The book is about leadership. It is about the essential art and discipline of giving feedback. Giving the right kind of feedback is the key for enabling a team to preform at their pinnacle. In this book the author describes her technique for doing exactly that. She calls this technique Radical Candor.
It is best described by the synopsis of the book itself:
‘Radical Candor’ is a simple idea: to be a good boss, you have to Care Personally at the same time that you Challenge Directly. When you challenge without caring it’s obnoxious aggression; when you care without challenging it’s ruinous empathy. When you do neither it’s manipulative insincerity.
This simple framework can help you build better relationships at work, and fulfill your three key responsibilities as a leader: creating a culture of feedback (praise and criticism), building a cohesive team, and achieving results you’re all proud of.
Obnoxious Aggression is what happens when you challenge but don’t care. It’s praise that doesn’t feel sincere or criticism that isn’t delivered kindly.
Ruinous Empathy is what happens when you care but don’t challenge. It’s praise that isn’t specific enough to help the person understand what was good or criticism that is sugar-coated and unclear.
Manipulative Insincerity is what happens when you neither care nor challenge. It’s praise that is non-specific and insincere or criticism that is neither clear nor kind.
Radical Candor is when you have a healthy mix of the two.
Consider this scenario to understand the differences between each type. Your co-worker’s fly is down.
- Obnoxious Aggression: (Shouts) “Look his fly is down!”
- Ruinous Empathy: (Silent, too worried about his feelings to say anything. It would embarrass you.)
- Manipulative Insincerity: (Silent, too worried about your own feelings to say anything. You want him to still like you.)
- Radical Candor: (Whisper) “Your fly is down.”
There are many other valuable insights in the book but I want to share these two:
- You need both superstars (steep growth trajectory) and rock stars (gradual growth trajectory) in your team. By the way, not every superstar want to manage. Management and growth should not been conflated.
- Create a culture of listening and empower people closest to the facts to make as many decisions as possible.
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.
The essence of leadership is not getting overwhelmed by circumstances.
When bosses are too invested in everyone getting along they also fail to encourage the people on their team to criticize one another other for fear of sowing discord. They create the kind of work environment where being "nice" is prioritized at the expense of critiquing and therefore improving actual performance.
A good rule of thumb for any relationship is to leave three unimportant things unsaid each day.
I needed quite some time to read that book, because it is so densely covert with useful information, tools, techniques or interesting ideas. I cannot recommend this book enough. Especially for leaders. Giving growth oriented candid feedback to the people in your team is one of the essential parts of being a leader. But also the meetings described in the book and the whole mindset of the author was very helpful for my own understanding of leadership.