Frank Feedback: Say What You Think

How do you develop better working relationships with your colleagues in school?

A culture of good feedback is essential for any school.

But candid feedback can be dramatic and destructive when done badly so we need a model of what good feedback looks and sounds like.

Kim Scott has a model worth knowing about and this is a management philosophy called ‘radical candor’ (‘candour’ for English readers).

Radical candor is caring personally and challenging directly by giving kind, clear, sincere and specific feedback and guidance. It basically means saying what you really think.

This is about communicating opinions, thoughts and ideas….honestly.

Scott offers the following framework:



These are labels for behaviour and you might recognise them in your own workplace when it comes to feeding back.

  • Obnoxious Aggression is what happens when you challenge but don’t care. It’s praise that doesn’t feel sincere or criticism that isn’t delivered kindly.
  • Ruinous Empathy is what happens when you care but don’t challenge. It’s praise that isn’t specific enough to help the person understand what was good or criticism that is sugarcoated and unclear.
  • Manipulative Insincerity is what happens when you neither care nor challenge. It’s praise that is non-specific and insincere or criticism that is neither clear nor kind.

Scott says that when it comes to being candid then we need to say what we think and do it with care and to be non-judgmental.

She says that using phrases like “Keep it professional” or “don’t take this personally” are just insulting because they deny the truth that we are human beings with feelings, and our work is a personal expression of our identity.

The best school leaders make time for real conversations by getting to know their staff at a human level.

They realise that when they actually care about the whole person with their whole self, then they can have a relationship.

Some leaders already do this and they do it well so being candid in the way described above isn’t all that radical at all but part and parcel of what they do as a human-facing leader. They are sincere and direct and don’t go round the houses, belittle or adopt a phony professionalism that avoids the person.

Feedback is about being frank and doing it with a human heart not a corporate one.

So when it comes to feedback, you just need to be more ‘Frank’ and that shouldn’t be radical at all.

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