One of the key elements of effective leadership communication is the ability to give feedback that is honest and helpful. 

Book Summary – Radical Candor

Radical candor is a refreshing book for anyone who leads a team, and in particular, if you want to give feedback in a way that helps others to develop. It is a way of communicating at work to bring out the best in yourself and others. I have created this one-page book summary sketchnote based on the concepts in the book Radical Candor by Kim Scott.

Being a leader can be tough at times, particularly when you are faced with those difficult conversations about under performance. You know the ones, management books from years ago would recommend that you give feedback using the s*it sandwich approach – beginning and ending with praise and a dash of criticism cushioned in the middle. 

There is a better way to give feedback according to the author of the book. 

Our ability to have tough conversations is paramount to the success or failure of any team. 

When a boss is considered too harsh, people tend to feel unvalued and consider their manager a bully. When a boss has a head in the sand approach to underperforming team players, then resentment can build. 

If you have ever been in a team where you are carrying the weight of another because the boss can’t have an honest and open conversation, then you will know this feeling. How about the team members who cruise along delivering to a mediocre standard?

Give feedback in a way that guides and serves others

In this book, the author provides a four-quadrant framework to help leaders become better communicators, in particular the ability to effectively give feedback, as well as receiving it. There are also plenty of other tools in the book related to career conversations and decision making. 

According to the author radical candor is 

Building radically candid relationships begin by bringing your whole self to work. This includes going beyond turning up with your professional self. It is built on trust and caring about others in a genuine way. 

The concept of “Care Personally” is the result of showing up with your whole self and caring about your team members on a human level – not simply about them in their role at work. It includes building relationships and being willing to be sociable at work whilst respecting boundaries. 

When you Care Personally, it leads to your ability to Challenge Directly. This is part of Scott’s framework to address issues of underperformance, telling people when their work is not up to standard, as well as telling them when they are doing well. 

You can start by finding out what motivates your team members, what matters to them and where they want to get in their career. 

When Care Personally and Challenge Directly come together – Radical Candor is the result.

What it is not

Radical Candor is not a license to be rude or ignorant, nor is it being blunt and aggressive, or sugar-coating your message. 

It is not being fake! If you are not willing to let your guard down at work and you wish to be 100% professional, you may find it difficult to build trust and candid relationships with those in your team. 

Radical Candor is not dependent upon hierarchy, it’s not about ego and it is not about becoming overly friendly with your colleagues. 

It is that sweet spot, where you are able to give feedback that will guide and serve the other person and help them develop. 

What are the benefits of Radical Candor?

A radically candid leader can give feedback and receive it equally well. When feedback is given it is always direct and sincere, it is specific and helpful. 

There are four quadrants in the Radical Candor model.

The only quadrant to operate from is the Radical Candor area where Caring Personally and Challenging Directly are aligned.

The second area that is less than ideal but preferable to the quadrants on the left of the model is Obnoxious Aggression. I had to read this art twice as it sounds counterintuitive. When you are so direct that it is criticism without caring then you may be labelled confrontational and unpleasant, but your team members will know exactly where they stand. The other way that this can play out is when criticism is given in front of others in an attempt to humiliate. 

At the bottom left of the framework is the quadrant of Manipulative Insincerity, which is according to Scott, ‘..you don’t care enough about a person to challenge them directly’.

Sucking up to others, the desire to be liked, and worrying about what others think of you can result in this approach. Manipulative Insincerity is not helpful and does not lead to trusting and fulfilling working relationships. 

The final quadrant on the top left is Ruinous Empathy. This is the classic sugar coating scenario where a leader will turn a blind eye to work that is not good enough for fear of hurting someone’s feelings. Or offering up praise that is not really justified. People don’t know where they stand when they have a boss who operates from this quadrant. 

I worked for a department that demonstrated this style. During the 12 months, I worked there, three people were transferred into the team. I later found out they were passed off to the team as they had a history of underperforming. This quickly caused resentment as some people saw the transfer as rewarding poor performance, and others had to pick up extra work or fix mistakes. Transferring out team members who are not working up to the required standard is, at the very least a band-aid solution. 

If only they’d read this book. By transferring these people it was not really helping them long term. 

When you give feedback in a radically candid way it can feel uncomfortable at first

Putting Radical Candor in place at first may feel uncomfortable. The author suggests that as a first step, a leader can ask for, before they give feedback, so they can feel what it is like to receive criticism from others as a starting point.

When a team has the radical candor ethos, trust is formed and results are achieved. 

There are plenty of tools, tips and ideas in the book to help you communicate in a way that is fair, open, and helps people understand what they can do to improve. 

Effective communication is the cornerstone of any team. Radical Candor is an ideal book for anyone who is a boss, leader or who is stepping up to lead. 

Learning how to embrace this approach early on in your career so that it becomes intertwined in how your form relationships at work will be a solid way to serve your team well.  

I began Graphic Recording early in my professional speaking career as a way of internalising material. I don’t use notes or memorise any material, as I dislike the way that memorised speeches sound. When I create a storyboard for one of my talks, it allows me to capture the picture as a visual and this gives me a much better grasp of the message and makes it easier to craft my talk around the concepts. I also share this method with my clients.

I often gift one-page sketchnotes to authors if I have read their book, and for a small fee I can sketch other non-fiction books of your choice. 

Feature Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

About Lisa Evans

Lisa Evans helps professionals to craft compelling business stories and become exceptional speakers. Lisa is a certified speaker coach, TEDx speaker coach, four times author, NLP practitioner, graphic recorder and visual storyteller, and improvisational actor. 

She has coached thousands of leaders across a range of industries, including resources, banking, finance, engineering, retail and sales as well as not-for-profit and community associations. 

If you wish to take advantage of a complimentary session in order to chat about how you can become an exceptional and successful speaker with a stand-out brand, then use this link to book a time to chat. Download my new E-book How to Build Confidence and Overcome Nervousness.