Book Club Book Review:

To be clear is to be kind. Radical Candor is leadership’s secret sauce

When we think of what it means to be a leader – what comes to mind? Someone who inspires, who tirelessly pushes their teams to go further, be better – but how?

Seeking an answer to some of these questions, as a global Brands2Life team, we recently dove into Radical Candor, by Kim Scott.

Kim’s punchy style harnesses real-world experiences to shed light on modern team dynamics– specifically the differences between ‘good’ and ‘kind’ leadership and why that distinction is so critical to your evolution – and experience – working with people. Kim uses the term ‘radical’ to challenge the central notion that, often through a combination of socially adaptive behavior and desire to avoid conflict, many of us are conditioned to avoid saying what we really think. In relationships of any kind, that can certainly spell disaster. So how do we get there? By giving ourselves a healthy dose of Radical Candor.

The book: Radical Candor: How to get what you want by saying what you mean by Kim Scott, former CEO coach at Dropbox and Twitter, and executive at Google and Apple

Who’s it for: Modern leaders everywhere and cross-organizational teams looking for expanded ways to effectively communicate with each other. It’s also for all of us who want to build a positive working culture, and set each other up to win, together. Our Brands2Life global team found particular value in how we use this book in for the ability to bring a common understanding on when to take shortcuts around pleasantries and cut right to the point with candid, helpful conversations that help inspire even better teamwork and results for our clients.

Why it matters: Management can be hard, and one of the most difficult parts can be in determining if you’re making a difference or being any good at your job while you’re in the middle of doing it. Some key takeaways that stood out to me in this vein include:

Relationships, not power, drive you forward: Care personally, and bring your full self – not just your ‘work self’ to work. Further, it’s essential to understand your team’s motivations and goals, what excites and challenges them, to lead effectively. While this may sound obvious, it’s critical to place a concerted focus on these areas and live, not just say them. This understanding is crucial to the success of the next two takeaways.

Good vs. kind leadership: Good leadership means being willing (and able) to have the tough conversation when it’s warranted. While the goal is never to offend or hurt someone’s feelings, the idea is that it’s the opposite of ‘kind’ when you are so focused on avoiding conflict that you aren’t honest with someone who could be doing something better. Kim calls it ‘to be clear is to be kind,’ and pushes leaders to ‘challenge directly’ as the path to honest, supportive leadership that propels team growth and development. And if you are going to be ‘clear’ with someone they need to know you care about them.

To keep winning, criticize the wins: Be willing to challenge the people you work with as a key avenue to success. When a project goes flawlessly, it’s fine to momentarily celebrate, but it’s critical to be honest with ourselves and zero in on areas that can be improved so we’re constantly growing and honing our craft.

At its essence, Radical Candor is about communication and all of the forms it takes. As comms professionals we know more than ever that it’s not just what you say, but really how you say it that makes the difference. Kim Scott’s book gives us raw, honest advice to take a hard look at ourselves and those around us to ensure we’re doing our part to build a collaborative, positive, and effective team and workplace.