Candor in Continuous Improvement | Maher & Maher
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Candor in Continuous Improvement

As leaders we have all experienced that awkward moment when you’ve had to deliver feedback to your team, an associate or partner that their work needs improvement. Or what about those moments when you have to explain to project stakeholders that work might go over-budget or be delayed and why this has occurred.

As Talent Developers at Maher & Maher, we’ve experienced these scenarios internally and at times with our clients.  Any firm that says otherwise, well… just isn’t being honest.  We are talking about that critical point where delicate feedback must be either delivered or received in a way that doesn’t compromise the overall success of a project or worse yet damage the people involved.

These uncomfortable moments should be viewed as opportunities.  They call for us to have frank conversations that are warranted to improve, drive work forward, and do better.  In order to do that, we must create a culture of open dialogue and honest feedback. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, not always.

I found a great approach at a Human Resource Leadership Conference organized by Cox Enterprises. Maher was in attendance as a sponsor and Kim Scott, author of Radical Candor, was a keynote. She spoke about the concept of Radical Candor as an approach that leaders can use to build relationships with their teams and clients.  She explained the approach would:

  • Create a culture of feedback.
  • Help the people on the team achieve their fullest potential.
  • Drive results collaboratively.

Radical Candor is the ability to Challenge Directly and show you Care Personally at the same time. It’s saying exactly what you think while showing that you care about the person on the receiving end of your feedback.

Think about it, when anyone involved in the learning and development process, or really any work at all, fails to Care Personally or Challenge Directly, it can have a costly impact on the outcomes and the project teams too.

Unmet expectations, overspends, and low team morale are possible negatives that can be fueled by a lack of open and honest feedback.  All can put a significant strain on client and team relationships.

Kim laid out a framework or quadrant that allows you to see what types of negative behaviors or interactions you are risking when you fail to Care Personally or Challenge Directly. If you are paying close attention to your communication during critical points of the project where feedback is being given and received, you begin to see if you are veering into one of these “danger” areas.

  • 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.

Having a good understanding of how to avoid these danger areas and building solid techniques to demonstrate Radical Candor is another tool to leverage as a project leader, team member, or associate.  It is certainly something that we will continue to explore at Maher to further improve and ensure we are fostering a culture of feedback that always allows us to provide our clients with the highest quality of work and ongoing, positive engagements.

To read more about Radical Candor, please visit their website here:

Maher & Maher is a specialized change management and talent development consulting firm based in Neptune, NJ and in Washington, D.C. The Firm’s Private Sector Practice specializes in customized learning design and delivery for the Deathcare, Financial Services, Life Sciences, and Media & Communications industries, and partners with our peers to do the same for government clientele. For more information about our services, visit us at or call us at 1-888-90-MAHER.


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