Book Review - December 2018

Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity

Book by Kim Scott

Review by Derik Borden

Radical Candor is a book that I found while researching the topic of coaching strategies for managers. I work for an organization that has many leaders who are early in their career and don’t have a lot of experience with coaching and developing employees or providing employees with valuable feedback. I was immediately intrigued by the concept of Radical Candor and how it can be applied in the workplace.

Radical Candor means saying what you think while also giving a damn about the person you’re saying it to. It’s challenging the person directly and showing you care personally for them at the same time. It’s empowering your team to do the best work they can by providing them with feedback that is valuable and honest.

Being radically candid at work or in our personal lives is not easy and does not come naturally for most people. All too often, it’s easier to say what people want to hear or hold back on speaking the truth because it may hurt or upset someone. But doing this does not help the person and may create more problems in the future or damage your relationship in the end.

To help better understand the framework and to understand what happens when you fail to Care Personally and Challenge Directly, the 2x2 tool was developed. The tool is divided into four quadrants. The quadrants represent interactions or behaviors and should not be used to label people.

Obnoxious Aggression is praise that doesn’t feel sincere or criticism that isn’t delivered kindly. It’s what happens when you challenge but you really don’t care.

Ruinous Empathy is praise that isn’t specific enough to help the person understand what was good or criticism that is sugarcoated and unclear. It’s what happens when you care personally but don’t challenge.

Manipulative Insincerity is praise that is non-specific and insincere or criticism that is neither clear nor kind. It’s what happens when you don’t care and don’t challenge.

You can see from this framework and tool that the being radically candid is not easy and often we often spend time in each of the other quadrants. This is ok if you reflect and learn from those interactions and think about how you can do better at challenging directly and showing you care personally the next time.

The main takeaway from the book is that we can’t provide valuable feedback that helps employees grow and develop if we hold back and don’t challenge them to be the best they can be. This book is a great addition to your leadership tool-belt and a must read for leaders and individual contributors wanting to take their communication skills to the next level. 

You can learn more about Radical Candor and find many more resources on this topic by visiting Also, check out Kim Scott’s talk on Radical Candor at the 2017 HubSpot INBOUND event: INBOUND Bold Talks: Kim Scott "Radical Candor".


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