How candid are you really?

How Candid Are you_ 2

I’m writing this blog from one of my favorite places in my world which is Carmel, California. Although the weather is cold and overcast today, I can still feel my whole body relax in this cozy coastal town. What are the places where you can feel your shoulders drop and your mind clear of the everyday minutiae?

I recently had dinner in Denver with an old friend who moved there. She flattered me and told me she loves my book reviews, so in honor of her (you can all thank Rebecca if you like them too…) here’s my newest book review.

In total transparency, I’m not 100% done with the book so if you read it and have your own insights – please share it with me. But never letting lack of 100% knowledge stop me. . . here are my top insights from Radical Candor by Kim Scott.

Dr.  Jo’s Top 5 Takeaways from Radical Candor:

  1. Radical Candor is a book that hits right at that sweet spot between management and leadership.  A lot of the points that Scott drives home are relevant for those who are managing their first team, as well as those managers who want to up their game and incorporate more leadership in how they run and organize their teams. It’s also a great read for experienced leaders who notice that they have a hard time providing meaningful feedback to key employees.
  2. Scott incorporates two models into her book. The first, utilizing the widely loved 2×2 matrix, is for giving feedback. Using it, Scott explains that helpful feedback has two components; feedback comes from a place of caring personally about your team, AND it challenges people directly. What Scott finds is that if you care a lot but aren’t direct, you fall into the “Ruinous Empathy” box where you’re compassionate in the short-term, but not promoting long-term growth. However if you give very honest feedback but it doesn’t seem like you care much, you’re in the place of “Obnoxious Aggression.” These are the managers who slam our work and never seem to find anything good about us or our work to acknowledge. Lastly there’s the lack of both empathy and candor which throws you into “Manipulative Insincerity.” I know none of you reading this do that, but you’ve probably felt this vibe at some point in your career and can easily recognize it.
  3. The second model that I particularly liked was Scott’s model of how to think about your team’s make-up in terms of career growth and challenge. Scott delineates two categories on the far right hand side of her model, the Superstars, those employees who do great work and want to progress upwards quickly in the company, and the Rock Stars, these are great performers who are happier with a slower growth trajectory. Rock Stars, Scott opines, are often pushed to move upwards more quickly than they want to progress, or ignored as they don’t seem ambitious enough. Scott calls out that these Rock Stars can be the solid rocks and stability on our team and it’s important to keep them feeling valued and appreciated, without pushing them to take on more than they would like at this time. Scott beautifully articulates the fact that the same person can be a Superstar or a Rock Star depending where they are in their career and life; it’s important for teams to have, and to value both types of high-performers.
  4. I’ve been thinking a lot in my own life about what happens when you’re on one trajectory (Rock Star or Superstar) and it doesn’t fit any more. It can be hard for superstars, or ambitious workers if you’ve always pushing for more, to be ok at a place with less forward motion yet still feel like you’re excelling and striving for high performance. Conversely, if you’ve been a Rock Star for while, you might have to speak up much more loudly and frequently to get others to take seriously the fact that you’re now ready for a steeper growth trajectory.  I’m curious where would you categorize yourself on Kim Scott’s model at this point?
  5. Lastly Scott does a great job articulating the balancing act that’s necessary to build a truly collaborative team. If there’s too much collaboration and discussion, you end up paying a “collaboration tax.” Yet if there’s not enough, it’s very hard to get meaningful buy-in and inspiration from your team. Many leaders I work with believe that they are much more collaborative than their teams would say. What I’ve found is a great middle ground is to have just brainstorming meetings, and separate them from decision-making and work-flow tracking meetings. If you find that you schedule these meetings and no one has much to say or offer up in terms of ideas, it’s likely you’ve been training your team for too long that collaboration is more of a token attempt than a “true way we work together.”

So just curious, after reading my summary points above, would you want to read Radical Candor? Does it feel like a relevant book in your world? Comment and let me know!

Jo Ilfeld, PhD

An executive leadership coach, Jo helps C-suite leaders, executives, and high-potential managers develop the flexibility, skill, and frame of mind to meet the challenges of the next five, ten, twenty years…. and beyond. She works with individuals, teams and organizations on four core areas of leadership development. Check out Jo's bio page for more information.

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