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Tl;dr Book Review — Radical Candor by Kim Scott

Tl;dr – ★★★★☆

We previously posted about Kim Scott’s book Just Work. In some ways, Radical Candor is a simpler introduction to the themes in Just Work.

That’s not to say that it’s shallow — the book provides valuable insights and practical advice that can help any leader create a more positive and productive workplace.

It is aimed at bosses, managers, and leaders who want to improve their communication skills especially in relation with their employees.

Our favorite learnings

Interested in learning more? See our full breakdown below!👇

It’s your job

One of the key takeaways from the book is the concept of “radical candor,” which involves being honest and direct with your employees while also demonstrating that your care personally.

This approach can help build trust, foster healthy relationships, and create a positive work environment.

We’re reminded that we traditionally “undervalue the ‘emotional labor’ of being the boss”, but also that all that messy people navigation is “called management, and it is your job!”

Scott further outlines that there are three core responsibilities of a manager:

  1. To create a culture of guidance 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
  3. And to drive results collaboratively
Caring personally / challenging directly

Kim emphasizes the importance of balancing both caring personally and challenging directly in order to achieve radical candor, and provides numerous examples and practical explanations on how to implement it in various situations, such as giving feedback, coaching, and building relationships.

Challenging others (and making sure they have the safety & space to challenge you) not only shows that you care enough to point out things even if they aren’t going well, but also that you’re “willing to admit when you’re wrong & that you are committed to fixing mistakes that you or other have made.”

One part of this book that truly resonated with us was this — you have to accept that sometimes people on your team will be mad at you.

It’s incredibly hard to challenge directly at first; it is 100% a skill or muscle that has to be built up. However, you’re not avoiding giving feedback because you care so deeply for your team.

Really, “in those all-too-human moments you may care too much about how they feel about you — in other word, about yourself.”

The book also covers common pitfalls and mistakes that leaders can make when trying to implement radical candor, and offers tips on how to avoid them.

For example, Kim Scott emphasizes the importance of avoiding the ruinous empathy trap, where leaders avoid giving honest feedback because they don’t want to hurt their employees’ feelings.

She also discusses the importance of avoiding the obnoxious aggression trap, where leaders are too direct and don’t take their employees’ feelings into consideration.

Giving feedback is scary — think of the “situation, behavior, impact” model:

Rock stars & superstars

Another concept that stands out is the differentiation of rock stars and superstars. Scott explains that rock stars are solid as a rock — they love their work & feel fulfilled in the mastery of it. In other words, “they don’t want the next job if it will take them away from their craft.”

On the other side, you have superstars — they “need to be challenged and given new opportunities to grow constantly”. They are change agents and typically those you’d describe as “ambitious,” constantly looking for the next rung of the ladder.

Both of these types of workers are needed to have a highly functioning team. They balance each other out. Each group are high performers in different ways — superstars are on a steep growth trajectory, while rock stars are on a gradual growth trajectory. Understanding their motivation, or what each person’s longterm ambitions are, will determine how you manage them & how you provide them with feedback.

This also plays out in recognition. For many people, recognition translates to “promotion” — but there are other ways to recognize employees contribution without a promotion:

Get Stuff Done

Kim next presents us with her Get Stuff Done (GSD) wheel, which acts as a radically candid framework for collaboration.

Radical Candor is an easy-to-read book that can help bosses and managers of all levels become better leaders.

By implementing radical candor, leaders can improve their communication skills, build stronger relationships with their employees, and create a work environment that fosters growth and success.

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