Book Review: “Radical Candor”

Author: Kim Scott

Direct feedback, no problem – right?

The military does feedback­­­—hardcore. Tasks have clear standards. Failure to meet the standards results in direct, swift feedback – written, verbal (perhaps this is too gentle a word), and physical. As a leader, I provided clear, objective feedback to my personnel and my unit.

Out of the military, I found my “direct” approach was not as well received (again, likely too gentle a word).  Additionally, I thought that everyone around me either gave no feedback or the feedback was trivial. ­ Transitioning from the military means interacting in a new, unfamiliar world. Without a feedback loop, I couldn’t tell how I was doing. The more uncertain I got, the more defensive I became — labeling people as “passive aggressive,” “super-introverted,” or “indecisive. ” I could not read them so I thought they were all wrong or just chickenshit. Then one day, I finally got some direct, candid feedback

It crushed me and it was exactly what I needed.

Kim Scott’s book, “Radical Candor,” fundamentally changed how I view feedback.  “Radical Candor” is written as a guide for managers, but the book spoke to both my need for feedback and the mistakes I was making when I gave it. Scott uses quadrants based on caring and directness to define approaches for delivering feedback.  Too direct – and you’re a jerk.  Too caring – and you are ineffective.

I was, what Kim Scott called, “obnoxious aggression” (aka jerk).

Scott argues that the most effective quadrant from which to give feedback is both direct and caring – which she calls “Radical Candor.” Be direct and specific with your feedback. Apply the same level of specificity to both the good things an employee does and areas where they aren’t cutting it. Make clear for your employee how they can improve.

Easy right? The tricky part comes with caring. Give feedback ONLY if you care about the growth and success of the other person.

When you care about another person, it doesn’t matter who is right and wrong. It’s not a contest for the best grades or the fastest times. Success is more than just winning – anyone can win. “Radical Candor” means defining success by growth.

When I framed feedback in terms of helping others grow, I fundamentally changed. I stopped competing with them and I started truly caring about the person. My ego and the desire to be right was replaced by my drive to help others overcome struggles and be better.

The funniest, most unexpected thing happened next ­— I got better at receiving feedback! Viewed through the lens of improvement rather than being right/wrong, I started to listen more closely to what a person was saying. I endeavored to really understand their assessment because I was myself on a relentless path to improve.

Slowly, my new world became a little less unfamiliar. I began to see hints of feedback all around me. The path was now defined by improvement and growth. I confidently stepped into the non-military world knowing that whatever it threw at me, and no matter my shortcomings, I would be just fine as long as I kept trying.

So bring on the feedback!

Book Review: “Originals”

Author: Adam Grant

Originals – Be Afraid. Act Anyway. We need you.

There are many defenders of the status quo – and I am not one. I am Shaw’s “unreasonable man.” Now, what do I do?

Adam Grant’s book “Originals” looks closely at the Rebels of our world – Rebels with a cause! Rebellion is a concept frequently glamorized in the movies as a cool, risky, life outside the rules of society. Grant successfully dispels every, single, movie stereotype to show how true rebels take calculated risks, laden with fear, to create lasting change.

“Originals” starts by identifying the non-conformist in our world. You know them. You have them in your office, your sport teams, and your neighborhoods. They are in history books and some are even on monuments.

These are people that see the world differently. Many people think like this – that the world needs to be different. We all enjoy thinking outside the box. We all relish in having a different perspective to offer.

Originals however are different.  They go one step further. They don’t just think different. They act. In fact, Originals cannot stop themselves from acting on their beliefs. Every cell in their body calls on them to make something change. These people are often the driving force–at times the only force–behind real, lasting change.

And they have a PLAN! (This isn’t “Sons of Anarchy”)

Planning and deliberate action was my key takeaway from Originals.  True non-conformists are not disruptive simply to shake things up.  They have a vision. They care about their organizations deeply and they have an unquenchable passion for their cause. They are internally driven; called to break the system.

But they are also sticking around to rebuild it. No matter how much we all hate them.

Originals play the long game, with a deliberate plan. One person, one office, one objective at a time. They are far from risky. In fact they are acutely aware of the risk, and they proceed anyway. With tremendous fear and self-doubt.

And Courage.

So cheers to the Originals. And all you do to make our world better.