Pursue What Matters
Episode 21: Radical Candor Book Review
Please excuse any typos, transcripts are generated by an automated service
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:00
Hello and happy end of September I love this month is my favorite month and I can’t believe it’s almost over. But at the end of another month comes another great book to review and today I’m talking about radical candor by Kim Scott. I love this book. I’m so excited to dig in. Let’s go.
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:39
Hi, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Welcome to the Pursue What Matters podcast where we focus on what it takes to thrive in love and work. Today, we’re doing another great book review this by the firebrand, Kim Scott, the author of Radical Candor: Be a Kick Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity. I love that title. And I love the book even more. What do you think of when you think of the term radical candor? Does it make you just a little bit nervous? Well, if it does, you’re not alone. But it really shouldn’t. Radical candor is a brand of communication advocated by Kim Scott that is focused on being direct and compassionate. And it’s all about being willing to have the conversations we need to have at work. It’s not a permission to be an artist. But radical candor reminds us that in order to be effective, we must give and receive feedback effectively. And to do so is a gift. This book is so so refreshing. And I’m really excited to share it with you. So one thing that’s important to know from the leadership research is that when it comes to turnover, employees leave bosses, they do not leave jobs. And that the opposite is true as well. Employees are loyal to bosses, and they will stay with a job that they might not love if they have a great boss. And so this has some really important implications when it comes to the way we lead others. And this is, you know, one of those key foundations of Scott’s books. So, you know, we really want to pay attention to our communication, right. So we really want to pay attention to communicating effectively, making sure that we’re leading people while that we’re giving them the feedback that they need in order to grow. And that we’re creating a culture where people have what they need to be effective.
Dr. Melissa Smith 2:38
So here’s a little introduction to the book from Scott. So, “bad bosses make people miserable. They also kill innovation, stifle growth, increase costs and create instability. Well meaning people become bad bosses. without even realizing it. Great bosses have relationships with each of their employees. This relationship is a source of growth and stability for individuals and companies, anywhere I’ve observed. So this is Scott talking. Anywhere I’ve observed a great boss, I’ve seen the same three principles for approaching this relationship play out. I’ll describe these principles mostly by telling stories, some successes, but also plenty of mistakes, mostly mine. Some are funny, some are painful, and many are plain embarrassing, but they’re all instructive. Even if your company is nothing like the places I’m describing,” and she talks about Google, Apple and Twitter, “and your own boss is a control freak, or petty tyrant or simply useless, you can still adopt these three basic principles and become a great boss yourself. I’ll explain how and why you’ll be happy you did.”
Dr. Melissa Smith 3:57
So that’s kind of a summary of the book. And, you know, like I said, it’s a great book. I really, really, really liked this book a lot. So now let’s introduce you to the author Kim Scott. So she is the author of The New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller, radical candor, as she led AdSense, YouTube and double click online sales and operations at Google and then joined Apple to develop and teach a leadership seminar. She’s been the CEO coach at Dropbox, Qualtrics, Twitter, and several other tech companies. And then let’s see what people have said about the book. So, “Kim Scott has a well earned reputation as a kick ass boss, and a voice that CEOs take seriously. If you manage people, whether it be one person or 1000. You need radical candor now,” and that’s from Daniel Pink. The author of the best seller, Drive and, you know, we reviewed Drive I think it was last month. So I really have a lot of respect for Daniel Pink. And so he highly recommends this book. And then this is from Gretchen Rubin. She is the author of The Happiness Project, which is also a very popular book. She said “Radical Candor is packed with illuminating truths, insightful advice, and practical suggestions, all illustrated with engaging and often funny stories from Ken Scott’s own experiences at places like Apple, Google and various startups, indispensable,” and then this is from Sheryl Sandberg, who’s the author of Option B and Lean In. And of course, she’s the COO of Facebook, and Sheryl Sandberg was actually Kim Scott’s boss at I think, Google. This is back when Sandberg was at Google, I think she was Scott’s boss there because Sheryl Sandberg shows up in Radical Candor. So, “reading radical candor will help you build, lead, and inspire teams to do the best work of their lives.” So one of the things that I really like about the book, and this seems to resonate with a lot of readers and leaders, is that it just makes so much sense. So it’s practical, it’s direct, and it is compassionate. So the other thing that I would say about this book, and so it’s practical, but also so this idea of radical candor, is I think it’s a really good balance of like getting things done. So kind of this practical approach to leadership, but also having some compassion, which is really part of what we think about when we think about emotional intelligence. And that is a really critical skill when it comes to leadership. The research around emotional intelligence is really, really powerful that those with more emotional intelligence are more successful, they’re better leaders, people trust them more. And I really think that, wow, Scott doesn’t talk a lot about emotional intelligence in this book, that practically speaking, is what she is speaking to with this book. So just want to throw that out there.
Dr. Melissa Smith 7:28
So Scott begins by discussing what a bosses or leaders, so she uses the term boss a lot, so boss leader, who’s kind of use those interchangeably. So what a boss’s responsibility is and that ultimately a boss is responsible for our results, and that they achieve these results Not by doing all the work themselves, but by guiding the people on their teams? And isn’t that true? Right. So a leader is responsible for results at the end of the day. So bosses guide a team to achieve results. And she then discusses three key areas of this responsibility. So the first is with guidance or feedback. The second is team building. So finding the right people for the right roles, including hiring, firing, promoting and motivating, and then third is results. Right. So she said that the most important question that goes to the heart of being a good boss, but that usually does not get asked is how do you build a trusting relationship with those you lead? And, you know, she talks about coaching Ryan Smith, so Ryan Smith is the CEO of Qualtrics. Right? That’s a local company, for those of you in Utah. You know, we love Qualtrics around here it was it was kind of born in in Provo. It has its roots at BYU and as a BYU alum. It’s a company that I followed for a long time, that she said when she started coaching, Ryan Smith. This was the first question he asked her. And she said that she loved that he asked this question. But she said most leaders never asked this question. And she was so impressed that he asked this question, right that, how can he get his team right? He had just hired a new leadership team, like how can he quickly build this trust with this team so that they can be effective. And she says, you know, relationships, it’s relationships, not power, that are really going to make you effective and are really going to make your organization effective. And so she talks about two dimensions to building trust. And this is really core to her entire discussion. So the first dimension is…and this so if you think about, we kind of have two axes, so she talks about them as dimensions. So the first one would be on the horizontal axis, or no, I’m sorry, the first one would be on the vertical axis. And that would be to care personally, okay. And that is bring your whole self to work and care about each of the people who work for you, as a human being, it’s more than just caring about their ability to perform a job. Okay. And then the second dimension is to challenge directly. And so the challenge directly, this would be on the horizontal axis or the horizontal dimension. And so right, those, those two dimensions, or those two axes, intersect one another. And so challenged directly tell 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, challenging people is often the best way to show them that you care when you’re the boss.
Dr. Melissa Smith 11:20
So then what she says is that when you put care personally and challenged directly together, you get radical candor. So that’s what happens at the intersection of caring personally and challenging directly, you get radical candor, it builds trust, and opens the door for the kind of communication that helps you achieve the results you’re aiming for. When people know you care about them, they’re able to accept tough feedback, and they appreciate it. And I will just say, you know, so from a clinical perspective, you know, having been a psychologist for over a decade, I can really speak truth to this, because I, you know, I give people really very difficult feedback almost every single day, like, really, really painful feedback. And what I have learned over the years is when, when they know that I care for them, and when they have that trust with me, then I can tell them, whatever it is, they need to hear. And it can be very painful and very tough feedback. But when they know that I care for them, and that I have good intent for them, then they can hear that feedback, and they can take it in, it doesn’t mean that it’s easy, it doesn’t mean that it’s not painful, but they can accept that feedback. And so it’s really powerful to know that when you have that personal care for someone that can really make all the difference. So when people know you care about them, they’re able to accept feedback. And they appreciate it. Right, because we also know that it’s hard to give tough feedback. And so when, you know, when people on the receiving end of feedback, know that you’re, you’re willing to give them tough feedback, they actually appreciate that they value that. So people can very often say thank you for giving me tough feedback, because they recognize that it probably would have been easier for you to not give them that feedback. So that is also an act of trust, to give them that feedback. And so giving tough feedback can actually build trust and strengthen a relationship. So and they will also give you tough feedback as well. It also increases the radical candor as a team, which means that there’s less ineffective behaviors over time as a team. And it helps team members to really embrace more of an active role on the team, because it’s like, okay, we’re this is, this is, this is our culture that we’re developing, that we’re gonna have radical candor, we’re gonna, we care about one another, but we are going to be direct with one another. And so the focus really becomes on getting results.
Dr. Melissa Smith 14:21
So when I started my MBA program, you know, everything in that program is teams based. So we have a team, you know, our team had seven, seven members. And basically you do everything in the program with that team. And so we had an intensive week at the start of that program, where, you know, we did all these team building exercises, and it was really focused on building cohesion and trust as a team because you really had to develop strong working relationships with these people if you were going to be successful in the program. And so got a lot of training on team and group effectiveness. And of course, you know, as a psychologist, I had already had a lot of training on Team effectiveness and group therapy, group dynamics, all that sort of things. So it was kind of a unique experience for me. But one of the things that really stood out to me from that experience from the course that we had, and from the materials that we read, and the discussions that we had is that you always focus on what are the goals? What, you know, what is the what is the result that we’re trying to achieve? And that if you can always go back to what is it? What are the results? What is what are the goals that we’re trying to achieve? that can really help address a lot of issues? Because then you’re not focused on hurt feelings you’re not focused on? Well, I don’t like your personality, or I don’t like you know, the way you’re doing this. And it’s like, always going back to ok, what’s the task at hand? What do we need to pay attention to? And that’s one of the recommendations that Scott makes in the book is focus on getting results. And that as you really focus on the task at hand, it can really help to minimize some of these other behaviors that can sometimes be problematic.
Dr. Melissa Smith 16:22
So and then Scott addresses Okay, why? Why the word radical? And then why the word candor so I think this is also helpful, so why radical, so she says that most of us are conditioned to avoid saying what we really think you think, totally, I was like, so polite. But she says that this kind of avoidance can be disastrous when it comes to leadership. And this is so true, right? Like when we’re so worried about being polite, it really undermines effectiveness in the workplace, and certainly in leadership. And so she felt very strongly that the word radical could help to kind of shift the paradigm and, and help people consider the kind of directness that needed to be in place. And then why candor. So she says, The key to getting everyone used to being direct, when challenging one another is emphasizing that it’s necessary to communicate clearly enough, that there’s no room for interpretation. Okay, so think about like that, clearly, that there’s no room for interpretation. Because think about that, like, how often have you received feedback, where at the end of that feedback, you still felt confused, or you weren’t quite sure what was being said to you. I mean, that happens a lot. Because people are vague, or they don’t exactly say what they mean, because they’re trying to be careful, or they’re there. They don’t quite say what they mean. Because they you know that they’re treating you with kid gloves, or they don’t want to hurt your feelings. So communicate clearly enough that there’s no room for interpretation, but also humbly, so that’s what she adds. So candor implies your view, not necessarily the only view or the correct view. And so that’s where she’s really making room for this idea of humility. So with the candor, we’re not, we’re not assuming that our view is the truth, or like the only view out there, where we’re saying, like, this is how I see it, this is how I understand it. And we’re acknowledging with humility, that there’s probably another way of making sense of this, but we’re going to be working to be willing to communicate clearly and directly, how we how we see it. So that’s why the word candor so it’s also important to pay attention to the fact that Scott wants to wants us to understand what radical candor is not because she says that a lot of people, you know, will maybe act like a jerk under the guise of radical candor. So she says radical candor is not a license to be a jerk, or to front stab, which I love that so and she goes on to explain that a little bit more in the book, but this idea of like, you know, like, just calling people out on things or name calling or just throwing people under the bus like is not, is not a license to, to be nasty to people, or to nitpick, or to get creepily personal. I like that one a lot.
Dr. Melissa Smith 19:56
So radical candor takes energy. So only do it for things that really matter. So it shouldn’t, it shouldn’t be something that’s done all the time. It’s also not about endless extraversion. And it’s not about schmoozing. It’s not radical candor, if you don’t show that you care personally. And I think those are all really, really helpful to keep in mind. Because I think when we think about radical candor, like people can get it wrong on both ends of the continuum, right, like people can be too vague. But then people can be way too aggressive, and call that radical candor. And it’s like, Okay, wait, where’s the care personally part in that. And so we always want to remember that the challenge directly and the care personally, that that’s the intersection that we’re aiming for. It’s also important to note that radical candor is sensitive to context that is measured at the listeners ear, not at the speaker’s mouth. And I love that I think that’s a really important perspective to keep in mind. So that only works if the other person understands that your efforts at caring personally and challenging directly are delivered in good faith. So is your good intent, communicated to the other person, right, so you might feel like you have good intent. But if you come across as defensive or hostile, or as though you do not care personally, then game over that is measured at the listeners ear, not at the speaker’s mouth. And I think that that’s really important to keep in mind.
Dr. Melissa Smith 21:47
So she says, like with with these two dimensions of care personally and challenged directly, like when we don’t hit the that intersection correctly, you know, when we hit it correctly, we have radical candor, when we are too far off. So for instance, when we, when we care personally, but we don’t have enough of the direct challenge, we fall into the path of ruinous empathy. Love that, when we don’t have enough personal care or enough direct challenge, we have manipulative insincerity, that’s pretty miserable. And when we don’t have enough personal care, but we have sub direct challenge we have of noxious aggression. That’s no fun. So, so right, we have these four squares, and three of those are all pretty imbalance that we want to avoid. And then that top right square is where we find the radical candor that we really want to shoot for, which is the blend of the personal care and direct challenge, where we find in the radical candor, another key point that Scott makes in the, in the book, and this really goes to her main point that great bosses have strong relationships with their employees, she identifies three simple principles for building better relationships with employees. So the first one is to make it personal. And this really is the idea of radical candor that we’ve just talked about. And then the second one, is get shit done, or get it done. So depending on what you’re comfortable with. And then with this, she talks about the get stuff done will that we will talk about in just a minute. And then the third one is understand why it matters. And then she talks about this in greater detail in the book, which we will not cover in this book review. But just know that she has a lot about this topic in the book. So if you want to learn more about that topic, you can refer to the book for more of that. So for our purposes, I do want to cover more about the art of getting stuff done without telling people what to do. And I think that is absolutely an art because that is one of the big challenges of leadership. And so just so you know, this is a cycle, right? So this so I want you to picture it as a cycle with an arrow leading from each point the next and so it just kind of builds on one another as you move through the cycle. But there are let’s see, I think there are seven, seven steps to this. That she talks about. And again, it’s called the get stuff done will. And I think it’s a helpful way of thinking about like, how do you guide your people to get stuff done without telling them what to do. And so this is kind of the process for doing that.
Dr. Melissa Smith 25:17
And so the first step is to listen. So give the quiet ones a voice, so find a way to listen, that fits your personal style, and then creates a culture in which everyone listens to each other, so that all of the burden on listening doesn’t fall on you. So one of the most important roles as a, as a leader is to is to make space, right. And so, you know, we don’t want you as the leader to have, like, all the information flowing to you or through you. So we want you to be mindful of like, how, how are your meetings happening? And what can you as a leader do to really make sure that quiet ones have a voice, and your use of space, your use of silence, can make a really big difference in that. And so that’s one of the things that she talks about a lot with this first point on listening is, you know, leaders who can be quiet, and make space in the room can really, it can be really powerful for making sure that other people have a voice. Because if a leader speaks up too quickly, it will just foreclose a subject, right. Because once the leader has given their opinion, there’s really no point for anyone else to share their perspective, that’s usually that’s often how team members feel, might not be accurate, but that’s often how they feel. And so a leader, being willing to kind of hold back and give people space to speak can really make a big difference.
Dr. Melissa Smith 26:58
Okay, the second thing we want to pay attention to is clarify. So push yourself and your team to understand and convey thoughts and ideas more clearly. So trying to solve a problem that hasn’t been clearly defined, is not likely to result in a good solution. As the boss, you are the editor, not the author, I really like that perspective. So be clear, in your own mind, create a safe space to nurture new ideas, and then be clear to others. So as the boss, you’re the editor, not the author. So I really want to clarify, clarify, clarify.
Dr. Melissa Smith 27:39
Okay, next point: debate. So keep the conversation focused on ideas, not egos, create an obligation to dissent. So this is where you as a leader can can be really helpful in being able to say, Okay, what do we think of this idea? Does anyone disagree? Can anyone give us any challenges to this idea? So really, ask for dissent, pause for emotion, slash exhaustion, right. So this is where you really want to be reading the temperature in the room, and be willing to pause, use humor and have fun, be clear, when the debate will end. That’s really important for the team to know because otherwise, that will really lead to exhaustion. And it also just helps to focus energy. If they know like, okay, I can I can give this some good energy, focus and attention. If I know that, you know, it will end in an hour and not in three hours. So that’s important to pay attention to. And don’t grab a decision just because the debate has gotten painful. So be willing, be willing to ride, be willing to let a debate simmer, even if it is uncomfortable. Okay, the next point is decide. So push decisions into the facts or pull the facts into the decisions, but keep ego out. So, Scott says you’re not the decider. Usually. The decider should get facts, not recommendations. She said be willing to go spelunking. So with this, she means delve into details that seem interesting or important to you. And she says as the leader you don’t necessarily have to stay high level all the time. She said if there’s an aspect of you know, the debate that is curious to you or you think like oh, that like I don’t understand that. Be willing to to jump into the details. That’s okay.
Dr. Melissa Smith 30:02
Okay, the next point is persuade. And with this, there are three keys. So the first is emotion. And this is you really want to pay attention to the listeners emotions, not the speaker’s emotions. So a lot of times the speakers will have a lot of emotions. And that’s usually not very persuasive. But we really want to persuade our listeners, right. And then the second one is credibility. So we want to demonstrate expertise and humility. So we don’t want to persuade via power. We don’t want to browbeat anyone. It’s really expertise and humility. And then logic, be willing to show your work, you know, do the background, take the time, do the work, and be willing to show that work. Okay, and then the next point is execute. So minimize the collaboration tax. So don’t waste your team’s time, keep your dirt, keep the dirt under your fingernails. So she recommends for leaders that you need to stay connected to the actual work being done, not just by observing others executing, but by executing yourself. And then she says, you know, you’ll probably need to block time to execute, but she encouraged us to she encourages you to stay involved, like get dirt under your fingernails, because it will make you more effective. And then the next one is learn. And this is the this is the last one. So learn, and pressure to be consistent. So there’s a lot of pressure to be consistent, but she said, don’t be afraid to change based on what you learn. So you know, sometimes the pressure to be consistent is, you know, the critique is, oh, you’re a flip flopper, or you’re changing all the time. But she says, you know, we should change if we’re learning valuable information, but you know, have a clear rationale for why you would change. So don’t just flip flop for no good reason. But there’s nothing wrong with changing if you’ve received, you know, valuable Intel, that provides a good rationale for a change, of course. And then of course, burnout, you’ve got to do what you need to do to take care of yourself, to help develop that mental toughness. Of course, that’s a big topic that I talk a lot about, I have really great podcasts that I just did on self care. That’s really key to all of this, especially when it comes to leadership. So the first half of the book really explains the radical candor, premise and approach. And then the second half of the book is all focused on specific tools and techniques. And it dives deep into giving and receiving feedback, motivating your team on things that really matter to them. And then helping your employees grow at work and focusing on results without telling your team what to do.
Dr. Melissa Smith 33:12
One of the things I really enjoy about the book is it’s really practical. And it’s really useful whether you lead a team of three or a team of 300. So I hope that you’ll check out this book, I listened to it when I first read it and it’s it’s really great. I’m pretty sure she reads it. I’m pretty sure Scott reads it. And it was really good. And then I’ve also gone back and you know, reread the book, and it’s great either either way is really good. So make sure you head on over to my website to check out the show notes. With all the great resources for this episode and a link to the book radical candor, I also will have a link to radical candor where it talks a lot about the book and also other resources there. I also have a link to Kim Scott’s website. And there’s some fun little videos there that kind of give you a little more insight into this approach and some of the work that she does. So make sure you head on over to the website to check all this out at www.drmelissasmith.com/episode-21 one more time www.drmelissasmith.com/episode-21. And of course if you like what you’re hearing on the podcast, please head on over to iTunes and subscribe and leave us a review.
Dr. Melissa Smith 34:36
I’m on Spotify now. So if you like Spotify, definitely check me out there you can listen to us. They’re doing what I can to keep the masses happy. You know, we’re we’re kind of on all the platforms. So we’d love to have you check me out wherever you like to listen. And then of course I’m also on Instagram so you can find me there at Dr. Melissa Smith. Definitely social so I’d love to interact with you there. So I hope that you check out radical candor. It’s an awesome book Kim Scott is is great too. I have a lot of respect for the work that she does and really practical book that just makes a lot of sense. So I hope that you’ll check it out. I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Remember love and work working love. That’s all there is. Until next time, take good care.
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