Candor: The Secret to Startup Success

I've been spending time leveling-up my skills as a business owner and operator and a large focus of mine is how I communicate and lead our growing team.

A book that I've come across recently has been giving me a ton of practical things to think through and try — one of which is upgrading my own personal definition of candor.

Here's what Col. Malone has to say about it:

Candor means openness plus honesty plus simplicity. On the battlefield, it is the prime rule governing communications among men. It operates to ensure the best possible transfer of meaning among people.

The stakes are too high, and time is too short, to screw around with anything else but the essence and the truth. Men in battle can't mess around with little white lies and private secrets and little games. Communication of fact, and of feelings as well, must be clean, simple, whole, accurate.

The candor of the battlefield serves to develop and support the trust upon which men's commitment to each other is built. The candor of the battlefield is why "buddy groups" form there so quickly and permanently. The candor of the battlefield is why lies told there are punished, not with gossip, but with action.

The battlefield is the most honest place in the world.

I love everything about this definition and I have since begun to apply it liberally throughout our organization. I have already built our startup on a good chunk of this through our two operating virtues, "table all-the-things" and "speed of decision making", both of which tag nicely with Malone's perspective above.

Simplicity, though, is something I'm trying to do better in my leadership and communication; this is especially important considering that our chief competitive advantage is our ability to transfer meaning quickly and act on it decisively, something that our slower and larger competitors can't do as easily.

Trust is what makes all of this work and it creates a flywheel that begets more trust when you start building it. As a leader, this starts with you.

  1. 3

    Is this Candor similar to the "radical transparency" from Ray Dalio's "Principle"?

    1. 2

      i do appreciate his perspective:

      "I want independent thinkers who are going to disagree," he says "The most important things I want are meaningful work and meaningful relationships. And I believe that the way to get those is through radical truth and radical transparency. In order to be successful, we have to have independent thinkers -- so independent that they'll bet against the consensus. You have to put your honest thoughts on the table." Then, the best ideas rise to the top.

      he's a good model; https://www.inc.com/gene-hammett/3-steps-ray-dalio-uses-radical-transparency-to-build-a-billion-dollar-company.html

  2. 2

    I'm a big fan of candor. The "radical candor" movement gained mass traction I believe due to the Netflix book "Powerful" by Patty McCord and of course "Radical Candor" by Kim Scott.

    In execution though, it's simply not enough to adopt candor as a principle. Being candid requires exceptional interpersonal skills otherwise you can just come off offensive, aggressive and an asshole.

    It needs to be deployed selectively and not as an "Ok folks, today we're all going to be candid" type policy.

    1. 2

      love this. great points.

      in your last sentence:

      It needs to be deployed selectively and not as an "Ok folks, today we're all going to be candid" type policy.

      Did you mean... it shouldn't be used selectively? I think the idea here is that one should do this ALL THE TIME and not selectively... which drives really bad behavior and a toxic culture.

      1. 2

        Ah.. sorry I did actually mean it should be used selectively. However I wasn't meaning selectively like you've said.

        What I meant was it should be used only by certain individuals. With great power comes great responsibility and all that. Not everyone has the interpersonal skills to utilise candor safely.

        1. 1

          roger. that makes sense too.

          what i'm trying to do is not only hire folks who are, naturally, a bit more candid with their tone and speech and communication skills... but i'm also trying to upskill and train my team to be better... as i am trying to be better.

          so, even though it may not be for everyone... if you come work with me, this is an important skill to be working on!

          thanks for the great thoughts here!

          1. 2

            You're most welcome and good luck 🤘

Recommended Posts