Engineering leadership knowledge and tips straight to your inbox?

The Feedback Paradox: Brutal Honesty, Radical Transparency, Radical Candor and Netflix

By John Lafleur 2 minutes read

TL;DR: We have a paradox: exchanging feedback, sharing our truth, is absolutely necessary for groups of people living and working together to be successful. But exchanging feedback can feel, at some deep level, like life or death.

The Fundamental Importance of Shared Truths

Michael Lopp, VP Engineering at Slack, puts it well:
“The humans around, watching you act, have both the context and the experience to tell you important observations about both your successes and failures”

The Feedback Paradox

Exchanging feedback, sharing our truth, is absolutely necessary for groups of people living and working together to be successful. But exchanging feedback can feel, at some deep level, like life or death.

Take Your Medicine, Get Over It: Brutal Honesty, Radical Transparency, Netflix

  • One way to overcome the Feedback Paradox is what we might call the “take your medicine and get over it” approach. In these systems, it’s acknowledged that feedback may be hard, but it’s good for you, so you should stiffen your backbone and deal.The sense of Netflix culture is one of transparency, autonomy, and a rigorous adherence to super high standards. Managers are expected to apply the “Keeper Test”: “Which of my people, if they told me they were leaving in two months for a similar job at a peer company, would I fight to keep at Netflix?”
  • Dalio (author of Principles) acknowledges that “Radical Transparency” takes its toll: “While their “upper-level you’s” (my note: rational response) understand the benefits of it, their “lower-level yous” (my note: emotional response) tend to react with a flight-or-fight response. Adapting typically takes about eighteen months, though it varies from individual to individual, and there are those who never successfully adapt to it”

Radical Candor

  • Radical Candor approaches the Feedback Paradox by introducing the notion of “caring personally” — the idea that in addition to being clear and direct in giving feedback, we should acknowledge the humanity of the conversation, and the emotions of the person receiving it.
  • “Caring personally” can require work, preparation, thought. We might have to consider what we feel about the other person, what we know about their concerns, what we appreciate about them. And we might have to do those things even if we consider them “difficult”, or don’t like them at all.
  • But the result is that we end up giving feedback in such a way that it is genuinely heard, that the very human fear response of the other person is acknowledged, that they hear the challenge whilst feeling supported rather than threatened, they feel connection to the work rather than rejection from it.


READ THE FULL BLOG POST

Want engineering leadership and productivity tips?

Subscribe to our newsletter Weekly Bytes to get our curation of the top 5 articles of the week.
-->
%d bloggers like this: