Radical Candor

Radical Candor book cover

Honestly surprised by how much I enjoyed Radical Candor.

There are two main behaviors that make up ‘radical candor’: caring personally and challenging directly. The book is an overview of ways one can exhibit these behaviors to be a better manager (or honestly, human).

Below I will share some quotes an explain why they resonated with me.

On acting on feedback

Reward criticism to get more of it. Once you’ve asked your question and embraced the discomfort and understood the criticism, you have to follow up by showing that you really did welcome it. You have to reward the candor if you want to get more of it. If you agree with the criticism, make a change as soon as possible. If the necessary change will take time, do something visible to show you’re trying.

I agree that it is hugely important to act on feedback – and show progress towards change – quickly. If one doesn’t, people will not continue to offer feedback. Why bother? Similarly, retros without real change suffer the same fate.

On an obligation to dissent

In meetings, consider making an “obligation to dissent.” If everyone around the table agreed, that was a red flag. Somebody had to take up the dissenting voice.

This is a novel idea to me. It’s all too easy for everyone to agree by default in meetings. Encouraging people to role-play as a dissenter or devil’s advocate seems like it could be productive in certain situations.

On work-life balance

Don’t think of it as work-life balance, some kind of zero-sum game where anything you put into your work robs your life and anything you put into your life robs your work. Instead, think of it as work-life integration. If you need to get eight hours of sleep to stay centered, those hours are not something that you do for yourself at the expense of your work or your team.

I’ve seen way too many peers work crazy hours by choice (or working late at night or on weekends). Being singularly focused on work makes one a worse employee. It’s important to take care of one’s mental and physical health. For example, by running I’m able to think and solve problems more clearly. I chose this quote because I like the framing of work-life integration.

On feedback latency

Giving guidance as quickly and as informally as possible is an essential part of Radical Candor, but it takes discipline—both because of our natural inclination to delay/avoid confrontation and because our days are busy enough as it is. But this is one of those cases where the difference in terms of time spent and impact is huge. Delay at your peril!

I admit I’ve put off giving direct reports feedback. When I’ve done this I wanted to wait to perfect the message. But doing so makes it less effective. I need to remember to just do it.

Radical Candor

Broad recommendations on how to be a better manager through better communication and relationships