Hey brand builder, Rory Vaden here. Thank you so much for taking the time to check out this interview as always, it’s our honor to provide it to you for free and wanted to let you know there’s no big sales pitch or anything coming at the end. However, if you are someone who is looking to build and monetize your personal brand, we would love to talk to you and get to know you a little bit and hear about some of your dreams and visions and share with you a little bit about what we’re up to see if we might be a fit. So if you’re interested in a free strategy call with someone from our team, we would love to hear from you. You can do that at brand builders, group.com/podcall brand builders, group.com/podcall. We hope to talk to you soon.
I am excited to introduce you to a new friend of mine, Kim Scott.
You probably recognize her as the New York times bestselling author of the book, radical candor but a mutual friend of ours introduced us to each other. And so we’re really just kind of getting to know each other, but I’ve got a lot of respect for her work specifically with radical candor, which was you know, a huge book is a huge book. She also turned that book into a business an executive education company. And we’ll talk a little bit about that and she’s done the same with her new book. So she has a new book that is out just came out. If you’re listening to this, this episode, as it’s being released called just work get BPO stuff, get stuff done fast and fair. And that is her newest book. So what you may not realize is that she’s been a high profile CEO coach for years and years, she worked with people at Dropbox, Qualtrix, Twitter, several other tech companies.
She was also a member of the faculty at Apple university. And then before that she worked at Google on the ad sense and YouTube and DoubleClick teams. There was a portion of her career. She worked directly for Sheryl Sandberg. She tells some great stories about that. And so anyways, we just thought it would be fun to have her come on, talk a little bit about her journey, becoming an author, but really talk about just work the new book and also how this, you know, kind of getting things done fast and fair applies to those of us with personal brands and businesses and our online community. So anyways, Kim, welcome to the show.
Thank you so much. It’s an honor to be here. Thanks for having me. Yeah.
So how did you go from radical candor to a book about work? I mean, correct me if I’m wrong. I, as I understand this, this is just work. The new book is really about workplace injustices. How did you talk to us about how did that transition happen?
So after I wrote radical candor, and by the way, if you write a book about feedback, you’re going to get a lot of it. And I started, and so I was giving a presentation about radical candor at a tech company in San Francisco. And the CEO of that company was someone I really liked and admired a lot and had been our colleague for the better part of a decade and is one of two few black women CEOs in tech. And after I gave the presentation, she pulled me aside and she said to me, I really love the idea of radical candor, Kim, and it’s, I think it’s going to help me build the kind of culture I want, but I got to tell you it’s much harder for me to put it into practice than it is for you. She said, yeah, as soon as I offer even the most compassionate candor, I get slimed with the angry black woman stereotype.
And I knew this was true. And I sort of realized three things at the same time. The first was that I had failed to be the kind of colleague that I wanted to be, that I saw myself as, because I had been in denial about the kinds of things that were happening to her. I had failed to notice that over the better part of a decade working together, she always 100% of the time showed up as cheerful and pleasant and never the slightest bit annoyed and believed me and that period of time she had what to be PO about. So it never had occurred to me that the, the toll that must take on her and I had ignored the kinds of things that were causing her to have to behave that way. Furthermore, I had also been in denial about the kinds of things that were happening to me as a woman in the workplace, because it was harder for her than for me. It was harder for me than for the men who I worked with to put these ideas into practice. And I had just kind of glossed over that fact, but touch very lightly on it in the book and the third revelation I had. Yeah, you’re talking
About in radical candor, you touched on that very lightly about the, about the messenger in addition to kind of like the method effects that can affect things just
About sexism in the workplace. And, and the third thing that I realized was that throughout my career, I had very often failed to be the kind of leader that would prevent this kind of nonsense from allowing everyone on my team to just work, to, to do the best work of their lives, sort of unimpeded by nonsense by, by, by, by various sorts of bias, prejudice and bullying that happens at work. And so I realized this was something I needed to give more thought to, and that was sort of when I sat down to start writing just work.
Gotcha. Okay. So you’re, you’re kind of waking up to the idea that in justice or bias, which I guess would be a lighter form on the, on the continuum is, is something that is there all day every day. And I mean, is that, I mean, is that part of the conclusion you would still stand in? Is that like what you said it was harder for her. It was, you know, it was harder for her than you harder for you than maybe a white male. And do you still stand very much convicted in that space? That, that is the truth. Yeah,
Yeah, absolutely. A hundred percent. And in fact, I would say it’s not only biased. I think one of the mistakes that I made for a lot of my career was that I, I tried to commence myself. It was always bias, but I think it’s one of the core ideas in the book is it’s really important to distinguish between bias, prejudice, and bullying. So bias. I’m going to define as not meaning it prejudice, I’m going to define as meaning it, it’s a very conscious belief and bullying. I’m going to define as meaning harm. And these are three very different attitudes and behaviors. And I think both when we’re confronted with them as the person harmed by these idea, by these, by these attitudes and behaviors, we’ve got to respond differently. And as leaders we’ve got to respond differently, we’ve got to, we’ve got to create very different kinds of interventions depending on what we’re facing.
Huh. And so w I mean, I think that’s really fascinating delineation there, but between those and what are some of the, as a, as a, as a leader in the workplace or as you’re training leaders, what are some of the things that you’re teaching them to look for to kind of identify, you know, bias, prejudice, bullying? I mean, and I think bullying to me feels a little more obvious, a little more noticeable, but to me it’s more like prejudice is a little harder to identify and then bias is almost like invisible. So, I mean, yeah,
So you’ve got to make the invisible visible. So, so, and by the way, it’s, it’s, you’ve got to notice what you are reluctant to notice, I guess, is a better way to put it. So one of the things that I recommend that leaders do is to create bias interrupters on their team. So, and there’s all different kinds of bias. There’s racial bias, there’s gender bias. There’s, there’s bias around sexual orientation. There’s bias around mental health. There’s all these biases that we have. And so rather than doing an abstract, unconscious bias training for folks, what I recommend is, is to teach people to, to come up with the phrase that they’re, that everybody’s going to agree on, that, that they’re going to use to flag bias when they notice it in a meeting or, or just in the hallway, in the office, on the zoom. And the important thing is that it’s a shared vocabulary.
So some teams we’ve worked with have chosen to say bias alert with my editor. He and I would use yo. So if he said, yo to me, I knew that night that I had said, or done something that was biased with tree air Bryant, my co-founder and I, we use a purple flag. So, so if tree air says purple flag to me, I know I’ve just said or done something biased. And then the nuts thing that leaders need to do is to teach people when you’re, when you are the person whose bias has been flagged how to respond. Because very often when, when somebody, when somebody points out that we sat or done something bias, we feel ashamed. And very often when we feel ashamed, we don’t respond well. In fact, we respond with denial or
Defensive, for sure. Like, nah, I didn’t say that. I didn’t mean that. I mean that, yeah, for sure. Yeah.
Yeah. I mean, I’ve, I’ve done that. I bet you we’ve all done that.
I feel almost like it’s a human instinct to that. It’s almost like a form of being attacked, like, like a same way. You would deal with a physical attack with like running away or fighting back. It’s like, when you under encounter this, like, you know, professional feedback is like, nah, nah, you know, that’s not, that’s not me. Yeah. Yeah.
So I think what you want to do is you want to teach people either to say, you’re right. I get it. I’m sorry. I’ll try not to do it again, but please point it out if I do. And if you don’t understand why, what you said or did was biased. You just say, I don’t, I don’t get it. Can you explain it to me after the meeting? And then the meeting goes on and it’s important that it be very quick, but these bias interruptions because bias happens so often. If, if, if we don’t learn how to interrupt it quickly and publicly, then, then it’s bound to keep going. So I, and I think you, you want to, as a leader, teach people to have kind of a growth mindset around their biases because obviously if you’re learning math or you’re learning to throw base, you’re learning any new skill, throw a baseball, you’re going to make mistakes.
And then you can only get better if someone points your mistakes out to you. And if you can overcome that natural feeling, and this is true in general, when I was teaching medical candor, I still do. People are defensive in the face of any kind of criticism. There’s specially defensive in the face of criticism around something that they said or did is biased. But we’ve got to learn how to accept this with a growth mindset, except this kind of feedback with the growth mindset and unlike other kinds of criticism, this needs to happen in public. It needs to happen in a meeting publicly because otherwise, if you don’t, if you don’t interrupt the bias, it’s gonna, it’s gonna continue and people will keep making the same mistakes. So, so that’s my, yeah. Let me tell you just like a quick story about a successful bias interruption.
So friend of mine, alien Lake walks into a meeting with two colleagues who are men and she sits down and her two colleagues sit down to her left and Ayleen is the person who has the expertise that is necessary for her team to win the deal with this other company they’re meeting with. So they’re sitting down on this long conference table, people from the other team file, and the first guy comes and sits down across from the guy to aliens left. The next guy comes in and sits across from the guy to his left. And then everybody files on down the table, kind of leaving a lane, dangling by herself at the end of the, at the end of the table. And so this is a little awkward, but she doesn’t let it bother her. She starts talking and the people on the other side of the table respond to the men who she’s as though she hasn’t talked as though they’ve taught. And this is a very sort of standard kind of no, not
An uncommon, not an uncommon, probably all too uncommon thing. Yeah.
Happen all the time. And it happens once it happens twice, it happens a third time. And finally the, the, her business partner stands up and said, I think Eileen and I should switch seats. So this is a small bias interruption. They don’t have like a co you know, they don’t have this. It’s
Not an intervention, like a big intervention, but they’re saying, Whoa, something’s going on here. I
Think Elena and I should switch seats and, and they switched seats. And the whole dynamic in the room changes because all of a sudden, the other side realizes what they’re doing and they stopped doing it. They didn’t mean to do it. And so I liked this story for a couple of reasons. One is, it was so much easier for him as an upstander to do this than it would have been for Eileen to do it. If she had stood up and said, I think we should switch seats. And then there would have been like bias heaped on top of bias. She, all of a sudden would have been aggressive or abrasive or having knows what else she would have been called. So it was much easier for him. And also his motivation is really, as an upstander is really important. Part of the reason he did it because he cares about Elaine and he didn’t like seeing her get ignored.
But the other part of the reason that he did it was because he wanted to win the deal. He wanted to just work. And he knew that AYLIEN had the expertise. And if he couldn’t get those people on the other team to listen to her,then they were not going to win the deal. So it’s, this is the just work part of just work. It, there was a justice element. There was like a, I just want to get the deal done. And, and there was also him just standing up, not for Eileen. It wasn’t like she was a helpless person, but to what was going on in the room. So that’s a simple example of somebody who used an I statement to intervene to, to flag. And, and the reason why I think it’s so important that leaders create these bias interrupters is that that sort of thing happens so rarely. And if you can get that kind of thing happening more on your Team
and the bias interrupters happen, the bias
Interrupter happens. So rarely. Yeah. The bias itself happens lot. Yeah. All the time incessantly. So if you can get that flywheel going, it’s like, doesn’t have to be a huge deal. And that it wasn’t like a major conflict, but it is a huge deal in that they won the deal because of it. And and everybody was able to do better work because the, the, the bias was gotten out of the way. Yeah.
And I, I mean, I, I really appreciate the message and kind of the spirit of that, you know, of the title, which is, you know, in alignment with the book, which is like, Hey, if we can get this bias and this prejudice out of here, then it’s like, we can just work. Like we can, we can come together as a team. We can focus, we can drive results and not like get caught up in, you know, nonsense as you, that word I think you used earlier. I, one thing I hope you don’t mind, I’m fascinated about this is I was wondering if, if I could talk to you a little bit about, you know, a lot of people who listen to this show are influenced. I mean, pretty much everyone who listens to this show in some level would re probably considered an influencer.
Some of them have very large following, some have very small followings. I think it’s really fascinating how you’re talking about how bias interrupters, this type of feedback should happen publicly. Whereas typically feedback is, is usually more private. You know, it makes my mind think of social media. Like this is the world we’re, we’re, we’re trying to navigate, particularly our community is going okay. One is, I guess, I guess my, my biggest question is to go, how do we catch ourselves? Particularly if we’re creating content, which is a little bit different, but not too much different. I wouldn’t think like, how do I create catch myself? And I, it could be with creating content, but I think it’s probably the same in a board room or the same at a restaurant, or anywhere we go, how do we catch ourselves committing these biases? And is there a way that we can create these interrupters for ourselves? And then is there a way that that does or does not shape our communication, our public communication through social? Yeah.
Yeah. It’s a really, it’s a really important question. So one of the things that I did when I was in the course of writing this book, because I was, obviously, I knew that I was probably writing in a way that was biased revealing certain prejudices. And so sometimes I tend to use very aggressive language that some people might consider bullying. And so I really wanted someone to help me flag this. I mean, I think that some people can, can give themselves feedback and can catch themselves, but I find I need others. I need other people to offer me criticism. And so I actually, I actually worked with a number of people who, who were sort of biased busters. So I asked them to read the book with, with sort of looking for examples of bias that, that, that were making revealing themselves in my choice of words.
And breeze Harper is one of the people who I worked with as a, as a, as a bias busters, as well as a number of others. And she was incredibly helpful to me to, to help me understand where I was going wrong. So to help me identify problems before the book got published, which was really important to me, sometimes this is called like a sensitivity read, but I really object to that term because it wasn’t really just about sensitivity. It was I did not want to harm people. I did not want to do harm to people with the words that I chose. So I’ll give you an example of one of the things
That, and that is the definition of bias you, that you gave earlier. It’s like, I’m not meaning to do harm, but it kind of happens anyways. Yeah. Yeah.
My intentions don’t really matter. My impact does. And and so, so one of the, one of the words that, well, one of the things that happened actually in this, I think happens to a lot of people. So I’ll share this breeze flagged about nine words that I tended to use that were problematic nine. And my instinct, my first instinct was I like God, no word of English. Language is saying, which is ridiculous. Right. But I think a lot of people. So anyway, one of one thing I would recommend to people is that you try to quantify your biases. Like there were nine words I needed to change, and they’re hundreds of thousands of words in the English language. So it was not that big of a deal really. And one of the words in particular that you flagged as I tend to use the word, see when, what I mean is notice or understand.
And so this is called abelist language. I’m sort of, I’m sort of a S because the implication, the UN, the unintentional implication is that if someone is blind, they don’t notice or understand. And of course that’s false. I know that’s, I don’t mean that, but that, that’s kind of the way a sloppy metaphor slop while I call them soppy sight metaphors. And I care about this, and I care about it because I believe words matter and I’m a writer. And so I should care about words. And I also cared about it because another one of the people who was helping me to edit the book is a guy named Zach shore. Who’s a historian who’s blind. And so the last thing in the world I wanted to do was to, to use the language that would, that would harm Zach and people like SAC and other blind people in some kind of way. So, because I care about Zach and also because I wanted to use better language, I thought I had fixed this problem that I had. And and, and, but I decided to do a quick search right before I sent the bark to my editor. And I had used sloppy site metaphors, guess how many times? In a 350 page book?
I mean, I don’t know, 25,
99 times, 99 times. A lot of times. So, so it is, it’s difficult to become aware of your biases and I believe we need, this is why I think it’s so important to flag bias publicly, too, to say bias alert to have these bias interrupters, because only when, when they get our biases get interrupted repeatedly, do we begin to change our thought patterns around them? So I think that’s really, so I really, that’s a, long-winded answer to your question
Though. Social plaster. Yeah. But social media kind of serves is, is more and more serving in that way. Right? Like people are speaking up very clearly when they think you have said something or done something wrong. So the let’s talk about the response part of it for a second. Cause I think that’s really, like you said, like the, I think my default, whether it’s in a business boardroom or if it’s at a family Thanksgiving, or if it’s on social media, my, my initial feedback, my initial response is probably the same to reject, denied, dilute Dodge, you know, defend whatever, you know, variation you want to use of that. And I, and I think, you know, so many of the events that have happened, particularly in the last year, I feel like have at least opened up a number of people to go, you know what? I want to get better at this. I want to, I I’m open to the idea that maybe I do have some biases. Maybe I even have some prejudices that I’m not aware of and I’m wanting to be open to it. So when it comes to us, how should we receive it? Yeah.
It is one of the best, one of the best things I’ve ever heard about this is a podcast by Bernay Brown about shame. And she said and she, she, she offered this podcast shortly after the murder of George Floyd. And she said so often, and she said, I’m speaking to my white audience here. She said, so often when we get feedback that we’ve said something or done something that’s racially biased, or even prejudiced, we feel shame. And she encourages people to like notice in your body where you feel shame. Like, I feel it in the back of my knees, the same place. I feel like if I get too close to the edge of a high drop, I feel afraid, you know, it’s a physical feeling. And when you feel ashamed, you learn how to calm. You’re having a fight or flight response. And we rarely respond in the way that we want to spot respond and we’re having a fight or flight response.
So you gotta learn how to calm yourself down. So the first thing is calm down, like take a few deep breaths, walk away, don’t respond immediately, walk away from Twitter or wherever you are. And then even if the person, I think there’s her point Bernay Brown’s point was that there’s a giant difference between feeling ashamed and being shamed. So very often the person is giving you some feedback that is perfectly reasonable. And so you want to make sure that you respond to that reasonable feedback with a reasonable response. So try to stay open to the feedback, but even if, and this is true of any kind of criticism don’t criticize the criticism, when someone is offering you some criticism, try to look for the gold in it, treat it even, even if it’s not perfectly delivered. And so, and this is something I’ve found over and over again, when I’ve gotten, I got feedback, it was couple years ago.
Now I tweeted something and I used the word crazy and enable list way. And I didn’t w what I really meant was irrational, you know, and somebody pointed out that it was, it was unfair to to people who struggled with mental illness, for me to use a sloppy soppy metaphor. And, and I really appreciated that. They said it very nicely. They, they sent me a link to an article that I read that was really helpful. And so I said, thank you. And then I retweeted it so that others could avoid making the same mistake. And there, I got some trollish response, you know? Oh, everybody’s over-sensitive. And so now all of a sudden, I’m in the position of having to explain to folks why it’s, it’s worth listening to this, to this kind of feedback. So I think that’s really important is, is being open to the feedback, even if the feedback is, especially if it’s well-delivered, but even when it’s not well delivered.
So I think social media kind of, it kind of lends itself to moral grandstanding. And so, so people are likely to, to call you some terrible name and if you can, and those, and this has happened to me over and over again. If you can say, if you can find like the 5% of what you can agree with and, and, and state that rather than going fighting and attack with another attack, it’s incredible to me what good conversations you can have with people, how you can actually turn them around, even on social media, but don’t give in to this moral grandstanding. Don’t play
That game. Well, it’s funny too. And I, you know, you said don’t criticize the criticism, which is really good. What I find myself doing is I not only criticized the criticism, I criticized the criticizer, so they attack me and I go, well, yeah, I might’ve done this, but only because you, yeah, you did this. And it, it just becomes this really negative spiral. Yeah. Navy seals have this thing called arousal response, which is like, you know, there’s a stimulus and it’s like, don’t just react to the stimulus, like process it for a second. And it’s, it’s such a, it’s like an emotional discipline or like a mental mental discipline. Yeah. So I think you know, on, on the, on the topic, you know, in the space of this, is there any sort of advice or wisdom or counsel specifically that you would give additionally to people who are out there, you know, that are messengers, they’re communicating you know, these are the content creators of, of the world that are listening here and going, is there anything that we can do to kind of like I guess just be aware of this and drive more towards fairness and be sort of sensitive to, I mean, I think you’ve used some really hyper, granular examples with you.
That would be, I think you, you know, you could, you could argue are overly sensitive or certainly being very hypersensitive. I mean, do you think, do you think that all content creators should be that way or, you know, or any other kind of like last wisdom you would leave with us?
I think you w you want to be aware of the impact that your words have on others. I think that whenever you are writing something or offering a podcast, or even just tweeting words, matter words really matter. And if you’re going to communicate with other people, you need to understand the impact of your word. So let’s imagine that you were accidentally stepping on someone’s toe and someone said, Hey, you’re on my toe. You wouldn’t stand there and continue to stand on their toe and say, don’t be so sensitive or wear steel-toed boots, or I didn’t mean to stand out. You would just get off their toe. And I think if you can kind of use that metaphor, that metaphor, that can be helpful. Another thing that I would say is when you notice bias, use an ice statement, and I statement invites someone in to understand things from your perspective, when you notice prejudice and you don’t necessarily want to have a big debate, because people have a right to believe, whatever they want to blame, but they don’t have a right to impose those beliefs on others.
And so when you, when you notice prejudice, when you notice an actual prejudice where somebody is saying something and meaning it, I think in it statement is much more effective. And then it statement can appeal to law. It is illegal to, it can appeal to common sense. It’s ridiculous too, but use that it statement to demarcate that boundary between one person’s freedom to believe whatever they want, but another person’s freedom not to have that belief imposed upon them. And then when it’s bullying, you want to use a use statement, sort of which pushes the other person away. You can’t talk to me like that, or what’s going on for you here. If that feels like it’s going to escalate. My daughter actually explained this to me in third grade, she was getting bullied. And I suggested to her that she, that she used an I statement.