEO's a really busy guy." And so just note that our tendency when we get criticisms is usually to go to judgment and defensiveness. It's very natural, right? We're like I did it because of that... And Steve... he didn't shy away but he was very patient. He said "Did you notice that when the CFO asked Brooke about the numbers, and they were right in front of Brooke on the table, you didn't even let Brooke answer?" Now often when we get kind of defensive or judgey, underneath it is a sense of like not enoughness or embarrassment.

And for me as a recovering perfectionist, at the time I was just a good old-fashioned perfectionist, I don't like to make mistakes. And all of a sudden I was starting to realize very quickly I had made some terrible mistake here. And I felt this huge pit in my stomach. And if anyone is listening who doesn't like mistakes you kind of know that feeling of oh my gosh. Because then Steve asked me what had happened in the last ten minutes of the meeting? Did I notice what was happening for Brooke and Jenny? And I realized I had no idea. I was laser focused on the CEO and the CFO. I was completely ignoring my team and Steve said to me: "Amy I'm afraid you're going to lose your team. Brooke looked like he was about to blow a gasket. He was furious. Jenny looked like she wanted to be anywhere but there. And I really recommend you check in with them." And he was right. They were furious with me. Steve said "I know that you can be a great manager. But a great manager lets their people shine." And so when you kind of unpack the care and the challenge you know I think first of all, you think about just even Steve having the courage to tell me that. I'm very sensitive. He knows how sensitive I am, I just worked so hard on this project but he knew I wanted to be a great manager. He knew that I didn't want my team to leave me which is what I learned they were about to do. So it would have been very easy for him to ignore me, to say: "Oh yeah, everything's great!" And then I would have had something so much worse. That would have been ruinous empathy.

So going back to that idea of courage and trust... Him saying that in that moment. The challenge was clear. You're going to lose your team. But there was also a real coaching you know for you as a mentor as a coach a real developmental challenge like I know you can do this and here's what it might look like. And you think about well what did he do that sort of showed me that he cared? Well, not only did he sort of acknowledge everything that had gone well in the meeting and how hard I'd worked but there were things he did leading up to that. So again when you talk about sort of building trust: what are those deposits in the relationship bank that you have done to build the trust with this person? One thing could be: a very heavy door fell on me I was traveling and I had a terrible concussion. He literally stayed on the phone with me all night to make sure that I was ok but, probably even more meaningfully, I was one of the first 30 people accepted to be part of Google's search inside yourself training program. This was a mindfulness based emotional intelligence program and this was ten years ago and this was before mindfulness was a thing and accepted in the corporate world. And my company didn't want to pay for it. But Steve found budget because he knew how important it was for me.

So going back to what you're saying about sort of investing, getting really curious about this person's dreams - I knew that he was invested in me being sort of the best me I could be and so that... Even though it felt like a punch in the gut in the moment. I'm not saying I I would have been able to say this to you 3 seconds after it happened. It took a little time but I could really tell it was coming from this place of guidance, of being helpful and really helping me take a step in my in the direction of my dreams.

Lina Zubyte
I feel like in these moments, not only there was courage: courage to give this feedback but also some kind of... love, right? On one hand I also see this as a job of any manager or leader. And to understand that our job is as you said to make people shine. It's a big one. Because that shine is not only making them shine by giving them praise. It's making them shine by helping them improve. By understanding them as they are, knowing them,  having this trust and very good relationship with them. That allows you to give some kind of feedback to them to improve them. It is such a wonderful powerful message here and I'm thinking also about perfectionism and that you said that in that situation you interrupted someone. I feel like as managers or leadership roles very often we may see that we do not fully trust our team members because we think that we may do it better and this trust that I will allow this person to show their own self is a big one. Because then we're basically not regulating, we're not controlling them. We're letting go but also letting them grow.

Amy Sandler
You've hit on something which is so important and we've been talking about this a lot in our podcast. We've been exploring this idea of how you can be a thought partner rather than a micromanager or an absentee manager. One of the things that you're talking about for folks with micromanagement tendencies and I'm raising my hand here where you want to, you know, get all up in the details and you might not trust your team is that we have such a high bar for success for ourselves, as hard as we are being on that other person, it's even probably harder for ourselves. And so for me one of the biggest things I've had to do is become more comfortable making mistakes. There is a book that came out probably fifteen years ago maybe more by Carol Dweck called Mindset but it really was this idea of having a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset.

When we think about feedback and growth, the only way you can grow is if you're learning where you're messing up and if you can realize that this sort of not yet, right? There's this ability now for us to think about like "oh I didn't quite get it right... yet" and by getting this feedback getting this guidance I'm going to keep improving rather than having to do it perfect at first which is so limiting. And the other thing I want to mention is that you know when you think about these stories that had this big impact like the story I just shared, I don't have tons of these stories. I don't have so many of them. They tend to be big because they made a real impact but I want people to start to think about how can I do this in little ways? And how can I do, you mentioned praise, even more so praise than criticism? I'll get into sort of our order of operations in a moment but I want to share a super quick story that we can do this sort of in the moment. And this for me helps flex the muscle of developing the courage to say the thing. One example when I received Radical Candor, I was leading a workshop. And I'm left-handed and I was very excited and I was writing on the board. And in a break this woman she pulled me to the side so she did it privately. She said: "Amy I love the workshop, I'm getting so much out of it." Then she said "I just want to let you know because I would want to know" which for me that was all she needed to sort of move up on care personally I felt like she was really invested.

She said "I would want to know. You have magic marker all over your chin" and she was right. Like magic marker everywhere. And that's all she needed to do. She didn't need to fix the problem for me but she actually had one of those little mirrors and she could show me and so it was great. So that built trust in me. We'll often do an exercise where ask people you know if you had spinach in your teeth, and talk about the different quadrants, and I will ask CEOs and leaders, and I will say: "If someone you know several layers down in the organization told you you had spinach in your teeth (again, maybe a silly example, happens all the time) Would that build trust or take away trust?" And like 99% say build trust. And you know sometimes you think like "oh I couldn't tell this person because I don't yet know them or what have you?" but I think that those kinds of examples can be so helpful. I was so grateful for her, but another on the flipside of when I had to say the thing.... We work with a group called Second City - they're improvisers. And I was just about to go on stage and one of the improvisers, I'd only met him once, his fly was down. He had just come out of the restroom.  My first reaction was... I was looking around like who is going to tell this guy that his fly is down right? It's like.... you, Amy, you are teaching Radical Candor and you are between him and the stage. And so I pulled him to the side I told him and of course he was an improviser. He was very funny about it. But I share it because...

I teach this stuff to hold myself accountable to what really matters to me, to what I'm aligned to and I think... Before we go on stage if you're doing improv, there's a thing you do as a group and you say to each other "Got your back!" And I share that because if we want to build the kind of high-performing teams where we've got each other's back, where we can innovate, where we can you know take some risks, grow. We've got to feel like we've got each other's backs that I can feel confident that I'm going to go on stage and if my fly is down someone's going to tell me. And so I think that's the spirit that we want to bring in. If we build trust, we build more psychological safety when people feel like they can trust. Again more praise than criticism. If I'm doing something, well, someone's going to tell me, and if I'm messing up - someone's also going to tell me. And you know leaving sort of the less important things unsaid. But I thought those stories might be helpful because we don't always maybe have those big ticket items. But if we can start to look for little moments.

Lina Zubyte
I can truly resonate with those moments when you look around and you hope that someone will say something. And now also I try to find those spinach in the teeth moments because I do see them as the great opportunity to build trust, to actually improve the relationship and create this connection because I would love someone to tell me this. I know it's uncomfortable. But then I've been in situations where I see someone in a certain state and then I sort of judge them and I'm like oh you know they didn't clean themselves or something but it happens to everyone. Just recently I was in a meetup and then I ate a pretzel. And some chocolate fell on my jeans and I was wearing all black. And then I realized I had this chocolate and it's so embarrassing and I wish someone told me. And then I was thinking why nobody told me. So I feel like we definitely want to be told this and this definitely builds trust and respect for each other. Talking about this I'm wondering about feedback because an interesting example you said at the start of obnoxious aggression... Was that you sent an email to someone who was hierarchically above you. Often we also may not see the human in people who are in hierarchies  above us. What would be some of your main tips on how to give good feedback, doesn't matter to what their hierarchy level is, what should we consider?

Amy Sandler
Yeah, such a great question. We actually want to start by getting feedback before we start giving it. There's a phrase you know "we want to show we can kind of take it before we before we dish it out now." Kim sort of targeted the book Radical Candor for managers because managers really have the power to help folks grow. But what we found is that the model works for everyone. Whether it's you know downwards, upwards, sideways. We're all human. We all want to grow. But especially if we do have some power. If we are the manager or we have some form of you know, maybe systemic power either based on you know were overrepresented in in leadership or you know based on what organization we're in or things around race or gender or other things. We want to lay that sort of hierarchical or other power down and we do this by getting feedback. And especially getting criticism starting with some questions to solicit feedback and I I can talk to you about that in a minute but we start by getting feedback. We sort of almost put down the kind of fight-flight freeze reaction that happens.

Someone says "can I give you some feedback?" and all of a sudden you know people feel like there's a saber-toothed tiger running after them, right? Just that's the threat that it triggers. So we kind of want to meet that threat and subvert it by getting feedback first, building the relationship. Then we want to focus more on the good stuff: on giving specific and sincere praise. And throughout this we want to be gauging how what we're saying is landing, so we're moving on to criticism. There is no kind of objective measure of Radical Candor. We want it to be kind and clear. We want it to be specific and sincere. But what might land for you, Lina, as Radical Candor might land for me, Amy, as obnoxious aggression or ruinous empathy based on who I am in a conversation with and how we are having this conversation. Based on all of these different factors. That's why we want to do this in a 1-on-1 setting. So assuming that we've started by getting it, we're giving praise and then giving criticism. There's a few things that we want to think about when we are giving our guidance: both praise and criticism. First of all, we want this to be.... Humble and by humble I mean I am sharing my perspective with you. How do you look at this? What do you think? Radical Candor, radically candid conversation is a two-way street. So I'm going to share my perspective with you. How is it landing for you? What do you think?

We want this to be helpful but I think this is where often our guidance tends to fall off the rails a little bit. Sometimes we do this like you were saying with perfectionists. You know it's like "Why didn't you do it this way? You should have done it that way". Rather than am I sharing this in a way that is helpful? I'm trying to do this to help you grow. And you could even say that, but really checking in with yourself: am I giving this guidance to help this person grow? Or am I giving this guidance because I'm really frustrated? You know, sort of our own emotional management. And then things around like wanting to do it immediately... If we can't do it in person to do it, you know the way that you are and I are having a synchronous conversation, or with video so we can sort of pick up on all those non-verbals. And one of the biggest things that we talk about besides you know criticizing in private and praising in private and public and I can tell more about that is we want to take our guidance out of personality, right? We want to take it out of "You're a genius. You're an idiot." You know that is not Radical Candor. What's helpful is being very specific about what we observed, sort of what the impact is, what we're going to do next.

Lina Zubyte
The best feedback is very authentic, right? It has to be specific and it will not sit right with a person if I give insincere feedback. It will all sound ingenuine.

Amy Sandler
Absolutely! And people have really good BS meters. You know, just as much with praise if not more so. That's why we really want both our praise and our criticism. And by the way, one of the words we actually prefer is guidance rather than feedback. And especially you know if English isn't your first language, I'm curious how it lands. But for me, guidance - it has much more of that coaching spirit. I'm doing this to help you grow. Sometimes feedback can sound very: "This is how you should do it and I'm right and you're wrong." So if the word guidance is helpful... But the model that we've come up with to share with folks is... It's adapted actually from a model from the Center for Creative Leadership. But we've added this idea of a next step.

So we call it CORE: context, observation, result, next steps.  The context could just be like quarterly budget review meeting with the CFO. So this can be really quick. The observation - this one is really important. This is where it takes it out of personalized. You know when we pull folks and we say what is hard for you about receiving feedback. It's like when it feels like it's about me personally or when it feels like it's really vague. It's not clear. So what did I observe? This could be work product or behavior. So for example, in the in the analysis you had a complex growth rate. It was was accurate and you answered the questions from the CFO succinctly. So you know, complex accurate analysis succinct responses that would be praise. Criticism could be something more like "there was an error in your deck and you weren't able to answer the follow-up questions". So by observing it in that way, we're kind of taking it out of any judgment. And this allows us then to talk about why this matters and this goes directly to what you were talking about.

Can I build a relationship with this person? Know what motivates them? Know what's important to them? So the result is like why does this really matter? Maybe it matters  to them, to the team, because you're on track for promotion? Or maybe the most important thing is we're going to get the funding request? Similarly, you know for criticism this could be maybe it matters because you know we are now going to have to sort of prove all of our decks to the CFO or you're not going to get the the promotion? And then we added this idea of a next step because what we what we found happens is that you often have these conversations and you think you've agreed and then you're waiting for like the email that never arrives. So really getting alignment on a next step and this can be where our conversations really turn to kind of coaching and development like "Hey. I'd love for you to share how you built that deck with the rest of the team" like that could be praise.

Sometimes people think oh praise is care and criticize is challenge. No. What makes Radical Candor radical is that we are having both the care and the challenge. Criticism: "Hey, let's meet next week let's go through the deck. Before we go through this with the CEO." So that's the model that we use. We find it helps people prepare for these conversations. It gives them something to really plan their guidance with.

Lina Zubyte
I love it. I feel like guidance is a beautiful word and it does add this aspect of self that if I want to give some guidance to someone the intentions have to be checked. So I have to be sincere I have to be real and also have this growth aspect there. A fun fact here is that I was talking to my mom recently and I realized that there's no word for feedback in Lithuanian.

Amy Sandler

Lina Zubyte
It basically translates into something like "a signal that returns", something like that which is really strange. And I was explaining the concept to her: I was like "when someone gives you some kind of comments about your work" and she says "it's criticism" and then I said "no, it's not criticism!" And so it was a nice discovery that actually in Lithuanian feedback is not really a word I know at least.

Amy Sandler
I love that so much and you know we're big fans of of words and meaning. And what your mom said is so spot on because people will often hear feedback and go right to criticism. Often feedback becomes like a synonym to criticism.

Lina Zubyte
Exactly, it's like at school!

Amy Sandler
Yeah, it's like "You did this wrong. You did this wrong." And again think about it... We all have negativity biases. And we are leaving so much good stuff on the table. You know I will spend a lot of time on the value of praise. Praise helps you build a relationship, again specific and sincere praise. Not "you're a genius" praise but actually using that model: specific, sincere. It shows people what good looks like. It's so different than "Great job on on the new website!" What was it that made it great? That's what we can replicate. So it helps you get clear on what good looks like and can I translate that to the people that I work with? That's what we want to replicate. So I often think of praise like putting your foot on the accelerator on the gas, criticism is putting your foot on the brake. We're not going to go very far if we're just putting our foot on the brake the whole time. So I just love that you had that conversation with your mom and how language can often constrain us.

Lina Zubyte
Yeah, absolutely. It's been such a wonderful conversation. But I feel it's time for us to come full circle. So what is the one piece of advice you would give for building high-quality products and teams?

Amy Sandler
The one advice I would give is focus on building radically candid or compassionately candid relationships. I heard recently this phrase: people before projects. And if you can start by asking a question to get some feedback from someone you're working with. You know, what's one thing I could start or stop doing that would help us be more effective together? What did you need more or less from me last week or next week? So asking a question in the spirit of building a better relationship with someone is going to help you build better products, build better teams and have even more fun at work.

Lina Zubyte
Wonderful! Thank you so much, Amy.

Amy Sandler
Thank you, Lina. I loved the conversation!

Lina Zubyte
That's it for today's episode. Thank you so much for listening. Let me know what you thought of this episode and if it was useful to you. What you liked the most when you were listening to it? I truly enjoyed this conversation with Amy and I hope that you all are inspired to communicate better with each other and help each other shine as Amy says. And, while you're doing all of this, do not forget to keep on caring and building those high-quality products and teams! Bye!