Three Things to Remember from Kim Scott and her book, Radical Candor

In class on Friday, Scott shared a simple tool, a 2x2 matrix she has dubbed “Radical Candor”, to “help you and all the people you work with do the best work of your lives and build the best relationships of your career”. Like most 2x2 matrices, Radical Candor distills a big amorphous concept to a simple framework. Radical Candor guides you to the top right quadrant to “challenge directly” and show you “care personally” at the same time. In Scott’s words “Radical Candor really just means saying what you think while also giving a damn about the person you’re saying it to”.

This is the optimal place to be versus the three other quadrants:

Ruinous Empathy — Not sharing what you think because you care is a disservice to the other person

Obnoxious Aggression — Sharing what you think, but not caring about the impact on the other person doesn’t help either

Manipulative Insecurity — Neither caring nor sharing what you think = no man’s land

I have heard Scott speak in class at the GSB now three times. I think she gives a fantastic lecture that combines a simple, understandable framework and clear and engaging stories to support her point and help you come up examples of how you might use the framework. You can watch it here.

I have three main takeaways from the framework and Scott’s presentation:

1. Use the framework to evaluate comments / interactions not people: I think it is easy to jump to that person acts with “Ruinous Empathy” in too broad of terms, i.e. John has Ruinous Empathy. This is doesn’t work. Remember Touchy Feely. Keep it on your side of the net. Keep it specific, i.e. John, with that comment you displayed Ruinous Empathy by not telling Sally…

2. Radical Candor is tough and the benefits are delayed. Circle back: I think Scott is absolutely right that long-term there is a benefit from implementing more Radical Candor. But, critical feedback, even when delivered with care, can still hurt in the moment. In implementing Radical Candor in my life, I have found circling back and reinforcing care by debriefing the interaction can help diffuse the “pinch” one receives immediately after Radical Candor. Even though I know my business partner cares about me, it can still be hard to hear when something didn’t go well. After I receive Radical Candor, I sometimes require a couple more check-ins on the topic to feel entirely positive and thankful for the interaction. Scott’s lecture could benefit from helping listeners prepare for some initial discomfort.

3. Small things can elevate your personal brand and make you more memorable: Scott wore the same sweater in all three of her on campus presentations. (The same one she is wearing in the video above). It is bright orange like the cover of her book. At first, I was confused. But, truthfully the color association helped me remember her messaging. What simple tools can you use to connect dots and reinforce your message?

Overall, simple tools (whether wardrobe tricks or a verbage framework) require thought and reinforcement.

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