20VC Why Radical Candor Is Crucial in Workplaces, Why 85% of Work Relationship Mistakes Happen and Why You Should Not Try and Be More Likeable with Kim Scott, CoFounder @ Candor Inc

Summary Notes


In a candid conversation on "Founders Friday" with host Harry Stebings, Kim Scott, cofounder of Canda and former CEO coach at Silicon Valley firms like Dropbox and Twitter, delves into the concept of Radical Candor. Scott explains that Radical Candor is about caring personally while challenging directly, which contrasts with obnoxious aggression, ruinous empathy, and manipulative insincerity. She emphasizes the importance of honest feedback in professional growth and addresses the challenges of practicing Radical Candor across different genders and cultures. Scott also discusses the significance of bringing one's whole self to work and the pitfalls of aiming to be liked over being effective. She advises against backstabbing and promotes clean escalation to sustain honest dialogues in growing companies. Throughout, Scott shares personal anecdotes, including pivotal feedback from Sheryl Sandberg, illustrating the transformative power of Radical Candor in leadership and communication.

Summary Notes

Introduction to Kim Scott and Canda

  • Kim Scott is the cofounder of Canda, a startup focused on leadership improvement.
  • She has a history of coaching CEOs at notable companies like Dropbox, Qualtrics, and Twitter.
  • Kim developed the "Managing at Apple" course at Apple University.
  • Her previous roles include working at Google and co-founding Juice Software.
  • The podcast episode aims to explore effective leadership and communication.

"Joining me for this very special episode, I'm thrilled to welcome Kim Scott, cofounder at Canda, the startup that allows you to become a better leader."

The quote introduces Kim Scott and her startup Canda, highlighting the episode's focus on leadership.

Founding Story of Canda

  • Kim's founding story for Canda began on a New York street with her ill-behaved puppy.
  • A stranger's interaction with her about her dog's behavior highlighted the importance of direct and caring communication.
  • This encounter led to Kim's understanding of "radical candor," which became a foundation for Canda.

"I think, for me, that really is the essence of radical candor. Not that I think we should speak to each other like dogs, but the point is, if you take just a second to establish a human connection, and if you don't let the concern, the worry about the other person's short term feelings get in the way of telling them something that is really good for them to hear in the long run, then you wind up improving the world around you and building better relationships."

Kim's quote explains how the concept of radical candor was inspired by a personal experience that emphasized the balance between caring and directness in communication.

Definition of Radical Candor

  • Radical candor involves showing you care personally while challenging others directly.
  • It is differentiated from obnoxious aggression, where one challenges without showing they care.
  • Radical candor is also distinct from ruinous empathy, where caring overshadows the need to challenge directly for long-term benefit.
  • Manipulative insincerity is another concept where both personal care and direct challenge are absent, leading to insincere and political behavior.

"So radical candor is the ability to show that you care personally at the same time that you're willing to challenge the other person directly."

This quote defines radical candor as a balanced approach to communication that involves caring and direct challenges.

Misinterpretations of Radical Candor

  • People often mistake radical candor for obnoxious aggression by being harsh without showing they care.
  • Ruinous empathy is the most common mistake, where concern for feelings prevents direct challenges that could help growth.
  • Manipulative insincerity occurs when both care and directness are missing, often due to a focus on personal tasks.
  • Kim Scott emphasizes using these terms for guiding conversations to a better place rather than for judging others.

"Another mistake that people make, and this is the most common mistake. This is, I would say, 85% of mistakes in relationships at work get made when you do care personally, and you do actually show you care personally, but because you're so worried about the other person's feelings or whatnot, you fail to challenge them directly in a way that's good for their long term growth and performance. And that I call ruinous empathy."

Kim's quote explains that ruinous empathy, while well-intentioned, can be detrimental to a person's growth by avoiding necessary direct challenges.

Personal Character and Response to Feedback

  • The effectiveness of radical candor can depend on the individual's character and how they respond to different feedback styles.
  • Some may respond better to obnoxious aggression, while others may need a gentler approach.

"Can I ask, is it not quite often dependent upon the personal character to which you're addressing in terms of some might respond well to obnoxious aggression, and some might respond well to the slightly more gentle hand of ruinous empathy?"

The host's question acknowledges that individual differences can influence how people respond to various feedback approaches, suggesting that radical candor may need to be adapted to the individual.## Universality and Relativity of Radical Candor

  • Radical candor is fundamentally about expressing care and truth simultaneously.
  • It is universally human to value love and truth, but the expression of radical candor is interpersonally and culturally relative.
  • The way to communicate radically candid feedback can vary from person to person and culture to culture.
  • Radical candor requires adjusting the approach based on the individual's personality and the cultural context.

"I would say that radical candor is universally human. I mean, if you really want to abstract up, it's really just about love and truth at the same time. And so there's no human being and there's no culture on earth that doesn't value love and truth." "However, it's interpersonally and culturally relative."

The first quote highlights the universal human appreciation for love and truth, which are the foundations of radical candor. The second quote emphasizes the need for personalization in the application of radical candor, as different individuals and cultures may perceive directness and sensitivity differently.

Personal Anecdote: Kim Scott's Experience at Google

  • Kim Scott recounts a personal story from her time at Google to illustrate radical candor in action.
  • After giving a successful presentation, Scott was unaware of a verbal tick she had.
  • Her boss, Cheryl Sandberg, gave her direct feedback that was tailored to get through to Scott, despite initially resisting the feedback.
  • Sandberg's approach to feedback was caring yet direct, and she adjusted her communication style to effectively convey her message.

"And Cheryl said to me, 'You said 'um' a lot in there. Were you aware of it?'" "When you say 'um' every third word, it makes you sound stupid."

The first quote shows Sandberg beginning the feedback with a question, which is a less confrontational approach. The second quote demonstrates Sandberg's shift to a more direct approach, using strong language to ensure the feedback was taken seriously. The use of the word "stupid" was not to be mean but to be clear and impactful.

Radical Candor in Hierarchies

  • Radical candor can be applied in hierarchical relationships, including giving feedback to superiors.
  • The approach to feedback should begin by soliciting feedback, focusing on positives, and then offering your own feedback if there is an issue.
  • The timing and setting for providing feedback are important; private and non-confrontational settings are preferable.
  • If feedback from a superior is not welcome, it may be necessary to seek a new work environment.

"So start by asking for feedback, by soliciting it." "I have some feedback for you. Are you open to hearing it?"

The first quote suggests starting the feedback process by inviting feedback from others, which can open a dialogue and make others more receptive to your feedback. The second quote provides a respectful way to offer feedback, asking for permission to share it, which can help in maintaining a positive relationship.

Challenges of Practicing Radical Candor

  • Radical candor is difficult because it confronts our deeply ingrained social behaviors and workplace norms.
  • From a young age, we are taught to be polite and professional, which can conflict with the directness required for radical candor.
  • The development of our egos and personal identities can make us sensitive to criticism, making radical candor challenging both to give and receive.

"I think there are two things that make radical candor difficult. I think one of them begins when we get our first job."

This quote introduces the topic of why radical candor is challenging, suggesting that the difficulty arises from the social conditioning we experience early in our professional lives, which may discourage direct and candid communication.## Bringing Whole Selves to Work

  • Professionalism often equates to suppressing emotions and humanity at work.
  • Embracing full humanity at work can foster personal care among team members.
  • Creating an environment where everyone can bring their whole selves enhances team dynamics.

"And for an awful lot of people, that gets translated to mean, leave your emotions, leave who you really are, leave your humanity, leave the very best part of yourself at home and come to work as something less than human, as some sort of robot."

This quote emphasizes the misconception that being professional means leaving one's emotions and true self behind, which can dehumanize the workplace and hinder genuine care for colleagues.

Early Conditioning Against Radical Candor

  • From childhood, people are conditioned to avoid negative feedback.
  • Cultural sayings across the world discourage sharing critical thoughts.
  • This early conditioning makes practicing radical candor challenging.

"I think problem number two begins when we're 18 months old and our parents tell us some version of, if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it at all."

Kim Scott highlights how societal norms established from a young age discourage people from giving honest feedback, which complicates the practice of radical candor in adulthood.

Radical Candor and Gender Dynamics

  • Radical candor is challenging for all genders.
  • Gender and diversity can complicate feedback dynamics in the workplace.
  • Men may unconsciously treat women more gently, affecting the quality of feedback.
  • Women may face harsher judgment when being candid.

"I don't think it is a gender issue. I think it's equally difficult for men and women to be radically candid."

Kim Scott argues that radical candor is universally challenging, but acknowledges specific difficulties that arise from gender dynamics within the feedback process.

"If you're a woman working for a male boss, it's highly likely that he's going to pull his punches when giving you feedback versus the men who work for him versus your male colleagues."

This quote illustrates the tendency for male bosses to soften feedback for female employees, which can be detrimental to their professional growth.

"The problem is that when you are a woman being radically candid with others, they're more likely to interpret your radical candor as obnoxious aggression than the same radical candor coming from a man."

Kim Scott points out the double standard women face when being candid, which can lead to misinterpretation and harsher criticism compared to their male counterparts.

Sustaining Radical Candor in Companies

  • Startups and companies face challenges in maintaining radical candor after the initial phases.
  • Shared vocabulary and frameworks can help sustain radical candor.
  • Open communication about feelings can facilitate adjustments in conversations.

"One of the things that is really helpful that a lot of companies we've worked with have done is just reinforcing a shared vocabulary so they'll print the radical candor framework up."

Kim Scott suggests that having a shared language and visual frameworks can help embed radical candor into company culture, allowing for more effective communication and feedback.## Clean Escalation Policy

  • Emphasizes disciplined management and direct communication between employees.
  • Managers should encourage employees to address grievances directly with each other before involving a third party.
  • The policy aims to reduce office politics and unnecessary churn by promoting direct resolution of conflicts.
  • When employees come to a manager together, it signifies they've attempted resolution and need assistance to find a solution.
  • Establishing clean escalation as a norm can initially be awkward but becomes effective over time.

"You can call it whatever you want, but basically the idea is to get very disciplined about, especially if you're a manager, not letting one employee come and talk to you, complain about another, but rather say, have you talked to so and so directly?"

This quote underscores the importance of direct communication and discourages managers from becoming intermediaries in employee disputes unless necessary.

Empathy vs. Office Politics

  • Listening to employee complaints can be misconstrued as empathy, but it may fuel office politics.
  • True empathy involves helping employees address their issues directly with the person concerned.
  • Managers should avoid engaging in conversations that can stir political tension within the office.

"It's so easy when a colleague comes to you complaining about another to feel like you're being empathetic, to listen and maybe even stir them up a little bit. But it's not empathy. You're just stirring the political pot."

This quote clarifies the difference between showing empathy and inadvertently contributing to office politics by entertaining one-sided complaints.

Reading Novels and Personal Growth

  • Advocates for reading and re-reading classic novels like "Anna Karenina" to gain insights and measure personal growth.
  • Suggests that re-reading a book after several years can reveal new perspectives and demonstrate how much one has evolved.

"It's astounding. It's so interesting to reread it because you see how far you as a human being have come by realizing things you missed the first time you read it."

The quote expresses the value of revisiting literature to reflect on personal development and the evolution of one's understanding.

Likability vs. Caring Personally

  • Differentiates between the desire to be liked and the importance of genuinely caring for others.
  • Striving to be likable can lead to manipulative behavior, whereas focusing on others' well-being can naturally result in being liked.
  • Being likable should be a byproduct of caring personally, not the primary goal.

"There's a giant difference between caring personally and wanting to be liked."

This quote emphasizes the distinction between true empathy and the pursuit of likability, which can compromise authenticity.

Confidence and Authenticity

  • Encourages displaying confidence, especially early in one's career, to overcome feelings of insecurity.
  • Advises against pretending to be something one is not for approval.
  • Asserts that authenticity is crucial, and confidence should be genuine rather than a façade.

"But don't pretend to be something you're not. Don't pretend to feel a way you don't feel other than confident."

The quote advises against faking personal traits for acceptance, advocating for authenticity while suggesting it's acceptable to project confidence.

Mentorship and Influence

  • Highlights the impact of mentors like Cheryl Sandberg and Andy Grove on personal development and management philosophy.
  • Mentors can offer deep insights into management and leadership, shaping one's approach to these roles.

"And he's a person who thought very deeply about management. His book, high output management is one of the greats."

This quote reflects the profound influence a mentor can have by providing thoughtful perspectives on management.

Content vs. Technology in Behavior Change

  • Discusses the unexpected finding that content (books, podcasts) is more effective than software for behavior change in management.
  • Suggests that storytelling and personal narratives are powerful tools for encouraging radically candid conversations.
  • Indicates a shift in focus from developing software to creating content that fosters management and communication improvements.

"The pen is mightier than the code when it comes to the kind of behavior change that we need to make in order to be more radically candid."

The quote encapsulates the insight that written and spoken narratives are more effective than software nudges in driving behavioral change in management practices.

Future Plans for Canda

  • Plans to continue harnessing the power of content to influence behavior change in management.
  • Recognizes the limitations of software in achieving the desired impact compared to storytelling and personal engagement.

"The thing that seems to be really working for people is reading the stories, writing their own stories, talking to each other."

This quote indicates a strategic direction for Canda, focusing on content creation to facilitate management conversations and behavior change.

What others are sharing

Go To Library

Want to Deciphr in private?
- It's completely free

Deciphr Now
Footer background
Crossed lines icon
Crossed lines icon
Crossed lines icon
Crossed lines icon
Crossed lines icon
Crossed lines icon
Crossed lines icon

© 2024 Deciphr

Terms and ConditionsPrivacy Policy