Radical Transparency

“You sometimes say or do things to players which makes them feel incompetent, unnecessary, humiliated, overwhelmed, belittled, pressed, or otherwise bad. If you don’t start coaching people well, growth will be stunted, and the team will be negatively affected.”

What if your assistant coaches told you that in the middle of the season?

Well Ray Dalio, the Founder and CEO of Bridgewater Associates, now the largest hedge fund in the world, managing 160 billion dollars got that feedback from three of his closest people back in 1993. Dalio recounts the painful feedback: “Basically, what they said to me is that my whole total straightforwardness was causing people to be demoralized.”

How Dalio chose to learn and grow from that feedback would forever transform the company and his leadership. These painful mistakes in communication would lead to the foundation of one of Bridgewater Associates’ principles, which they call “radical transparency”.

Dalio’s Two Questions

So, to resolve the situation and personally improve, Dalio began to meet individually with his employees to reach a mutual agreement on how they would treat one another and give each other feedback.

He had these hard questions for his people:

  1. “How should I be with you? Should I tell you what I really think?”
  2. “How should you be with me? Can you feel free to tell me what you really think?”

He became intent on creating a culture in which employees could have “thoughtful disagreement” and exchange controversial ideas without creating problems.

As it states on the Bridgewater.com homepage, “We require people to be extremely open, air disagreements, test each other’s logic, and view discovering mistakes and weaknesses as a good thing that leads to improvement and innovation. It is by continually striving together for the highest levels of truth and excellence that we create meaningful work and meaningful relationships.”

Truth and Love

You can’t have one without the other, but most of us struggle to find the balance and lean too far one way or the other. Truth can be painful to hear and uncomfortable to give. But, we don’t need to fear it, because it is essential to growth.

Feedback is essential for both parties to understand their challenges and conflicts. When we deliver truth with love, not only can we see clearer, but we can discover the path to positive growth.

3 Ways to Build A Culture of Truth and Love

  1. Go First: Be vulnerable by asking for feedback. Trying sharing a list of the important qualities of great leaders and asking, “Which area do you think I struggle with the most?”. When we do this, we show everyone it’s okay to not be perfect, while modeling the willingness to grow.
  2. Embrace the Messenger: In The Culture Code, Daniel Coyle says it’s not enough to “not shoot the messenger”; we need to embrace and praise the messenger. Even if the criticism is unwarranted, it is still how they think and feel, and their courage to share this deserves our respect. We want everyone to feel safe enough to come to us with more feedback.
  3. Ask Permission: In these one-on-one conversations, ask, “Do you want any feedback?”. If they are not mentally ready to receive and learn from your feedback, then the feedback is often hurtful, not helpful. By asking this question, we help them prepare mentally to take ownership and identify the opportunity for improvement.

Take It Further

These 3 simple strategies will get you started, but my book Calling Up is going to help you:

  • Live with conviction in a way others are inspired to follow
  • Build relationships that transform lives
  • Implement the right culture building strategies for your context

So don’t just stop with this article, buy Calling Up today!


  1. https://www.cnbc.com/2017/09/12/bridgewaters-ray-dalio-the-leadership-strategy-behind-my-success.html
  2. https://www.inc.com/gene-hammett/3-steps-ray-dalio-uses-radical-transparency-to-build-a-billion-dollar-company.html
  3. The first heard of Ray Dalio’s story on Adam Grant’s Podcast