Radical Candor Book Summary and PDF

Radical Candor by Kim Malone Scott [Book Summary & PDF]

Radical Candor is written for bosses and those who manage bosses. Giving actionable lessons to the reader, this book shows managers how to be successful while retaining their humanity, finding meaning in their job, and creating an environment where people both love their work and their colleagues.

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INTRODUCTION

Who is this book for?

Radical Candor is written for bosses and those who manage bosses. Giving actionable lessons to the reader, this book shows managers how to be successful while retaining their humanity, finding meaning in their job, and creating an environment where people both love their work and their colleagues.

About the author

Kim Scott is the co-founder and CEO of Candor, Inc., which builds tools to make it easier to follow the advice she offers in her book. Prior to founding Candor, Inc., Kim was a CEO coach at Dropbox, Qualtrics, Twitter, and several other Silicon Valley companies. She was a member of the faculty at Apple University, developing the course “Managing at Apple,” and before that led AdSense, YouTube, and Doubleclick Online Sales and Operations at Google. Kim received her MBA from Harvard Business School and her BA from Princeton University.

In this summary

In Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity, Kim Scott teaches her vital new approach to effective management, the “Radical Candor” method. With lessons distilled from her experience at Apple and Google, Radical Candor focuses on 4 areas: how to build better relationships at work, how to get and offer guidance, how to help your team build their dreams, and how to drive extraordinary results collaboratively. Let’s find out!

BOOK SUMMARY

BUILD RADICALLY CANDID RELATIONSHIPS

The goal of this book is to create an environment where people would love their work and one another, and save time for managers:

“If you implement every single idea, tool, and technique in this book, the time you dedicate to managing your team will come to approximately ten hours a week, and those ten hours should save you enormous lost time and headaches later.”

The approach Kim Scott suggest is ‘Radical Candor’. It’s the result when you combine “Care Personally” and “Challenge Directly”.

Care Personally

In the business world, employees often feel they’re being treated merely as pawns or as inferiors, partly because of the unspoken mantra to “Keep It Professional”: show up at work on time, do your job, don’t show feelings.

Instead, managers should create a safe space for their direct reports and everyone to “Bring Their Whole Self To Work”, by becoming the example and showing vulnerability.

Caring personally is the antidote to both robotic professionalism and managerial arrogance: it’s not about memorising birthdays and names of family members, but rather about acknowledging that all employees are people with lives and aspirations, finding time for real conversations, and getting to know them at a human level.

Challenge Directly

“Being responsible sometimes means pissing people off.” -Colin Powell

It involves telling people when their work isn’t good enough – and when it is.

Challenging others and encouraging them to challenge you helps build trusting relationships. It shows that:

  1. You care enough to point out both the things that aren’t going well and those that are; and
  2. You are willing to admit when you’re wrong and that you are committed to fixing mistakes that you or others have made.

The key is how you handle conflict. When what you say hurts, acknowledge the other person’s pain and just show that you care – don’t pretend it doesn’t hurt or say it “shouldn’t” hurt.

Likewise, invite people to challenge you just as directly as you are challenging them. You have to encourage them to challenge you directly enough that you may be the one who feels upset or angry.

Relationships Are a Manager’s Core Job

A manager’s relationship with their direct reports affects the relationships they have with their subordinates, creating the company’s culture at large. When people trust you and believe you care about them, they are much more likely to:

  1. Accept and act on your praise and criticism;
  2. Tell you what you are doing well and not so well;
  3. Engage in this same behavior with one another;
  4. Embrace their role on the team; and
  5. Focus on getting results.

Through Radically Candid relationships, a manager can fulfill their three main responsibilities:

  1. To create a culture of guidance (praise & criticism) that will keep everyone moving towards the right direction;
  2. To understand what motivates each person on their team to avoid burnout or boredom and keep the team cohesive; and
  3. To drive results collaboratively.

Practically, this means that emotional labour towards building relationships is not just part of the manager’s job; it’s the key to being a good boss.

Practical Tools & Techniques

For managers to practically apply the aforementioned principles, the author recommends the following:

  1. Stay Centred

“You can’t give a damn about others if you don’t give a damn about yourself”

Integrate your life with work seamlessly, figuring out your “recipe” to stay centred and stick to it. Do things you love daily, add them in your calendar as if you would add a work-related meeting, and show up to these ‘meetings’.

  1. Free At Work

You can’t get that out of people with power, authority, or control. Thus, think how to give your team a similar, centred sense of autonomy, so they can bring their best selves to work. There can only be real trust when people feel free at work.

  1. Master the Art of Socialising at Work

Spending time with people from work in a more relaxed setting, without the pressure of work deadlines, can be a good way to build relationships. Just make sure they don’t feel ‘imposed’ on people, which could bring the opposite effect.

  1. Respect Boundaries

Everyone is different, so be clear upfront with each person at work regarding their boundaries. To get to know these people better over time, you’ve got to respect these boundaries, whether it’s their physical space, your reactions to them expressing their emotions, or the shared values of your relationship.

THE RADICAL CANDOR QUADRANT – Get, Give, and Encourage Guidance

Radical Candor

A great way to get to know and build trust with somebody in the team is to offer Radically Candid praise and criticism.

Radically Candid praise – To give meaningful praise, keep the comment contextualised, personal, and specific: “I admire that about you.”

Radically Candid Criticism – To keep winning, criticise the wins.

Obnoxious Aggression

It’s been found that most people would rather work for a “competent asshole” than a “nice incompetent”. “At least then people know what you think and where they stand, so your team can achieve results.”

However, if you criticise someone without first taking two seconds to show you care, you might get great results short-term, but you will leave a trail of dead bodies in the long run.

Obnoxiously Aggressive criticism – Publicly blaming people’s internal essence rather than their external behavior, using criticism as a weapon rather than a tool for improvement, or “front-stabbing”.

Obnoxiously Aggressive praise – Paying people a compliment, and making them feel worse rather than better, or belittling compliments such as: “Well, you got it right this time.”

Manipulative Insincerity

People give Manipulatively Insincere guidance when they don’t care enough about a person to challenge directly.

It rarely reflects what a person thinks and it happens when people are too focused on being liked, when they think they can gain a political advantage by being fake, or when they are just too tired to care or argue any more.

Such praise feels like flattery and criticism feels like backstabbing.

Ruinous Empathy

Ruinous Empathy occurs when people want to avoid creating tension or discomfort at work, avoiding criticism and prioritising ‘being nice’.

The primary goal of praise here is to make the other person feel better (“I just wanted to say something nice”) rather than to point out really great work and encourage more.

Managers who give vague ‘good job’ compliments don’t give an opportunity to their direct reports to learn or grow, who often stall, quit or get fired as a result.

Moving Toward Radical Candor

Start by asking for criticism, not by giving it: you will show that you are aware that you are often wrong and want to be challenged, you’ll learn a lot, you will build trust and strengthen your relationships, and, finally, you’ll get a firsthand experience on how it feels to receive criticism.

Then, prioritise giving praise more than criticism: it guides people in the right direction and it encourages people to keep improving. Make sure it’s sincere; patronising or insincere praise will erode trust and hurt your relationships.

Finally, when criticising, do it like Steve Jobs:

“You need to do that in a way that does not question your confidence in their abilities, but makes it clear that you think their work is not good enough.”

Saying “your work is shit” is better than saying “you are shit,” but it’s not quite close to saying “you’ve been working nights and weekends, and it’s starting to take a toll on your ability to catch mistakes in your logic”. To criticise a person without discouraging it, be invested in helping the person improve.

To sum it all up, explore the following visual example for “your fly is down”.

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PRACTICAL TOOLS AND TECHNIQUES

Receiving Impromptu Guidance

People don’t really want to criticise or tell what they really think to their boss. To get the conversation flowing:

  • Ask people to criticise you in front of others at a staff meeting;
  • Have a go-to question, such as “is there anything I could do or stop doing that would make it easier to work with me?”;
  • Embrace the discomfort and don’t take “oh, everything is fine, thank you for asking” as an answer;
  • Listen with the intent to understand and clarify the criticism, but don’t debate it;
  • Take action upon the criticism you’re received – reward it to encourage more of it; and
  • Make it not just safe but natural to criticise you – put a box in a public space where people can drop questions or feedback.

Giving Impromptu Guidance

Without giving Radically Candid guidance, you won’t become the example for others to give it to you:

  • Describe three things: the situation you saw, the behaviour (what the person did, good or bad), the impact you observed. Example: “I’ve been waiting for that spot here for five minutes, and you just zipped in front of me and took it. Now I’m going to be late.”
  • Criticise in private: public criticism triggers defensive mechanisms and makes it hard for people to accept it.
  • Praise in public: it lends more weight to the praise and encourages others to follow the example.
  • Don’t personalise: caring personally is good – personalising is bad. Say “that’s wrong” not “you’re wrong”.

Understand What Motivates Each Person on Your Team

If you want to build a great team, you first need to start rethinking ambition and understand how each person’s job fits into their life goals. All teams have “rockstars” and “superstars”:

Rockstars…

  • Are happy in the current role
  • Have a gradual growth trajectory
  • Have found their groove and prefer stability
  • Are simply content in life (or ambitious outside of work)

Superstars…

  • Seek new opportunities
  • Have a steep growth trajectory
  • Are agents of change and need to be challenged
  • Are ambitious at work

In other words, pushing everybody to grow super-fast is not the best practice. Some people do not want the next, bigger job. Ask yourself: “What growth trajectory does each person on my team want to be on right now?” “What are their long-term ambitions and dreams?” “Have I given everybody opportunities that are in line with what they really want?” As a boss, it’s your job to know.

Above all, trajectories change and you shouldn’t put permanent labels on people.

GROWTH TRAJECTORY

Excellent Performance/Gradual Growth | Recognise & reward, but don’t promote

The best way to manage rock stars is to recognise them (but not promote them). It may be a bonus/raise, designating them as “gurus” or “go-to” experts”, or, if they like teaching, getting them to help new people learn their roles faster.

Honour and respect the people who’d been successfully doing the same job for years – you are lucky to have them. Reject any derogatory labels, such as “B-players”.

Excellent Performance/Steep Growth | Keep them challenged

To keep superstars happy, keep them challenged. Make sure they are constantly learning, give them new opportunities, figure out what their next job will be, build an intellectual partnership with them, and find them mentors from outside your team or organisation.

Most importantly: don’t get too dependent on them. Ask them to teach others how to do their job, because they won’t stay there for long.

Managing the Middle | Raise the bar

Treat these people fairly and understand why they aren’t thriving: are they simply going through a rough period (give them time and space) or have they not done exceptional work for more than two years (get them to work on a project that would let them shine)?

If their work is still mediocre, encourage these people to look for jobs elsewhere. Your job as the boss is to set and uphold a quality bar, and to build a great team that achieves exceptional results.

Poor Performance/Negative Growth | Part ways

When somebody is performing poorly and, despite the clear communication about the nature of the problem, is showing no signs of improvement, you must fire that person. Before you fire a person, consider these questions:

  1. Have you given Radically Candid guidance?
  2. Do you understand the impact of his/her dismissal on the team?
  3. Have you sought advice from others?”

Low Performance/Steep Growth | Seek deeper

A promising person might be doing a lousy job for five different reasons:

  1. It’s a great person in the wrong role;
  2. It’s a new role and it takes longer to learn it from scratch;
  3. There’s too much dumped on the person all at once;
  4. The person has a personal issue; and
  5. They are a poor fit with the company’s and team’s culture.

We all go through waves in our career; make sure your relationships with your people evolve as their dreams and trajectories do.

“Care personally; don’t put people in boxes and leave them there.”Click To Tweet

PRACTICAL TOOLS AND TECHNIQUES

Career Conversations

Understand people’s motivations and ambitions to help them take a step in the direction of their dreams.

  • “Life story” conversation, designed to learn what motivates each person in your team (“Starting with kindergarten, tell me about your life.”)
  • “Dreams” conversation, to understand the person’s dreams, what they want to achieve in their career, and how they imagine their best life.
  • “Eighteen-month plan” conversation, getting people to begin asking themselves the following questions: “What do I need to learn to move in the direction of my dreams?” “How should I prioritize the things I need to learn?” “Whom can I learn from?”

Growth Management Plans

Figure out who needs what types of opportunities, and how you’re going to provide them. Once a year, put together a grown plan for each member of your team. Using the diagram above, put the names of your team in the category you believe they belong.

Then, come up with a three- to five-bullet-point growth plan for each person:

  • How could you push people who are going good work to do exceptional work?
  • What kind of new projects or education or help can you offer them?
  • If they’re doing bad work but show signs of improvement, have you put them in wrong roles?
  • Do they need additional training?
  • If they’re doing bad work and not getting any better, maybe it’s time to let them go?

DRIVE RESULTS COLLABORATIVELY

The goal of Radical Candor is to achieve collaboratively what you could never achieve individually, and to do that, you need to care about the people you’re working with, incorporating their thinking into yours, and yours into theirs.

The Art of Getting Stuff Done Without Telling People What to Do

When you don’t tell people what to do, like in the case of Apple and Google…

  • How does everyone in the company decide what to do?
  • How do tens of thousands of people come to understand the mission?
  • How do strategy and goals get set?

The process, which the author calls the “Get Stuff Done” (GSD) wheel is explained below.

  1. You start by listening to the ideas that people on your team have. Create a culture in which everyone listens to each other.
  2. Then, create a space to sharpen and clarify ideas. Just because an idea is easy to understand doesn’t mean it’s a good one. However, many brilliant ideas get crushed before everyone fully understands their potential usefulness – all because they were not explained clearly.
  3. Next, you have to debate ideas and test them more rigorously.
  4. A crucial step is when you decide. The deciders should always be the people closer to the best information, deciding based on facts.
  5. Since not everyone will have been involved in the first part of the cycle for every idea, the next step is to bring the broader team along and persuade them that it was a good one, addressing their emotions, establishing credibility, and sharing the logic of the decision.
  6. The next important step is to block time to execute and implement the decision, without wasting more time on meetings.
  7. Finally, you have to learn from the results, whether or not you did the right thing, and start the whole process over again.

PRACTICAL TOOLS AND TECHNIQUES

To achieve great results collectively, the team needs to communicate. Yes, that means meetings!

1:1 Conversations

They are your must-do meetings, where the employees set the agenda, and you listen carefully and help them clarify. It’s a great opportunity to get to know your direct reports better and move up on the “care personally” axis.

Staff Meetings

An effective staff meeting has 3 goals: review how things have gone the previous week, allow people to share important updates, and force the team to identify the most important decisions and debates for the coming week.

Think Time

A meeting for yourself. Block time to think, and hold that time sacred. Encourage the rest of your team to do the same.

“Big Debate” Meetings

They are reserved for debate, but not decisions, on major issues faced by the team. At the end everyone will have a summary of the facts and issues that emerged, a clearer definition of the choices going forward, and a recommendation to keep debating or to move on to a decision.

“Big Decision” Meetings

They typically, but not always, follow a “big debate” meeting. The goal here is to leave egos at the door, decide solely based on facts, and reach to final decisions (otherwise the meeting was merely a debate).

All-Hands Meetings

These meetings bring everyone along (especially in large companies). They usually include two parts: presentations to persuade people that the company is making good decisions and headed in the right direction; and follow-up Q&As, so leaders can hear dissent and address any issues.

Execution Time (Meeting-Free Zone)

Be ruthless about making sure your team has time to execute. Block off execution-time in your calendar, and encourage others to do the same. Say “no” to more unnecessary meetings.

Kanban Boards

At its simplest, you put up a kanban board with three columns: To Do, In Progress, and Done. Make progress visible to everyone, giving more autonomy to the team, and giving everyone a chance to identify and resolve issues before they hurt the results.

Walk Around

Schedule an hour a week of walking-around time. Ask people who catch your attention – ideally, people you haven’t talked to in a while – what they’re working on.

GETTING STARTED

What should you do first, then? Here’s a plan to build a culture of Radical Candor on your team.

  1. Share Your Stories

Explain Radical Candor to your team, so they understand what you’re up to. Then, tell them your personal stories; they will explain better than anything what you really mean and why. Show some vulnerability.

  1. Start Asking Your Team to Criticise You

Embrace the discomfort. Pay close attention if you aren’t getting any criticism.

  1. Start Having Career Conversations

Start with people whom you’ve been working with for the longest.

  1. Improve How You Give Praise and Criticism

Adjust for each individual. Be not just self-aware, but also relationally- and culturally-aware.

  1. Assess

How’s it going? What’s working? What’s not working? Who can you talk to? Can your boss help? A mentor outside of work? Others from the Radical Candor community?

  1. Improve Your Staff Meetings and More

Don’t let them drag on too long. Keep them focused and productive. Next come the “big decision” and “big debate” meetings.

  1. Encourage Guidance Amongst the Team

Establish a “no backstabbing” norm on your team. Explain that you’re not going to allow one person to come and talk to you about another.

  1. Fight Meeting Proliferation

Make sure you’re not overscheduled. Put some think time in your calendar.

  1. Plan for the Future of Your Team.

Start a growth-management plan for each person on your team. Make sure that you are not creating a promotion-obsessed culture. Give extra thought to how you’re rewarding your rockstars.

  1. Walk Around

Put aside some time each week to walk around and have informal spontaneous chats with people.

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CONCLUSION

Key takeaways

  • Radically Candid management does take serious time, but it leaves you time to pursue your own expertise and to deal with the unpredictable.
  • Radical Candor requires you to be conscious, and to bring your full humanity to work with you.
  • The goal of this framework is to help you and your team achieve results you never imagined possible.
  • Emotional labour towards building relationships is not just part of the manager’s job; it’s the key to being a good boss.
  • Always start by asking for criticism, not by giving it.

Further reading

Leaders Eat Last is ideal for anyone who leads, whether it be a small team, an entire organisation, a community or a family. As a leader it’s important to create a culture that leaves everyone happy and fulfilled, and this is exactly what Simon describes. Simon emphasises that when an environment is built on trust, teams will work together, have each others backs, survive and thrive.

The Art of People by Dave Kerpern is a great guide on how to manage some of the most important people and relationships in your life. Kerpern emphasises that people can make all the difference between an average life and a great life.

Guidelines is my eBook that summarises the main lessons from 33 of the best-selling self-help books in one place. It is the ultimate book summary; Available as a 80-page ebook and 115-minute audio book. Guidelines lists 31 rules (or guidelines) that you should follow to improve your productivity, become a better leader, do better in business, improve your health, succeed in life and become a happier person.

Action Steps

  1. Take the steps outlined in the ‘Getting Started’ chapter.
  2. Visit https://www.radicalcandor.com for additional resources.
  3. Make it a daily habit to “care personally” and “challenge directly”.
  4. Download the complete book on Amazon.

This summary is not intended as a replacement for the original book and all quotes are credited to the above mentioned author and publisher.

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