"We often think that, if I'm caring, I can't be challenging, or if I'm challenging, I can't be caring. But, you can actually do both. And often the kindest thing you can do for someone is to be kind and clear."
In this episode
In episode #33, Amy Sandler lets us know what it takes to be challenging and caring.
Amy Sandler is the Chief Content Officer at Radical Candor – an organization co-founded by Kim Scott and Jason Rosoff to help leaders learn the art of feedback.
Prior to Radical Candor, Amy filled senior roles in marketing at the Young President’s Organization, Vistage, and the University of California in LA.
In today’s episode, Amy explains how walking on fire (yes, real fire) six times took her out of her comfort zone and also… what it taught her about leadership.
We also talk about how empathy, aggression, and insincerity play out at work and what we need to keep in mind when we provide critical feedback and also praise to our teams.
Listen to this episode to better understand the importance of knowing and respecting the people we work with.
Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the podcast with your colleagues.
Talk the Talk, Walk the Fire Walk
Getting out of our comfort zones as leaders
Why the words we choose matter
What is Radical Candor?
Should I tell them they have spinach in their teeth?
Stopping your ruinous empathy
The SCARF Model
The problems with praise
The strength of The Beginner’s Mind
- Get the Book, Radical Candor
- Watch Kim Scott’s talk ‘The Surprising Secret to Being a Good Boss’
- David Rock (Co-founder of NeuroLeadership Institute) SCARF Model
- Watch Radical Candor’s Comedy series The Feedback Loop
- Radical Candor 101: A 6-Week Feedback Workshop
Aydin Mirzaee 2:28
Amy, welcome to the show.
Amy Sandler 2:29
Well, thanks, Aydin. I’m so happy to be here.
Aydin Mirzaee 2:31
Yeah, I’m really glad to have you on. You’re based in LA today?
Amy Sandler 2:36
I’m based in LA today. And it seems like every day since March. So yes, that’s where you find me.
Aydin Mirzaee 2:42
Yeah, you mentioned that you used to almost live on a plane. I don’t know. That’s quite true. But you traveled a lot
Amy Sandler 2:49
You know, so much of our work would be going to companies all over the world delivering workshops and keynotes. And it was great to not only see people in person but also get to see where like you’re in Ottawa and I’ve been to Ottawa just to get a sense of where people are in the world and how geography influences culture. And so I miss I do miss that part. And it’s been amazing now how through virtual, we can just scale the teachings in a very different way. So we’re actually busier than ever.
Aydin Mirzaee 3:15
Yeah. And it proved the previous like, pre-pandemic world, I would have come in actually see you in person in LA. But this works, too.
Amy Sandler 3:23
Yeah, well, well, we’ll schedule that for Well, we can all look forward to that.
Aydin Mirzaee 3:27
Yeah. So me, there’s a lot to talk about. But what I wanted to kind of do to set the tone so that the audience kind of gets a feel for you and your background. You’ve done something I mean, which is very interesting. you’ve walked on fire six times. Tell us about that.
Amy Sandler 3:46
I have walked on fire six times, I would say, as to sort of back things up. I’ve been practicing meditation for about 2025 years. And what’s really kind of powered My practice is when I started practicing and active breathwork meditation through my teacher, David Elliot. So I’ve been doing that for about 10 years. And David, every new year has a retreat in which a firewalk is part of the practice. And yes, it does involve walking on hot coals. But I think there’s there’s so much I’ve taken out of it. And just if it’s helpful to share as a framework why I think it’s so powerful um, I do it, even when I don’t necessarily want to do it is because first of all, it just it gets me out of my comfort zone. And one of the things that I’m doing teaching radical candor, teaching mindfulness is getting people out of their comfort zone. So it’s a little bit we got to walk the walk or walk the firewalk and really put ourselves in a position of what’s pushing me out of my comfort zone. So it certainly does that. But it also really connects me to my intention for the year ahead. And I’m a big believer in your intention, not just for a year but for each day for each meeting, you know, how do I want to show up and so one of the things and you mentioned you did a firewalk as well so we can you know I can connect if this resonates, but you look up at the sky And you find a star and you have a word that you use that you want to set as your intention. So whether it’s this past year, it was Thank you just feeling gratitude with freedom, love, whatever it might be. And I think it’s so helpful not just to have a word to anchor you, but also to look up because one of the big things about the firewalk is if you look down, your brain will say, oh, Danger, danger, hot coals, feet get burned. And there’s something in the looking up, where I’ve never gotten burned, it’s always been a really wonderful experience. Another thing that’s so important and this is why I would only do this with David is because it’s about relationships. So first of all, like the relationship with, with the fire with all the elements with the sun with the wood that’s being burned with the land with the, you know, the earth around you and the air, but also relationship with yourself, like what is it that you want to let go of, there’s a process where you might write down some stuff and let go of it. Burn that in the fire, what do you want to bring in, but there’s also the relationship with the people that you’re going through this firewalk within you probably felt this yourself, but like, people are on this site, as you’re running through, and they’re supporting you. And for me, it was actually just as exciting to support the people as they ran through the fire. And that’s really what I see my role is sort of how to facilitate and then finally, like, anything is possible. Like it just reminds me that oh, this seems crazy. How could you walk on fire? Not possible. And then you prove to yourself every moment, you can walk on fire?
Aydin Mirzaee 6:19
Yeah, I love that. And yet, as you mentioned it, I’ve tried it once before I was terrified. I think I might have done it slightly wrong because I did get one piece of hot coal stuck on my foot. But I was fine. It was just like a tiny piece there. But I love the experience.
Amy Sandler 6:37
Yeah. And I will say like, it does not only do it with it is it is real. And the reason I would only do it with David is, first of all, I have such trust, he’s been building the relationship with that with the fire with the land for so long. But also, he goes on at first multiple times, he will not let you on it until he’s done it first. And I think that’s the sign of a leader. Right? It’s like, I will make sure that this is okay for you all before. It’s okay.
Aydin Mirzaee 7:01
Yeah, I love it. And the reason I mentioned that is, you know, for folks wondering Oh, like maybe it’s not hot, maybe it should, you know, fake? No, it’s real.
Amy Sandler 7:09
Oh, it’s real fire. Yeah, it is.
Aydin Mirzaee 7:12
You know, one thing that you mentioned in the process of talking about that, and I think it’s related, I was gonna ask you about it later, but might as well start now, which is, what is this active breathwork meditation? And how is it different from other types of meditation?
Amy Sandler 7:25
Yeah, it’s a great question. Because I also teach mindfulness, you know, there’s a lot of different modalities out there. And like anything, it’s like the one that’s going to work for you is the one that you actually do and practice. But what I love about the breathwork that I’ve learned with David is, it’s, it’s a form of pranayama, which is a term for breathing meditation, you do it lying down, and you breathe in through an open mouth. So you breathe into the low belly, and then the upper chest, so it’s to inhale through an open mouth, low belly, upper chest, and when you exhale through also all through an open mouth, and you’re doing this lying down. And what happens is that the first few minutes, your brains like what’s going on, what’s all this oxygen, it’s confusing. Once your body starts to get into it, you get into a rhythm, it’s a very active breathing process. So for those of us who have very active minds, I found it a really helpful way to get into almost an altered state. So it’s really two parts, there’s an active part at the beginning. And then at the end, you’re just kind of lying there in a more natural breathing process just in and out through the nostrils. So for example, if you do, you know, a 20-minute practice, you might have 15 minutes, 10 1215 minutes of the act of breathing, and then a few minutes of just lying down and sort of allowing the process to wash through your body. And what I have found is it’s a very quick way to get to a sense of what mindfulness and other practices might take a little bit longer to get there. So I found kind of a big ROI on that practice.
Aydin Mirzaee 8:51
I love it. I love it. Yeah, you made me curious. And now I want to try it. I think this is such a good start to this conversation, you know, kind of setting the stage of you know, you getting out of your comfort zone with the firewalking you’ve told us about the meditation, you’ve also been a meditation coach. You’re obviously today, Chief Content Officer at radical candor. You’ve also served in the marketing leadership function there anybody who has any interest in management should have if they haven’t already read radical candor. You can’t read this book. We’re going to talk a lot about it today, obviously. But you’ve also run marketing roles, young presidents organization, Vistage, and UCLA. So before we start talking about management nitty-gritty, I wanted to ask you in your history, like if you take a look back, has there been someone whether it’s you know, a good manager or a bad leader or someone that really left a mark and something that you remember that you would want to tell us the story of today?
Amy Sandler 9:52
Absolutely. And I will say yes to the kudos on Radical Candor by Kim Scott. I will say that until I started working at Red candor, I really was not in an organization that really lived and breathed radical candor. I think it’s it’s radical because it’s rare that people are both caring and challenging. So I have worked with some wonderful people with some wonderful managers. And I don’t feel like I’ve ever been in a culture where it’s been sort of to a person grades or small team were like five people, but to a person were really embodying it, I would say, one story of something of what not to do is that after I had graduated from Harvard Business School, I had a manager who invited me to always take notes to type his notes, because he said, quote, you’re such a great typist. Now, I don’t think that that was a way to really validate my credit credentials after going to business school. So I think part of one thing is like, what motivates people what drives people telling me that I’m a great typist wasn’t a great way to do it. But I will say, and I don’t mean this in a stuck-up way, kind of at all. But Jason Rosoff who’s our CEO, who is my current manager, I have so much respect for as a manager I’ve learned so much from and I would say, just one story that happened pretty recently that might be interesting for your group is that we we’ve been so busy with workshops, we typically have a one on one, we weren’t able to do it that week. And so I get this note on Slack, like, Hey, we weren’t able to do our one on one. We’d like to make sure that we meet this week, I had some thoughts. I don’t know how you hear or read, I have some thoughts. But for me, all of a sudden, it was like the sound of a, a murder mystery soundtrack. It was like there was just like the swell. And all of a sudden my negativity bias, which we all have, but mine is has I’ve had to do a lot of work to counteract my negativity bias. I was like, What are the thoughts? Oh, my gosh, she hates me, I’m doing a terrible job. This is it. I had a good run, you know, I’m just sort of going through all of the worst-case scenarios. So this meeting was on a Wednesday, this was a Monday and it was like, well, this is a good mindfulness practice. Just notice what’s coming up, notice what’s coming up. Okay. By the time we had the meeting, and by the way, I have the best relationship I’ve ever had with a manager with Jason I such deep care, such deep respect. And so he was really checking in on a project that I just started leading, he wanted to know how I thought it was going, he wanted to know how he could support me better. He had some great ideas on how I could really start to move it through the organization. It was an amazing conversation. So then I said, I said, Jason, this is so great. I so appreciate your support. Please don’t ever write I have some thoughts. And what was so funny was that he said, that is hilarious because he had actually spent some time trying to find just the right words to set up the meeting. So and he was very intentional about it. He said, and so I share the story, first of all, because Jason and I have the relationship and he is a manager has facilitated the relationship where I felt super comfortable telling him that. But also, we see this all the time with our clients, like how do I even set up the meeting to have the conversation and just how these things are fraught and how they can go off the rails. And yet by having the conversation, you’re even more closely connected. So by having that conversation now he knows better what works for me, what doesn’t I feel comfortable becomes a virtuous cycle.
Aydin Mirzaee 13:02
Yeah, I love that. And so what would what would you have wanted him to say when setting up the meeting?
Amy Sandler 13:08
Yeah, it’s a great question. And we actually had that conversation. And it was like, well, well, I was thinking, it’d be great to just say, hey, I want to check in on this project, see how it’s going with you like that, because that was really what he was doing. But there was something about the I have some thoughts that all of a sudden turned into a spot, you know, our minds are just these amazing story making machines. And again, with that negativity bias, it’s usually not a positive story. Right.
Aydin Mirzaee 13:31
I know. I think that’s a I mean, that’s a huge lesson for all those because, you know, I know I’ve made the mistake before, when setting up meetings, those you know, don’t leave people hanging, especially if it’s like three days from now, there’s something I want to talk to you about, let’s book a meeting three days. Yeah. So I agree with that. That’s awesome.
Amy Sandler 13:50
And also just to add, because people are different, like for some people, that might not be an issue. And so so much of it is about getting to know the people you work with, what works for Aiden might be different from Amy and from Jason, etc. So that’s, that’s the other key point.
Aydin Mirzaee 14:03
Yeah, no, I totally agree. You, you kind of mentioned it in what you were saying. So what is how do you define radical candor?
Amy Sandler 14:10
Yeah, so first of all, I’m so grateful to Kim for writing the book and for really using her story, specifically her mistakes. to illuminate what radical candor is, it’s this really simple ideas that you have to care about the people you work with, while also being willing to challenge them directly. Another way, we like to think about it as being kind and clear, when it comes to praise being specific and sincere. But one of the things that she did that I think was so helpful, was to create a framework that kind of a two by two framework, if you’ve seen it, where there’s one axis, that’s care personally, the other one is challenged directly. We joke that you know, if there’s one thing you learn going to business school or working at McKinsey, just throw any problem into a two by two framework. So that’s, you know, so it’s really truth and love are probably the key ideas. But why the framework is helpful is because it shows us the mistakes that we make. And so you know, we might think If I’m if I’m caring, I can’t be challenging or if I’m challenging I can’t be caring. It’s a radical candor abiertas No, you can actually do both. And often the kindest thing you can do for someone is to be is to be clear. And so she outlines, we can talk about it if you’d like, but the mistakes that we tend to make the other quadrants that are not radical candor, but at its core, it’s being kind. It’s being kinda unclear.
Aydin Mirzaee 15:21
Yeah, it’s interesting because you actually have labels for each one of those quadrants as well as would would love I don’t know if you know them offhand, but would love for you to
Amy Sandler 15:30
Oh, I know them. I think they’re like tattooed on my forehead. So the quadrant that when you’re challenging someone, but you’re not carrying Kim called obnoxious aggression. And originally, she was gonna call this the asshole quadrant. But she chose not to for two reasons. First of all, not a nice word. But also, like, even more important, these are not like personality traits. These are this is not sort of a Myers Briggs, like, Oh, you know, this person’s a jerk and this person, we have all acted like jerks. And so I think it’s really important to use the framework not to start putting people’s names in boxes, but as a guide, almost like a compass to be like, Oh, I need to move more up on the care. So not just aggression is when you’re, you’re acting like a jerk. You’re it’s sort of front stabbing, you’re being very clear and direct, but not caring about the at the person as a human being. And I will say that originally, we saw people misinterpreting radical candor is obnoxious aggression, thinking that you could start a sentence by saying, and I’m using air quotes in the spirit of radical candor, you know, I think you’re an idiot, or like, that was a stupid thing to do. Like, you can’t say in the spirit of radical candor, that’s like a get out of jail free card, and all of a sudden, now you’re practicing. No, that’s still obnoxious aggression. Another way to think about radical candor, and we put this in, the update the second edition to the book, compassionate candor, you have to be carrying the compassion is the empathy and action and the candor is the challenge. Then there’s manipulative insincerity when you neither care nor challenge. This is you know if you’re watching a Netflix show on the weekend, we love this. This is when the conversation after the conversation, the meeting after the meeting, saying one thing to someone’s face, and another thing behind their back gossip. It’s the most toxic of workplaces. Often, sometimes it can actually be a reaction to receiving obnoxious aggression because you just sort of pullback You don’t care. You don’t challenge it.
Aydin Mirzaee 17:19
Yeah. So it’s, how am I doing? You’re doing great. You’re doing just fine. And then afterwards, it’s like, oh, my God, this person is doing such a horrible job totally.
Amy Sandler 17:27
And in fact, we have an exercise in workshops, where we’ll have people go through the quadrants, and what would you say or not say to someone who has spinach in their teeth, and I got in one group, they said they would create a Slack channel called Charlie’s teeth, and invite everyone except Charlie. Right? So everyone’s talking about the problem. And it was like funny, but it’s very point, how often does this happen? Everyone knows about the problem, except the person that actually needs to fix it. And so there’s something about this, this, this is sort of the most achy feeling of all people can say, Oh, I, I’ve been a jerk sometimes, or Oh, I’ve been too empathetic sometimes. But there’s something about this one that, you know, because we’re sort of protecting ourselves and we’re not being helpful to the other person.
Aydin Mirzaee 18:08
Yeah, it’s almost like you, you actually do have a responsibility to write. So not saying anything, actually, I guess you fall into that category.
Amy Sandler 18:17
It’s really interesting because one of the things that we like to call out is that obnoxious aggression is the only other category besides radical candor where the person knows what the issue is, right? So they know they have spinach in their teeth, you blow up the relationship. So it’s not that it’s second-best, it’s just the only one where they actually know the other two that are sort of on the other side of, you know, they’re not challenging. One is manipulative insincerity. So you’re not caring, you’re not challenging. They don’t know what the issue is, then there’s ruinous empathy, where we’re not challenging, but we’re not doing it because we don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings, like, Oh, they have spinach, but it’s like, it’s gonna embarrass them. And I don’t want to tell them so Meanwhile, they’ve now gone to six meetings with spinach in their teeth, which is worse, so much worse, like, and really deep ways like you don’t tell someone that thing they need to know then you have to fire them. So for me, the ruinous empathy is kind of the most poignant, it’s definitely the mistake I make the most. It’s like, no if you really care about this person, you’ll tell them what they need to know both what they’re doing well, so they can do more of, but also what they need to change. And I think what’s really important, which is where you’re going, is that we can often we have to get and this is where mindfulness comes in and self-awareness. Am I not telling this person the thing? Because I don’t want to hurt their feelings? And or am I not telling them because I don’t want the discomfort? I don’t want to feel like the bad guy. I still want everyone to like me, is it really more about me? Both of those things might be true. And so it’s more of an internal journey of you know, why am I saying or not saying this? And if I really want to be helpful, what would be most helpful for this person?
Aydin Mirzaee 19:48
Yeah, you know, it’s really interesting that you, you mentioned this, I’m gonna suspect that you can tell me if I’m right or wrong, but before people go through and read radical candor, and go to your workshops, do most people fall in the ruinous empathy category, would you say?
Amy Sandler 20:03
Yeah, I would say that you know, the vast majority of mistakes that we tend to see are based in ruinous empathy. And again, we sort of come in one conversation, you could go through all of the quadrants. But culturally, I think a lot of what happens is, you know, we’ll hear Oh, and by the way, it’s so interesting, we’ve got, oh, we’ve got sort of Southern nice, we’ve got Midwest nice, we’ve got Canada nice, you know, everyone sort of has their own flavor of it. But it’s because it comes, you know, we get this message when we’re really young, like, little kids, like, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. And so we really, and that’s coming from a very good place. And all of a sudden, he now it’s your job to say that not a very nice thing. So we have to counteract that training, and realize, Oh, we are actually doing this to be helpful. The other thing is, radical candor is not just criticism, it’s just as much In fact, it’s more about praise, we want people to know what good looks like, just as well as what you know, the mistakes that they’re making, it’s being kinda unclear. In both cases.
Aydin Mirzaee 20:57
It’s interesting. So on this topic, so if I want to say pretty much anything, can I just start off the conversation by saying, Listen, I’m communicating this feedback because I really care about you and your growth, and I want to see you succeed. And then can I say, just anything after that? Does that put me into the right category?
Amy Sandler 21:15
Well, you can always say anything, it just depends on how it’s gonna land for the other person. And so I think, you know, part of what we talk about is that it’s really about building relationships, because the reality is, we cannot control how the other person is going to respond. What we can do is we can build relationships, so people can feel that it’s coming from a helpful place. We’re being humble. We’ve built a relationship. And so one of the things that we really emphasize in our workshops is an order of operations. How do I actually practice radical candor? So actually, First, start by soliciting feedback, using a go to question to actually solicit, especially if we’re a boss or a manager, you have got to solicit criticism before you start to sort of dishing it out. This is important not just to show that it’s important, you know that we value this sort of criticism, but we have to lower a threat response. And one of the things that we were interested in talking about was David Rock has come out of the Neuro Leadership Institute, he has the scarf model, which is how our brains respond to we sort of move towards rewards and away from threats. Well, the essence scarf stands for status. And so the very act of a boss giving you feedback is going to trigger that fight flight freeze response, we’re going to feel like it’s the saber-toothed Tiger coming at us, it triggers that say it’s that same I’ve got some thoughts, like all of a sudden, you’re like, Oh, my gosh. So we know that that’s how the brain works. So as a manager, we have got to lay down the power first. And the way that you do that is by soliciting feedback, specifically criticism, and you’re having go-to questions.
Aydin Mirzaee 22:43
go ahead. Do that, like, right, before you deliver feedback? Or is this just in the relationship,
Amy Sandler 22:47
This is in the relationship. So you know, we want to have already, and one of the things is that you know, just like a company might have technical debt, you might also have feedback debt. So there might have been stuff that you’ve been sitting on. So just, you know, start where you are, but you want to be having regular one on ones that are in service of your direct report, you know, that’s about their agenda. And as part of that one on one that you’re you’re collecting, you’re soliciting feedback from them, you know, what’s something I did in the last week that you wish I hadn’t? Or where did you need more support from me? Or what’s one thing you wish I would, you know, sort of do or stop doing. And there’s a bunch of different questions that you can ask, but you really want to show that you value this sort of criticism from them and that you’re actually acting on it, you’re rewarding the candor. So in an ideal world, if you were sort of rolling this out, you would have solicited feedback from your direct report, you would have acted on it followed up on it, you would be giving them praise. So by the time you’re giving them criticism, you’re modeling it, you’re showing them what’s working well, and then you’re moving on to giving criticism. So that’s sort of the ideal how you would how you would roll it out.
Aydin Mirzaee 23:52
So you were saying about the the scarf model, so the S is for status? What are the rest of the letters stand for?
Amy Sandler 23:59
So David Rock from the Neuro Leadership Institute, the C stands for certainty. So humans have this need for certainty. And I think this is part of why we’re seeing so much stress right now. It’s such an uncertain time. And I think that’s why another way to think about the challenge directly axis in the radical candor model is clarity. How clear Are you being? Does the other person know what it is that’s expected of them? So clarity, certainty is very important. That is autonomy. And this is a really big one we think about management relationships is that we want you to be a thought partner. How often are we may be a micromanager or an absentee manager sometimes, oh, they’re doing great. I don’t need to check on them. You know, we want you to be a thought partner. We often think we want to manage the person the way we like to be managed. And we realize No, some people need more from us. Some people need less remote. So a really great question for that is Hey, in the last week, where do you wish I had gotten involved that I hadn’t or you know, where do you wish I hadn’t gotten involved, you know, step back a little because we often end up managing people the way they We think that we want to be managed. So that’s a autonomy. Yeah, it’s a really powerful question. And that’s been a really big aha for me is that we think we really need to know our direct reports and know how they like to be managed the RS relatedness. And this is really, when you think about care personally, this is about that respect, treat seeing and treating people like like human beings, you know, that empathy, relatedness we all have this human need. And I think especially now we’re seeing, you know, the downsides of not having this human connection. So how can we bake in moments of human connection? And then finally, fairness? I think humans are a lot like dogs this way, if you give one dog a treat, you’ve got another dog, the other dogs looking, they’re like, Hey, buddy, where’s my treat? But we do this a lot. Like, how come the sales team got that 10% jump we didn’t, or how come this person got that we constantly sort of measuring and evaluating for fairness. And so why I love these sorts of models is it helps us understand our own brains, but also the people that we work with and why certain things might be a threat, we don’t necessarily think just because we’re the boss, we might not think we’re threatening, but just by the very nature of that hierarchical status, it can land that way.
Aydin Mirzaee 24:22
So for this model, is there an order of operations to it, like when we’re using it, say, to understand how people will receive feedback?
Amy Sandler 26:13
I mean, just first, starting with that status, one and really like lowering the threat. That’s why we do the order of operations of starting by receiving feedback, I think the autonomy is an is an important one of just sort of understanding, like we were talking about with the go to are you sort of a micromanager, you an absentee manager, I think on the certainty one, we have a framework that appeals to that certainty need that we like to use when giving feedback, and you and your listeners might be aware of it, it comes from the Center for Creative Leadership, it’s called SBI. situation, behavior impact. And so I think from a certainty meeting that certainty need, you know, so being very clear in how you deliver your feedback, by the way for both praise as well as criticism. So what’s the situation the situation is in the quarterly meeting with the CFO? What was the behavior, the work product, you put together? The deck there were, you know, all your growth charts were accurate? You answered the question succinctly. And, and the impact, what is the impact in the most clear way, what’s going to matter to this person into the team, as a result, I think we’re gonna get the numbers on the budget that we wanted, or whatever it might be, we have added a next step. And I think from a clarity and an accountability perspective, it’s really important. So I’d love for you to teach the other folks on the team how to do that sort of deck or whatever it might be, but some measure of accountability. If it’s criticism, I’m going to check in on you on that next week. But situation behavior impact next steps, I think, can be very helpful with with the certainty need.
Aydin Mirzaee 27:41
Yeah, yeah. 100%. Yeah, for any sort of feedback. I think that that’s super important. And something that you know, if for people that are starting these programs, or starting feedback cycles, you know, to teach that and remind people, not like so and so’s a swell guy. That doesn’t, that doesn’t quite work.
Amy Sandler 28:00
One of the problems with praise is that people don’t put enough time into it. And as a culture, again with that negativity bias, we do more criticism, some criticism makes us seem smart. And so praise is important, not so much just to sort of atta boy or atta girl, but actually to show people what good looks like it also helps us build relationships, because hey, Aiden, you know, when you did this thing, I was like, I noticed it, I’m paying attention to specificity. We’ve could be estimators, if you say a great job on that presentation. What was it that made a great by being specific, it shows the rest of the team, what good looks like and that’s, that’s really important, also helps build relatedness that are in the scarf model, because it shows you that I’m paying attention, I see what your strengths are. And I want you to keep doing more of it.
Aydin Mirzaee 28:41
Yeah, you know, one of the things that I liked about, you know, what you just said was because of like the status concept. And if I just start delivering feedback, you know, obviously, it’s better for you to start asking for feedback. And I love the question that you asked, because I think that, you know, what might happen for a lot of people is okay, I have to start asking for feedback. So then they’re gonna in their next one on one, they’re gonna say, So do you have any feedback for me, like random out of the blue? You’re putting the person on the spot? And you know, what are they going to say? Not? I mean, I’ll think about it. But when you’re asking a question very specific of like, in the last week, were there times I stepped in that I shouldn’t have or times that I should have, but I shouldn’t. But I didn’t. I mean, that’s really powerful. It’s very specific. It’s very related.
Amy Sandler 29:26
It’s a great question. And you brought up a really important point, one of the sort of blessings that come out of these, these virtual workshops, is that we’re actually able to do a series of two workshops over time. So whereas in person, we might have just had one, now we can do a follow up. And so what we’re noticing is that we’re having people go off and practice their go to questions. Then we come back and we say how to go, well, didn’t really go as well as I as well as I thought I couldn’t really get it in and we can sort of troubleshoot one of the things that people have a hard time with exactly what you’re talking about. How do I kind of tee it up? So one way is to actually just share what they’re learning about radical candor. why it’s important to them. But another way is to say like, Hey, you know, I know I talk a lot in meetings, and I’m really working on it, and I need your help. So you can actually like call out the thing that you want the help on and sort of empower that person. So after the next team meeting, I want you to know what I could have done differently to get more engagement from the team. Just one thing that I can improve on.
Aydin Mirzaee 30:19
[AD BREAK] Hey there before moving to the next part of the interview, quick interjection to tell you about one of the internet’s best kept secrets, the manager TLDR newsletter. So every two weeks, we read the best content out there, the greatest articles, the advice, the case studies, whatever the latest and greatest is, we summarize it, and we send it to your inbox, we know you don’t have the time to read everything, but because we’re doing the work will summarize it and send it to your inbox once every two weeks. And the best news, it’s completely free. So go on over to fellow dot app slash newsletter, and sign up today. And with that said, let’s go back to the interview. [AD BREAK OVER] Yeah, I love that. And then like, you know, certainly actioning that, you know, afterwards really starts to, to make people felt heard. And you know, if you get some feedback, and you change something, if you tell the team Hey, so and so gave me some feedback on this. I actually implemented it. These are all like encouraging signs.
Amy Sandler 31:19
Yeah, what you said is huge. You’ve got to reward the candor. And as the boss, if you do it publicly. That’s also huge, because you show that that’s what we welcome that guidance is a gift.
Aydin Mirzaee 31:29
Right? You know, the other term use, I’ve never heard it used. And I just think it’s so fascinating. And it just like such a great way to describe it. This concept of feedback that, you know, obviously anybody who’s in tech will have heard tech debt. But I haven’t yet heard this, this concept of feedback debt. And you’re probably right, even for those who are great at giving feedback. There’s probably feedback debt in pretty much all the relationships if you look around. So it’s just, you know, framing it in that way is just very interesting.
Amy Sandler 32:00
Yeah. And I will give credit to Kim and Jason on that one. But I think it’s a helpful parallel. And it’s also like, you know, sometimes people think, oh, now I’m just giving criticism everywhere. It’s like no leaf, like, if this isn’t about nitpicking, leave three or four unimportant things unsaid. So if there is all this debt, like, what is the most important thing you want this person to know? What would be most helpful? What we didn’t talk about, which is important that when you’re giving this kind of criticism, you want it to be helpful, especially to meet that status? threat?
Aydin Mirzaee 32:28
Yeah, yeah, I think this is, this is super interesting. There’s one more thing, Amy that I wanted to ask you about. I think I picked this up on on your website, or from a talk that you were giving where you quoted, in the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities, but in the experts mind, there few would love to hear you know what you think about this concept of a beginner’s mind? And like, what what can leaders do out there to help them cultivate a beginner’s mind?
Amy Sandler 32:56
Well, I love that question. It’s one of my favorite quotes that comes from Zen Buddhism and having taught radical candor and mindfulness to a lot of leaders and experts. It’s It’s so important, because it’s actually the beginner’s mind that enables I think, Jeff Bezos even says, you know, you to innovate, you need to have beginner’s mind. So what is it there’s sort of this, this curiosity, and I think, especially when it comes to feedback, to really have a curiosity and sort of that growth, it’s really the growth mindset, right? Like, okay, if I’m here to grow, if I’m here to learn, one of the best ways that I’ve found to practice beginner’s mind is through practicing mindfulness, which is sort of that moment to moment awareness of noticing what’s happening and getting really curious, getting really curious, first of all, for myself, like, you know, what sort of body sensations what’s, what are my thoughts? What are my emotions, and then getting really curious about this other this other person? And so one of the reasons why we want to have these feedback conversations in is high bandwidth as we can, whether it’s on video, or if not, you know, on the phone, but not through sort of, you know, asynchronous, not through email, or Texas, there’s so much richness in how the conversation is going back and forth. And can I show up with this other person from a place of beginner’s mind a place of curiosity, and I think one of the best ways to practice that with another person is to practice listening, and to sort of really listen, not just with your ears, but with your whole body, like, what are they saying? And maybe what are they not saying? what’s what’s underneath it? really being curious?
Aydin Mirzaee 34:24
Yeah. And and that that’s a that’s a big part of it as well. Just even in giving feedback, you often say that that’s listening happens to be the most important ingredient in giving feedback.
Amy Sandler 34:37
It is. And actually, there was a study, I think it was out of Harvard Business Review that showed that the more that people felt their manager listened to them, the better they felt, they were giving feedback, which seems sort of counterintuitive, but so much about feedback, and I would actually this is a good time to mention we actually like to use the word guidance. I mean, feedback is in the vernacular, so we’ll use it but guidance has kind of that Thought partner, hey, we’re in this together, here’s our shared goal, feedback and sometimes sound very, like I know what you need to do. And so there’s something about listening. You know, here’s what I noticed. What do you think really checking in with them asking questions? You know, here’s what I’m observing. Maybe there’s a reason why they’re doing that maybe the the reason why they did this is because I had to create a workaround, because they didn’t have the part that they needed to get. And we don’t even know that. So we’re often making assumption. So really listening, being curious, noticing what’s maybe an unmet need. Underneath, there’s if there’s some frustration, or some other emotion really meet, that’s where we move up on the relatedness, meeting any emotion with compassion. So
Aydin Mirzaee 35:36
I mean, on the topic of, you know, listening, and we’ve also mentioned mindfulness, are there other practices that leaders can do, you know, besides say meditation to become more mindful in their day to days like keeping a journal or any sort of practice that you found to be helpful?
Amy Sandler 35:55
Absolutely, there’s, there are so many practices, and I think kind of the more almost like micro-practices that we can get in our day. So even if it’s like, your first cup of coffee in the morning, you know, I’m holding it, but like feeling in your hand, like the warmth, smelling it, just connecting to the different sensations. That’s one thing if you’re getting up to go to the restroom, you know, just noticing just the walking when we’re with other people, mindful listening, or a focus, the listening practice can be really powerful. And the way that you do this is you would have a few prompts, something like something I’m struggling with, or something I’m excited about, or whatever it might be, and you actually listen for two, two and a half minutes. And this becomes not only are you giving the person the gift of your full attention, you are starting to notice your own tendencies in a conversation. When do you want to jump in? So you could even just practice that with someone? Just say, hey, let’s try you know, mindful listening practice with a few prompts two minutes each. And you might, you might really surprise yourself, you might notice that it’s hard to actually keep your mouth shut for two minutes. That’s a great takeaway.
Aydin Mirzaee 36:57
Yeah, I love that. I mean, that’s interesting like actually setting a timer. I mean, that sounds like a very, very interesting practice. You know, one thing that I was also curious to ask you about his stand up comedy. I know you’ve tried to stand up comedy. So first of all, tell us about that. How was it? Did they love you?
Amy Sandler 37:13
They loved me, I’ve never been better. I don’t know if they loved me. But I will say, I did the comedy. I was in film school, I had the sort of untraditional career path of my classmates at Harvard Business School, we’re going into something called the internet. I don’t know if you’ve heard of that. And I decided to get a Master of Fine Arts and screenwriting. So yes. And then I became a meditation teacher. But in any case, I did this comedy class. And, and because first of all, I love school, but I knew as an outcome, you’re going to go and do a set at the Comedy Store. One of the reasons why I did it. And I didn’t realize it at the time. But the teacher said something really powerful. And it goes to this day, and especially with feedback, you need to be really comfortable with yourself and with how people might see you. So he said if you’re like a six-foot two guy, really good looking sort of all American athlete, and you start saying to the crowd, I can’t get a date. And it’s so awful, and nobody like they’re gonna be like, that’s Bs, like, you know, so you have to sort of know how you’re being perceived. And that may or may not be fair, but especially we think about different biases. But knowing how an audience is a sort of absorbing and observing you, and how to meet that and how to communicate in a way that will land that’s effective based on who they are. And one of the things we say with radical candor is that it’s measured not at the speaker’s mouth, but at the listener’s ear. And that’s why it’s this one on one like, what I say to you might be radical candor for someone else, they might think I’m acting like a jerk. And for someone else, they might think I don’t even know what you just said. So it’s really this one on one relationships. So that was pretty powerful for me to realize, like, oh, as a speaker, as a leader, there’s sort of perception and it’s helpful to know what that perception is the other thing, and we as radical candor partner was second city to create a hilarious workplace comedy series, it’s called the feedback loop. And one of the big things we’ve learned in doing improv practices to teach this is that there’s, there’s an amazing Aha, that happens, we sort of say, from Haha, to Aha. And humor can be a really powerful way to teach and to sort of let your guard down and sort of allowing that beginner’s mind I think, in another way, humor can enable that sort of sense of play and allow some creativity to spark and so I’m a big believer in, in play and in humor to get to some new ideas as well. And where can people can Is that something we could just search for on the internet and find the feedback loop comedy
Amy Sandler 39:33
There is a price to pay but it’s a small price, and I think it’s it’s on a sale right now. But if you go to radical candor.com backslash services, and I can send you a link, you’ll see it the feedback loop, we’ve got David Allen Greer, if you remember him, and it’s five, less than 10-minute episodes, each one showing a core thing about radical candor. It’s a little bit like Groundhog Day meets the office and so we’re Really trying to illuminate the ideas in a very funny, very funny way. Plus, there’s a lot of training materials as well.
Aydin Mirzaee 40:06
Yeah, that’s awesome. Yeah, we’ll definitely include that in the link in the show notes.
Amy Sandler 40:11
And one thing I will say just especially now people love a chance to laugh, like just to have a chance to laugh with their colleagues. That goes, that goes a long way.
Aydin Mirzaee 40:19
Yeah, and you know, people probably me, it’s a good idea to do training before all these performance cycles and feedback in general anyway, so and if you could laugh at the same time, then you know, all the better. Amy, this has been awesome. So many great insights. So many things. We’ve talked about tactical takeaways, we learned everything about you know, from meditation to presence as a scarf, model situation, behavior impact, so many different things. One question that we like to ask as we end the conversation is for all the managers and leaders out there looking to get better at their craft? Do you have any final resources, tips, words of wisdom, anything that you leave them with?
Amy Sandler 40:59
Well, it’s a great question. And I love the idea because we could do a workshop, we could have a conversation. But this is really a behavior change. And so the most important thing is to practice. And so whether it’s finding, you know, a peer, whether it’s, you know, just whether it’s someone you work with someone at home, but if you have a tough conversation, go ahead and practice it. We do this in triangles in our workshops, where people practice feedback, they need to give the name of a coach observing them. So think the more that this becomes a practice, then we’re only going to get better at it by practicing it. So first of all, practice, we’ve got a lot of great tips for free on the website, radical candor.com. Obviously, the book, the podcast, the feedback loop, but great blog posts, I just can’t encourage people enough just to do it. Kim likes to say that it’s you know, we want to avoid a root canal. So it just becomes like brushing and flossing. So it just becomes something that you do. So I encourage you to find a friend or two and just practice deliberate practice.
Aydin Mirzaee 41:52
What a great way to end it. Thank you, Amy.
Amy Sandler 41:57
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