One of the things I’ve learned about helping people work well together in business is the power of naming your values, ideals, and expectations. Wielding this tool to best effect is a prime responsibility of company leadership. I’ll give you three examples of ways we do this at Atomic: our company values, a framework for negative thoughts, and a framework for feedback.
Atomic has six value mantras that stand for behaviors and attitudes we hold each other and the company to. We use them internally all the time:
- Give a Shit
- Think Long Term
- Own It
- Share the Pain
- Teach and Learn
- Act Transparently
You can read a lot more about them on our website, since we feel it’s good for clients and prospective employees to know what we care about.
FUDA is a framework of behavior and communication we created ourselves. Pronounced “foo-da” or “fuh-da” (depending on who you ask), it stands for Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt, and Anger. Our company stance on FUDA has three aspects:
- Everyone experiences feelings of FUDA from time to time.
- You’re expected to actively seek to resolve your FUDA.
- If you observe FUDA in a colleague, you should try to help them resolve it.
Giving negative feelings a name, and codifying the responsibilities around them, created a framework for all of us to work better together. I hear people say things like, “I have some FUDA around this topic. Can you help me understand why we made this decision?” And: “Joe seems to be carrying some FUDA about Sally. I’m going to facilitate a meeting with them both.” And: “This is likely to generate FUDA. What can we share to head those feelings off?”
The third example of giving a name to a framework for interacting with each other is not our invention. Kim Scott created a simple model to distinguish between when you’re being a good boss and when you’re being a bad boss. She calls it Radical Candor.
In a nutshell, Radical Candor is the intersection between caring personally for an employee, and being direct with ways they can improve themselves. The most common alternative to Radical Candor is Ruinous Empathy, when you care personally, but avoid giving the difficult feedback an employee needs to learn and grow.
Introducing the idea of Radical Candor, and having a name to refer to behavior we value and aspire to, has helped us talk about the tricky subject of what a good boss (or peer) is and does, and has created a framework for useful feedback that benefits the company through the growth of individual Atoms.
I hear things like, “An RC moment”, and “I gave her feedback after the talk”, and “In the spirit of Radical Candor, I think you set a bad precedent when you…” I constructed a personal Radical Candor radiator on my laptop, with stars representing when I gave valuable feedback, and a happy face representing when I received it.
What’s in a name?
Eve Ensler used the power of naming things to save herself and start a world-wide movement to end violence against women. Examples of the power of language and the importance of the names we give things abound.
While they may seem silly at first glance, our value mantras, FUDA and Radical Candor remind us who we aspire to be, what we care about, and how we’re committed to behaving towards each other. They give us frameworks to talk about important matters, and help in living up to our ideals. Identifying what’s important and valuable, and using the power of language to promote and establish those ideas, is one of a leader’s most important responsibilities.
- Atomic Ownership, Part 3: Valuation - January 2, 2019
- Atomic’s purpose: to be a company where work matters - November 5, 2018
- Elevating & distributing “glue work” flows out of our core principles - October 18, 2018
- Atomic Ownership, Part 2: How the Atomic Plan & our ESPP work - July 16, 2018
- Atomic Ownership, Part 1: Context, motivations, and accomplishments to date - May 17, 2018