Good Reads for AEs: Telling People What to Do Does Not Work

Reader: Rob Olmstead, finance director, Pinellas REALTOR® Organization, Fl.

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” — Kim Scott, Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity

cover of book Radical Candor: How to Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity

You might ask what a book by Kim Malone Scott—a former manager at Google with stints at Apple, Twitter, and Dropbox—has to do with running a REALTOR® association. Well, as it turns out, Radical Candor: How to Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity, is all about leading and inspiring teams of people to accomplish goals but still letting them take the spotlight. Sound familiar?

Scott shares principles that apply to team leaders in general and transfer handily to the unique teams of staff and volunteers working within REALTOR® associations. Scott’s missteps as a manager and lessons learned lead her to believe that bosses—AEs—have three core areas of responsibility when it comes to managing people: 1) provide guidance through praise and constructive criticism; 2) promote team-building by finding and keeping the right people; and 3) drive results that optimize the team’s output.

What appealed to me most about Radical Candor is its basic driving philosophy that the most effective leadership occurs when the bosses—we AEs—care deeply for those on our team and challenge them directly to produce quality work. Without deeply caring for the team, direct challenges become “obnoxious aggression,” Scott says. Without direct challenges to produce quality work, caring deeply becomes harmful empathy. In other words, if our staff, leaders, and volunteers don’t believe that we are deeply invested in their success and that we deeply appreciate their effort, we seem dictatorial or unappreciative when we ask them to produce. On the other hand, if we show we care but avoid directly challenging a leader to produce—and do the work ourselves—we fail to support their development.

A REALTOR® association I was with several years ago held a fundraiser in which one volunteer went above and beyond in securing donations and exceeding the goal. The volunteer coordinator at the time offered no recognition, and that volunteer never returned.

The need for caring deeply increases exponentially when working with volunteers because fulfillment means more to them than knowing they are serving a worthy cause. Even for your staff members—who are paid for their efforts—meaning and fulfillment can wear thin without the psychological boost of clear direction and constructive criticism.

“Being radically candid means being more specific and sincere with praise and being more kind and clear with criticism,” says Scott.

I recommend making Radical Candor required reading for all team leaders who want to improve themselves, foster a healthier work environment, and provide more effective guidance.

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