Brutal Honesty Is a Superpower

I was listening to the author of The Founders: The Story of PayPal and the Entrepreneurs Who Shaped Silicon Valley. Jimmy Soni conducted countless hours of interviews to understand what happened at PayPal and what made it such a special place to work. One of the interesting insights from his research was that brutal honesty was a superpower. A few takeaways from his interview:

  • Disharmonious – People at PayPal challenged each other regularly when they saw things differently. To this day, these people challenge things they believe are incorrect, and they’re not shy about it.
  • Intensity – They believed it’s dangerous to say critical things behind each other’s backs. They shared critiques directly with the person in question, and it made the company better.
  • Not personal – They didn’t take disagreements personally. Disagreements are not about the person—they’re about the flaws in the analysis or thinking around an idea. They wanted to get to the best idea.
  • Respect – You want people you care about to improve. Being direct and honest is a sign of respect and care that helps them improve.
  • Rare – It’s rare to find an environment where people are totally honest with one another.

I’m a fan of people being honest and direct with others in a respectful way. Debating differing perspectives leads to better outcomes overall. I personally enjoy it when people around me provide honest, direct feedback that doesn’t require interpretation.

Based on this interview, I’ve added Soni’s book to my reading list. Can’t wait to check it out.