Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity By Kim Scott
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Radical Candor is a crash course on how to be a great manager. In it, former Google leader Kim Scott shares her philosophy about how to be an empathetic and results-oriented leader. If you’re new to management, you’ll find a wealth of useful tidbits that will help you avoid common mistakes.
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How resentment builds
“…for every piece of subpar work you accept, for every missed deadline you let slip, you begin to feel resentment and then anger. You no longer just think the work is bad: you think the person is bad. This makes it harder to have an even-keeled conversation. You start to avoid talking to the person at all.”
The best way to prevent yourself from building resentment about an employee is to never accept late or subpar work. Give them the feedback instantly, and it’s up to them to approve. If you keep letting things slide, you’re going to develop an unhealthy attitude about the person.
The most difficult and important thing you can do as a manager is to establish a trusting relationship with the people who report directly to you. With trust, you can empower, With trust, you can forgive. With trust, you can better manage the ups and downs of professional work.
Don’t just “keep it professional.”
At work, you’re dealing with human being who have feelings. If you feel like you need to repress those feelings at the place you work, you’ll feel alienated. You’ll hate going to work. Avoid the fallacy of trying to always keep things professional. The people you work for won’t see you as human, and they won’t feel free to be human themselves.
Caring personally is the antidote to both robotic professionalism and managerial arrogance.
Leave things unsaid
“A good rule of thumb for any relationship is to leave three unimportant things unsaid each day.”
Avoid the tendency to feel overly concerned about how people perceive you. People won’t like you or your decisions at all times, but they will respect you if you build trust, provide clarity, and care personally about them and their work. If you start trying to please everyone all the time, you won’t be an effective boss.
Become a partner
“Instead, you want to be a partner—that is, you must take the time to help the people doing the best work overcome obstacles and make their good work even better. This is time-consuming because it requires that you know enough about the details of the person’s work to understand the nuances. It often requires you to help do the work, rather than just advising. It requires that you ask a lot of questions and challenge people—that you roll up your own sleeves.”
To get the best out of people, you need to invest the time and effort. Don’t dictate from an iron thrown. Be able to get in the weeds when someone needs you help. Challenge them. Roll up your sleeves. That’s the only way.
A common trap
“Other times, managers map their own capacity onto the people who work for them. They forget that a person with ten years less experience than they have simply doesn’t know certain things.”
Don’t map your abilities and experience onto other people. You can’t expect someone who is doing something for the first time to perform at the level of someone with 10 years of experience. And if you can do things faster than your employees, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re doing a bad job. Figure out what is reasonable to expect from a person, and hold them to that standard. Don’t hold them to the image of what you can do.
“Make sure that you are seeing each person on your team with fresh eyes every day. People evolve, and so your relationships must evolve with them. Care personally; don’t put people in boxes and leave them there.”
Try to keep a fresh perspective with the people you work with. People change and evolve, and so does your relationship with them. If you put them in a box, you’ll limit your relationship with them and the work that they provide for you.
“…a culture that captures thousands of “small” innovations can create benefits for customers that are impossible for competitors to imitate. One big idea is pretty easy to copy, but thousands of tweaks are impossible to see from the outside, let alone…”
Innovation often comes from dozens of small tweaks, instead of one massive shift. It’s found in constant experimentation, measurement, and iteration. The ultimate outcome may seem simple, but it’s actually quite hard for competitors to imitate and continue improving.
The curse of knowledge
It’s easy to think that others have the same beliefs, context, or knowledge that you do, but they don’t. So when you know something well, keep in mind that others may not have that same clarity. When you understand this, you can do a better job of helping them complete the task at hand.
Having a bad day
“Hey, I’m having a shitty day. I’m trying hard not to be grouchy, but if it seems like I have a short fuse today, I do. It’s not because of you or your work, though. It’s because I had a big argument with a friend [or whatever].”
Be honest with people that you’re having a bad day. They’ll understand. Everyone has bad days. If you try to keep it a secret, they’ll just notice that you’re frustrated and likely misattribute the source of that frustration.
An essential question
“Is there anything I could do or stop doing that would make it easier to work with me?”
Don’t debate criticism
When someone gives you feedback, don’t debate it. Listen and clarify, but never start arguing about why it may or may not be correct. Make the person feel heard when they’re giving feedback, and afterward, you can decide how you act on it.
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