Achieving an organization’s goals requires more than putting people on a team and assigning them a task. It involves managing the complex relationships that exist between those team members. Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity examines the tightrope between accountability and empathy that leaders must walk while leading. As a leader, leaning too far on either accountability or empathy can spell disaster for your team. Radical Candor helps leaders avoid that problem. In the book, author Kim Scott helps leaders communicate boldly from the heart while holding team members to a higher standard.at the same time.
What is Radical Candor About?
Kim Scott worked for a lot of managers. She also led teams all around the world in some of the world’s most well-known brands, including Google and Apple, so she’s had experience with good and not-so-good leadership. Her book is a trip through those experiences. While Scott is sharing the story of her leadership lessons, she provides a key framework and several tools to help leaders better navigate the tricky nature of leadership.
Scott starts her book with the experience that sparked her quest to become a better leader. After confronting a humiliating boss, she decided to start her own company where employees would feel respected and loved. She wanted to be the “good leader” that employees would enjoy going to work for.
The company failed spectacularly.
As Kim Scott shares, she was “too nice”. She created a very positive environment without accountability. She needed things done but was too focused on “being the nice person” to give constructive feedback or fire people who didn’t meet the standard.
She learned over time that a better approach is maintaining a balance between accountability and empathy. On the one hand, it is very important for leaders to connect with their employees. In short, it’s OK to be nice. On the other hand, being nice shouldn’t sacrifice the need for honest feedback and straightforward communication.
Finding that balance between accountability and empathy is never easy. Leadership situations are complicated and nuanced. The best a leader can do is to approach each situation with a set of strategies that gauge the right mix of empathy and accountability for the situation. The focus in Radical Candor is learning how to gauge that mix and use it to become a better leader.
Scott is the CEO of Candor Inc., consultant, author, and the host of the newly created Radical Candor Podcast. She is a former executive coach who has worked with leadership at Twitter, Dropbox and Qualtrics. Before her coaching career, Scott served in leadership roles at Google, Apple, a diamond-cutting factory and a pediatric clinic. She is a member of the faculty at Apple University, spearheading the course “Managing at Apple”.
What Was Best About Radical Candor?
Scott’s book offers a fresh perspective on many areas in leadership. It also offers several tools (the Radical Candor framework, Get-Stuff-Done Wheel, etc.) that break down complex leadership issues with incredible ease. Radical Candor also provides a fresh perspective on talent management, arguing that talent management should not exclusively focus on “high-potential hires”. It should focus on matching the needs and dreams of all workers with the goals of the business as closely as possible. Using that strategy, businesses and the workers they hire get a better return out of their investment.
What Could Have Been Done Differently?
There isn’t much to not like about Radical Candor. The book applies practical tools and strategies to the most complex aspect of leadership: people. Because of her varied experience in leadership, Scott’s observations about human nature are spot on. The book places an emphasis on in-person communication, however. For most businesses, that is fine but the world is fast becoming a remote and global workplace. More information on how to adapt the book’s strategies to a remote and global workforce would be helpful. Some strategies and stories about this are included, but more can be said on the topic.
Why Read Radical Candor?
Radical Candor is primarily a book for leaders but it’s a book for workers too. Scott advocates for something that you don’t see too often in leadership books — challenging the boss. Scott argues that accountability is more than “I’m your boss so I tell you what to do.” Accountability, in her eyes, focuses on both the leader and the team keeping each other accountable. This relationship, in Scott’s eyes, is what prevents companies from becoming another Enron, another Blockbuster or another Kodak. For leaders, this means breaking away from a top-down leadership (although not discarding it either) and understanding your team on a deeper level. For team members, this means breaking away from the passive position of “I’m just here to get a paycheck” to a deeper level of communication. If you are interested in this kind of leadership, Radical Candor is definitely for you.