Book Notes – Radical Candor – Scott

Radical Candor - book by Kim Scott
Radical Candor – book by Kim Scott

Excellent book, theory is that with appropriate feedback, people will learn and adapt better

Based on a quadrant with one axis of caring personally and one axis to challenge directly

Caring and challenging leads to radical candor which is the target

Challenge directly without caring – Obnoxious Aggression

Care too much without challenging – Ruinous Empathy

Don’t care or challenge – manipulative insincerity

Building good relationships is the foundation (ie care personally) and also allows to directly challenge without being insecure, knowing the individual provides context and helps provide feedback in appropriate way.

Do anything possible to get people to criticize you and feel comfortable doing it. This is how you learn where there might be issues to address. Being wrong doesn’t matter, doing the right thing does.

Boss guide teams to get results

Relationships are the most important, they are what make people want to work together and support eachother

Bringing whole self to work – showing vulnerability and creating links outside just professional work. Caring personally involves knowing the person not just the worker.

Sincere feedback, good and bad is required, not trying to dress it up with fake or shallow compliments. Truthful, non-personalized (ie, it makes you sound stupid vs you are stupid), perhaps direct but always in an effort to help the person (ie caring ) and offer how to help the person.

Radically candid criticism – don’t be mean, be clear – praise “I admire that about you”. Criticize the wins to keep improving.

Obnoxious aggression – criticism without showing you care

Manipulative insincerity – fake apology, trying to gain something

Ruinous empathy – just say something nice, not challenge to avoid hurting or making it awkward

Try and balance praise and criticism, learn more from criticism but praise lets them know what they are doing well and can guide them to improve. As much time should be taken to formulate praise correctly than you spend formulating criticism (we usually think very little about praise vs criticism)

When criticizing make sure it is clear, and explain why, not to call into question your confidence in them.

Steep vs gradual growth trajectory and low vs excellent performance.

  • Want excellent performance regardless of growth trajectory

Understand rock star (gradual growth) vs superstar (steep growth). Rock star stable, comfortable and critical to team performance. Superstar, wanting to move up, ambitious. Need a mix of both for success and people will change between them depending on what is going on in their lives.

Be a partner for people, not micromanaging or leaving people to their own.

Give appropriate praise to rockstars even if they don’t want promotions, their contributions are essential. Keep challenging superstars, give opportunities and figure out how you will replace them.

If people are not doing excellent work, allow them to try something else to push them up to that level, if they still are not performing, start helping them to look elsewhere.

If people are performing poor work, it was clearly communicated, help was offered and there is no improvement, time to part ways. Managers almost always wait too long before firing. This not only harms the person, it harms the team who is dragging that person along. Follow-up after to see how they are doing

If firing, be candid, offer to help them, explain why, the issue is often the job does not suit the person so help them find one that does.

Hire people to tell you what to do, not for you to tell them what to do.


Variety of methods/tools to achieve radical candor with team, boss and between peers.

Skip-level meetings 1x per year for each direct report.

Understand people’s motivations, career aspirations and help them attain them.

Informal interview and behaviours around the interview tell a lot about the person (ie being rude to people, helping people, small talk reveals details)

1-1 conversations, staff meetings, think time, big debate meetings, big decision meetings, all-hands meetings, meeting-free zones, kanban boards, walkaround, culture

Each type of meeting corresponds to the learn-clarify-debate-persuade-execute-learn cycle.





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