Kim Scott

Radical Candor

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Radical Candor Summary

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Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity, Kim Scott’s 2017 how-to workplace guide for effective management, is based on the simple idea that to be a good boss, one must care on a personal level and also challenge employees directly. Following this simple framework can help create better relationships in the workplace, while also building a culture of feedback, creating a unified team, and producing the best results. Scott draws on years of experience, providing clear lessons that demonstrate how to manage people successfully while maintaining one’s humanity, finding fulfillment in one’s job, and building an environment in which individuals enjoy their work and colleagues.

Scott opens Radical Candor by defining what exactly she means by “bosses.” In this book, she is referring to supervisors, leaders, and managers. The author mentions common mistakes managers make in the dynamic of interaction with employees. If one challenges employees without caring, it is considered obnoxious aggression. When a boss cares without providing challenges, this is ruinous empathy. When one does neither, it is manipulative insincerity.

Scott goes on to explain how years of working for businesses in Silicon Valley, such as Apple and Google, and running her own businesses led her to realize what distinguishes great bosses from bad ones: their capacity for building strong relationships that allow employees to be content but also challenged. Scott refers to this as “radical candor.”

Bosses, says Scott, achieve successful results by guiding a team, rather than by doing everything themselves. There are three key areas bosses must excel in in order to do their job effectively. First, bosses must be strong guides by soliciting and suggesting constructive feedback, while also encouraging feedback among others. Second, a boss must know about team-building in order to put the correct people in the correct roles and to motivate them. Third, bosses must be results-oriented, meaning they are able to manage the individuals on their team in order to deliver successful outcomes.

The basis of these three roles is cultivating a trusting relationship with one’s employees. Scott introduces two dimensions in this approach. The first is to care personally. To do so, one must commit entirely to the job and care about each team member as a whole person with a life outside of work. The second is to challenge directly. This involves giving and receiving feedback, making tough choices, and maintaining high standards. Doing so ensures trust and understanding are created, and employees will feel secure enough to challenge each other to solve issues and uphold standards without intervention from the boss.

Scott breaks these ideas down even further by emphasizing some key aspects of radical candor. She states that one must provide clear and honest feedback, whether it is criticism or praise, and aid employees in understanding how the feedback can allow them to move toward their goals. To accomplish this, the boss must first truly understand team members and what they want. Rather than thinking of ambition in terms of moving up the hierarchy, Scott recommends thinking about it in terms of growth.

Here, Scott defines “superstars” and “rock stars” within organizations. Superstars are seeking a steep growth trajectory as well as challenges and opportunities to learn and grow rapidly. Rock stars are dependable, love and are good at their work, and prefer a more gradual growth trajectory. A blend of both, says Scott, is needed for organizational growth and stability.

The author goes on to explain that driving results as a boss is really about getting people to accomplish more collaboratively than on their own. Here, Scott presents the Get Stuff Done (GSD) wheel, which has seven sequential steps for involving one’s team in decision making and ultimately achieving better long-term outcomes. The seven steps include listening, clarifying, debating, deciding, persuading, executing, and learning.

Next, Scott moves on to explain tools and techniques to create trusting relationships, provide effective guidance, improve team performance, and produce successful results through collaboration. One can take several approaches to build trusting relationships. For example, as a boss, one can center oneself, pursue work-life integration, construct the right environment for one’s team members, and master one’s emotions.

Scott also covers direct methods of providing guidance. For example, when giving feedback, one can share one’s intentions in order to lower defenses by prefacing a statement with letting team members know one might be wrong. One can also give specific details when providing feedback, rather than general compliments or criticisms.

In order to manage team performance, the author presents several tools and steps. First, the boss might hold career conversations to better understand employees’ ambitions to ultimately help them move toward their goals. Bosses can also create yearly growth management plans for each team member.

Although it will take time and effort to implement, the results of Scott’s radical candor philosophy can be transformative as innovative ideas emerge and problems are solved without the necessary intervention of the boss.