Radical Candor

I can’t get the thought of it out of my head.  I don’t know Kim Scott or her organization, nor had I ever heard of her before I saw a post on LinkedIn that referred to her organization and her highlight of this term.  I cannot overstate its simplistic value.  I have been serving as an Executive, Consultant and Executive Coach for years and have witnessed the destruction and dysfunction that results when Radical Candor does not exist.

Kim Scott defines Radical Candor as that sweet spot that combines genuine care for people with open, honest and direct communication.

If genuine care for people is missing the result is most often Obnoxious Aggression, where people are blunt, direct and lacking empathy.  This usually results in a toxic work environment that people cannot run from fast enough.  Those led by Obnoxiously Aggressive managers keep their heads down, don’t speak up, never offer their ideas for fear of receiving the blunt end of their manager’s emotional reactions.  They are in it for the pay check and are usually actively looking for somewhere else to work.

If open, honest and direct communication are missing the result is most often Ruinous Empathy.  What a great term, and probably the most valuable aspect of Scott’s work.  While we’ve all witnessed it, I am not sure we had a term to define it until now.  Thank you Kim Scott!   Ruinous Empathy creates an environment in which we fail to make the hard decisions, engage in the crucial conversations, or hold honest performance reviews for fear of hurting someone’s feelings.  We hand out titles, bonuses and raises in hopes that these acts of “kindness” will lead people to behave better and act more responsibly.  However, nothing could be further from the truth.  This is just another version of a toxic work environment.  Only the toxicity is more covert than overt.  People tend to feel or get trapped in these environments because they cannot replace their salary or title in anywhere else.  They die a slow and painful death as the fires of dignity and passion for their work are quenched from within.

It stands to reason then, that the only environment in which people thrive and grow and bring their best every day are those where Radical Candor is the norm, or at least is the standard that is being strived for.  Achieving the fine balance of genuine care for people with open, honest, direct communication is truly an art.  And like all art, it is only perfected with focus, attention, and practice.

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