The cover of Radical Candor

Radical Candor

Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity

by Kim Malone Scott

I read this book because my current manager said it was one of her favorites. She’s a total enigma to me, so I thought reading it would give me some insight into how her brain works.

50% of this book is familiar conventional wisdom type stuff if you’re currently working (or have ever worked) in tech. Management is hard! Maybe have some 1:1s? It’s a roadmap to being a decent manager if you get parachuted into a fully-formed team at a 1k±person org.

25% of the book is good framing for what actually makes a manager effective. These parts I found rather useful. You have to actually, really, truly care about the people you manage before you can be candid with them. Compassion is not the same thing as empathy, and one of the two is far more valuable in a relationship. Sometimes it’s best to be honest with someone even if it will hurt them.

The last 25% of this book is catnip for sociopaths. I usually stick to one color for highlighting (yellow, I think this is an interesting passage) but I brought out a new color for this stuff (red, I vehemently disagree). I worry that assholes of every stripe will over-index on this material. “I regret to say that if you can’t be Radically Candid, being obnoxiously aggressive is the second best thing you can do.” Yes, this is an actual quote from this book.

Kim Scott is infuriating as a character. She name-drops constantly. (paraphrasing) “Oh, this one time my friend Andy Grove said this, which convinced me to work for Sheryl Sandberg instead of working for Larry Page.” I don’t think she ever actually spoke to Steve Jobs, but his name appears more than anyone else in the book. She nostalgically looks back on her first job, running some team at an international diamond syndicate? Weirdly, I can’t relate to that.