“Radical Candor” is what happens when you put “Care Personally” and “Challenge Directly” together.

Kim Scott earned her managerial experience working with great teams and individuals at Google and Apple. Radical Candor draws from her first-hand experience working with titans such as Larry Page (Google), Sheryl Sandberg (Google), Dick Costolo (Twitter) both as a direct report, manager, and coach.

Radical Candor draws directly on her experiences at these cutting edge companies to reveal a new approach to effective management that delivers huge success by inspiring teams to work better together by embracing fierce conversations. She draws on her wealth of experience to expand on the concept of radical candidness with insights on hiring, firing, providing guidance, obnoxious aggressiveness vs ruinuous empathy, running meeting among other tools that makes someone become a great boss, have tough conversations and not lose your humanity in the process.

Kim identified three simple principles for building better relationships with your employees: make it personal, get stuff done, and understand why it matters. “Radical Candor” is what happens when you put “Care Personally” and “Challenge Directly” together.

Here are my favourite takeaways from reading, Radical Candor: How to Get What You Want by Saying What You Mean by Kim Scott:

The Challenge

  • It’s brutally hard to tell people when they are screwing up. You don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings; that’s because you’re not a sadist. You don’t want that person or the rest of the team to think you’re a jerk. Plus, you’ve been told since you learned to talk, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Now all of a sudden it’s your job to say it. You’ve got to undo a lifetime of training. Management is hard.
  • We are all more likely to be “ruinously empathetic” or “obnoxiously aggressive” or “manipulatively insincere” toward people who are different from us. Learning how to push ourselves and others past this discomfort, to relate to our shared humanity, can make a huge difference.

The Job of a Manager/Boss

  • We are all more likely to be “ruinously empathetic” or “obnoxiously aggressive” or “manipulatively insincere” toward people who are different from us. Learning how to push ourselves and others past this discomfort, to relate to our shared humanity, can make a huge difference.
  • First, guidance. Guidance is often called “feedback.” People dread feedback—both the praise, which can feel patronizing, and especially the criticism.
  • Second, team-building. Building a cohesive team means figuring out the right people for the right roles: hiring, firing, promoting. But once you’ve got the right people in the right jobs.
  • Third, results. Many managers are perpetually frustrated that it seems harder than it should be to get things done. We just doubled the size of the team, but the results are not twice as good. In fact, they are worse. What happened? Sometimes things move too slowly.

Being a boss is a job, not a value judgement.

RELATIONSHIPS, NOT POWER, DRIVE YOU FORWARD

Establishing a trusting relationship with each person who reports directly to you. If you lead a big organization, you can’t have a relationship with everyone; but you can really get to know the people who report directly to you. Many things get in the way, though: power dynamics first and foremost, but also fear of conflict, worry about the boundaries of what’s appropriate or “professional,” fear of losing credibility, time pressure.

Nevertheless, these relationships are core to your job. They determine whether you can fulfill your three responsibilities as a manager:

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

Care Personally – The Give a Damn Axis

  • The first dimension is about being 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 deeply personal. Kim calls this dimension “Care Personally.”
  • Caring personally is not about memorizing birthdays and names of family members. Nor is it about sharing the sordid details of one’s personal life, or forced chitchat at social events you’d rather not attend. Caring personally is about doing things you already know how to do. It’s about acknowledging that we are all people with lives and aspirations that extend beyond those related to our shared work.
  • It’s about finding time for real conversations; about getting to know each other at a human level; about learning what’s important to people; about sharing with one another what makes us want to get out of bed in the morning and go to work—and what has the opposite effect.

“Being responsible sometimes means pissing people off.” – Collin Powell

Challenge Directly Willing to piss people off Axis

  • 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? But most people struggle with doing these things. Challenging people generally pisses them off, and at first, that doesn’t seem like a good way to build a relationship or to show that you “care personally.” And yet challenging people is often the best way to show them that you care when you’re the boss. This dimension Kim calls “Challenge Directly.”

Radical Candor

  • “Radical Candor” is what happens when you put “Care Personally” and “Challenge Directly” together. Radical Candor builds trust and opens the door for the kind of communication that helps you achieve the results you’re aiming for. And it directly addresses the fears that people express to me when asking questions about the management dilemmas they face.
  • It turns out that 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 they really think about what you are doing well and, more importantly, not doing so well;
    3) engage in this same behavior with one another, meaning less pushing the rock up the hill again and again;
    4) embrace their role on the team; and
    5) focus on getting results.
  • John Stuart Mill: The source of everything respectable in man either as an intellectual or as a moral being [is] that his errors are corrigible. He is capable of rectifying his mistakes, by discussion and experience. Not by experience alone. There must be discussion, to show how experience is to be interpreted.

“Don’t take it Personally”

  • Eliminate the phrase “don’t take it personally” from your vocabulary—it’s insulting. Instead, offer to help fix the problem. But don’t pretend it isn’t a problem just to try to make somebody feel better. In the end, caring personally about people even as you challenge them will build the best relationships of your career.

Candor

  • Candor is not a license to be gratuitously harsh or to “front-stab.” It’s not Radical Candor just because you begin with the words, “Let me be Radically Candid with you.” If you follow that phrase with words like, “You are a liar and I don’t trust you,” or “You’re a dipshit,” you’ve just acted like a garden-variety jerk. It’s not Radical Candor if you don’t show that you care personally. Radical Candor is also not an invitation to nitpick.
  • Challenging people directly takes real energy—not only from the people you’re challenging but from you as well. So do it only for things that really matter. A good rule of thumb for any relationship is to leave three unimportant things unsaid each day. Radical Candor is not a hierarchical thing. To be Radically Candid, you need to practice it “up,” “down,” and “sideways.”

Ruinous Empathy

  • Ruinous Empathy is responsible for the vast majority of management mistakes I’ve seen in my career. Most people want to avoid creating tension or discomfort at work. They are like the well-meaning parent who cannot bear to discipline their kids.
  • Bosses rarely intend to ruin an employee’s chance of success or to handicap the entire team by letting poor performance slide. And yet that is often the net result of Ruinous Empathy. Similarly, praise that’s ruinously empathetic is not effective because its primary goal is to make the person feel better rather than to point out really great work and push for more of it.

Obnoxious Agression

  • it’s the fear of being labeled a jerk that pushes many people toward Manipulative Insincerity or Ruinous Empathy—both of which are actually worse for their colleagues than Obnoxious Aggression, The worst kind of Obnoxious Aggression happens when one person really understands another’s vulnerabilities and then targets them, either for sport or to assert dominance.

Obnoxious Aggression is a behavior, not a personality trait. Nobody is a bona fide asshole all the time.

The False Attribution Error

  • The fundamental attribution error highlights the role of personal traits rather than external causes. It’s easier to find fault in that person than to look for the fault within the context of what that person is doing. It’s easier to say, “You’re sloppy” than to say, “You’ve been working nights and weekends, and it’s starting to take a toll on your ability to catch mistakes in your logic.” But it’s also far less helpful.

When you are the Boss, People are listening; like it or not, you’re under the microscope.

All the best in your quest to get better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.

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