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6 Ways to Roll Out Radical Candor Like a Boss

We love working closely with teams rolling out Radical Candor, and offer coaching, training and customized workshops. We can help teach you to:

  • Share the ideas with your team and learn how to tell your feedback stories;
  • Practice key skills like soliciting feedback, offering meaningful praise, and giving helpful criticism; and
  • Create a culture of guidance so that all the burden of feedback doesn’t fall on your shoulders.

We also work with leaders to help you build more cohesive teams and to achieve results collaboratively. Let us know how we can support you.

We love doing this work so much and care so deeply about these ideas that we would do it for free if we could. Alas, we need to keep body and soul together. However, to help organizations that don’t have budget for Candor Coaches, we are offering a free “roll-your-own-Radical Candor-rollout.”

The Order of Operations for Practicing Radical Candor

Step 1. Share your stories.

Explain Radical Candor to your team so they understand what you’re up to. You can also ask them to read the book, show them videos from the Radical Candor website, or from the series we created with Amazon, Day One: Insights for Entrepreneurs.

But it’s best if you explain it in your own words. What is your version of the “um” story or the “Bob” story? Tell your stories to your team. Show some vulnerability. Your personal stories will explain, better than any management theory, what you really mean and show why you really mean it. That’s why I told all those personal stories in this book. Your stories will mean a lot more to your team than mine do, because they mean something to you.

Step 2. Solicit feedback: Prove you can take it before you start dishing it out.

Humble Feedback

Start asking your team to criticize you. Review “soliciting impromptu guidance” in Chapter Six. And remember, don’t let people off the hook when they don’t say much—because they won’t, at first. Embrace the discomfort to move past it. Pay close attention if you aren’t getting any criticism.

If you want, you can copy the Radical Candor framework in Chapter Two and track who’s saying what to you there. Just because people aren’t criticizing you doesn’t mean they think you’re perfect. If you realize that you’re not getting any criticism, try Michael Dearing’s “Orange Box” technique (see “orange box” in Radical Candor, Chapter Six).

Soliciting guidance, especially criticism, is not something you do once and check off your list — this will now be something you do daily. But it’ll happen in little one- to two-minute conversations, not in meetings you have to add to your calendar. It’s something to be conscious of, not something to schedule. It will feel strange at first, but once you get in the habit, it’ll feel weird not to do it. You won’t ever “move on” from getting guidance any more than you’ll ever move on from having to drink water or brush your teeth. But don’t stop there.

Step 3. Growth Management: Career Conversations.

In order to build a great team, you need to understand what motivates each team member, and how each person’s job fits into their life goals. A leader at Apple had a good way to think about different types of ambition: those in rock star mode are solid as a rock, and a force for stability at work (think Rock of Gibraltar, not Bruce Springsteen), while people in superstar mode are highly-ambitious change agents, constantly seeking new opportunities.

The most important thing you can do for your team collectively is to understand what growth trajectory each team member wants to be on at a given time, and whether that matches the needs and opportunities of the overall team. Learn more about our Growth Management philosophy in First Round Capital’s Warning: This is Not Your Grandfather’s Talent Planning.

To be successful at growth management, we recommend a series of three Career Conversations you’ll have with each team member. Begin with people you’ve been working with the longest. (Review “Career Conversations” in Chapter Seven and The Problem with Career Conversations Today for more background.) When done well, these conversations should connect a person’s past – gaining a detailed understanding of who they are and what motivates them at work through their life story – with their future – the wildest dreams they have for themselves at the pinnacle of their career.

  • Conversation 1: Learn what motivates your team member, what they value, the things that drive them; their Life Story.
  • Conversation 2: Understand where someone wants to be at the pinnacle of their career; their Dreams.
  • Conversation 3: Plan for the present with a Career Action Plan.

“We have to understand the past and the future in order to know what to do in the present, what to do right now.”

 

Like getting criticism from your team, Career Conversations are not something you do once and check off the list. Remember, people change, their growth trajectory changes, and you need to change with them! That’s why it’s a good idea to do one round of Career Conversations a year with each of your direct reports during your 1:1 time.

Step 4 / Ongoing: Perfect your 1:1 conversations.

In parallel — because it will take you at least three to six weeks to get through these three Career Conversations with everyone on your team, since you want to leave a week or two between each of the three conversations — make sure you are having meaningful 1:1 conversations with your direct reports.

Radical Candor Feedback

First, make sure you actually have the meetings! We have to start at the beginning here, because it’s simply not the case that all managers are holding regular 1:1s. 1:1s are quiet, focused collaboration time for employees and bosses to connect. It’s also the most important chance for you to hear from your employee, and it’s their time, not yours. (Review 1:1 conversations in Chapter Eight and How to Have Effective 1:1s.)

It’s equally important for you to figure out how to enjoy the conversations. If you feel like they are “calendar clutter,” your approach is not going to work. Quit thinking of them as meetings and began treating them as if you are having lunch or coffee with somebody you are genuinely eager to get to know better.

If scheduling them over a meal helps, make them periodic lunches. If you and your direct report like to walk and there’s a good place to take a walk near the office, make them walking meetings. If you are a morning person, schedule them in the morning. If you are a person who has an energy dip at 2 p.m., don’t schedule them at 2 p.m. You have a lot of meetings, so you can optimize the 1:1 time and location for your energy. Just don’t be a jerk about it. You may like to wake up at 5 a.m. and go to the gym. Don’t expect the people who work for you to meet you there.

After you have explained Radical Candor, asked for guidance, had career conversations, and improved your 1:1 conversations, you’ll notice that you are earning your team’s trust and building a better culture.

Step 5. Give Guidance — Praise & Criticism — but make sure to focus on the good stuff.

Now you’re ready to start improving the way you give impromptu praise and criticism. Remember, impromptu guidance happens best in one- to two-minute conversations. (Review “Giving impromptu guidance” in Chapter Six.) Make sure you gauge your guidance. (Review “Gauge your impromptu guidance. Get a baseline, track your improvements” in Chapter Six.)

You may think you’re being radically candid, but one person may not have heard any criticism at all, another may have heard it as ruinously empathetic, and yet another as obnoxious aggression.You have to adjust for each individual. You have to be not just self-aware but relationally- and culturally-aware.

Step 6. Take a deep breath. Assess.

How’s it going? What’s working? What’s not working? Who can you talk to? Can your boss help? Your team? A mentor outside of work? A coach? Others from the Radical Candor community? Would you like to ask me a question?

Don’t try to do more new things until you feel 1) you’ve made good progress on the fundamental building block of management: getting and giving guidance, 2) you’ve gotten to know your direct reports better through your Career Conversations, and 3) you’re happy with your 1:1s.

Additional Resources

Read

Brutal Honesty and Radical Candor: 6 Ways You’re Getting Radical Candor Wrong and 5 Ways to Get It Right
Direct Reports and Radical Candor: 5 Tips for Giving Guidance and Feedback
4 Ways to Help New Managers Succeed
Acting Like a Jerk by Not Caring Personally is a Radical Candor Fail
Feedback, the Law, and Mandated Manipulative Insincerity
11 Ways to Get Feedback From Others
How to Give Humble Feedback
A HIP Approach to Feedback: How to Achieve Radical Candor
Why You Can’t Skimp On Radically Candid Performance Development Conversations
How to Start a Radical Candor Book Club

Watch

Care personally. Challenge directly.
Radical Candor: Why is Feedback so Hard?
A Story of Obnoxious Aggression
Radical Candor and Ruinous Empathy: The Bob Story
A Story of Manipulative Insincerity
How to Solicit Radical Candid Feedback as a Manager
How to Provide Effective Feedback
Give Radically Candid Guidance
Why “Don’t Take It Personally” Doesn’t Work

Listen

You Can’t Talk to Me That Way — Dealing With Obnoxious Aggression
Digging Into Toxic Stew
Kim Scott On Radical Candor
Ruinous Empathy & Praise
Manipulative Insincerity, Talking ABOUT People Instead of TO Them
The Go-To Question
Take Feedback Like a Boss
Showing Appreciation Makes Work More Fun
Radically Candid Criticism
Meet Like A Boss — The 411 On 1:1s

Need more help rolling out Radical Candor? Then you need The Feedback Loop (think Groundhog Day meets The Office), a 5-episode workplace comedy series starring David Alan Grier that brings to life Radical Candor’s simple framework for navigating candid conversations.

You’ll get an hour of hilarious content about a team whose feedback fails are costing them business; improv-inspired exercises to teach everyone the skills they need to work better together; and after-episode action plans you can put into practice immediately to up your helpful feedback EQ.

We’re offering Radical Candor readers 10% off the self-paced e-course. Follow this link and enter the promo code FEEDBACK at checkout.

Just Work is Available for Pre-Order

Radical Candor podcast

Pre order Kim’s new book, Just Work: Get Sh*t Done, Fast & Fair, to learn how we can recognize, attack, and eliminate workplace injustice ― and transform our careers and organizations in the process.

We ― all of us ― consistently exclude, underestimate, and underutilize huge numbers of people in the workforce even as we include, overestimate, and promote others, often beyond their level of competence. Not only is this immoral and unjust, it’s bad for business. Just Work is the solution.

Just Work is Kim new book, revealing a practical framework for both respecting everyone’s individuality and collaborating effectively. This is the essential guide leaders and their employees need to create more just workplaces and establish new norms of collaboration and respect.

 

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*This post about Rolling Out Radical Candor was updated Oct. 27, 2020.

Kim Scott

Kim Scott is the author of Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity and co-founder of the company Radical Candor. Kim was a CEO coach at Dropbox, Qualtrics, Twitter, and other tech companies. She was a member of the faculty at Apple University and before that led AdSense, YouTube, and DoubleClick teams at Google. She's also managed a pediatric clinic in Kosovo and started a diamond-cutting factory in Moscow. She lives with her family in Silicon Valley. In addition to Radical Candor, she is the author of three novels and the forthcoming leadership book Just Work: Get Sh*t Done, Fast & Fair, available March 16, 2021 from St. Martin’s Press.