Radical Candor - A New Approach to Effective Communication

Oftentimes small businesses start as just a single person pursuing a dream. Over time employees are added and these owners are thrust into the role of management, sometimes with little to no experience. Looking to get through the learning curve quickly, you may find yourself asking. How can I learn to grow as a manager of people when I have so little free time? What are some places to look for ideas on how to cultivate better communication with my employees? One interesting approach to look at today is called Radical Candor.

This book, written by Kim Scott, is a New York Times bestseller with some guidelines on how to improve your communication with your employees and become a more effective manager. No one wants to be seen as a micromanager, although we all want the job done correctly. It’s equally important to not be an absentee manager, but you often have your own responsibilities to juggle. All employees want to be challenged, learn and grow, and ultimately be able to succeed for themselves and for your business. As a manager your job is to come alongside of them, encourage and teach them, and help them achieve the same goals. The idea with radical candor is to be able to express direct ways people can improve in their roles. The key to doing this without hurting their feelings is to show how much you care about them along the way.


Feedback is critical and it is about delivering that feedback in a way that is received well. This helps people achieve their potential and meet the teams goals.  It doesn’t do anyone any favors to keep your opinions to yourself if those opinions could help shape your employees to become better, more efficient, and more successful. The balance is in how to tell people ways they could improve in their job, while still showing that you care for them as people. Radical candor is about caring personally for the people that you work with.


The general principle can be seen on this graph above. It separates communication opportunities (not people!) into four quadrants with the axes being: challenging people directly crossed with caring for them personally. You can see that the key here is to both allow criticism and require empathy. The absence of one of these pieces does not get the results that you are looking for. Depending on your natural instincts as well as the environment and the circumstances you could accidentally fall into Obnoxious Aggression by challenging without caring or Ruinous Empathy by caring without challenging. If you don’t care and don’t challenge then you run the risk of falling into Manipulative Insincerity but if you can manage to balance these just right you get to Radical Candor. This is a form of open and helpful conversation that moves things forward while keep keeping people’s feelings safe.

Overall if you are looking to improve your communication with your team members or develop a management style that creates positive communication and quick feedback within your organization it may be helpful to look into this book or this website which follows the idea and the approach of radical candor within management. More details and an outlined framework are available if you’d like to learn more!

We are always looking to grow here at 12five and provide our community with tools and resources to grow as well.

Liz WhittenComment