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Book Summary – Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity

Great bosses retain talent and deliver superior results, while bad bosses do the opposite. This book explains how you can become a kickass boss to build sound relationships, achieve results, and create a better workplace. In our Radical Candor summary, we’ll give an overview of the philosophy behind Radical Candor and the key tools and techniques that you can apply for better guidance, team-building and results. For the full details, examples and tips, do get a copy of the book, or get a detailed overview with our complete book summary bundle.

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“Bosses” in this book refer generically to all supervisors, leaders and managers. After years of working with top companies in Silicon Valley (such as Google and Apple) and running her own businesses, Scott realized that what sets great bosses apart from bad ones is their ability to build good relationships that keep people happy and challenged. Scott calls this “Radical Candor”.

A New Management Philosophy

Bosses achieve results not by doing everything themselves, but by guiding a team to do so. Thus, they must excel in their own work and 3 key areas:
Guidance: soliciting and offering constructive feedback, and encouraging feedback between people;
Team-building: putting the right people in the right roles and keeping them motivated; and
Results: managing the people on your team to deliver results.Radical Candor Summary_3 roles of great bosses

At the heart of all 3 roles is this: you need a trusting relationship with your direct reports. Radical Candor is about building such trusting relationships by working concurrently on 2 dimensions:
Care personally: Bring your whole self to work, and care about each of your team members as whole persons with lives and aspirations beyond their work.
Challenge directly: Give/receive feedback, make tough decisions and uphold high standards. Eventually, trust and understanding is built and people feel safe to challenge one another to solve problems and uphold standards without your intervention.Radical Candor Summary_2 dimensions

In the book and our full 15-page book summary, we explain each of the 4 quadrants above (manipulative insincerity, ruinous empathy, obnoxious aggression and radical candor), debunk the myths about work/life separation or balance, and elaborate on the Radical Candor philosophy on guidance, team and results. In a nutshell:

• To exercise Radical Candor, you must give people clear, honest feedback (be it a praise/criticism) for their benefit, and help them to understand how the feedback can help them to move toward their own goals and dreams.

• To do that, you must first understand your team members/ direct reports and what they truly want. Most of us tend to define ambition and potential in terms of people’s desire and ability to move up the hierarchy. Instead, it may be better to rethink ambition and potential in terms of growth. In any organization, you’ll find superstars and rock stars—Superstars want a steep growth trajectory with challenges and opportunities to grow and learn rapidly (though not necessarily get promoted), while rock stars are solid, love their work, are good at their craft and prefer a gradual growth trajectory (they won’t be happy if they’re promoted to other roles). You need both superstars and rock stars for a blend of growth and stability. In the book /  complete summary, we dive deeper int the concept of growth management and how exactly to use it to manage top performers (both rock stars and superstars), middle performers and underperformers.

•  To drive results as a boss is essentially about getting people to achieve more collaboratively than individually on their own. Scott introduces the Get Stuff Done (GSD) wheel which comprises 7 sequential steps to involve your team in decisions and get buy-in for better long-term results: Listen, Clarify, Debate, Decide, Persuade, Execute and Learn. In the book / full book summary, we break down the details for each of these steps and how the whole GSD wheel works.

Tools and Techniques

After explaining the management philosophy of the Radical Candor framework, Scott moves on to the specific tools and techniques you can use to build trusting relationships, provide guidance, improve team performance and drive results through collaboration.

Radical Candor Summary - Overview


There are several foundations to building trusting relationships: center yourself first, seek work-life integration (not balance), create the right environment for your team, and master your emotions. You can get more details on each of these components from the Radical Candor book or our complete 15-page summary


Scott explains how you can improve the effectiveness of your guidance/feedback, including:

• How to  solicit feedback as a boss;

• How to give impromptu feedback effectively;

• How to tie in such informal feedback with formal performance appraisals; and

• How to encourage peer guidance; and

• How to do “skip-level meetings” to help your direct reports to become better bosses.

In the book / full summary we break down each of the areas above into more specific, applicable tips. For example, one of the keys for giving impromptu feedback is to focus on helping people to move forward positively. To do that you can:
(i) Share your intention to lower defences, e.g. “I’m going to share an observation which I hope will help with your project. If I’m wrong, please feel free to tell me.”
(ii) Be specific. It’s more useful to say “she explained the problem and solution clearly in 5 minutes” than “she is brilliant.”
(iii) You don’t have to fix things yourself, e.g. to help a staff who stammers, you can suggest a speech coach or get their views.

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To understand each of your direct reports personally and manage your team for high performance, Scott presents detailed tools and processes including: (a) holding career conversations to understand each of your direct reports’ ambitions, so you can to help them move toward their dreams, (b) creating a growth management plan for each direct report yearly, (c) tips for hiring the right people with the required skills and the team fit, (d) tips for firing people and (e) promoting and rewarding people. You can get a detailed overview of each item in our full summary bundle.


To improve results with the GSD Wheel, Scott breaks down the different types of meetings/tools  you can use to support collaboration along each step of the wheel. These include: 1:1 conversations, staff meetings, Big Debate meetings, Big Decision meetings, All-hands meetings, Thinking time, Execution time, Kanban Boards, Walk-arounds. Do get the detailed structures/tips from the book / our complete book summary


Conclusion / Other Details in Radical Candor

Radical Candor takes time and energy to implement, but the results can be massive, as new ideas emerge and problems get solved without your involvement as the boss.

Scott ends off by outlining how you string the various processes and tools together to get started with Radical Candor. The book includes numerous other examples and detailed tips on the philosophy and techniques of applying Radical Candor. Do get a copy of the book for the full mojo, get our full book summary for an overview of the various ideas and tips, or check out more resources at

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