Video Thumbnail

Radical Candor: From theory to practice with author Kim Scott

If you say, "do you have any feedback for me?". You're wasting your breath. The other person's going to say, "oh no, everything's fine.". The question that i like to ask is, "what could i do or stop doing that would make it easier to work with me?". Do not write down my question because if you sound like kim scott and not like yourself, then other people are not going to believe you want the answer. It needs to sound authentic to you, and if everybody can write down their question, who they're going to ask it of and then pop it into their calendar right now, this will be one of the most productive podcasts in all of podcast land.

Today my guest is kim scott. Kim is the author of radical candor, which is the single most referenced book on this podcast. The book has sold over 1 million copies, has been translated into twenty-three languages. It was such an honor to have kim on the podcast. Prior to this book, kim was a co coach at dropbox, qualtrics, twitter and many other tech companies. She was a member of the faculty at apple university. Before that, she led adsense, youtube and doubleclick teams at google. Prior to that, kim managed a pediatric clinic in kosovo and started a diamond cutting factory in moscow.

She's also working on a new book that you can pre-order now called radical respect. In our conversation, we get very practical and very tactical about practicing radical candor. Kim briefly describes the core idea, shares, language and phrases and words you can use to get better at practicing radical candor. She shares tips for people-pleasers like myself. Also, a lot of very concrete advice for how to get feedback. Also, what to do if your culture is on the ruinous empathy side of the spectrum, or even worse, obnoxious aggression and so much more.

I guarantee listening to this episode will make you a better leader and a better employee. With that, i bring you kim scott after a short word from our one featured sponsor for this episode. You fell in love with building products for a reason, but sometimes the day-to-day reality is a little different than you imagined. Instead of dreaming up big ideas, talking to customers and crafting a strategy, you're drowning in spreadsheets and roadmap updates, and you're spending your days basically putting out fires. A better way is possible. Introducing jira product discovery, the new prioritization and road mapping tool built for product teams by atlassian. With jira product discovery, you can gather all your product ideas and insights in one place and prioritize confidently, finally replacing those endless spreadsheets. Create and share custom product roadmaps with any stakeholder in seconds. And it's all built on jira where your engineering team's already working. So true collaboration is finally possible. Great products are built by great teams, not just engineers, sales support, leadership, even greg from finance. Anyone that you want can contribute ideas, feedback, and insights in jira product discovery for free, no catch. And it's only $10 a month for you. Say goodbye to your spreadsheets and the never-ending alignment efforts. The old way of doing product management is over rediscover what's possible with jira product discovery.

Try it for free at That's Kim, thank you so much for being here and welcome to the podcast. Thank you for having me. I'm excited for our conversation. Your book, radical candor is the single most recommended book on this podcast. I don't know if you know this podcast well, but at the end of the podcast, i ask every guest, "what are two or three books you recommend most to other people?". And your book has come up the most of any book mentioned on the podcast. Amazing. Well, tell your listeners i love them. And i'm grateful to them. Okay, they'l hear this.

So i'm really excited to have you on chat about all the things that you teach and your book. For people that have heard the term radical candor, have maybe skimmed the book, maybe even read the book a while ago, but don't truly remember or understand the concept. Could you just spend just a few minutes giving a high level overview of the concept of radical candor? Absolutely. Radical candor is just what happens when you care personally and challenge directly at the same time. And i think it's probably best understood by what it's not because we all fail on one of those two dimensions or both of them multiple times a day. So you can think about it as a two by two framework.

On the vertical axis is care personally, the horizontal axis is challenge directly. What happens when we remember to challenge directly, but we forget to show that we care personally. That is what i call obnoxious aggression, and it's really important to distinguish between radical candor and obnoxious aggression. I think one of the mistakes that people often make about, and i've gotten a lot, you write a book about feedback, you're going to get a lot of it, and i've heard a lot of feedback that sometimes teams will be rolling out the idea of radical candor and someone will charge into the room and say, "in the spirit of radical candor," and then they act like a garden variety jerk. And that is not the spirit of radical candor. That's the spirit of obnoxious aggression. And obnoxious aggression is a big problem. It's a problem because it hurts other people. It's also a problem because it's inefficient. If i'm a jerk to you lenny, then i'm going to send you into fight or flight mode and then you literally cannot hear what i'm saying, so i'm wasting my breath. But i don't know if this is true for you, but for me, there's a third problem. And the third problem is that when i realize i've acted like a jerk, when i realize i've landed in obnoxious aggression, it's not actually my instinct to go the right way on care personally. Instead, it's my instinct to go the wrong way on challenge directly and to pretend that i agree when i disagree, and then i wind up in the worst place of all, manipulative insincerity. And it's kind of fun to tell stories about obnoxious aggression and manipulative insincerity. If you watch the office or any show about problems at work or problems in any kind of relationship really, you're going to see a lot of episodes about obnoxious aggression and manipulative insincerity.

But i think the real rub comes and the fact that these, even though this is what we like to talk about, these two problems are what we like to talk about, these are not the most common problem. By far and away the most common problem occurs when we do remember to show that we care personally because you know what? Most people try to be nice people. So we do remember to show that we care personally, but we're so worried about not hurting someone's feelings or not offending them, that we fail to tell them something they'd be better off knowing in the long run. And that is what i call ruinous empathy. So that is radical candor in a nutshell. That's the tldr. But please do read. Amazing and we'l link to a diagram of this two by two for people that aren't visual thinkers and want to actually see it. So just to make it super clear, if you're challenging directly, basically being very candid with feedback, but it's not clear you care deeply about the person, you call that obnoxious aggression. Yes. And if you make it clear, you care a lot about the person but aren't actually giving them direct candid feedback, you call that ruinous empathy. Yes, exactly. Which of these buckets do you find most people fall into? Is there a percentage of people or companies? Yeah, i mean, i would say 90% of us make 90% of our mistakes in that ruinous empathy bucket.

It's by far and away the most common problem. But i think all of us make mistakes in the other quadrants as well. And very often we kind of, i think one of, if i'm going to offer some self-criticism of this framework, it's much easier to notice when one has been ruinously empathetic. It's almost like, give yourself some critical feedback. "i work too hard.". But it's much harder to notice when we've been manipulatively insincere and obnoxiously aggressive. And maybe i could have named those things because very often manipulative insincerity is sort of self-protective insincerity. Very often obnoxious aggression is just extreme frustration. So i want people to use this framework not to judge themselves or other people harshly, but like a compass to guide specific conversations with specific people to a better place and to help us understand when we're going in the wrong direction, which we are all bound to do on a daily basis. I want to talk about all those things and also how to get better at these things. But before we do that, it's very hard to change. And it's also hard just to challenge directly innately, it's hard for people to be candid, just to give people a little motivation to invest in this skill. What sort of impact do you see when people develop the skill of being better at radical candor? When we get better at radical candor? I mean, i'l tell you a story in fact about the impact it had on my life, some radical candor, but the sort of abstract answer to your question is we build better relationships and we do better work and we're more successful and we're happier.

You ready for a story? Let's do it. Love stories. Okay. So shortly after i joined google, this was now a very long time ago, 2004, i had to give a presentation to the founders and the ceo about how the adsense business was doing. And i walked into the room and there in one corner of the room was one of the founders on an elliptical trainer wearing toe shoes and a bright blue spandex unitard, super tight, not what i was expecting or frankly wanting to see in the room. And there in the other corner of the room was the ceo doing his emails like his brain had been plugged into the machine. So probably like you in such a situation, i felt a little bit nervous. How was i supposed to get these people's attention? Luckily for me, the adsense business was on fire. And when i said how many new customers we had added, the ceo almost fell off his chair.

"what did you say? This is incredible. Do you need more engineers? Do you need more marketing dollars?". So i'm thinking the meeting's going all right. In fact, i now believe that i am a genius. And i walked out of the room, i walked past my boss and i was expecting a high five a pat on the back. And instead she said to me, "why don't you walk back to my office with me?". And i thought, oh gosh, i screwed something up in there. And i'm sure i'm about to hear about it. And she began not by telling me what i had done wrong, but what had gone well in the meeting, not in the feedback sandwich. I think there's a less polite term for that. I'm not sure how you feel about cussing on your podcast. It's acceptable, fully acceptable. Not in the shit sandwich since the word, but really seeming to mean what she said.

But of course, all i wanted to do was hear about what i had done wrong. And eventually she said to me, "you said a lot in there, were you aware of it?". And with this, i braved a huge sigh of relief if that was all i had done wrong who really cared. And i kind of made this brush off gesture with my hand. I said, "yeah, i know, it's a verbal tech. It's no big deal, really.". And then she said to me, "i know this great speech coach. I bet google would pay for it. Would you like an introduction?". And once again, i made this brush off gesture with my hand. I said, "oh, i'm busy. I don't have time for a speech coach. Didn't you hear about all these new customers?". And then she said to me, "i can tell when you do that thing with your hand, then i'm going to have to be a lot more direct with you. When you say every third word, it makes you sound stupid.". Now she's got my full attention. And some people might say it was mean of her to say i sounded stupid, but in fact, it was the kindest thing that she could have done for me at that moment in my career because she knew me well enough to know that if she didn't use just those words with me, and by the way, this is a really important point, she never would've used those words with other people on her team who were perhaps a better listener than i was. But she knew me well enough. She cared personally enough to know that if she didn't use those words with me, i never would've gone to visit the speech coach and i wouldn't have learned that she was not exaggerating. And this was news to me because i had raised millions of dollars for two different startups giving presentations. I thought i was pretty good at it. And it really got me to thinking sort of why had no one told me. It was almost like i suddenly realized i'd been marching through my whole career with a giant hunk of spinach in between my teeth and nobody had the common courtesy to tell me it was there.

So why had no one else told me. But what was it about her leadership style that made it so seemingly easy for her to tell me? And as i thought about that, i realized it really came down to those two things. She cared personally and she challenged directly. She cared about me not just as an employee but as a human being. For example, when my father was diagnosed with late stage cancer, i was devastated and she could tell that i was devastated. And she said, "kim, look, you go to the airport, fly home to memphis, you need to be with your family. Your team and i will sit down and write your coverage plan.".

That's what great teams do for one another. And those were the kinds of things, that was the kind of thing that she did. She couldn't do, of course, for all 5,000 people in her organization, no matter how talented you are, relationships don't scale. But she did do those things for her direct reports and the people who she worked most closely with, all of us. And when a leader treats their team, the people who they interact with on a day-to-day basis with that kind of real care, then it's much more likely that their direct reports in turn are going to treat their teams with real care. And that creates a culture of caring. And even though relationships don't scale, culture does scale. So that was part of it. But of course there's also this challenge directly part which is equally as important.

And i learned very quickly beyond a shadow of a doubt that if i screwed up, she was going to tell me and she was going to keep telling me until it penetrated my sometimes thick skull. I had a manager that was also very good at this. He was very good at just giving me very direct feedback, and i knew that he was only doing it because he cared about my future. To kind of follow this thread and get a little tactical, is there language or phrases or ways of communicating that you recommend people use to either challenge directly and avoid people getting defensive or make it clear you care deeply? People always want me to give them a script. And the problem with the script is that if i write it, you're going to sound like kim scott and not like yourself.

And then people won't really think you mean what you're saying. But i do think there are some important things to consider when having these conversations. I think you want to go into the conversation, and by the way, everything i'm about to say applies to praise as much as it does to criticism. And i want to pause for a moment. That story is helpful because that's the kind of thing that has happened to so many of us, that's not unique to me. However, praise is even more important than criticism in terms of radical candor. Radical candor is not all about the boss giving the employee criticism. It should always start with soliciting feedback and it should include more praise and criticism, but anyway, way without offering up shit sandwiches.

So anyway, i think that the important thing for these conversations, these sort of two-minute impromptu moments of management, is to go into the conversation being humble. To me, i call it candor and not truth because if i march into a room and i say, "lenny, i'm going to tell you the truth.". I'm kind of implying i've got a pipeline to god and you don't know anything. And that's not what this is all about. This is a dialogue, not a monologue. So to me, candor implies here's how i understand the situation. I'm also curious to know how you understand the conversation. So you want to go in being humble, you might be wrong, and that's totally fine. Omniscience is not a requirement for radical candor, thank heavens. So you want to be humble. You want to state your intention to be helpful. You want to remember in your own head and you want to make it explicit to the other person that you're telling them this to help them. You're not trying to be dominant or kick them in the shins or anything like that. You're telling them this because you care about them. So you want to state your intention to be helpful.

You want to have these conversations right away, almost immediately. I mean, there's exceptions to everything i'm saying. None of this is absolute. But usually if i'm telling myself and lenny, you can tell me if you have the same problem, but if i tell myself, oh, i'm going to wait for a better moment to tell this person this thing, what i'm really saying is i'm never going to say. So if the purpose of praise is to tell people what to do more of, and the purpose of criticism is to tell them what to do less of, why wait. So you want to do it immediately unless you are so upset that you're going to say it in a terrible way or the other person is so upset that they can't hear you. But usually that's not the case. You also want, and in the before times i used to say have these conversations in person. Now i say have these conversations synchronously. And i'm going to recommend phone over video. There's a lot of evidence coming out of university of chicago and probably other places, but that's the article i've read that there's more noise than signal in facial expressions and body language, especially if somebody is just a little square on a computer screen. But it also may be true in real life, like the phone actually may be one of our best communication innovations of all time because when you're talking to someone on the phone, you're listening to the words that they are saying to you, and that is really what you want to do in this moment. So make sure that you're having these conversations synchronously, because what you want to do next is gauge how it's landing. So i'l talk about that in a minute. And you can't gauge how something is landing if you're sending an email or a text, and slack is just a feedback train wreck waiting to happen. I once coached someone who kept giving feedback over slack and i finally just quit coaching him. I was like, "if you keep making this mistake, i can't be your coach.". So don't do that. Take a moment to pick up the phone and call the person. Go back to those old at&t commercials when i was a kid.

Reach out and touch someone. You want to show you care. So let's review. You want to be humble, you want to be helpful, you want to do it immediately. You want to do it in person or at least synchronously. If you can't do it in person. You also want to praise in public and criticize in private, and you don't want to give people either praise or criticism about their personality. So if you want to remember all that, it's hhiippp, two h's, two. I's, kind of three p's depending on how you count. And so let's double-click though on this not about personality point. I think it's really important to remember that for both praise and criticism, you want to use sort of context, observation, result, next step. So context, in the meeting, observation, when you said every third word, result, it made you sound stupid. Next step, go to the speech coach. Also is important for praise, in the meeting context, when you offered both sides of the argument, observation, result is it earned you credibility.

Next step is do more of that. So you can call it core, you can think about that as core. I used to call it corn, but i got some feedback that corn is like some shorthand for porn on tiktok. So i call it core instead, hip core. Wow, that is amazing. Thank you for sharing all that. So the e at the end stands for? Next step, big e. oh, i see the e is the next, you skipped the n, clever. Yes. I don't know, clever or ridiculous. Maybe i should just call it hip corn, right? No, i think either one's great. So you share this example of the speaking example. Maybe if we can do another example just to reinforce this framework. Let's do a little ruinous empathy. Okay, great. Let's do it. How about that is the mistake. I think that i am really focused in the book radical candor and also in my next book radical respect. That's the mistake i really want to eliminate. Let's do it.

Because ruinous empathy creates this false harmony, which is really bad. So here's my ruinous empathy story. I had just hired this guy, we'l call him bob, and i liked bob a lot. He was smart, he was charming, he was funny. He would do stuff like we're at a manager offsite playing one of those endless get to know you games. And everybody was getting more and more and more stressed out. So start up, we've got a lot going on. And bob was the guy who had the courage to raise his hand and to say, "i can tell everyone is getting stressed. I want to get to know all of you. I've got an idea. It'l help us do that and it'l be really fast.". Whatever his idea was, if it was really fast, we were down with it. And bob says, "let's just go around the table and confess what candy our parents used when potty training us.". Really weird but really fast. And then for the next 10 months, every time there was a tense moment in a meeting, bob would whip out just the right piece of candy for the right person at the right moment.

And we all remember that was the weirder thing. Like hershey kisses right here. That was what my parents used to potty train me. And so bob was quirky, but he brought a little levity to the office. Everybody kind of loved working with bob. There was one problem with bob. He was doing terrible work. He would hand stuff into me and there was shame in his eyes. He kind of knew it wasn't good enough. He was very creative, but riddled with sloppy mistakes. And i would say something to bob along the lines of, "oh bob, this is such a great start. You're so awesome. We all love working with you. Maybe you can make it just a little bit better.". So let's pause for a moment. Why did i say such a banal thing to bob?

I think part of the problem was that i liked bob and i really didn't want to hurt his feelings. So that was the ruinous empathy part of why i said that. But also part of the problem was something more insidious, a little bit of manipulative insincerity, because bob was popular and bob was also sensitive kind of. And there was part of me that was afraid if i told bob in no uncertain terms that his work wasn't nearly good enough, he would get upset. He might even start to cry and then everybody would think i was a big, you know what? So the part of me that was worried about my reputation as a leader, that was the manipulative insincerity part, the part of me that was worried about bob's feelings, that was the ruinous empathy part. And this went on for 10 months, 10 long months, and i was so puzzled the whole time i couldn't understand what was going on. I learned much later that one of the issues perhaps was that bob was smoking pot in the bathroom three times a day, which maybe explained all that candy that he had at all times.

But i didn't know any of that at the time. All i knew is that bob was consistently doing bad work, but i wasn't really dealing with it. And eventually the inevitable happened. I realized that if i didn't fire bob, i was going to lose all my best performers because not only had it been unfair to bob not to tell him, i also had been unfair to everyone on the team. And they were frustrated. Their deliverables were late because his deliverables were late. They weren't able to do their best work because they were having to spend so much time redoing his work. And the people who were best at their jobs were going to quit because they wanted to be able to do their best work. They were going to go to a different company where they could do their best work.

And so i sat down to have a conversation with bob that i should have begun frankly 10 months previously. And when i finished explaining to him where things stood, he kind of pushed his chair back from the table. He looked me right in the eye and he said, "why didn't you tell me?". And as that question was going around in my head with no good answer, he looked at me again and he said, "why didn't anyone tell me? I thought you all cared about me.". And now i realized that by not telling bob, thinking i was being so nice, i'm having to fire him as a result. Not so nice after all. But it was too late to say bob because at this point even he agreed he should go because his reputation on the team was just shot. All i could do in the moment was make myself a very solemn promise that i would never make that mistake again, and that i would do everything in my power to help other people avoid making that mistake. It was so painful. It was painful for me. It was painful for bob, much more painful for bob actually, and it was bad for the whole team. And it was bad for our investors.

We weren't getting results because of my ruinous empathy and ruinous empathy slash manipulative insincerity. It's much harder to admit the manipulative insincerity part. And that is really why i'm here talking to you because i want all of your listeners to avoid making that mistake because it's the most painful and the most common mistake that i think leaders and not just leaders, i mean all of us make this mistake in all of our relationships. I love that this also gives an example of the impact of getting better at this point of you'l lose not just the people that are not necessarily great, but also other high performers on the team because they're seeing people slip through the cracks that aren't amazing. And if you're not practicing this early, your team basically becomes not high performing. Yeah, exactly. You're going to lose your top performers. And i think very often people are afraid to tell someone on their team when their work isn't good enough because they're afraid of losing them. But that's not a good reason. You should be helping this person to improve. This person deserves to have a job where they can excel and you either help them excel on this team or you help them find a different job where they can excel, because everyone can do great work somewhere. And bob could have done great work. Maybe i would've helped him keep it to the weekends because he's very creative and very smart, but the floppy mistakes just got in the way of his ability to do his best work.

So following that thread, i imagine the reason you didn't tell him early, and most people don't do this well, is many people are, you can maybe call them people pleasers. I'm a recovering people pleaser, i'l say. It's just hard to give people hard feedback. You want people to like you. It's not a natural state for a lot of people. What do you find helps people get over this kind of need to be liked as a leader and helps them be more candid? I think that one of the things that was helpful for me anyway, so you can tell me if it's helpful for you, was realizing that my job was not to be liked. My job was to care about other people and to get out of my own head and to become others focused is what helped me kind of let go of the need to be liked.

I think that also as a woman, i think there was something extra, as my teenage children would say, there was something extra for me because the sort of likability- competence bias that a lot of women face pushed me, especially early in my career, in the wrong direction on challenge directly. And it made it much harder for me to, because often i would say something and i would say it even more gently than my colleagues who were men, but people would say, "ah, kim is a real whatever.". And they weren't saying, kim is obnoxious. I was being unjustly accused of obnoxious aggression and it wasn't obnoxious or they were accusing me of being bossy or abrasive or whatever.

And it's really hard. I would also say when it comes to eliciting feedback, it's really important to be open to it. And it's really important to separate the wheat from the chaff from the feedback you're getting. So in this example of bob, say you were to do it now, what would you do differently other than give him feedback earlier? Is there something you've learned about just how you would've phrased it or approached it? I think probably what i would do, and i would love to hear what you would've said to bob too, i certainly don't have all the answers, but probably what i would've said is let's go back to the first time bob handed work into me with shame in his eyes. I would've said, "bob, maybe i'm misinterpreting the expression on your face, but it looks to me like you are not happy with this. What's going on?". And so i would've asked him to diagnose it himself and i want to pause on that because that can be very risky. He might have said to me, "i think this is awesome. This is my best work," and now i've kind of made my job of giving him feedback a little bit harder. So it's not always the right thing to ask questions, but i would've tried to ask it before i had examined the work when i noticed that he looked uncomfortable himself. And i think also another thing i've learned about noticing, i said earlier that there's a lot of evidence that we often misinterpret each other's facial expressions and body language.

So i would've tried to say that with some humility, it seems like you're not, maybe i'm wrong, but you don't look to me like you're happy with this. And i would've given him an opportunity to say, "yeah, maybe i need to do it again.". Let's imagine though that he said, "oh no, it's awesome. It's ready.". So then i get it. And i look at it. I would have not been shy about pointing out very specifically every problem that i saw in that piece of work, every single one. Sometimes it can be tempting when you're giving someone feedback to say, "oh, there's a number of careless mistakes here. Can you go back and look at it again," and the person will notice a few of them and then you got to go, sometimes it's useful to show someone a pattern. All of the careless mistakes, especially if someone is defensive or if you think they're likely to be defensive, if you think they're likely to do to you what i did to my boss, oh no, everything's fine. It's no big deal. You need to move out on the challenge directly dimension. You need to be prepared to keep going until you have communicated with a person.

And that was really the problem with bob. He probably would not have started to cry. I think my fear around his tears was probably more about my fear than what was actually likely to happen. But i think we do fear someone else getting upset more often than they actually get upset. We have kind of a negativity bias when it comes to part of the reason why we're reluctant to give feedback. And i think to your point, that we want to be liked, like you said, that you should get over that. I think that's obviously very hard just to be like, "nah, i'm not going to worry about that.". But i think your point is really important that you'l be liked later if you don't do the hard thing now. It'l only get worse if you just let it continue happening. And i think also for me to say to myself going into that conversation, it's more important for me to demonstrate care, that i care about bob than it is for bob to like me, and if i demonstrate that i care about bob, then i'm going to do the right thing that will ultimately create the conditions for a good relationship with bob. Me pulling my punches did not create the conditions for a good relationship with bob. I actually did that. And i learned this from a manager of mine is just almost work backwards from ask them, what do you want to achieve in your career? Where do you want to go in this company and make sure they know you know what they want, and then basically work backwards from to get there. Here's the things you need to get, and here's the thing you did recently that isn't necessarily on the track and here's what we should be working on if you want to get to the skull that you have. Yeah, i think one of the really important things that all managers can do for their direct reports to show that they care is to have real meaningful career conversations, where you talk about their life story, sort of their past, whatever part of it they're comfortable talking to you about so that you understand what motivates them at work. And i would have three separate 45 minute conversations, so one about their past, one about their future, their dreams for the future, and it's not just the next couple of years. It's like imagine at the height of your career you have everything you want. What does it look like? And give me three or four different pictures of that because very few of us know what we want to do when we grow up. Then the third conversation is to sort of sit down with your director report and come up with a career action plan. So given what motivates you and where you want to go, what are the skills that it would be useful for you to develop so that you can get where you want to go and who can i introduce you to? What are the educational opportunities? Can we tweak your job so that you're gaining those skills so you're at least taking a step in the direction of your dreams, even if you're not there yet?

Awesome. I have a post about this. I'l link to in the show notes that gives people a guide to having these conversations, and there's a spreadsheet i share with people like, here's an action plan you can come up with your teammate and here's what you're going to work on these next six months. Did you read the book when they win, you win by russ laraway? No. Oh, he has a hundred pages on career conversations and he's also built sort of some tools that help people. So check that out. And it's called when you win when they win, you win. When they win, you win. Amazing. Yes, by russ laraway, he and i worked together at google and then we started a company together.

Oh wow. Okay, cool. We'l link to them in the show notes. Maybe i'l get him on the podcast too. Great. Yeah, he'd be great. Okay, so we've been chatting about ways individually to get better at some of these skills. Another area that i think people struggle with is the company culture often isn't welcoming of direct feedback. So there's a question, so you probably saw this on twitter. I asked people, what should i ask you? And a lot of people came in with a lot of questions and there's one that came in from pete, so i'm just going to read it along these lines.

So this question is just how do you practice being radically candid in a culture? And most cultures are like this where people aren't ready for direct feedback. Since company culture is often closer to ruinous empathy and being radically candid is more of a long-term good than a short-term good. You could potentially risk retention with your employees if you're too direct with them. So how do you think about finding this balance of being candid but not pissing people off, or do you just hire people that are open and ready for direct feedback and that's kind of how you solve that problem? I don't think you can only hire people who are open and ready for direct feedback because it's hard for all of us. I just want to acknowledge that, it's hard for me. I mean, i wrote the book, i believe in it to my core and sometimes it's still hard for me. It's hard for me to hear it and it's hard for me to deliver it.

This is a really difficult thing to do. The good thing about that two by two is it makes it look easy, which is useful, but it's not easy. So anyway, i think there are, to answer pete's question, i think there are a few things that can help. There's really an order of operations to radical candor, and if you begin with soliciting criticism, then you take the first and most important step to improving your relationship with that person enough that it becomes easier for you to give it as well as to get it. So i want to leave folks with some sort of steps on how to solicit feedback, and this is true, especially if you're a boss, but it's true in all your relationships. You can use this at home as well. So if you say, "do you have any feedback for me?". You're wasting your breath. The other person's going to say, "oh no, everything's fine.". Nobody in your life accepts your teenage children. If you have teenage children, they'd really want to give you some criticism, but nobody else in your life really wants to give you criticism.

And so you want to think about how you're going to ask the person that's going to be most likely to elicit a response. The question that i like to ask is, "what could i do or stop doing that would make it easier to work with me?". But do not write down my question because if you sound like kim scott and not like yourself, then other people are not going to believe you want the answer. It needs to sound authentic to you. I was working with christa quarles when she was ceo of opentable and she said, "kim, i could never imagine those words coming out of my mouth.".

She said, "the way i like to ask is tell me why i'm wrong.". Okay, that's fine too. It demands an answer to her question. But of course there were a couple of people on her team who felt that was too aggressive, that shut them down, so she had to adjust her question. Being authentic does not mean ignoring the impact you're having on others. So you want to think about your question, you want to think about who you're going to ask that question of, and if everybody can write down their question, who they're going to ask it of and then pop it into their calendar right now, this will be one of the most productive podcasts in all of podcast land. Let's spend more time on this actually. So what is it you recommend, that they pick? How many people would you recommend they pick, and ask feedback from? Well, i think if you are a manager, you need to be soliciting every week feedback from each of your direct reports, and you need to sort of, i would budget five minutes at the end of your one-on-one to solicit feedback. So mostly a one-on-one should be your employees setting the agenda and your employee's time and don't by the way, save up when you have to give feedback. Don't save it up for your one-on-one and definitely don't save it up for a performance review. You want to give that in the moment. We can talk more about that in a second, but when you're soliciting feedback, save five minutes at the end of your one-on-one and ask that go-to question. And you also want to ask that go-to question of your cross-functional peers who you work most closely with and of your boss. And i think you don't want to ask the same question every single time. It'l start to sound like you don't really want the answer, but you want to make this part of your daily weekly routine with the people who you interact most closely with.

So you added to the end of this your one-on-one agenda, and two versions of this question are, what am i doing wrong? Which is that one i guess you iterated. Tell me why i'm wrong or what am i doing wrong or what could i do or stop doing that would make it easier to work with me? Or what should i stop doing? What should i start doing? What should i continue doing? Those are some common ones. What do you like to ask lenny? I think it was something along the lines of like, what's one thing i could be doing better or what's one way i could be helping you be more successful? That's a really good one. What's one way i could help you be more successful? Or jason rosoff, my co founder at radical candor likes to ask, "what could i have done this week?". So he time, he time bounds it. "what could i have done this week to better support you in your work?". In fact, jason told me after we had worked together for about a month, he was like, "kim, i really hate your go-to question.". He said, "it's too open-ended for me. If you can tell me what you're working on and ask me at the end of a meeting specifically what i noticed then that is much better.". How often do you accept no answer? Just like, no everything's great. Never. I mean, there are some people who really don't like to be put on the spot.

So if i can tell that i'm inflicting a cruel and unusual punishment on the person, i'l say, "look, you know i'm not perfect. I know i'm not perfect. Next time we meet, i want you to think of something, notice something. It's the thing that you can do that would help me more than anything else that you could do is to tell me when i'm wrong because i need to know that.". In fact, andy grove, who was the ceo of intel said he used to at the end of his one-on-ones say to people, "there's one more thing. And he explained to me that was coded intel for like this is the most important thing.". I was working at apple at the time and i said, "oh, did you get that from steve jobs?". That was always how he introduced, "just one more thing, the ipad.". And andy got immediately very grumpy and very offended, and he said, "no, we both got it from colombo. The detective show.". You can get tips from anywhere.

So you want to make sure that you're though letting the person know that you really do care about what they say and that it's really when they give you this critical feedback that you're going to reward it. But that's not the end. Asking that question is only the first step, the bad news about your question, no matter how hard you think about it, and no matter how good a question it is, the other person is still going to feel uncomfortable. There's no such thing as emotional novocaine. That's why i don't believe in scripts. People believe if i just say the magic words like the door will open, that's not how it works. It's a give and take. So you want to sort of be prepared to embrace that discomfort. The only way out is through. Simplest way to embrace the discomfort is to close your mouth and count to six. Only made it to three just there, and your eyes were popping out. That is so long. Six seconds is a really long time. Almost nobody can endure six full seconds of silence.

So they'l probably tell you something. So now you've dragged this poor soul out on a conversational limb that they never wanted to go on. They're probably going to say something. The third step is to make sure that you listen with the intent to understand not to respond, because you're probably going to feel defensive and that's okay. It doesn't mean you're a lesser mortal or that you're shut down the feedback. All it means is that you're human. And that's all part of this. You want to figure out how to manage your natural defensive reaction to critical feedback, which you're probably going to have. The simplest tactic i can offer folks there is to think of some follow-up questions. So at breakfast, my daughter not too long ago said to me, "mom, i wish you weren't the radical candor lady.". And immediately this wave of parental guilt washed over me. And i thought, ah, i'm spending too much time at work. She wants more of my time. I shouldn't be traveling so much. But then i thought, well, i should ask her, make sure i understood. I'm jumping to conclusions here. I'm not listening with the intent to understand. So i asked a follow-up question. I said, "well, who do you wish i were?". And she said, "i wish you were the lady who minded her own business," so i could go spend a little more time at work as far as she was concerned.

So you want to make sure you really understand what a person is telling you. And once you feel certain that you really do understand and that you've been open to it, the last and most important step is to reward the candor. A person takes a huge risk, especially if this person is your employee. A person takes a huge risk to give you critical feedback. And if you do not reward that risk richly, you're never going to get any feedback again. So if you agree with the feedback, fix the problem and make your listening tangible, be loud. So-and-so told me that the tea in the break room is terrible, and now we have thirty-five different kinds of tea. Thank you for telling me. And that can demonstrate to people that they're not wasting their breath to come to you. That if you become aware of a problem, you'l fix it. And you also want to, by the way, you want to ask for feedback after you fixed it. Did i over-correct or did i under-correct? My boss at google, the same boss from the story also told me when she gave me some feedback that i tended to move too fast. And she said, "kim, until people and giving you feedback that you're going too slow. You won't have corrected this problem.". So you kind of want to shoot to over-correct if you get some critical feedback. I also want to though pause on what to do when you get some critical feedback that you disagree with because it can be easy to feel wedged here. And if all you do is say thank you for the feedback, the other person is going to hear something much less polite than a brush off or worse. And so what you want to do is you want to look for that five or 10% of whatever the person said that you can agree with, and you want to give voice to that. And then what you want to do is you want to say, "as for the rest of it, i want to think about it and get back to you.". And then you've got to get back to them.

You got to offer a respectful explanation of why you disagree. And it's tempting to feel like a disagreement poses a risk to our relationships, but it's not disagreement that poses a risk to our relationships. It's unspoken disagreement. Many, i don't know about you lenny, but a lot of my best professional relationships began with a good respectful disagreement. Interesting. That reminds me of just watching squid games, the reality show on netflix. Yeah. Have you seen this at all? I haven't watched it, but it's on my list.

There's this guy who makes a huge bad decision on behalf of his whole team and they hate him in the show. And then on tiktok, he shared that they're best friends now, even though they called him a big idiot. Yeah, no. So funny. It can happen for sure. You fell in love with building products for a reason, but sometimes the day-to-day reality is a little different than you imagined. Instead of dreaming up big ideas, talking to customers and crafting a strategy, you're drowning in spreadsheets and roadmap updates, and you're spending your days basically putting out fires. A better way is possible. Introducing jira product discovery, the new prioritization and road mapping tool built for product teams by atlassian. With jira product discovery, you can gather all your product ideas and insights in one place and prioritize confidently. Finally, replacing those endless spreadsheets create and share custom product roadmaps with any stakeholder in seconds. And it's all built on jira where your engineering team's already working. So true collaboration is finally possible. Great products are built by great teams, not just engineers, sales support, leadership, even greg from finance. Anyone that you want can contribute ideas, feedback, and insights in jira product discovery for free. No catch. And it's only $10 a month for you. Say goodbye to your spreadsheets and the never ending alignment efforts. The old way of doing product management is over, rediscover what's possible with jira product discovery. Try it for free at That's

So to recap the steps roughly for how to get feedback from people, it's ask your question like what's one thing i could have done this week to make you more successful? Wait six seconds potentially or try to, it's very hard. Ask a few follow-up questions to make sure you understand what they're saying and then find a way to reward them. Say thank you. Do more than say thank you. Especially if you disagree, which is a really interesting nuance of this. I had jules walter on the podcast. I always think of him when i think of getting feedback. He shared this advice. When you get feedback, just be so appreciative so that people keep giving me just like, "thank you so much for that feedback.". The way he phrases it. Even if you're melting inside and really hate this feedback, just like, "thank you, i really appreciate it.". But i think your nuance there is really key is if you do disagree, i really like this tip of just like, let me think about this element of it and then actually follow up. Even if you're melting inside, if you say thank you and you're melting inside, i mean maybe it's a terrible actor, but usually people know. And that's why i say it's not enough to say thank you.

You got to fix the problem and then show what you did to fix the problem and get more feedback. Did i over-correct? Did i under-correct. And if you disagree, you got to say that you disagree, but you got to say, so respectfully. As a leader, this sounds like a lot of work to be doing every week. If you have a one-on-one following up correcting things. Is there anything you'd recommend there? Or is it just, this is really important, you got to make time. It's not as much work as failing to do this as we saw from the bob story. So i think that the important thing that i have found is that this is part of why it's so important to do it immediately. It's important for the other person, but it's also important for you. If you're doing this in a one-on-one, which you should be having anyway. So you're saving some time in a one-on-one. So it's not adding time necessarily to your day. And when you hear about problems, you should fix them. Yes, it takes time, but that is your job. And when you disagree with something, you can disagree in your next regularly scheduled one-on-one. So i'm not talking about adding meetings to your calendar, so it doesn't actually take more time. I have found that in fact, it saves tremendous amounts of time, but it does take emotional discipline. And i think it also requires you, especially when it comes to giving it, which we talked about before, where the humble, helpful, those are impromptu two-minute conversations, giving the feedback that you should be having in between your meetings. In the story, walk to my meeting with me, it didn't take any extra time for my boss to give me that feedback. She had to walk to her meeting anyway, and i had to go in the same direction.

So it didn't even take extra time from me. But it is, i think one of the most common reasons why people don't do this in addition to fear of retaliation and just sort of existential dread, which are both factors, which hopefully we've helped alleviate, but is that you're scheduled back to back to back and you don't have those two minutes in between meetings. And that's why i think it's important either to schedule slack time in your calendar, make your 30 minute meetings, 25 minute meetings, make your hour-long meetings, 50 minute meetings, maybe give yourself a few breaks in the day. But if it's not possible, and often it was not possible for me in my career to sort of schedule my time that way, i just decided that these moments of management were more important than being on time to my next meeting. And so i was just late sometimes. So i wish i had a better answer than either control your time, which is really annoying advice because it's impossible to follow or be willing to be late to your next meeting. But those were the things that i tried to do. That was super helpful. I think your point of just, if you're not making two minutes to do this thing now, it'l be a lot more time intensive later. Oh yeah. It's stitch in time takes nine on all these two minute, and really it should be brushing and flossing. This is not like a root canal. These are like, this is relationship hygiene that you should be doing all the time. I was just reading charlie munger's book and there's a quote that he references of just the classic, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Yes, absolutely.

Same idea. So we've talked about a leader getting feedback. What if you're the employee? Do you also recommend the same thing in the one-on-one, have an agenda item and ask this question? Or is there a different approach you'd recommend? I think yes, if you're the employee, you should also be soliciting feedback on a regular basis from your boss. So there's sort of an order of operations you want to solicit at first, no matter who you are, it's the same up, down, and sideways, even though it feels very different, the order of operations is the same.

So start by soliciting feedback. Then you want to give both praise and criticism. I think sometimes it feels like you're kissing up if you give your boss praise, but bosses need praise too. And if there are things that your boss does that you appreciate and you want your boss to do more of those things, praise is a better tool for that than criticism. When it comes time to offering your boss some critical feedback, you want to make sure, and by the way, this is also true when it comes time to give your employee critical feedback or your spouse or anybody else in your life, you want to be sure that you are prepared to gauge how it lands. So you want to start in kind of a neutral place. You don't want to go to the outer edge of challenge directly because then you're going to wind up in obnoxious aggression.

So if we go back to that story, my boss started, "you said a lot, were you aware of it?". "nah.". That was my response. And then "i know this great speech coach, would you like an introduction?". "nah," was my response. So she had to keep going out on that challenge directly. She didn't start out by saying, "when you say i'm every third word, it makes you sound stupid.". But she realized she had to go that far. So you want to keep going out if you think they're brushing you off. But if you find that your boss looks either sad or mad, that is your cue to move up on the care personally dimension. And so to take a moment, and if you find your employee looks sad or mad, if they look sad, pause and say, "i feel like maybe i didn't say that in the best possible way. How could i have said it differently?". And so that means you're going up on the care personally, dimension, but you're not going the wrong way on challenge directly.

I don't know about you lenny, but if i say something to someone and they look sad, it's so tempting for me to try to pull the words back. "oh no, it's no big deal. I didn't mean it," but it is a big deal, and i did mean it, that's why i just said it. And so if you go the wrong way on challenge directly, you wind up in ruinous empathy, and then you leave the person both sad and confused, so you make it worse. So you want to take a beat to pay attention to the emotions in the moment, but not to go the wrong way on challenge directly. Same thing if they're mad, although if somebody's mad, that maybe is even harder. If somebody starts yelling at me, it's tempting for me either to start yelling back and wind up in obnoxious aggression or to crawl off to a self-protective, manipulative insincerity.

And so instead, what i try to do is get curious, not furious, and why is this person so mad? So say like, look, maybe i didn't say that in the right way, but this is an important issue and we need to resolve it. This comes back to the point you made about when you're giving feedback to try to do it in person or on a phone call to do exactly what you're saying, to read them as you're giving this feedback and figure out which axis you want to go down. Yeah, you want to gauge it. I mean, when we communicate with other people, we communicate on an emotional level and on an intellectual level at the same time.

And if we ignore the emotional signals that are coming at us or say don't take it personally, then we're just not going to communicate very well. Along these same lines, another question that came in is from a coach of yours that works i think for you or somehow with the program. She asked this question of many top leaders have very low self-awareness. They believe obnoxious aggression is the only way to give feedback, or they just ignore the problem and fire people with no feedback. Is there something you've learned about how to change their mind about this is the way to operate? Yeah, i think the most important thing with leaders like that you can do is to explain to them the impact that they're having and to also show them that there is another way that is going to help them succeed. Very often the leaders who are low on the care personally dimension, they do care about their results and they do care about their own careers. And so when you sort of explain this to them in terms of enlightened self-interest, they tend to get better at it. And also, i mean there i can think of maybe one or two people i've worked with who are truly low on care, who truly don't care. Very often people are bad at showing they care, but they do actually care. And also sometimes there are leaders who think they're not supposed to care. And so unleashing that capacity that they innately have to care and telling them this is actually part of the job can make them a much better, more effective leader. But look, if someone is a psychopath and they truly don't care, they shouldn't be a manager. That's the solution. I totally get that one. So i really like that takeaway. Just basically show them the impact they're having because to your point, they want the company to succeed. They want their team to succeed. And if they're not realizing there's downsides to the way they're operating. And they want themselves to succeed. That's why i say part of the problem with obnoxious aggression is that you harm other people, but it's also inefficient because when you act like that, people can't hear what you're saying, so you're wasting your breath.

And the way you show them that impact. Do you recommend interviewing people, getting stories, seeing, i don't know, how do you collect this impact so that they're like, oh, wow, i didn't realize this. I think that the best thing to do is, for me anyway, is i start by sharing stories from my career and stories when i was a jerk. I've acted like a jerk too, plenty of times, unfortunately. And i show the impact that i've had and then i ask them for a similar story. And usually sort of me holding up the mirror to myself is useful for them to be able to hold the mirror up to themselves to realize you want to help these people adopt a growth mindset around this stuff. I am not telling you that you're an asshole. I'm telling you that we all behave like assholes sometimes. And it's a big problem for us as well as for the people around us. And here's my story, when i acted like a jerk, what's yours? And people, that kind of self-awareness, sometimes people talk about inflicted insight like it's some kind of burden, but usually that kind of self-awareness makes people feel lighter. They're like, "ah, now i know what's wrong. And now i know what i can do about it.". Yeah, i've definitely noticed that about your stories. They always are you making the mistake, which i think is very disarming. We all make mistakes. Yeah. Maybe the extreme of this obnoxious aggressiveness is bridgewater. Their whole approach is like theirs. Oh my gosh. Did you read the book the fund? No, not yet. You must read it's all about bridgewater. I always thought it was problematic. I had no idea just how problematic it is. Put that book in the show notes one of the best business books i've read in the last decade. Wow, that is high praise. Yes, i will read that. And so i guess for people that aren't familiar, like bridgewater, they encourage, they have a system called dots where they tell people, you must give hard critical feedback after every meeting, publicly. Not after the meeting, in the meeting, publicly. And it's recorded on, it was, i think they changed it since, but it was recorded for posterity on video. And sometimes, in fact, true story, shortly after i left google, i was approached to work at bridgewater in a management capacity, not in an investment capacity.

And so i called someone i knew who worked there and he said, "let me give you an anecdote.". He said, "the other day there was a meeting and there was a woman who in the meeting who had made a mistake and everybody just piled on. The criticism was very personal. There was no core about the criticism. It was like, these are your personality attributes that make you a useless human being. Kind of terrible feedback until she started to cry and the whole meeting was recorded. And then they emailed a recording of the meeting out to the whole company, including all the people who were not in the meeting saying, this is an example of how to have ". So i would say that is deep, dark, obnoxious aggression. That is not radical candor. That is horrible. So it's safe to say you're not a fan of that approach? No. In fact, i did an analysis of dalio's book principles and it's like a, i don't know, 3 or 400 page book. And there were i think four or five pages about caring about people. There's very low care personally. I imagine many people see that, they see elon, they see steve jobs, and the perception is they're very challenge directly people, they're not clearly care about you people, but they're very successful.

šŸ‘‡ Give it a try