Radical Candor — Your humanity is an asset to your effectiveness, not a liability

This post was written before I build Exceptionly for revolutionizing the software talent industry through objective hands-on testing for both employers and engineers around the world.

At Crossover (my former company), Andy Tryba (CEO) is running monthly book club meetings. People from all around the world are virtually getting together for a casual 30 mins meeting where we discuss the book of the month. It’s always fascinating to see how people learn and remember different things from the same book.

In this post, I’m going to share quotes from the book named Radical Candor authored by Kim Scott as my reading notes under three categories. Management, Leadership, and Personal notes. Here we go:

  1. Extremely likable vs getting the job done
  2. Just because you like someone you shouldn’t tolerate bad work, Bob example
  3. Do not sugar-coat, it’s the fastest way of damaging people
  4. You can draw a straight line from lack of guidance to a dysfunctional team that gets poor results before it’s too late
  5. Apple: We hire people to tell us what to do, not the other way around
  6. Focusing on people most likely to be promoted is a mistake as a manager
  7. All teams need stability as well as growth to function properly
  8. Nothing works well if everyone is running for the next promotion
  9. The managers’ role is mostly staying out of the way in Google, sometimes to help but never interfere too much
  10. There’s a difference between autonomy and neglect
  11. You do need to spend time with your direct reports to be a great boss but you don’t need to spend all your time with them
  12. By investing 10 hours of your time in communicating with your direct reports you can save a lot of time from future headaches and problems
  13. Managers typically make the same mistakes over and over again
  14. Listening to your direct reports is your job, it’s not babysitting
  15. Many people feel they aren’t as good at management as they are at the ‘real’ part of the job
  16. One, to create a culture of guidance, praise in criticism that will keep everyone moving in the right direction. Two, to understand what motivates each person in your team well enough to avoid burnout or boredom and keep the team cohesive and three, to drive results collaboratively.
  17. If you can absorb the employee hatred your subordinates are likely to become better managers for their subordinates
  18. To keep a team cohesive you need both Rockstars and Superstars, rockstars love their work, they’ve found their groove. If you honor and reward the rockstars they will become the strongest. Superstars need to be challenged and need the opportunity to grow constantly, otherwise, they’ll lose motivation
  19. Some people simply do not want the next bigger job. Trying to carry the whole team to be superstars is not going to work
  20. Fast growth trajectory vs keepers, both good for business
  21. You shouldn’t put permanent labels on people
  22. Traditional talent management vs growth management. Key to keep everybody focused on running to their dreams. A creativity and productivity booster. Growth management
  23. The horizontal axis goes from bad to good but not the vertical axis. You shouldn’t force everyone to be superstars. You will need rockstars for sustainable growth
  24. Steep growth is generally characterized by frequent change
  25. Steep growth should not be limited to ‘promotion’ it’s ‘impact’
  26. People in the Superstar phase will not perform as well as Rockstars. People in the Rockstar phase will hate Superstars
  27. It’s important not to put permanent labels on people as Rockstars or Superstars. People change
  28. Debate meetings are important, separate debate and decision-making meetings. Give time for all to work on their arguments
  29. Do not play the peacemaker role if not necessary
  30. Push decisions into the facts or push facts into the decisions but keep your ego out
  31. Do not try to persuade and do not play the decider role
  32. Decider should get facts, not recommendations
  33. If you are managing managers make sure fact flow is healthy from subordinates
  34. Don’t waste your team’s time, block time to execute
  35. People get attached to their projects, rarely people zoom out and evaluate themselves
  36. “It’s very hard to admit that you have an ugly baby”
  37. The pressure to be consistent is a threat. Like Keynes said, “I change my mind when the facts change”
  38. Work-life balance vs work-life integration
  39. Almost all of the managers are middle-level managers. Your strategy should work both ways
  40. Andy Grove: “listen, challenge, commit”. A good manager should have the humility to listen, confidence to challenge, and wisdom to commit
  41. Measuring results is a must, and measuring activity will give you much more opportunity for growth
  42. Culture eats strategy for lunch
  1. False praise messes with the mind, if you fail to confront, you’ll end up getting bad results
  2. Do not force your team to cover for someone, just confront
  3. At Google, managers couldn’t just rely on power or authority to get things done. They had to figure out a better way to get things done
  4. We want to defy the gravitational pull of organizational mediocrity
  5. The people who were on a steeper growth trajectory, the ones who’d go crazy doing the same job in a year, she called superstars. They were the source of growth in any team. She was explicit about needing a balance of both. Apple was growing fast and was bigger than Google
  6. At both Google and Apple, a boss's ability to achieve results had a lot more to do with listening than telling people what to do, debating > directing, pushing people to decide > being the decider, persuading > giving orders, learning > knowing.
  7. Steve Jobs approach: You need to do that in a way that does not call and question your confidence and abilities but leaves not much room for interpretation.
  8. You don’t need to shout to be a great boss but be direct.
  9. Relationships you have with your direct reports will impact the relationships they have with their direct reports
  10. Bosses often feel alone. They feel ashamed that they’re not doing good enough
  11. Your humanity is an asset to your effectiveness, not a liability
  12. Radical Candor is also directly relevant to people struggling with issues of diversity in leadership
  13. Gender, racial and cultural differences do make having radically candid relationships harder. It’s scary to be radically candid with people who look like us. It’s even scarier when people look different, speak a different language or practice a different religion
  14. We are all more likely to be ruinously empathetic or obnoxiously aggressive or manipulatively insincere toward people who are different than we are. Learning how to push ourselves and others past this discomfort to relate to our shared humanity can make a huge difference
  15. Guidance, team, and results. These are the responsibilities of a boss
  16. Power dynamics are an obstacle before building a real relationship with your direct reports
  17. Develop relationships for giving and getting better guidance. Guidance is not a template
  18. Being more than just professional, it’s about giving a damn and encouraging everyone reporting to you to do the same. Care personally
  19. Tell people when their work is not good enough or when it is. Delivering hard feedback
  20. Challenging people generally pisses them off, challenge directly because you care
  21. Embrace conflict rather than avoiding it
  22. If nobody is ever mad at you, you are probably are not challenging your team enough
  23. Key to any relationship is how you handle the anger
  24. Invite people to challenge you just as directly as you challenge them
  25. It’s not radical candor if you don’t show you care personally
  26. Starting with “let me be radically candid with you” does not make you radically candid. If you are using accusing sentences such as “you are a liar” you’re just being a jerk
  27. Accepting harsh critics is a hard one, train yourself especially if you are an authoritarian leader
  28. Even if your boss and peers have not bought into this concept try to create your little radically candid circle
  29. Going out for long dinners together vs just being direct and caring personally
  30. Israel example: Religious teachings of our youth have an impact on our personality. If you can challenge God’s doctrine, what’s challenging your engineer friend?
  31. Japanese Culture: Kindness and not challenging in public
  32. Brits: Despite their politeness are more likely to be radically candid than New Yorkers
  33. Giving meaningful praise is hard. Radically candid praise, great players deserve more than “good job”. Give specifics
  34. When you criticize someone without even taking two seconds to show you care, you sound like obnoxious aggression
  35. Most people would rather work for a confident asshole than a nice unconfident, surely it’s a false dichotomy but it underlines the importance
  36. The worst obnoxious aggression happens when one person understands one person’s vulnerabilities and targets them
  37. If you ignore jerks in the office environment, you are being manipulatively insincere
  38. Fundamental human decency is something that every person owes every other regardless of the position
  39. Praise can be obnoxiously aggressive too
  40. Manipulatively insincere guidance happens when you don’t care enough about a person to challenge directly
  41. He’ll be happy if I tell him that his stupid presentation sucks, but it’s easier for me to praise vs explaining why his presentation sucks
  42. Give a damn about the people you challenge
  43. Don’t waste your time and everyone else’s by faking
  44. Wandering around at 2 AM, the night before lunch, one guy bumped into an engineer Anatoly, Anatoly told him some important aspects of a project. While celebrating lunch, he praised Anatoly in front of all. In fact, Anatoly was only one of the five engineers. Throwing under the bus by false praising
  45. The more first-hand experience on how to receive criticism you have will educate you on how your criticism will be taken
  46. Kim’s first meeting in Tokyo Adsense team: She asked if they need anything, nobody asked for anything. Japanese do not criticize bosses publicly (similar to Turks). The smart move was telling a Toyota (Japanese) story and warming up
  47. Saying “your work is shit” is OK, as long as you’re explaining why
  48. Tough words can only be used as an attention booster for people you have strong connections with
  49. The example of Alex’s fly down, if you ignore, 10 more people will see him like this. Challenging directly in private telling “happens to me too” is the most productive way
  50. Rethinking the ambition. Challenge your subordinates’ income, dreams, abilities, and what they want from life
  51. 1:1 meeting for building trust, ask questions, sometimes personal ones even
  52. The moment you become the boss you’ll start fighting preconception
  53. Strong managers are ok with public criticism, it’s an opportunity for gaining more credibility among the team
  54. Embrace the discomfort, wait 6 seconds after asking for feedback, give some space
  55. Left-hand column exercise, what you actually said goes to left-hand column, what you thought goes to the right-hand column, self-check of if you delivered what you meant
  56. Hungry, angry, or tired is the only situations where you hold your criticism, if you’re holding instant criticism outside of these, you are forcing yourself to remember more than one thing
  1. The writer started the book with her own mistakes
  2. The Writer got into Google after 27 interviews, leading a small team for Adsense customers
  3. Joke from a friend: “In silicon valley, you don’t fall down, you fall up”
  4. The writer was shocked at Larry Page permitting his subordinate Matt challenging him with a lot of heat
  5. The writer left Google for Apple
  6. The writer ignored a lot of superstars at Google which undermined growth
  7. Jobs was using “Your work is shit” a lot but you are not Steve Jobs
  8. 20 years ago management was not even a skill in Silicon Valley
  9. War for talent in Silicon Valley is intense
  10. So many great companies in the Valley are growing and hiring, there’s no reason to stay in a company if you’re unhappy or think your potential is being wasted
  11. If you don’t like your boss, you quit, knowing there are 10 other opportunities
  12. Even in Silicon Valley, the relationships don’t scale. Larry page can’t have a real relationship with more than a handful of people just like you do
  13. Tim Cook offered a part of his liver to Steve Jobs, Jobs rejecting this sacrifice is a great example of real relationships
  14. Relationships don’t scale but culture does
  15. Is Relationship the right word for business? Yes, it is
  16. Management and Leadership are like forehand and backhand. You have to be good at both to win
  17. If you think that you can do these things without strong relationships, you are kidding yourself. I’m not saying that unchecked power control or authority can’t work. It works especially well in a baboon troop or a totalitarian regime but if you’re reading this book, that’s not what you are shooting for
  18. Bosses and people who are reporting to them are unpredictable and not subject to absolute rules
  19. So many of us are conditioned to avoid saying what we really think. It helps us avoid conflict and embarrassment
  20. Bring your whole self to work
  21. Being a boss is a job, not a value judgment
  22. Being the boss can feel like a lonely one-way street at times, especially at first. That is ok
  23. Challenging each other is essential. Success needs experience and discussion at the same time
  24. “The source of everything respectable in man either as an intellectual or as a moral being namely, that his errors are corrigible. He’s capable of rectifying his mistake through discussions and experience. Not the experience alone. There must be discussion to show how his experience is to be interpreted” John Stuart Mill
  25. Radical Candor is not a personality type or talent it requires practice
  26. Radical Candor works only if the other person understands that your efforts at caring personally and challenging directly are delivered in good faith
  27. Sheryl’s advice to the writer, saying “umm” so much makes you look stupid after a very successful presentation at Google. Stop sandwiching direct feedback between praise. It’s not “you’re stupid”, it’s “you sound stupid”. Great feedback. The writer later improved using a coach
  28. Russian tale: Russian guy loves his dog so much, he has to amputate his dog’s tail, so he cut one inch a day
  29. Ben Horowitz said, “Avoid the shit sandwich”. Do not say 10 unnecessary things to deliver 2 direct criticism
  30. “The most important thing I think you can do for someone who is really good and who is really being counted on is to point out to them when their work is good or not so they can get back on track” Steve Jobs
  31. “For criticism to be effective it’s crucial is to do it very clearly and to articulate why to get them back on track” Steve Jobs
  32. Getting to the right answers vs being right
  33. Almost similar to Chess. Try to see a few steps ahead with words
  34. Great connection between Andy Grove and Kim’s approach, knowledge workers need to be challenged continuously, challenge directly
  35. Rock Tumbler analogy, Steve Jobs’ childhood. People get better with debate. Manager’s job is turning the tumbler on. Turns and rolls. Interesting idea
  36. People will attribute meaning to your words and mimics them, like it or not. Becoming a boss is similar to getting arrested. All you said can and will be used against you

These are all the interesting sentences that got under my radar. There are some useful frameworks and exercises inside the book, I suggest you read them and discuss them with us here.

About the writer: Founder of Exceptionly, revolutionizing the software talent industry by leveraging his unique big dataset of over 2M hands-on tested software engineers around the world.

Founder at Exceptionly. Software talent problem solver https://exceptionly.com

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