Embracing Radical Candor: The Power of Honest Workplace Communication

Dannielle Cook

Radical Candor may be a term you haven’t encountered before, but this hugely valuable principle can help navigate the often-difficult area known as feedback. Growing up we have been accustomed to ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all’ - while there is some logic to this, there is often times we have a responsibility to share feedback that isn’t necessarily ‘nice’.

It is widely agreed that genuine honesty encourages a sense of trust among employees and helps to improve processes, procedures, and relationships. However, to be truly effective, it must be delivered with kindness and empathy. This is where Radical Candor comes in.


A brief history of Radical Candor’s inception

Former Google Executive Kim Scott established the concept of Radical Candor through her experience working amongst some of the top tech companies in Silicon Valley. After a memorable presentation, Kim’s boss, Sheryl Sandberg, asked her if she knew she was saying ‘um’ after every 3rd sentence. Kim, who at first was taken aback by the comment, got to thinking, “Why had no one told me about this before? I suddenly realised I’d been marching through my whole career with a giant hunk of spinach between my teeth, and no one had the common courtesy to tell me it was there.” This, among some other experiences, led Kim to write the book ‘Radical Candor’. Something IT Partners has incorporated as a grounding operating principle in recent years.  


What is Radical Candor?

Image Credit: radicalcandor.com/our-approach/

There are four quadrants that relate to Radical Candor: Obnoxious Aggression, Manipulative Insincerity, Ruinous Empathy and Radical Candor (the top right quadrant).

Radical Candor is simply a workplace philosophy that guides people in delivering honest feedback whilst maintaining empathy for the colleague at the receiving end. At its core, Radical Candor is all about “caring personally while challenging directly”, and its goal is to foster a company culture where constructive feedback empowers people for improvement (rather than being obnoxious, manipulative, or ruinous).

Why is it so Radical Candor so important? Giving constructive feedback to help others grow is a challenging aspect of great leadership, but doing so can create big changes for your team in driving conversations that improve overall business efficiency and support individual performance.


What isn’t Radical Candor?

Brutal honesty is not Radical Candor. Being overly critical without considering a person's feelings can lead to hostility and can hurt workplace relationships this is referred to as Obnoxious Aggression in the Radical Candor quadrant. On the flip side, Ruinous Empathy is when you care about someone's feelings to the extent that you avoid giving necessary criticism or feedback. It can hinder growth and improvement due to the lack of honest guidance. Therefore, a compassionate yet honest approach is key!


How do you drive Radical Candor in your workplace?  

Here are some key ways you/management can implement Radical Candor practices in your workplace:

·     Leading by example – A top-down effort, you need to be seen actively practising and embracing Radical Candor. For example, Leaders fronting a conversation with “I have received some valuable feedback that the pace I am setting is leading to some of my peers feeling overwhelmed. I want to understand how I can approach this differently, so I would appreciate your input from our experiences". Examples like this show peers how valuable it is to know the hard truth, and the positive changes that come from taking it on board.

·     Education – Share copies of the book amongst the wider team (not just managers). This will help with the adoption and understanding of its principles.

·      Feedback Tools - Implement tools and platforms that facilitate feedback sharing e.g. www.lattice.com

·      Regular Check Ins - Having 1:1 sessions where your team can provide feedback to their managers is also useful.

·      Acknowledge Radical Candor – Recognise and celebrate when examples of Radical Candor have led to improvements in the workplace.


What strategies do IT Partners use to cultivate a culture around Radical Candor?

At IT Partners Radical Candor is woven into every fibre of our workplace. From our values to how we work with clients, our culture of feedback is a key driver in moving the dial forward for both individual and company growth and success.

This starts from day 1 of onboarding when each new member of our team is given a copy of Radical Candor to keep, however, it doesn’t stop there. From continuously updated personal development plans to regularly sharing resources on our internal SharePoint site, we ensure that Radical Candor remains at the forefront of our daily interactions.

Ready to Lead with Impact? Ignite positive change in your leadership/workplace by adopting the Radical Candor approach. Kim Scott states “My advice is to start right away but understand that it will take continuous practice to make a lasting change”.

Purchase your copy of Radical Candor here or check out some of Kim’s other resources at: www.radicalcandor.com. We recommend sharing a copy of the book with all members of your team as a catalyst for driving discussions on how to adopt the philosophy within your workplace.