Radical Candor: Guidance Between Colleagues

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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What is the recommended type of guidance in Radical Candor? How can guidance between colleagues be good for an organization?

In Radical Candor, guidance is an important part of the open communication process. Employees have to be able to speak to one another directly without a supervisor intervening or mediating.

Keep reading for more about Radical Candor, guidance, and building a candid workplace.

Radical Candor: Guidance Is Encouraged

Making sure your employees learn how to effectively give guidance to one another—even when you’re not there to mediate—is essential to building a radically candid workplace. There are two spaces where it might be especially helpful to teach radical candor: conflict resolutions and public acknowledgment of accomplishments and mistakes.

  • Conflict resolution: Commit your team members to challenging directly and caring personally by never allowing an employee to talk about one of their colleagues while they’re not present. Instead, ask that they speak to one another to find a solution to their problem. If they can’t come to an agreement, invite them to have a conversation with you, together. Your job in this conversation is to support them in talking sincerely about their disagreement and to help them find a solution that is at least tolerable for both of them.
  • Public acknowledgment of accomplishments and mistakes: Create valuable learning opportunities by asking team members to get comfortable sharing their experiences. This practice lends guidance by revealing what behaviors and actions should be emulated, and raises awareness of avoidable mistakes or problems, which makes them more avoidable. One simple way to accomplish this is having two awards—such as stuffed toys or trophies—at weekly staff meetings. Any employee can nominate another to receive the accomplishment award, citing an achievement or excellent work they saw from their peer over the course of the week. Any employee can nominate themselves for the mistake award, citing a mistake or a failure they experienced during the week.

Gender and Biases

In Radical Candor, guidance is highlighted. But, it can feel especially difficult when it goes across group boundaries—this difficulty comes both in giving and receiving guidance. For example, sometimes men are afraid to criticize women because they think women will become emotional. Or, a woman is labeled “abrasive” for challenging one of her colleagues. Your team needs to navigate these issues because radical candor should be practiced with all people on your team equally. Here are some suggestions for getting around common situations: 

  • If you’re afraid to criticize a female colleague, rely on your commitment to personal care and simply ask how your guidance is working for her. If necessary, make changes.
  • If your male colleagues are afraid to criticize you, rely on your commitment to direct challenge and explicitly ask for criticism. Keep pushing for sincere guidance, either by repeating your request or leaving space in the conversation for input.
  • If you think your female colleague is too abrasive, think carefully about how you’d feel if your colleague were male—would you still use the word “abrasive”? Commit to being more specific with your guidance. Instead of simply calling her abrasive, point to her specific behaviors and actions that reflect this. If you can’t pick out specific behaviors, rethink your bias. 
  • If your colleagues think that you’re abrasive, don’t be tempted to shrink back—continue challenging directly. Do keep in mind, however, that you might be in the wrong. Check in with yourself occasionally to make sure that your guidance is radically candid, and not slipping into obnoxious aggression.
Radical Candor: Guidance Between Colleagues

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  • 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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