One of my goals in 2018 was to learn more about management as I transition from being an individual contributor to a manager. I have started attending management training at work, but have also been looking for books, podcasts, articles to learn more. Radical Candor was the one of the most recommeded books on this topic. The author Kim Scott traces her journey from a startup where she was CEO to Apple and Google where she effectively managed people and even ran management bootcamps.
As CEO, Kim was afraid of giving hard feedback as she did not want to be seen as a jerk. However this meant that her employees were not aware of their flaws and did not correct them which led to even more uncomfortable conversations down the line.
She set out to investigate how to “be a kick ass boss without losing your humanity”. The answer which is in the top right of the quadrant is the title of the book and it consists of the following two steps.
Care Deeply – The first step to understand the employee’s goals (both personal and professional) deeply. This can be done through a series of 1-1 meetings with the employee. It is then the manager’s job to put the employee in a position where they can make progress towards those goals. Too often, managers assume that all employees want to be star performers – there are many who derive satisfaction from working 8 hours a day and spending their free time with family and friends.
Challenge Directly – The next step is to challenge the employee whenever they fall short of the goals that they have set for themselves. If the manager has established a good rapport (step 1), then the employee will see these challenges as an attempt by the manager to guide them rather than attack on their performance. Feedback should happen quickly and be not reserved for 1-1 meetings or annual reviews. The “directly” in “Challenge directly” advices that feedback cannot be diluted lest it be ignored.
One thing that the book does not detail is how personality type may influence the efficacy of the book’s advice. Most managers are familiar with Myers-Briggs or similar personality tests which specify that employees should be motivated or challenged differently depending on their personality. For e.g. certain employees may not take too kindly to being challenged, even if the manager has a good rapport with them.
Overall, the book is a great read and full of useful advice. It goes into great detail on how to establish a culture of radical cantor in the workplace. I highly recommend it to managers especially new ones like me.