leadership dot #1963: radical candor

As we commemorate Bosses Day today, I remind all bosses and aspiring bosses that one of their most important functions is to provide feedback to employees. One model that helps to frame the spectrum of feedback options was developed by Kim Scott, author of the 2017 book Radical Candor.

Kim’s premise is that for effective feedback, the person must Care Personally and Challenge Directly. If someone has accomplished both aspects, she terms their feedback as Radical Candor – where you can provide direct and helpful feedback to help the person grow.

People often Care Personally – a lot – and because of their focus on being nice, they fail to challenge directly. Kim believes this is Ruinous Empathy, luring the person into a false sense of security because they have not received the honest feedback they deserve.

The opposite extreme is Obnoxious Aggression – feedback that is given without care and thus is often ignored or seen as not helpful.

On her website (radicalcandor.com), Kim shares stories and provides many more examples of the quadrants in action, but I believe this simple diagram will provide you with some fodder to consider today.

Where do you fall on the Care Personally/Challenge Directly spectrum? Have you truly shown your employees (or colleagues, partner, children, etc.) that you care about them? Do you care enough to provide the honest feedback that they would benefit from hearing or do you avoid it to keep yourself comfortable?

We’d all be better off if we delivered feedback with Radical Candor, keeping the civility and care as part of the equation while still saying what needs to be said.

Radical Candor handout

Thanks to Meghan for connecting me with this resource!

leadership dot #1962: hello science

There have been many efforts to promote science and STEM education with girls, but I think that the target audience will hear the message more loudly thanks to a new partnership with Hello Kitty. The internationally famous icon has come out with a new line of products promoting science, and especially science for girls.

Hello Kitty has previously attached its brand to cosmetic lines and frilly pink items so it is delightful to see it expanding its influence in ways that could encourage young girls to explore new career areas. Even if Hello Kitty fans don’t go into science directly, prompting them to “think like a scientist” will pay dividends in all aspects of life.

Hello Kitty + science is outside their norm, but smart. How can you think beyond the obvious to identify a new spokesperson for your brand and partner with someone that makes your message purr?

leadership dot #1961: souvenir

How many times has the airport been the only place you have seen in a city? Unfortunately, for frequent travelers, it happens regularly.

Kansas City (KCI) is catering to the airport crowd by offering a vending machine that allows travelers to bring home a souvenir of a higher caliber than the typical tchotchkes sold in airport stores. Even if you never get beyond the concourse, you can purchase desirable items from their clever SouveNEAR machine. It’s like an automated Etsy store, featuring cards, shirts, journals, snacks and jewelry – but all are handmade items that are produced locally.

KCI airport has done a great job of bringing their product to potential customers. Think of how you can take advantage of the ever-expanding capabilities of vending machines to reach your clientele. Spirit wear at athletic venues? Branded merchandise for your organization at your office or events? Convention centers that rotate merchandise depending on the current show? Rain gear at outdoor public places like zoos or amusement parks? A way to sell products of students or employees?

Dorothy and Toto may not be in Kansas anymore, but the effective use of vending machines certainly is. Click your Ruby Slippers and add vending to your brand outreach.

leadership dot #1960: looking for

When you are asked to recommend something – such as a book, a restaurant or an activity – it is tempting to jump in and answer with your favorite item in that category, but that is the wrong approach.

A concierge taught me that the correct answer to such questions is: “What are you looking for?” It is simple, yet brilliant.

> If you ask: “What are you looking for?” you can learn that a person wants either a quick bite to eat or a fancy meal – so your initial thought to recommend your favorite moderate restaurant is not appropriate for either.

> Knowing that someone wants a light romance novel or a romantic comedy movie shifts you away from suggesting the 800-page Hamilton book or Hacksaw Ridge movie even though both were excellent.

> If you learn that someone wants a stylist that is quick or inexpensive, it guides your answer to become much more helpful than giving the name of a professional who is costly and meticulously slow.

Whether providing recommendations for a realtor, candidate, store, contractor or neighborhood, the answer depends significantly on what the questioner is seeking.

No matter on what topic your advice is being solicited, one simple question can provide the clarification that makes your response both relevant and responsive. To provide the best service, reply to the next query with a question instead of an answer.

leadership dot #1959: cleaning

Chihuly glass sculptures make for great art and are a visual treat for the observers, but what about the person who has to clean them? This article describes the work of glass cleaner Dave Pugh, who meticulously and cautiously takes individual pieces off the stainless steel studs, labels them, wraps them, cleans them and returns them to their original position. It is work behind-the-scenes that few consider, but is essential to the on-going enjoyment of the sculptures.

It reminded me of a photograph of the National Park Service workers who are charged with maintaining the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. Twice a year they do their work in the middle of the night, cleaning areas that would entropy without attention. Cleaning the monument involves power washing, steam-cleaning, dusting and hand-finishing of the marble and takes a crew seven hours to complete.

Photo by Terry Adams,
National Park Service

None of the back-of-the-house jobs are glamorous, but all of them are essential. It is work that makes the front-facing elements more enjoyable and maintains the quality instead of allowing it to diminish over time.

Think about what is in your organization that should be on an annual or semi-annual cleaning schedule. Is there an exhibit that is starting to look tired or displays that could benefit from a sprucing up? Do you have furniture that is used daily in your waiting room, but no one can remember when the upholstery was last washed? Have you left all of your outside cleaning to Mother Nature instead of tending to your windows, signs and bricks?

Physical assets may be low maintenance, but nothing is no maintenance. Include some elbow grease time on your annual planning calendar to keep the sparkle in your possessions.

leadership dot #1958: compilation

If you have ever seen a Dale Chihuly sculpture, you know that they are a montage of intertwined glass in vibrant colors, with different shapes and colors assembled in unique and visually captivating forms.

Chihuly’s work reminds me of yesterday’s dot, about how the Smithsonian curated a collection of John F. Kennedy photographs purchased from eBay. The exhibit exclusively utilized ordinary artifacts and made them special by their compilation. In a similar way, Chihuly utilizes individual pieces of glass that are not spectacular by themselves, but create stunning works of arts through their arrangement.

I think that too often we believe that greatness or creativity must be ONE.BIG.THING. — a monumental discovery, an epic piece of art or a product that is truly magnificent. What Chihuly and the Smithsonian demonstrate is that little things can add up to create something with synergy greater than the individual pieces. Dots that are connected can result in something amazing and new, even though the components are not so special if considered alone.

Don’t let your fear of the mountain prevent you from taking that first step. Start from where you are, with what you have, and see if you don’t end up with something noteworthy by putting together the ordinary in new ways.

Chihuly Sanctuary at the Buffet Cancer Center, Omaha

leadership dot #1957: curate

A new exhibit at the Smithsonian features 77 photographs of President John F. Kennedy – nothing extraordinary there, except that all of them were purchased on eBay.

I imagine the Smithsonian as an elite institution with access to behind-the-scenes, never-before-seen artifacts (which I am sure is true), but for this exhibit, they chose to display only materials previously seen by thousands. And, again by choice, the materials were exhibited in their original form – without enlargements or enhancements for the display.

What struck me about this is that everyone had access to this Smithsonian-quality exhibit. You could have curated the exact same thing in your home or office. The magic is not in the items themselves, rather in the compilation of them.

What items can you assemble en masse to create a story of your own? Maybe it involves a wall of photographs, a collection of magazine covers or record albums, historical documents from your organization or ticket stubs from the events you have sponsored.

Whether from your archives or via eBay, your story is waiting to be told. Be resourceful like the Smithsonian and gather the visuals you need to tell it.

Source: Smithsonian displays JFK photos by Alex Gangitano for the Tribune News Service, in the Telegraph Herald, May 14, 2017, p. 5C.