Build a Culture of Candor: The Boss Leads the Way

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Radical Candor" by Kim Scott. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Are you trying to build a culture of candor? Who is responsible and what does it take?

As the boss, you can build a culture of candor. If you get there, you can create a workplace that is fulfilling, collaborative, and effective.

Read more about how to build a culture of candor and what that means.

Bosses Build the Culture of Candor

Throughout this process remember that though you might not be the one making decisions and executing on them, you as the boss have incredible influence on your workplace’s culture—which has incredible influence on your team’s results. For example, Ben Silbermann, the CEO of Pinterest, is very introverted and hates conflict. He found that his personality inadvertently created a workplace culture that was largely introverted and shied away from debates. 

One of the most important things you can do for your work culture of candor is keep an eye on how you might be influencing it—and radical candor can help you accomplish this. If you’re regularly asking for guidance from your employees and colleagues, and have built trusting relationships so their feedback is sincere, they will make your influence (good and bad) clear to you. 

Besides depending on guidance from your employees and colleagues, be self-aware. Understand that your words carry a lot of weight—what feels like a minor suggestion to you could be taken as a direct challenge. Make sure your employees understand that they can trust you to challenge them directly when need be—they don’t need to read into your offhand comments or suggestions. Be aware that your actions carry weight too. If you are acting out of line with your organization’s values, your team members will take it as a signal that they can act the same way. Make sure your behaviors always align with the culture you’re trying to create. This is especially important when it comes to making mistakes. Always own your mistakes and find a way to fix them—build accountability into your work culture. 

Given all your other work, it will be tempting to push small, seemingly unimportant decisions off onto someone else, usually HR. However, doing so allows HR to dictate your culture, without regard for your principles of caring personally and challenging directly. This undermines your culture of candor. Take the time to decide if there will be alcohol at that staff holiday party, or what to do when a team member accidentally pushes a colleague to tears with jokes.

Finally, put some thought into building an office environment that demonstrates care for its employees though small details—such as putting the coffee that you know your employees like in the breakroom, or giving your team a selection of desk chairs to choose from. 

What Radical Candor Creates

When you commit yourself to caring personally about your team members and challenging them directly, you become a great boss. You build strong relationships with your team members, create a culture of candor with sincere and helpful guidance, put together growth plans that make sense and have personal motivations built in. With this kind of support, your team members will consistently bring their best selves to their work and their collaboration, delivering results that you’d never be able to accomplish alone. That’s the power of a culture of candor.

Build a Culture of Candor: The Boss Leads the Way

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Kim Scott's "Radical Candor" at Shortform .

Here's what you'll find in our full Radical Candor summary :

  • How you have to be direct with people while also caring sincerely for them
  • Why relationships are an essential part of successful leadership
  • How to create a strong team culture that delivers better results

Rina Shah

An avid reader for as long as she can remember, Rina’s love for books began with The Boxcar Children. Her penchant for always having a book nearby has never faded, though her reading tastes have since evolved. Rina reads around 100 books every year, with a fairly even split between fiction and non-fiction. Her favorite genres are memoirs, public health, and locked room mysteries. As an attorney, Rina can’t help analyzing and deconstructing arguments in any book she reads.

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