How to Win in Business

Top CEO coach and former Google exec says this is the No. 1 trait great bosses share

Kim Scott, former Google exec and CEO coach.
First Round
Kim Scott, former Google exec and CEO coach.

Kim Scott knows what makes a good boss. After she helped lead Google's AdSense team, Scott became a sought-after CEO coach in Silicon Valley, advising C-suite clients at Dropbox, Twitter and other top companies.

Every leader has his or her own style, but Scott says the best ones have one characteristic in common: "radical candor."

Made up of two key components, it's a trait the coach says every manager should cultivate:

1. Care about your employees

The first part of radical candor is caring about more than just metrics and results.

"It's not enough to care only about people's ability to perform a job," Scott writes in her new book "Radical Candor."

In order to be a great boss, you have to go beyond being professional — you have to want to get to know your employees on a human level, she says.

"It's about giving a damn." -Kim Scott, author, "Radical Candor." 

This doesn't mean memorizing birthdays or names of family members, but having real conversations and getting to know your employees. Perhaps counterintuitively, it's about acknowledging that your employees are people with lives and aspirations that extend beyond those related to shared work.

"It's about giving a damn," the former Google exec says, "sharing more than just your work self and encouraging everyone who reports to you to do the same."

The best bosses make an effort to know their employees and encourage open conversations, Scott says.
Thomas Barwick/Getty Images
The best bosses make an effort to know their employees and encourage open conversations, Scott says.

2. Establish open and honest conversations

The second dimension of radical candor involves being open and honest with your employees, both when their work is good and when it isn't.

Speaking honestly about someone's performance shows that "you care enough to point out the things that aren't going well and those that are," the expert says.

When a person's work is not up to par, challenge them to improve and offer to help them do so.

"This develops trust," Scott writes.

By combining these two strategies, managers can boost team morale, which has in turn been shown to boost productivity and results, according to the former Google exec.

"Caring personally about people even as you challenge them will build the best relationships of your career," she says.

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