Book Summary – Radical Candor

What is radical candor?

Radical candor is when managers care personally but challenge directly their team members. This means building a team culture where you are genuinely invested in each member. Having such a culture means that managers can provide feedback without the other individual feeling attacked. This results in managers who are kind but also clear with their expectations and intentions. Additionally, teammates on the receiving feedback do not take such feedback personally because they know it comes from a place of care.

Key takeaways:

  • Successful managers genuinely care about their team members and invest in their team members to help them reach their full potential.
  • There are three types of conversations that managers can use to get personal with their team: their life story, their dream job, and or their 18-month plan.
  • Leaders can create a culture of radical candor by creating a safe space for team members to speak openly, provide ample time for team members to refine their ideas, and openly debate.

The impact of radical candor in the workplace

By adopting and applying radical candor, leaders, managers, and bosses alike can reach higher and more productive teams. Being a boss comes with emotional labor. Bosses are expected to give guidance, build a team, all while driving results. When you mix in having to individually manage the reactions of each team member, it can become highly burdensome and even take away from real work.

For example, with giving feedback, there is typically a sense of dread. Praise can feel patronizing and even fake. Criticism is just difficult to swallow. Both emotions can make it difficult to conduct the actual act of giving feedback, which is ultimately critical for ensuring team members are performing and growing in the right direction.

With team building, managers have to find the right people in the right roles. This involves hiring, firing, and promoting. All of these, even for the most seasoned leader, carries a level of emotional labor. Finally, getting to the right results maybe rewarding, but managers are often left reflecting on the difficulties and challenges faced to get there. There may be frustration around the difficulties or other challenges experienced in order to reach a seemingly simple result. Scott argues that emotional labor is the key to being a good boss. Thus, mastering emotional labor will reap large rewards; it will help guide team members to the right behaviors. This will result in establishing a high performing team, which will reach the right results in a fluid manner.

Caring Personally

When it comes to caring personally, Scott challenges that the this means going beyond learning about your teammates’ family. It means taking the time to learn about what your teammates’ hopes and dreams are. Only through understanding this can a leader work to help that team member achieve and realize their dreams. Doing this is the best way to motivate team members to reach their full potential.

Challenging Directly

The next dimension of radical candor is to challenge directly. This means giving teammates feedback on when their work isn’t good enough and providing praise when their work is good enough. While this sounds like something that is obvious, it is actually incredibly difficult for bosses to do. Bosses should start a feedback conversation by welcoming team members to provide critical feedback of them. When done publicly, team members can trust that you are genuinely invested in a two-way relationship with advancing the team.

The Three Types of Conversations to Have

In order to get personal with your team members, Scott proposes three types of conversation a leader should have with their team members: their life story, their dream job story, their 18-month plan. Having any one or a combination of these conversations will allow managers to develop an understanding of what motivates and drives each team member.

Their life story – this conversation is quite simply getting an understanding of the journey that your team member took to get here. What were they doing? What twists and turns did they take? What took them by surprise?

The dream job story – another important conversation to have with team members is the “what do you want to do when you grow up?” conversation. Dig into your team members career aspirations. Remember, it is OK if the current roe they have is not what their dream job would be. What’s important is that a plan is put in place to help support your team member sin reaching their dream.

The 18-month plan – if someone is already in their dream job, then probe into what that person wants to achieve in the near future. High performers will typically have ambitions surrounding what they want to realize in their role. Gaining an understanding of this is key for helping them tactically reach their full potential.

Giving Feedback

Giving feedback is a difficult but necessary task in any leadership role. Scott provides tactical ways for leaders to provide feedback without jeopardizing the culture. One point Scott encourages is for managers to encourage team members to criticize them. Doing this opens an honest conversation surrounding upwards feedback. Scott also recommends for managers to never make it personal, and with that, make sure that both praise and criticism is specific. If a manager must provide critical feedback, always criticize in private and not public. Managers can also open up the conversation through questions like “Is there anything I can stop doing to make it easier to work with me?”

About Kim Scott

Kim Scott is an entrepreneur, author, and Silicon Valley heavy weight. She has coached senior leaders from some of the most well-known companies, including Twitter, Dropbox, and Qualtrics. Her approach and methodology for leadership and management is adopted and celebrated at various companies, including Apple. She is also the host of The Radical Candor Podcast, where she hosts different guests to share their leadership experiences and insights.

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