The relationships that you form with each of your direct reports are central to your ability to fulfill your three core responsibilities as a manager: Create a culture of feedback, build a cohesive team, and achieve results collaboratively. But these relationships do not follow the rules of other relationships in our lives; they require a careful balancing act. You need to care personally, without getting creepily personal or trying to be a “popular leader.” You need to challenge people directly and tell them when their work isn’t good enough, without being a jerk or creating a vicious cycle of discouragement and failure. That’s a hard thing to do.
When you can care personally at the same time that you challenge directly, you’re on the way to successful leadership. The term I use to describe a good manager–direct report relationship, and this ability to care and challenge simultaneously, is radical candor. So what can you do to build radically candid relationships with each of your direct reports? And what are the pitfalls to avoid?