Blog with Kathy Dreyer


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Radical candor. Think You’re Cut Out For Criticism?

What does it mean to practice Radical Candor or it’s cousin, Front Stabbing? I was intrigued enough by the concepts to read the following article about Radical Candor

By the end of the article I was left feeling bewildered. front-stabbingjpg-440dbfc6c2c5698a

Radical candor is “a safe word” used to promote more honest feedback in the work environment. Radical candor encourages employees to speak up about sub-par work or work-life balance issues.

Ok, check. Clear communication is something we are always striving for.

Radical candor: Solution or Problem?

The underlying premise of why radical candor is needed is employees are too nice and they’re not sharing important “criticism” with each other. This premise assumes radical candor promotes honest conversations that values corporate performance over individual egos.

“Bruised egos are better than the alternative—stalled projects, low performers, resentment that festers”.

Wait a minute….how does honest feedback lead to bruised egos? What kind of feedback is this exactly?

Front Stabbing: Aggressive Criticism?

 Val DiFebo, the CEO of Deutsche is fan of the radical candor practice of front-stabbing (doesn’t that sound painful?). People at his firm are expected to confront someone they feel is taking advantage of a client’s strategy or copying too many people on e-mails. The recipients of the critiques are expected to defend themselves or make changes.

I wonder how the employees feel about this practice of front-stabbing and what kind of culture this is promoting?

There are some very potent words being thrown around here: stabbing, confrontation, taking advantage, critiques.

Are these practices promoting greater understanding or are they promoting lazy (aggressive?) communication? Another quick-fix?

Do these practices give permission to share opinions about what you believe someone is or isn’t doing under the guise of radical candor using front stabbing? After all, it’s safe.

Since when is stabbing safe?

Mirroring Distorted Perceptions

Kim Scott, a former Google employee and an executive coach is writing a book about Radical Candor. She describes it as expressing criticism while showing genuine concern.

For example, Scott offers tips like sharing your criticism while taking a walk or better yet, offering them a bottle of water and both of you taking a sip, that will give you both time to calm your emotions.

Calm your emotions? How does sharing feedback results create the need to calm the emotions of people red glovesboth the giver and receiver? What kind of feedback is Radical Candor promoting?

Next Scott says it is important to hold up a mirror for your colleagues at work.

What if it’s a fun house mirror? What if the person who is holding up the mirror has distorted perceptions and now feels emboldened to share all of their criticisms with you? In turn, you are expected to defend yourself or justify their distorted perceptions.

How is mirroring dysfunction going to foster greater performance?

Let’s take a look at the words candor and criticism. Let’s set generalizations of what we think is meant by candor and criticism, and instead, engage the etymology, the true meaning of a words.

Candor means openness of mind, impartiality, frankness. Criticism means one who passes judgment, fault finder. How can one be promoting candor while at the same time promote criticism? It seems like an oxymoron..

We all need to be mindful of confusing, aggressive advice that leads to bushwhacking our co-workers. While the concept of Radical and Candor sound good, it’s no substitute for dialogue and mutual inquiry.

Granted, the practice of mutual inquiry may take longer, but you and your colleagues won’t be getting stabbed or tricked into giving and taking sucker punches.

If you would like more information on engaging in mutual inquiry, please let me know and I am happy to share resources with you, starting with Crucial Conversations.



Posted by Kathy Dreyer in Uncategorized

My Jaw Dropping Moment

Sallie Krawcheck‘s recent Linked In post, “My Jaw-Dropped, Ah-Ha Manager Moment” got my attention. I was curious, what would cause the former CEO of Merrill Lynch’s jaw to drop? And what I read made my jaw drop.self aware

In her post Sallie described that special time of year when the executive leadership team discusses who is going to get a promotion. When it came time to discuss “Joe” he was described as being “aggressive,” and that he “broke some eggs;” which enabled him to “get things done.” Joe had beaten plan. And so Joe was promoted to Managing Director.

Next up was “Susie.” Susie “got things done,” but she was “aggressive” and “broke some eggs.” Susie had beaten plan. Instead of getting promoted, Susie got an Executive Coach to “smooth out her rough edges” so she could be considered for a promotion next year.

A few minutes later one of Sallie’s direct reports, a male in fact, pointed out how is it that Joe got promoted but Sallie got a coach? They were all stunned by what they had done. The decision was reversed and both were promoted.

I applaud Sallie for her courage and willingness to write about this, it would have been easy to pretend it didn’t happen. She pointed out that gender biases still exist, even though organization’s promote equality in the workplace.

There’s a long-standing notion in our society that women should be treated equally to men. The reality is that women are assessed by different standards than men; the truth is you can’t legislate equality.

I have a question for you, what will happen to Susie the next time?

Will those assessing her performance be as aware as this group was?

Which leads me to my jaw dropping moment and a bigger question… is Susie even aware that her hard won efforts were viewed in a negative frame and that her achievements nearly cost her that promotion?

Could you be a Susie and not even know it?

 I was.

It wasn’t until I started a new job that I discovered this. I was leading a large cross-functional team to implement SAP for my company and despite my best efforts the team wasn’t coming together, it was like herding cats.

This was the first time in my career that I was concerned I might fail. You know what happens then, you try harder; only that didn’t yield the results I was hoping for. It got to the point that I approached my boss and suggested that we get a coach for one of the more disruptive team members. She looked at me and asked “Who is the leader of this project and who needs the coach?”

I got the coach. I wasn’t aware that while I had the intellect and “hard’ skills I was lacking in the soft skills to get my team to come together. My style was one of “cracking some eggs”. I learned My powerful style was not getting the results I intended.

As Sallie pointed out, we need to recognize that these largely unconscious gender expectations and biases exist. They won’t be overcome by good intentions, policies, or laws but by being aware that they exist.

To be successful, both male and female leaders, must be aware of the paradoxes of being human. That means that despite our best intentions there will be differences between what is said and what is done.

Take charge and recognize that it’s not likely that you will be told that others perceive you as “breaking some eggs”. The most successful leaders recognize that leadership starts with themselves.


Posted by Kathy Dreyer in Emotional Intelligence, Leadership

Revenge is a Dish Best Left Uneaten

Kate Murphy, in the “Futility of Revenge”, a recent article for the New York Times, poses this vexing question; “Why are some (people) bent on avenging perceived wrongs… while others can just let them go?”

The answer lies in maps, the neural pathways which are our internal maps. These internal maps have everything to do with revenge.
In human prehistory, revenge was essential to survival because letting an unfair act go unpunished marked you as prey. The impulse for vengeance is in your DNA. It’s natural.

People in advanced societies have been “nurtured” to rise above the personal need for vengeance. It has, we’ve been taught, been institutionalized through the police and courts. But it is can be extremely frustrating when we feel a primal, gut-level need for revenge, even for slights that are easily stapler swingline

Think about today’s workplace. I bet you’ve worked with at least one jerk who pushed all your buttons. You felt like poor Milton in the movie “Office Space”. Milton suffered one humiliation after another. It was painful to watch Peter-the-Jerk insisting that Milton even surrender his beloved red stapler.

We relate to Milton because we’ve all experienced a feeling of victimization. But the occurrence of these feelings in everyone’s life is as inevitable as taxes and death. The mystery is in how to best deal with them.

There’s a degree of denial common to discussions of our urge for revenge. It’s a private matter that we seldom want to talk about. We’re slow to acknowledge that the way we respond as adults to what we perceive as unfair treatment is the same we did as children.

The Internal maps we formed as small children remain the most powerful factors in our adult behavior. These maps are unconscious and untraceable, yet they determine our lives. They are the filters through which we interpret all experience. Yet, with effort, you can modify your internal maps to mitigate harmful impulses.

Not to mention the fact that, as Kate Murphy points out, the act of taking revenge, “… ultimately doesn’t make the avenger feel any better”.

Consider the impulse for revenge as an opportunity to map a new internal path. I’d say you could treat the desire for revenge like a flashing red light on your car’s GPS. You’re lost and you need to find a new way to get to where you want to go. Except — the map is in your head.

Posted by Kathy Dreyer in Emotional Intelligence

What Death Taught Me About Men

FrankieThe day came where we could no longer ignore that Frankie was dying. He was in pain. As a family we came together and agreed that it was time to take Frankie to the vet…

It was not an easy decision. Frankie had been a part of our family for over 15 years.

I’ll never forget the day I went to the shelter and I saw him there sitting on top of a box, pretending he didn’t see me. But I knew he did. And I knew I was going to bring him home.

It was funny because we noticed him the first few days, how’s he adjusting? He quickly became part of the tapestry of our lives, weaving right in. The corner stitch.

He had a reputation in the neighborhood. Everyone knew him. People couldn’t believe he was 17 and still jumping walls, running amongst the coyotes. He was fearless. He lived his life fully. I learned a lot from that cat.

He never asked for permission. He just did.

He let you know when he needed something. Without apology.

He loved me.

And I loved him.

I knew the day would come. And yet I still wasn’t ready when it did. But I knew.. it was time.

We all drove together to the Vet. Frankie on my lap. Too tired to fight or even meow. He was ready. We were ready. To let go.

And as we waited in the examination room for the sedative to take effect, my husband Jeff reached for a tissue. My daughter, 13, commented, “Daddy, are you crying?”.

And I thought to myself, thank God he is crying. What shouldn’t he? Why should a man hold back his emotion? Why would a human, whether it be a man or a woman show any less emotion when a beloved member of their family is dying?

What is it about our society that has ideals for how a man or woman “should” respond to loss?

How do we women, participate in this? In what ways do we say we want men to be more in touch with their feelings, but then secretly punish them when they do? In what ways do we tacitly support ideals of what we should, or shouldn’t be?

I as a woman need to create my own safety and allow myself to be vulnerable to the point I can allow my partner to do the same. As I allow him to be himself and express, without needing him to be a particular way I do the same for my own self. And we show our daughter that it isn’t the ideals of society that govern our lives, but the truth of our own selves.

Posted by Kathy Dreyer in Uncategorized

Wisdom of HR on

I’d like to thank all of you who participated on today’s webinar. I am thrilled to be able to share with you how we can cultivate and develop our own Wisdom. I’d love to hear your ideas about this and what you took from the workshop (and what you have done with the material). We so often think that it’s too small to mention. Those small things are  important! How often do you hear someone say to you “it’s just a small thing but…”. There is no such thing, as a small thing!

Please print out the Wisdom card below and put it in a place where you will see it to remind you! When we set an intention to create something in our lives, and place our attention and energy on it, it grows!



Posted by Kathy Dreyer in Uncategorized

Katalyst Consulting Gets a New Website!

Kathy Dreyer's Katalyst ConsultingKatalyst Consulting couldn’t be more excited to announce the launch of our new website,!  With more than 25 years of corporate experience in the field of Human Resources, we’re looking forward to earning the business of even more clients who would like to:

  • Achieve personal and business effectiveness
  • Discover their own truth
  • Embrace their individual calling

The process of launching a new website began with the selection of Prime Concepts Group, an integrated marketing firm specializing in Internet marketing, website design and website development. 

Posted by Kathy Dreyer in News and Events