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Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity

Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity
Book (with additional video)
Kim Scott
Recommended by: Colleen Dowd, Planning Unit Manager, Department of Corrections
Additional Video
Title: Radical Candor — The Surprising Secret to Being a Good Boss
Date: December 8, 2015

1) What is your suggestion about?

Radical Candor is a leadership book about optimal management. “Radical Candor” is defined as “the sweet spot between managers who are obnoxiously aggressive on one side and ruinously empathetic on the other.” The book helps managers know how to work between the two. The book also covers three simple principles “great bosses” use to build strong relationships with their employees. 

2) Why did you choose it?

I have worked as a manager and with process improvement teams for years. So I have had to “flex” to every personality style and preferences, often in one setting. 

This book appealed to me because Kim Scott describes — with a simple four quadrant framework —how and how not to engage to help colleagues develop. This approach helped me find a comfortable spot of caring personally for employees and being honest in how I deliver both constructive criticism and praise – which Scott calls “radical candor” – without being disingenuous, manipulative, or obnoxious. For example, she describes one negative quadrant you don’t want to fall under as “Ruinous Empathy.” Kim Scott writes the quadrant is “responsible for the vast majority of management mistakes I’ve seen in my career” because “most people want to avoid creating tension or discomfort at work.” This is just one example of how this book improved my management skills.

I feel I am good at working with process improvement teams, but the team environment is always complicated. Radical Candor helped me approach teams in a new way. Before, I approached a team environment by trying to communicate everything more than once, varying it each time to each style preference. That way, everyone should gain from me what they need. 

However, I have come to realize that approach can become challenging because I can “lose people” when I communicate in a style that is not their own. Connecting with different styles without losing other people is like a puzzle I am trying to put together rapidly. Kim Scott helped me improve my skills for these situations by providing an approach that is based on what all personality styles need from leaders when working with an idea. For example, all styles need time to clarify an idea. She explains that we should not skip time for a team to debate the idea. This sort of advice “uncomplicates” the team environment for me, so I am excited to know the teams I work with going forward will be that much more successful!

3) What else do you want to tell us about it?

Kim Scott was a top manager with companies like Google and Apple. She also had her own businesses. She admits some of her ventures failed while others succeeded. Her honesty in what has worked and what hasn't worked is refreshing. She knows from experience!

The importance of caring personally for employees is emphasized throughout Radical Candor, as well as the damage or risks it poses to organizations and managers who don’t. I love that Kim Scott shares personal stories from her work to illustrate the need to understand and care personally. For example, she once worked for a diamond company in Russia after the end of the Cold War and was responsible for hiring diamond cutters. She initially thought the best way to motivate these diamond cutters was through compensation – by switching their pay from an “almost worthless” Russian Ruble currency to U.S. Dollars, which would have much higher value. However, she discovered pay didn’t motivate them to higher performance. Instead, they literally wanted a picnic – and the personal connection with a leader who would care about them and their families. I leave the rest of the details to those who join me in reading this book. What really hit home with me is how employees need to feel cared for as people. This is true across organizations, the globe, and cultures.

I was tempted at first to “skip” the parts of her book about Google because I thought they wouldn't relate to my experience in the Department of Corrections. But when I read deeper, I found much of Google’s journey and lessons learned to be valuable. One of the lessons was the potential downsides from traditional performance appraisals. We may not be able to build slides for people to use instead of stairs or allow employees to get around their workplaces on skateboards like Google does, but Google changed their approach to performance appraisals not because they don’t care about results, rather they did it because they care greatly about results. What perfect timing to read about this!

4) What is a key takeaway for leaders driving improvement in how we deliver for the citizens of Missouri?

Radical Candor is relevant to the journey our Departments are now taking together as we strive to excel. In order to excel, we need to improve our results over time. Kim Scott’s basic premise is that managers are responsible for these results and that it is relationships — not power — that will drive results forward. This fits well with some of the new changes in how we work, such as ENGAGE and our other new approaches to professional development conversations. Radical Candor shows how the improved relationships we gain from such conversations can translate into improved results for our teams and citizens as well.

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  • dennis sanford smith, Department of Public Safety
  • April 23, 2018 9:01 am
  • I would be interested in reading this
  • Larry Pierce, Department of Natural Resources
  • April 23, 2018 10:52 am
  • I found the video very informative and useful. Thanks
  • Melody Reichel, Department of Revenue
  • April 24, 2018 10:33 am
  • This was really great and all directors, administrators, managers and supervisors should review as this gives some really good information that some people take for granted with their job and employee's. Thanks for sharing, I will be sending this to my supervisors.
  • Scott Weber, Department of Mental Health
  • April 24, 2018 10:40 am
  • Loved the charts and examples. Very enjoyable to listen too. Thanks!
  • David Taylor, Department of Public Safety
  • April 24, 2018 10:43 am
  • The real life examples are always the best. Giving thought to others is very important and vital to be successful. The reason for this video is to enlighten relationships and understanding in the workplace. Being honest in a tactful way, will hold the workers and bosses with esteem. Communication is the easiest thing we learn, but forget how others have backgrounds that are similar only in the work task. Understanding the Person is communicating.
  • HAZEL JONES, Department of Labor and Industrial Relations
  • April 24, 2018 12:00 pm
  • I really like Kim's last statement charging listeners to take care of ourselves first. We can't help others to the best of our abilities if we neglect our own well being.
  • Linda Nilges, Department of Social Services
  • April 24, 2018 12:41 pm
  • Just by making the few changes suggested, I can see that this timely book relates to what our Divisions/Departments are doing now (TOC, Engage) to help the mentality of the "State Worker". For years our workforce has been afraid to suggest changes and share opportunities for learning. Crossing the divide of Departments and learning everyone's piece of the puzzle can be the driving force that makes a cohesive unit of a valuable workforce. Just the conflict resolution and impromptu guidance would help to move workers to the "giving a damn" side of the ledger.
  • John Swisher, Department of Corrections
  • April 24, 2018 2:22 pm
  • Thanks for your recommendation Colleen Dowd. I knew if you were recommending it, I would not be disappointed. One especially helpful idea I took away, though I'm unsure about how we might structure them here in DOC, were the "skip level meetings" under "Making Speaking Truth to Power Easier", i.e. having meetings with supervisees to give anonymous feedback to supervisors about what they need to do better, or more of, or less of. So many times, it seems we have a hard time seeing how others see us, and I know supervisors are tempted to think things are going better than those "in the trenches". Lastly, as a religion/philosophy geek, I also really liked the JS Mill quote, in particular because it has a Corrections and a religious bias (it seems to me). "The source of everything respectable in man (sic, we would say humanity today) either as an intellectual or as a moral being is that his (sic, again we would say our) errors are corrigible..., The whole strength and value of human judgment depends on the one property, that it can be set right when it is wrong." Putting this into my own words, I may not get it right on my first try, but by applying all the angels of my better nature, I might eventually set things right, and that's good news (even if you're not a preacher). Lastly as someone who's often been called "incorrigible", Mill's writings give me hope!!!
  • Alice Simmons , Department of Corrections
  • April 24, 2018 2:55 pm
  • I found the video and the speaker to be very unprofessional in her language and her attire. At times I found the language to be very unprofessional and vulgar. We are asked to not use this type of language or approach as Supervisors, but yet we were subjected to her using it as part of her regular vocabulary. Not appropriate!!!!!!!!!!
  • Tina M. Parker, Department of Health and Senior Services
  • April 24, 2018 3:40 pm
  • I enjoyed the Radical Candor video. The lady was real and informative. I have experienced similar circumstances in the work place and we try to work through the problems as they come along.
  • Joseph Deville, Department of Corrections
  • April 24, 2018 4:15 pm
  • GREAT VIDEO on alternative ways of leading your staff to a positive resolution.
  • Travis Wayne Wilhite, Department of Corrections
  • April 24, 2018 8:09 pm
  • I would like a copy of this book.
  • Harold Rodney Ruch, Department of Corrections
  • April 24, 2018 9:24 pm
  • Sounds excellent very excited in getting both books.
  • Heather, Department of Corrections
  • April 24, 2018 10:59 pm
  • I would be interested in reading a copy of this book.
  • phillip a rippinger, Department of Corrections
  • April 25, 2018 6:57 am
  • good info thank you
  • phillip a rippinger, Department of Corrections
  • April 25, 2018 6:57 am
  • good info thank you
  • Amy Kathleen Kotlin, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
  • April 25, 2018 8:52 am
  • The brief video on Radical Candor is easy to follow and the steps she shared in how we react, teach, criticize our peers and aides was very helpful. I will be honest, if someone ask me to state what I would like my boss to change, I would not be honest. The need of trust is not in my school and feeling of recriminations for speaking up is very real. Because of this huge issue, TRUST, I do not believe Radical Candor is yet appropriate for my boss to utilize. I do believe some of us teachers could use this information with our aides in our classrooms. I am able to get my aides to trust me and I them. Thank you for posting the information.
  • Rich Crowe, Department of Conservation
  • April 25, 2018 10:04 am
  • I enjoyed Kim Scott's YouTube video and found it helpful. Thanks for recommending it.
  • DeAna Schulte, Department of Public Safety
  • April 25, 2018 1:08 pm
  • A lot of truth in that video. Thanks for sharing.
  • DeAna Schulte, Department of Public Safety
  • April 25, 2018 1:08 pm
  • A lot of truth in that video. Thanks for sharing.
  • Nick Burrell, Department of Conservation
  • April 25, 2018 3:38 pm
  • Excellent strategy and information. Thanks for sharing!
  • Jerry Beckett, Department of Conservation
  • April 25, 2018 4:44 pm
  • Very informative and makes good sense, there is some good information here to keep in mind. should be good material to acquire and use.
  • Christina Miller, Department of Social Services
  • April 26, 2018 8:43 am
  • This might be a good learning tool, but I have no interest in reading a book that has to use such inappropriate language. I think someone who is trying to tell me how to be a good boss should be a little more professional and realize not everyone wants to hear this type of language. I tried to watch the video for the second book and turned it off due to the inappropriate language. I would be willing to read books or watch videos about being a good boss, but not if I have to listen to this language. Thanks.
  • Terrie Ann Black, Department of Economic Development
  • April 26, 2018 11:50 am
  • I appreciated the video and real world examples used to demonstrate the points being made. It is a simple model that contains some very challenging actions in developing quality leadership skills. I was totally reminded of my being a new 2LT on active duty and how challenging it was to develop a cohesive working platoon while mastering what was expected of me by my chain of command. The author nailed it with Radical Candor.
  • Jennifer Gentry , Department of Social Services
  • April 27, 2018 8:35 am
  • I do appreciate the informed feedback when recommending a book. After reading the information as to why Radical Candor-The Surprising Secret to Being a Good Boss was recommended, I wanted to start reading the material right away. The video help add to my curiosity in wanting to learn more to become a better leader in a professional role and better myself in a personal role as well.
  • Kim Haynie, Department of Corrections
  • April 28, 2018 3:46 am
  • Thanks for this video. It was great. I would suggest that you don't have to be a supervisor to use these techniques. As a former supervisor for many years, I have changed classifications and viewed these suggestions as a non-supervisor. I'm sure that some of her methods can be incorporated into Engage conversations and modeling behavior. I especially like the requirement of personally caring about people before you piss them off. So true. Thanks again!
  • Robin Moran, Department of Mental Health
  • April 29, 2018 9:07 am
  • Great video, I would love to read this book.
  • Rose Johnson, Department of Mental Health
  • May 1, 2018 9:26 am
  • I found the video very helpful.
  • Vivian Noble, Department of Corrections
  • May 1, 2018 10:29 am
  • I felt that the Radical Candor was not appropriate word usage. It was a bit too blunt for my taste.
  • Samantha Dickey, Department of Higher Education
  • May 11, 2018 12:09 pm
  • I finished reading this book a couple weeks ago and found the examples she provides really helpful. Radical Candor is a framework for how to be a better communicator, and I was surprised to find that I need to be better at giving praise. I tend to be vague, potentially landing me in the “ruinous empathy” category. Beside being more present in the moment, it’s something I’m trying to improve upon.
  • Barbara Dismang, Department of Mental Health
  • May 21, 2018 11:17 am
  • The way she comes and says things so directly is great. We could use more of that.
  • Wanda Gossett, Department of Mental Health
  • July 26, 2018 11:33 am
  • Fabulous presentation on video. Currently searching for the book. A must have for any one in a supervisory position.