Book Review : Radical Candour by Kim Scott - FocusU

Book Review : Radical Candour by Kim Scott

“Radical Candour” by Kim Scott talks about the qualities that make an effective leader (or boss). It describes how it is important for a leader to care personally about their teammates while challenging them directly. This simple framework helps you in building trust and having a good relationship within the team, which further leads to the fulfilment of 3 major responsibilities as a manager –
  • Creating a culture of feedback that will keep everyone moving in the right direction
  • Understanding what motivates each team member
  •  Driving results collaboratively

Care Personally

To ‘care personally’ means being more than just a ‘professional’. It’s about acknowledging that your team is made of people with individual lives and aspirations that extend beyond those related to the shared work.
  • Finding time for real conversations
  • Getting to know each other at a human level
  • Learning what’s important to people
  • Sharing what motivates the team members to get up in the morning and go to work & what stops them from looking forward to work

Challenge Directly

‘Challenging directly’ means being open to constructive criticism and at the same time, practising the same with your people.
The source of everything respectable in a man either as an intellectual or as a mortal being is that his errors are corrigible (correctable). He is capable of rectifying his mistakes, by discussion and experience. Not by experiencing alone. There must be discussion, to show how experience can be interpreted.

How challenging directly builds a relationship?

  • The right things get pointed out – what’s working vs what’s not
  • Allows everyone to admit freely to their own mistakes and further helps in improvement across verticals
The author further talks about 4 kinds of behavioural traits that can help determine how well one is managing to care personally while also challenging directly. These include –

Obnoxious Aggression

This is a classic case of hierarchical indifference wherein you challenge someone directly but don’t care about them personally. Without the element of care, your feedback can get personal and even be an attack on the person’s character directly. Thus, in this case, your feedback will hold no value and also affect your relationship with that person. The author termed this as Front stabbing.

Manipulative Insincerity

This behaviour occurs when neither you care about them personally nor do you make an effort to challenge them directly. Often, when you are overly worried about other people’s perception of you, you become less willing to say what needs to be said; or you don’t care and just want to avoid conflict. This behavioural tendency also includes false apology. This is when you apologize to someone for assuming them to have made a mistake without fully explaining why thought they were wrong in the first place.

Ruinous Empathy

When you care personally but shy away from challenging them directly. An example of this behaviour would be when you praise your teammates but it does not include things that went well or could have been better. In other words, your criticism, as well as your praise, are sugar-coated.
If the environment of challenging directly is not created within your team, they might not confront you with their problems and you might not know the situation of your team members until they quit. This also happens when you just try to say something nice about a person without knowing the background which might hurt other people.

Radical Candour

When you care personally but at the same time you are not scared to challenge directly. However, before challenging someone directly, you should be comfortable in getting challenged by others. The best way to show people that you can also be wrong and that you want to hear about it, is to allow people to call you out. Your praise and criticism must have facts that can help the other person to improve themselves. Make sure you spend time gathering all the facts right before you criticise or praise somebody.
The most important thing I think you can do for somebody who’s really good and who’s really being counted on is to point out to them when they’re not- when their work isn’t good enough. And to do it very clearly and to articulate why… and to get them back on track.” 
-Steve Jobs


The book has a lot of methods and examples on how to effectively practice ‘radical candour.’ However, my favourite one is to how to tell a stranger in a public place that “his fly is down.” 
As funny as it may sound, it can also become really difficult telling that person while keeping the concept of radical candor in mind. The author describes the aforementioned behavioural tendencies using this one situation as an example –
  • Obnoxious Aggression: Shouts In front of everyone “Your fly is down!”
  • Ruinous Empathy: (Silent, too worried about his feelings to say anything. It would embarrass you.)
  • Manipulative Insincerity: (Silent, too worried about your own feelings to say anything. You want him to still like you.)
  • Radical Candour: (Whisper) “Your fly is down.”
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Which one would be the best way, according to you?

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