The Power of Radical Candor

In Radical Candor, Kim Scott explains how almost any organization — whatever its size and nature may be — can “defy the gravitational pull of organizational mediocrity.” The ultimate goal of what she characterizes as Radical Candor “is to achieve results collaboratively that could never be achieved individually.” Scott focuses on two dimensions:

“The first dimension is about more than ‘just professional.’ It’s about giving a damn, sharing more than just your work self, and encouraging everyone who reports to you to do the same. It’s not enough to care only about people’s ability to perform a job. To have a good relationship, you have to be your whole self and care about each of the people who work for you as a human being. It’s not just business; it is personal, and [begin] deeply [end] personal. I call this dimension ‘Care Personally.’”

“The second dimension involves telling people when their work isn’t good enough — and when it is; when they are not going to get that new role they wanted, or when you’re going to hire a new boss ‘over’ them; when the results don’t justify further investment in what they’re working on. Delivering hard feedback, making hard calls about who does what on a team, and holding a high bar for results — isn’t that obviously the job of any manager?…And yet challenging people is often the best way to show them you care when you’re the boss. This dimension I call ‘Challenge Directly.’”

Here’s my take on Radical Candor:

o It depends on total honesty, either when offering constructive criticism or praise. However, the “Four Ws” (i.e. Who, What, When, and Why) must be taken into full account.

o Superiors must care enough about the best interests of their direct reports and they tell them [begin] what they need to know [end], especially what they don’t want to be told.

o Radical Candor is a two-way street: Both supervisors and direct reports as well as associates need to express it on a need-to-know basis. If there is little (if any) mutual trust and respect in a given situation, forget it.

o Radical Candor is the “glue” to any relationship worthy of the name but only if (HUGE “if”) those who offer it are sincere (preferably empathic) and those who receive it are receptive.

I also highly recommend Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don’t in which Jeffrey Pfeffer establishes a direct rapport with his reader and seems to be saying, in effect, “Over the years, I’ve learned a great deal about power will now share with you what I hope you will find most interesting and, more to the point, most useful.” These days, the supervisors who have the greatest power of influence seem to have highly developed emotional intelligence, especially empathy. Scott reminds us that full-strength radical candor is driven by caring, not ambition.

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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 the book. She is also the author of three novels. To learn more about her and her work, please click here.

Radical Candor was published by St. Martin’s Press (March 2017)

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