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Kim Scott on Radical Candor

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In this podcast recorded at the Agile 2018 conference Shane Hastie, Lead Editor for Culture & Methods, spoke to Kim Scott, author of the book Radical Candor about what radical candor is and how it can be applied in teams and relationships.

Key Takeaways

  • Radical candor is the behaviour which comes about when people both care personally and are able to challenge directly in a relationship
  • Telling each other about problems or praising each other in a way that is productive is difficult and seldom done well
  • Radical candor is first and foremost about soliciting feedback and criticism - ask the question “what can I do, or stop doing, that will make it easier to work with me?”  
  • It is even more important to give public praise than it is to give private criticism – recognise and encourage positive behaviour 
  • The best way to encourage radical candor is to be open to it yourself – demonstrate the behaviour you want to encourage in others

Show Notes

  • 00:27 Why a book about radical candour is needed
  • 00:42 Telling each other about problems or praising each other in a way that is productive is difficult and seldom done well
  • 00:52 The way we are conditioned from an early age to not provide feedback
  • 01:20 Radical candor starts with caring personally about each other in a workplace of group
  • 01:49 We need to be able to challenge each other directly
  • 02:13 The two-dimension model
  • 02:24 Caring personally and challenging directly is hard
  • 02:31 “Be professional” is often misinterpreted as not being authentic and true to yourself
  • 03:00 What happens when the two dimensions are not applied properly
  • 03:06 Challenging directly without caring personally results in obnoxious aggression
  • 03:28 Don’t use the framework to judge others by putting names in the boxes – it’s a compass to guide conversations
  • 03:45 The opposite of obnoxious aggression is when we care personally but don’t challenge directly – this results in ruinous empathy
  • 04:04 When neither caring nor challenging we fall into manipulative insincerity    
  • 04:35 We move in and out of all four quadrants constantly, most people spend the most time in ruinous empathy, trying to be nice to others without disrupting relationships
  • 04:54 The danger of ruinous empathy is that the obnoxious aggression becomes acceptable behaviour
  • 05:25 Kim’s experience in her own company
  • 05:58 Without radical candor the result is mediocrity in both interpersonal relationships and in business outcomes
  • 06:23 Steps that can help to move from ruinous empathy to radical candor
  • 06:40 Radical candor is first and foremost about soliciting feedback and criticism
  • 07:10 The starting point for soliciting feedback is to ask the question “what can I do, or stop doing, that will make it easier to work with me?”  
  • 07:32 Different ways to approach the question – the importance is to solicit clear and explicit feedback
  • 07:52 It is even more important to give public praise than it is to give private criticism – recognise and encourage positive behaviour  
  • 08:35 Coming from the place of recognising the positive makes it possible to acknowledge the problems and challenges
  • 08:44 Offering criticism must be done like a gift – humbly and with care for the recipient
  • 09:03 Be open to changing your mind – what you perceive may not be the problem at all
  • 09:32 The best way to encourage radical candor is to be open to it yourself – demonstrate the behaviour you want to encourage in others
  • 09:58 Possible responses to feedback and ways to process them
  • 10:15 A story of receiving and responding to feedback
  • 11:35 Advice on how to respond when you disagree with the feedback you receive
  • 12:10 The importance of referring back to the feedback provider after you have considered their feedback, even if you disagree with what they are saying
  • 12:27 People can stand disagreement, they hate being ignored
  • 12:42 Taking the time to explain why you disagree is a respectful thing to do
  • 12:52 Radical candor is about fundamental behaviour change, and behaviour change is hard
  • 13:05 Advice on getting started – concrete actions for the first step
  • 13:30 Embrace the discomfort – this will be uncomfortable, and you need to allow that to be the case
  • 14:01 The story of how Toyota painted a big red box on the assembly line floor in order to make feedback safe and part of the process
  • 14:57 When you solicit and receive feedback, listen with the intent to understand, not to respond and  defend yourself
  • 15:06 Reward the candor when you get it – acknowledge the courage and care the feedback provider has had to make the effort to give you the feedback
  • 15:21 After receiving feedback, do one of three things
    • Fix the problem
    • Show the steps you’re taking to fix the problem
    • Offer an explanation as to why you disagree that it is a problem

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