The following story is related by former Apple leadership developer Kim Scott,
“Shortly after I joined Google, I witnessed an impressive display of productive but extremely direct feedback. I was at a meeting with Larry Page, Google’s cofounder, and Matt Cutts. We were discussing a proposal that Matt and I had. Larry had a different, more subtle plan, which I didn’t understand. But it was clear that Matt did understand Larry’s plan and didn’t like it one bit. Matt—generally a very pleasant, easygoing guy—disagreed, heatedly. When Larry wouldn’t back down, Matt started yelling at Larry. He said Larry’s idea would flood him with “so much crap” he’d never keep up.
I felt unnerved by Matt’s reaction. Then I saw the big grin on Larry’s face. Not only did he permit Matt’s challenging him — he seemed to relish it. I could see from the open, happy way he responded to the argument that he wanted not just Matt but everyone at Google to feel comfortable criticizing authority—especially his. It didn’t make any sense to label this conversation “nice” or “mean,” “rude” or “polite. It was free. It was driving to the best answer. How had Larry achieved that?”
This short and bizarre run-in with feedback is electric to me. As leaders, fostering an environment where criticism and feedback is no big deal, but the norm, can change the very fibers of your team. Stagnation is not possible in an environment like the one described above.
This week I want you to find a member of your team you trust to be honest with you and ask, “Is there anything I could do or stop doing that would make it easier to work with me?” ” Another way to phrase that is the question: “What is it like to be on the other side of me?”
Now some of you will do this, but the majority of you probably won’t. It’s terrifying and vulnerable. What you are doing here, however, is planting seeds for an environment of feedback. Starting with those whose opinions don’t terrify you as much, and then moving on to those who do. This has such a huge payback in the amount of growth and progress you will make as a leader! The period of humility it takes is nothing compared to the long term improvement you can enjoy.
Good luck this week!
The themes of this writing were taken from an excellent read, “Radical Candor” by Kim Scott.
Written by Emma Pister and Karl Pister