The Radical Candor Checklist for Growth Plans

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.

Like this article? Sign up for a free trial here .

How do you use Radical Candor to help your team grow? Do you need a Radical Candor checklist?

To help your team improve, you need to develop growth plans based on the kinds of employees they are. This Radical Candor checklist focuses on making growth plans for each employee type.

Keep reading for a Radical Candor checklist, as well as tips for dealing with different performers.

Radical Candor: Tips for Understanding Different Types of Performers

Before getting to the Radical Candor checklist, it’s important to learn about the types of growth you’ll see. In learning about your team members, you learn more about their goals, their motivations, and the growth trajectory they’re on—this helps you support them in ways that keep them engaged with their work and satisfied with their team. There are five performance and growth trajectory combinations you’ll come across:

High performance with gradual growth: These team members are your “rock stars,” the solid forces who keep things running smoothly. They aren’t looking for significant growth—perhaps because they’re happy with their current position, or other things in their lives are taking their time and energy. Support these team members by recognizing their efforts and thanking them, and by remembering that they deserve stellar performance reviews as much as those who are on rapid growth trajectories and gunning for a promotion.

High performance with rapid growth: These team members are your “superstars,” who want to move up in the ranks and are prepared to dedicate the necessary time and energy to doing so. They’re the results-driven people carrying your team to the next level. Support these team members by keeping them challenged with projects and new responsibilities, and by preparing them to continue moving up in their careers.

Low performance with expected rapid growth: These team members, based on their past track record of high performance, should be excelling and taking on new projects, but are instead falling behind. Support these team members by first considering your management. Perhaps you’ve put this person in a role that doesn’t align with their skills, such as a people person on a numbers-crunching project. Be sure that they’ve received adequate training and clear guidelines. Then, consider them. If they seem to be having problems outside work, give them space to recover. If they’re a poor cultural fit with your organization, it’s best to let them go, rather than keep them in an environment that they’ll always be at odds with.

Mediocre: These team members consistently do okay, but not great, work. It’s crucial to your entire team that you figure out what the path forward should be for a mediocre employee—otherwise, your high-performers will become resentful as they continually pick up her slack. Radically candid conversations will reveal the best way to support her—either let her go so that she can thrive elsewhere, or give her space to get back on track towards high performance on her terms.

Low performance with no growth: When someone is not performing well, and isn’t showing any signs of future improvement, it’s probably best to fire them—doing so allows them to find a different job they’ll thrive in, and your team won’t have the burden of picking up their slack. 

Creating Meaningful Growth Plans: Radical Candor Checklist

To build meaning into the work of your team members and figure out what growth trajectory they should be on, you need to discuss their goals—this should take place in three parts according to the Radical Candor checklist:

  1. The life story conversation: This conversation is essential to getting to know your employee personally. Ask about her life story, focusing on changes she made and why these changes were made—it’s often here that you’ll discover her values. 
  2. The dreams conversation: This conversation should help you understand what your employee ultimately wants out of her career and life, and how you can help her get there. It’s important to frame this conversation around dreams because it usually pushes people to name non-work goals, such as, “I want to own a dude ranch in Colorado.” It’s possible that their dreams will be work-related, such as, “I want to retire at 50.” Task her with figuring out the skills she’ll need and rating her own competence in each skill. 
  3. The planning conversation: In this conversation, you should help your employee come up with a solid plan for achieving her dreams. Instead of focusing on telling her how to move up in your organization, focus on finding ways to make her current work clearly translate to preparation for her dreams. This makes her work more meaningful and rewarding. Think of projects that could develop necessary skills, or consider mentors or classes that would be helpful. 

When you take time to fully understand who each of your team members are and what their growth looks like, you build a team where everyone feels valued, promotions feel fair, and work feels meaningful—naturally leading to higher motivation and better results. Use the Radical Candor checklist to help you get there.

Regularly Check In and Provide Growth Opportunities 

Alongside talking to your team members about their dreams and coming up with action plans, you should check in once a year on their professional performance and growth trajectory. This tells you if their needs are being met, how their work affects the team, and what their plan should look like moving forward. 

There are three parts to this exercise from the Radical Candor checklist:

  1. Draw five boxes and label them—superstars, rock stars, mediocre, low performance with no growth, and low performance with expected rapid growth. Put your team members’ names into their corresponding boxes. Don’t hem and haw over this—it shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes. While doing so, keep an eye out for bias. Are your more senior members really superstars, or are they coasting on the work of the superstars under them? Ideally, your boxes will reflect excellent performance at all levels, with senior people showing more gradual growth and newer people showing rapid growth.
  2. Come up with a short plan of opportunities and growth for each person—if you’ve been doing the work of regularly checking in with them and thinking about their growth, this should only take about 20 minutes.
  • Superstars: Make sure you’re offering them challenges and projects that will help them continue to learn.
  • Rock stars: Make sure you’re offering them what they need to feel appreciated and continue doing consistent strong work. 
  • Mediocre: Think of what you can offer them to give them a boost, such as classes or projects, or consider if they’d do better elsewhere. 
  • Low performance with expected rapid growth: Think of what you can offer them in terms of clearer guidelines, better training, or a transfer to a role they’re better suited for.
  • Low performance with no growth: If you’ve taken the time to ask a third party to check your decision and they agree, it’s time to start the process of firing this person. 

Compare your growth plans with those of your colleagues—this gives you a common sense of what it means to do bad, good, or excellent work. Having these conversations is especially important when you’re managing other managers, so you have consistent expectations across all levels of management. If employees are treated differently under different managers—for example, if one manager values superstars more, but another manager values rock stars more—your workplace will feel unfair and confusing.

The Radical Candor Checklist for Growth Plans

———End of Preview———

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.