Insights- Radical Candor – Notes from the book.

29th March 2024

Posted in: Insights

Radical Candor by Kim Scott outlines “How to get what you want by saying what you mean”.


Radical Candor is not taking the opportunity for obnoxiousness or aggressive behaviour in the workplace with out any implications.


What Radical Candor should be about

  • Empathy focuses on the moment which makes it harder to see the long term impact.
  • Compassion is empathy plus action.
  • Compassionate candor engages the heart – care personally, and the mind – challenge directly.
  • Radical candor puts building good relationships at the centre of a bosses job


Put the phones down and look people in the eye


Diversity and inclusion- radical candor can be accepted differently depending on race, gender etc


Lack of guidance and honest feedback leads to dysfunctional team , poor results and low morale


Who are the different people in our teams:

Rock stars- people achieving exceptional results but wanting gradual growth trajectory.

  • Love their work
  • Found their groove
  • Don’t want next job if it will take away from their craft
  • Solid as a rock


Super stars– those on a steeper growth trajectory.


Steve Jobs at Apple – we hire people to tell us what to do.

A bosses job had more to do with listening and seeking to understand than telling people what to do, debating than directing, pushing people to decide than being the decider, persuading than giving orders, learning than knowing.


Feedback should be done in a way that does not call into question your confidence in their abilities, but leaves not too much room for interpretation.

How you communicate feedback will depend on the relationship you have built with each person- and you have to hire people who can adapt to your style.

Relationships cannot scale but culture does.



  1. Build Radically Candid Relationships

Caring about you team and sharing their ups and downs is called management and it’s your job.

Leadership and management are like forehand and backhand – you need to be good at both to win.


What do bosses do

  • Bosses guide a team to acheive results.       Guidance = feedback               People dread feedback – both receiving and giving
  • Team building    =right people in right roles                          – Keep them motivated = results
  • Establishing trusting relationships – you can’t know everyone but you can build relationships with those that report directly to you


You strengthen relationships by learning the best way to give and get guidance, by putting people in the right roles and by achieving results collectively. When you fail to do these you erode trust.


Dimension 1. Be more than just professional

It’s about giving a damn, sharing more than just your work self, encouraging others to do the same. Care personally about others in team.

Bring your whole self to work

Acknowledging we are all people with lives and aspirations outside our jobs. Real conversations. Knowing each other at a human level. What’s important to people and what gets you out of bed each day.


Dimension2 – telling people when their work isn’t good enough. And when it is.  Delivering hard feedback, making hard calls and holding a high bar for results.  Challenge directly.

Shows you care enough to point out when things are going wrong

You are willing to admit when you are wrong And committed to fixing them

Embraces conflict rather than avoiding it


Jerry Maguire- ” see that’s the difference between me and you. You think we’re fighting, I think we’re finally talkin!



When people trust you people are more likely to

  1. Accept and act on praise and criticism
  2. Tell you what they really think about what you are doing well or not
  3. Engage in the same behaviour with others
  4. Embrace their role on the team
  5. Focus on getting results


Being direct when challenging each other means communicating clearly enough so there’s no room for interpretation but also be humble- your offering your view ( without knowing you are definitely right.


What it isn’t

  • A chance to be harsh or nasty
  • An invitation to nitpick


A good rule of thumb for any relationship is to leave three unimportant things unsaid each day.


Sensitive to context- measured by the listeners ear, not the speakers mouth

Works only if the other person understands that your effort at caring personally ad challenging directly are delivered in good faith.



       2 Get, give and encourage guidance


It’s not mean it’s clear


Praise- be specific

Criticism – point out what could be done better, especially when you have won the game


How we sometimes go wrong

Obnoxious aggression- share what you think without first showing you care

  • Criticism- front stabbing – being nasty in front of others.                 We need to remember the issue we have is a behaviour, not a personality trait
  • Praise- belittling compliments

Manipulative insincerity- focus on being liked of don’t care enough to challenge directly

  • Praise- the insincere apology-

Ruinous Empathy- being nice is prioritised over critiquing

  • Praise- just trying to say something nice


Start by asking for criticism – not giving it.

  • Show you are aware you can be wrong and want to be challenged
  • You’ll learn a lot
  • The more you understand how it feels to receive feedback- the better you’ll know how to give it out
  • Builds trust

Don’t disagree with feedback/ listen and reward the candor.


Balance Priase and Criticism-          Ratio should be at least 3-1

  • Guides people in the right direction
  • Encourages people to keep improving


Understand difference between obnoxious aggression and radical candor – it can be a fine line

Distinction between when their work is not good enough and the person is not good enough

Be humble, helpful. Offer guidance in person and immediately.  Praise in public, criticise in private. And don’t personalise. Share stories



  1. Understand what motivates each person on you team

Make sure everyone is moving in the direction they want to be moving in.

  • Know what growth trajectory they want to be on
  • Need a mix of stability and growth
  • Consider results and intangible things like teamwork
  • Ambition can change at different times in life (as will performance)
  • Not your job to force others to share your passion or mindset. But rather support theirs


What does each person need from you

Be a partner- not absentee manager (they don’t need me) or a micromanager.


Gradual improvers want you to recognise and reward but not promote.

  • Fair performance ratings
  • Recognition – make them the  go to or gurus
  • Encourage teaching others- if they want it
  • Respect


Superstars/ fast trajectory

  • Keep them challenged
  • Figure out who’ll replace them if they move on
  • Don’t hold them back
  • Understand they don’t all want to manage


Managing the middle

People doing ok – should challenge them to a project in which they can excel

  • if still not performing move them on

Poor performance

  • Part ways

Low performance / fast trajectory

  • wrong role
  • Too much too fast
  • Personal issues
  • Poor fit


  1. Drive results collaboratively 

Telling people what to do doesn’t work

Get stuff done wheel

  • Listen – give the quiet ones a voice. Quiet listening vs loud listening (give strong point of view and require response.) create a culture of listening.
  • Clarify- selection, elimination and emphasis provides real meaning. Be clear in your own mind. Sharpen ideas before a brutal debate. Be clear to others.
  • Debate- like a rock tumbler- ie forms polished ideas – keep conversation focused on ideas not egos, create an obligation to dissent, pause for emotion/ exhaustion, use humour and have fun. Be clear on when the debate will end. Don’t decide just to end the debate.
  • Decide- base on facts not ego, get facts not recommendations, get details, go straight to source,
  • Persuade- convince those who are going to execute, emotion- consider listeners, credibility- demonstrates expertise and humility, logic= show your work. To show any flaws and if none people are more likely to accept.
  • Execute- be involved to save your teams time,  toggle between leading and executing, Block time to execute.
  • Learn.- admit when you make mistakes, don’t feel pressure to remain consistent, communication is key.
  • Repeat


Tools and techniques



Stay centered:

  • You can’t give a damn about others if you don’t give a damn about yourself
  • Work life integration –
  • Figure out your own recipes –
  • Block time for yourself in calendar
  • Stick to them and don’t let others override

Free at work:

  • relinquish unilateral authority
  • Authority derives from merit- not the other way around

Socialising at work:

  •  relaxed setting without deadlines
  • Even non mandatory events can feel mandatory

Respect boundaries:

  • Building trust – each person will be different – don’t force it
  • Sharing values- some may not want to share
  • Demonstrating openness- respect others differences
  • Physical space – ok to hug if comfortable and welcome
  • Recognising your emotions- own up to it , try not to impact others or stay away if you are having a bad day
  • Master your reactions to others emotions- acknowledge emotions and ask questions, don’t add your guilt or tell others how to feel, leave to get tissues if you need a break, walk don’t sit, have water available.


Ideas for getting, giving, encouraging praise and criticism

Soliciting impromptu guidance– embrace the discomfort

  •  criticising yourself or receiving it in public is ok ( but you should never criticise any one else in public)
  • Have a go to question Eg what could I do or stop doing that would make it easier to work with me
  • Embrace the discomfort- ask a second time for feedback
  • Listen with the intent to understand not respond-
  • Reward criticism to ensure we get more of it-
  • Gauge the guidance you get – keep a tally
  • Make it safe / natural to criticise you- provide opportunity ie Q&A session or box
  • Management fix it weeks – focus on fixing issues


Giving Impromptu guidance 

  • Be humble
  • Situation, behaviour, impact- be precise  – applies to praise and criticism Evaluate what you say vs what you were actually thinking
  • Don’t confuse subjective experience with objective reality
  • Be helpful
  • Stating your intention to help can bring down barriers
  • Show don’t tell – provide detail and reasoning
  • Finding help is better than offering it yourself
  • Guidance is a gift not a whip or a carrot
  • Give feedback immediately
  • Don’t need to schedule a meeting
  • Keep slack time in your calendar
  • Don’t save up guidance for 1:1 or perf reviews
  • Unspoken criticism explodes like a dirty bomb
  • Avoid black hole – tell people who worked on a job how it was received
  • In person if possible –
    • immediate is more important than in person unless a really big deal
    • modes- video call is second best, then phones avoid text or email.
    • individually as well as in team meeting
    • never criticise in reply all message
  • Praise in public criticise in private
  • Factual observation, correction etc air different from criticism
  • Adapt to personal preferences
  • Group learning- praise in public can help others learn
  • Don’t personalise-
    • the fundamental attribution error   Will harm effectiveness.- referring to trait not behaviour
    • say that’s wrong not your wrong
    • don’t take it personally- doesn’t work
  • How to not make it personal – even though it is –
  • Gauge guidance – get a baseline, track improvements
  • Ask team for feedback on your feedback


Performance Reviews

  • No surprises- no one should be shocked as you have provided feedback along the way.
  • Don’t rely on your unilateral judgement + ask other team members for feedback on others
  • Solicit feedback about yourself first
  • Write it down
  • Make a decision about whether to provide discussion questions before hand
  • Leave enough time and don’t do back to back
  • Spend half looking forward and half reviewing back
  • Schedule regular checking to see how job is working
  • Talk about compensation after review



Prevent backstabbing

  •  try to get those with issues to talk themselves – no triangles

Peer guidance + share mistakes amongst team

Share radical candor with your team


Speaking truth to power

  • Elicit feedback from team about their direct report
  • Explain it, show it, explain it again
  • Goal is to help them become better bosses
  • Make people on team feel comfortable giving them feedback directly
  • Feedback will be shared but not who it is from
  • Take notes and show so they can confirm
  • Kick start the conversation
  • Prioritise issues
  • Share notes right after meeting
  • Follow to ensure changes are implemente



Avoiding boredom or burnout

Career conversations (3 conversations)

  • Life story – starting with kindergarten tell me about your life – focus on changes made and why they were important
  • Dreams- ask about this instead of goals, career aspirations or plans
    • Make work more satisfying and meaningful and doesn’t force people into direction of promotion if not truly what they want.
  • Eighteen month plan.
    • what do I need to learn and improve to move myself in the direction of that dream
    • how should I prioritise the things I need to” learn
    • whom can I learn from?
    • how can I change my role to learn it


Growth Management

  • Figure out who needs what type of opportunities and how do we get them for them
  • Identify your rockstars and superstars
  • Identify those doing good but not exceptional work
  • Then those performing poorly but you see could improve
  • Then those not doing good work but not getting any better
  • 3-5 point growth plan for each

Compare others grading to yours- are you too harsh or too easy


Hiring- your mentality and your process

  • Define team fit as vigorously as you define skills
  • Blind skills assessment can minimise bias
  • Keep hiring team consistent but try to add diversity
  • Casual interviews show more about team fit than formal ones
  • Jot down thoughts straight away
  • In person debrief decision- don’t hire unless your dying to make a decision



  • Don’t wait too long
  • Don’t make the decision unilaterally
  • Give a damn
  • Follow up



  • Be fair – get others involved in the promotion process
  • Prepare
  • Manage time carefully
  • Acknowledge how hard conversations are


Reward your rockstars

  • Avoid promotion obsession – praise the things you want repeated – not not promotion
  • Say Thankyou – sometimes in private, sometimes in public, sometimes both
  • Gurus- put them in charge of teaching others, acknowledge them as experts
  • Public presentations- let people share what they do in front of others


Avoid absentee management or micromanagement

Absentee- hands off, ears off, mouth off, lacks curiosity (doesn’t want to know), doesn’t listen, afraid of details, sets no goals, no idea what is going on, unaware of context.

Micromanger- hands on, ears off, mouth on, lacks curiosity (pretends to know all), doesn’t listen- tells how, lost in details, sets arbitrary goals, pretends to know when they dont, hoards information, tells people how to solve problems without fully understanding the issue.



1:1 conversations – your must do meetings –

Mind set – think of it less like a meeting and more like getting to know people.

Frequency – depends on numbers- include career conversations and perf reviews

Show Up – don’t cancel

Let them chose the agenda

Follow up question – why, how can I help you, what can I do to make things easier, what wakes you up at night

Encourage new ideas

Signs that you are failing – cancellations, updates only, good mews only, no criticism, no agenda.


Staff meetings –

Review key metrics,-

Listen and share key updates,

Clarify key decisions and updates.


Think time – block out time and hold that sacred


Big Debate meetings –

  • Only debate – not decisions
  • Lowers tension as not there to make a decision
  • Slow down decisions when appropriate
  • Foster a culture of debate

Big decision meetings –

  • Check egos at the door
  • Notes taken and shared
  • Abide by decisions made
  • No more debating, just decisions


All Hands meeting

  • For larger orgs to bring people onboard with the decisions made
  • Present the facts of the decisions
  • Q&A and explain

Execution time


Walk around –

Notice things you don’t when you are stuck at your desk

Help you find the  Devil In the detail

Gives opportunity to jump in and help


Be conscious of culture

  • People are listening   – you are under the microscope
  • Clarify – explain what you are communicating
  • Debate and decide explicitly, rather than let things just happen.
  • Persuade- pay attention to the small things
  • Execute- action should reflect your culture
  • Unlisten and learn


Getting started

  • Share your stories
  • Prove you can take it before you start dishing it out- ask your team to criticise you
  • Began career conversations with your team
  • Perfect your 1:1 conversations
  • Make notes and track your improvement
  • Encourage guidance- prevent back stabbing
  • Fight meeting proliferation
  • Plan for future of team
  • Return to guidance – get them to share feedback with each other
  • Walk around
  • Take radically candid approach to processes



  • Share a story how someone being radically candid with you helped
  • Share an example of where you tried to share feedback but the other person found you obnoxiously aggressive.
  • When did you suffer from ruinous empathy- ie fail to give feedback and that person suffered as a result.
  • Share your manipulative sincerity story- you failed to tell someone directly about a problem but told others
  • Feedback triangle role play
  • Have a go to question Eg
    • in the last week would you have preferred me to be more or less involved in your work
    • what’s something o could have done differently to make your life easier
    • what’s a blind spot of mine that you have noticed


Embrace the discomfort – count to 6 don’t let them off the hook


Listen with the intent to understand – not to reply-


Reward the candor – even that you disagree with


Build it into your schedule-



Praise – focus on the good stuff

  • Take time to understand if praise is warranted – don’t patronise
  • Praise in public, criticise in private

Criticism is measured by other persons ears

  • Pay attention  to the response
  • If it upsets them you need to show that you care personally
  • It’s not mean it’s clear / to be unclear is to be unkind
  • The way you listen is more important than how you talk
  • Get them to tell you if they disagree with you
  • Don’t draw attention to the potential implications of non compliance until others have had a chance to disagree with them


Performance management

  •  Create a team – should be a dynamic process and not take too much time
  • Multiple perspectives –
  • Review key elements of review-
  • Communicate-


Categories to rate

  • Teamwork
  • Results
  • Innovation
  • Efficiency


Author: Donna Bruce