Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity

Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity

by Kim Scott

Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity offers a genius, yet easy-to-follow framework for excelling in managerial positions. By following the practical advice provided in Radical Candor, poor managers can be transformed into leaders who are capable of guiding their team of employees towards professional growth and success.

Summary Notes

Build Radically Candid Relationships: Bringing Your Whole Self to Work

“Bosses guide a team to achieve results.”

The key to becoming a good boss is listening to your employees. Although it can drain you emotionally, it is a vital part of your job description. By being the boss, you become responsible for results. To get results, bosses should guide teams of employees. Therefore, bosses are responsible for guidance, team-building, and results. 

At the core of successful management are the trusting relationships with the people who report directly to you. If these relationships are strong and well-established, it means that you, as the boss, can provide constructive feedback and help employees go in the right direction; you can keep your team interested in the work that needs to be done, and you can inspire results.

Two major elements are needed to establish a good rapport with your employees. You need to care for your employees as human beings, but also give them constructive feedback.

Actions to take

Get, Give, and Encourage Guidance: Creating a Culture of Open Communication

“To keep winning, criticize the wins.”

Offering candid praise and criticism is not necessarily linked to a work setting. Moreover, building trust with an individual can happen in a very short amount of time.

There are three types of behaviors to be aware of. The first is obnoxious aggression, which occurs when bosses belittle and bully employees, or exploit their vulnerabilities to exert power and dominance. Although such brutal behavior in the workplace might yield short-term results, it can be very toxic in the long run. 

Manipulative insincerity refers to when you don’t care enough about a person, so you don’t guide them in the right direction. Some bosses give insincere feedback, which means they praise employees for a job poorly done to avoid confrontations. Consequently, the employees don’t have the right feedback and they can’t improve the outcome.

Lastly, ruinous empathy refers to behavior patterns that make employees feel better, rather than inspiring and guiding them to do good work. Building good work relationships is more than merely praising anyone and avoiding conflicts altogether. 

You, as the boss, should start by asking for criticism before you start giving it to create a good workplace culture. Another important point is that there has to be a proper balance between the praise and criticism that you give, and always with a high level of sincerity.

Actions to take

Understand What Motivates Each Person on Your Team: Helping People Take a Step in the direction of Their Dreams

“When putting the right people in the right roles on your team, you’ll also have to challenge people even more directly than you did with guidance.”

Challenging people in the workplace can greatly affect how much they earn, how much they grow, and how much they can succeed professionally and personally. 

As a boss, when you build a team, you need employees who are rock stars and employees who are superstars. The rock stars have mastered their craft, they work diligently at their assigned posts, and they don’t want to be promoted to positions in which they don’t feel comfortable. They are on a gradual growth trajectory, which implies stability. 

On the other hand, superstars wish to be challenged constantly to thrive in the workplace. They are on a steep growth trajectory. When trying to assess if an employee is a rock star or a superstar, you need to set aside your preconceptions, ambitions, and judgments. 

Since employees can be on different growth trajectories, you need to discover what motivates every employee on your team, so you can manage the two types of performers differently. 

A common mistake a manager can make is ignoring the employees who continuously deliver great results. Their contribution should be recognized and rewarded.

Sadly, when an employee is performing poorly, you might need to fire them, especially if they don’t show any improvements after the criticism has been communicated clearly to them.

Actions to take

Drive Results Collaboratively: Telling People What To Do Doesn’t Work

“If you want your team to achieve something bigger than you could achieve alone, you have to care about the people you are working with.”

Collaboration is crucial for achieving the best results in the workplace. The boss should consider the opinions of other team members in the decision-making process, and then be able to explain why a particular decision is the right one. Good bosses do not simply delegate tasks and impose their own views and opinions. They must be willing to discuss ideas and be open to being proven wrong.

Filtering good ideas can be achieved through the process of “Get Stuff Done.” The process is actually a cycle that starts with listening, and then it continues with clarifying, debating, deciding, persuading, executing, learning, only to return to the listening point once again.

Initially, you, as the boss, should listen to the ideas of your team. Then, you need to allow some safe space and some time for the team members to clarify them further. The next step involves debating about the ideas to be able to decide which one is good. Next, you need to persuade the team members who don’t fully agree with a certain decision about an idea. After the idea has been executed, you should learn from the execution.

Actions to take

Relationships: An Approach to Establishing Trust with Your Direct Reports

“You can’t give a damn about others if you don’t give a damn about yourself.”

When you go to work, make sure you bring your whole self there. You need to stay present and centered. One way to achieve that is to put things in your calendar that only apply to you. Don’t skip things that you feel you need to do to stay centered. In fact, you need to make sure that you do them. 

Although you are the boss, you must allow your team to experience a sense of autonomy so that they can also feel centered and present. This will enable them to do quality work. To create such a work atmosphere means that you should relinquish absolute authority. In fact, authority stems out of merit, not vice versa. 

Managers should not have the only say in the process of hiring, promoting, or firing employees. If there is a committee that considers candidates through a rigorous hiring process, then people will recognize the fairness of it. 

Establishing trust with the people who report directly to you can be accomplished in a variety of ways. First, you should respect people’s boundaries to start building trust. Also, finding common personal values through conversations can bring you a step closer to building trust with your team. Moreover, since emotions are an inherent human quality, you should recognize your own emotions, but also master your reactions to other people’s emotions. Building trust takes time and energy, but it is necessary because it is a key to becoming a good boss.

Actions to take

Guidance: Ideas for Getting/Giving/Encouraging Praise & Criticism

“Everyone should embrace criticism that helps us to do our jobs better.”

Earning your team’s trust and respect can be a strenuous task, however, various techniques can help you achieve this more easily. Although you might choose to criticize your employees in private, this type of “privacy” should not apply to you. Encourage your team members to criticize you in all-hands meetings. 

The message you’d want to convey is that everybody can become better at their job if they accept criticism. When listening to criticism, focus on understanding it, not on responding to it. Once you become aware of the job aspects in which you can improve, the next step is to make that change. If it is a more complex and time-consuming change, show your team that you have undertaken the necessary steps to do it. 

There are different ways to show that you care personally. One of them is to be helpful, however, you need to show it, rather than just say it. 

Guidance is of utmost importance, and it doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Sometimes it can be given a few minutes before a meeting, and still be impactful. Unspoken criticism can build up over time and explode when it will be least constructive, but most hurtful and damaging.

Actions to take

Team: Techniques for Avoiding Boredom and Burnout

“Understand people’s motivations and ambitions to help them take a step in the direction of their dreams.”

To avoid boredom and burnout in the workplace, it is tremendously important to put the right people in the right roles. 

Learn what motivates every employee who reports directly to you by candidly talking to them. Some of them might seek financial independence, some might want to be a part of a team, and others might desire personal growth. Although these might not be definitive answers, you will get to know your team better.

Apart from motivations, dreams are also very important factors in establishing the growth trajectory for employees. Therefore, you should also talk about your team’s dreams and aspirations. 

Managers should also ask themselves important questions, such as: What do I need to learn to get closer to making my dreams a reality? Whom can I learn from? Which things that I need to learn should be my priority? 

When employees identify what they need to learn or accomplish to move in the direction of their aspirations and dreams, it becomes dramatically easier for managers to identify the right learning opportunities. 

Make an effort to create a work environment that is not characterized by promotion obsession. However, be generous when praising employees for doing quality work, being innovative and efficient, and contributing to teamwork. Moreover, say “thank you” because that goes beyond praise.

Actions to take

Results: Things You Can Do to Get Stuff Done Together - Faster

“Learn about small problems to prevent big ones.”

Meetings with the people who report directly to you are crucial for getting better and faster results. You should perceive every meeting as a chance to listen. Time should be used constructively, which can be achieved by always having a concise agenda with talking points that cannot be communicated in a simple email.

Staff meetings are also important, and they usually have three goals: reviewing the work done in the previous week, getting updates, and receiving clarifications for the important decisions for the upcoming week. 

“Big debate” meetings are different because they are used for precisely that - debating an idea or a decision. “Big decision” meetings follow the debate meetings. Any decisions that are reached in these meetings should be final. 

Another type of meeting is the all-hands meeting where you invite all the employees to take part in the decisions which are being made. As a boss, you need to make sure that your team has enough time to execute any decision. Some remove the chairs from the room because they believe that it will prompt employees to reach decisions and execute them faster. Also, when meetings are not absolutely necessary, they should be avoided, which can be achieved through the decision not to have any meetings on a particular day in the week.

The workflow can be tracked using different techniques. For instance, you can use the kanban boards to move colored post-its from the To-Do column to the In-Progress column, finally reaching the Done column. 

Lastly, to prevent more serious problems, walk around and start noticing smaller issues, which you normally don’t because you are quite busy and doing paperwork.

Actions to take

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