Feedback Falling Flat? Try Radical Candor

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What leadership and organizational behaviors would you like to change?

I had the great good fortune in 2010 to spend a week with the Dalia Lama on his tour, supporting him behind the scenes as he interacted with thousands of people. One of the things he likes to say is “recognition is liberation.” When we see, when we recognize, when we increase our self-awareness and awareness of others, then we are liberated—we are free to take a new path. Thanks to Kim Scott’s work, Radical Candor is a tool that enables us to offer feedback and empower behavior changes in all our interactions.

Why Radical?

Some people find the word radical a little scary. Yet radical means you take the leap and have the courage to say the stuff that you were thinking anyway. And you say it within a framework that is emotionally sensitive and considerate.

What Is Radical Candor?

  • The opposite of conflict avoidance! Conflict avoidance is not dealing with what is right there in front of us. Have you ever avoided something because you thought it was going to be unpleasant, but the act of avoidance resulted in a brain-dominating background process? That background process drained so much energy that you couldn’t focus on the things that you really wanted to create. But what would happen if you just sat down and dealt with the problem? In my clients’ experience, one of the most common things they say is “Why didn’t I do this sooner?” or “This was so much more painful in my mind than it was in reality!”
  • The ability to give feedback that challenges the receiver directly while showing you care about them personally. We have to have both sides. We are challenging and we are caring – otherwise we are jerks.
  • Immediate impromptu guidance. We want to do things immediately, we don’t want to let things stew.
  • A leadership stance of Humble and Helpful. There’s no superiority, there’s no entitlement – we are collaborating and in this together. The more we start to realize that life is one big collaboration and we all need each other to get stuff done, the more positive outcomes we will experience, on a personal and organizational level. There’s very little that we can do alone.
  • Feedback is:
    • Private if negative
    • Public if positive

Radical Candor Benefits

  • Makes back-stabbing impossible – either they work it out or you help them
  • Makes it easier to speak truth to whomever is in power
  • Will help you and your team do the best work of your careers
  • Will improve the depth and quality of your relationships

Let’s dive into the quadrants of radical candor. Start to think about where you default, especially when you are in Critter State. Please note that these quadrants describe behavior, they’re not a judgment of who someone is as a person.

Radical Candor

Kim Scott http://www.kimmalonescott.com/

Jerk Quadrant: The person is willing to challenge directly but they don’t care personally. We’ve all encountered someone like this. Their feedback is harsh and it’s not aimed at a collaborative positive outcome. Does this make the recipient want to change their behavior? Nope. It’s easy to challenge people without caring, but ineffective in creating change.

Manipulative Insincerity Quadrant: The person isn’t willing to challenge you directly and they really don’t care about you. We have all experienced this. Imagine a visit to the DMV where they aren’t willing to help you, they hand you a pile of paperwork with a false smile and you feel stuck in a bureaucratic swamp. What experience does this behavior generate? Does it make you angry? Disgusted? Frustrated? Not helpful.



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