Entreprising Notes pages are for my thoughts as I progress through a book… You can check out the Review page here, which is about grading the book as fairly as possible.

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Finished November 27, 2019

Chapter 8: Results – Things you can do to get stuff done together – faster.

Those were some packed chapters! Can’t believe the 8th chapter is the last chapter.

Actually, I listened to/read the Afterword, and started the bonus chapter.

I don’t think grading those individually is going to do much to the score, so I’m not going to rubricize them… I think the grades are spot on for this book.

So, the 8th chapter is about getting results as a team – faster.

Making sure you have enough meetings to keep the flow of communication going, but not so many that you can’t get any work done…

This chapter struck me as solid without really adding anything “wow” to the mix.

I was reminded of two books I read recently when I didn’t find what Scott offered to be of that much help.

1. When she was writing about teams not knowing what to do, because they didn’t understand what was driving the results they had been measuring, and therefore didn’t know what to do when the results turned bad.

She proposes that visualizing workflows, etc. will ground the team in knowing what drives success. But I don’t think so…

It reminded me of the book The Great Game of Business by Jack Stack, which is all about grounding teams in the fundamentals (the real numbers of a business, like the P&L and Balance Sheets) to help get everyone on the same “team” to really play the game of business.

I will go back at some point and put The Great Game of Business by Jack Stack on The List and take the time to rubricize it, etc. It was a worthwhile read, for sure.

2. And when Scott pointed out that teams sometimes amplify personality traits and flaws of their leaders, she talked about how that’s scary because it’s not like you can change who you are.

Her answer was to be aware and more careful about this…

That was less than satisfying to me, and it reminded me of a little book called The Alter Ego Effect by Todd Herman, which at its core suggests you don’t have to modify yourself to behave like someone else… A better answer, I think.

Something interesting from the afterword was the idea of assigning grades of “not yet” rather than failing grades… as a way to point out that there’s room and time for improvement. It’s just not there, yet.

Which applies to The Alter Ego Effect, which didn’t score too hot in The Rubric, but has enormous potential to be a great book when it’s revised… (I’m hoping Todd will call me to help with that when it’s time.)

One other observation from the afterword is I wish she had worked a lot of that content into the rest of the book. She could even have kept the afterword for people who didn’t want to re-read the content that didn’t change, but a lot of the afterword’s content belonged with the rest of the text to improve it, and to keep the concepts/ideas in context.

Well, that’s it for my Notes on Radical Candor by Kim Scott. I’m looking forward to revisiting this text when it’s time to write the Guide.

In the meantime, you can see a more formal review of Radical Candor here.

November 26, 2019

Chapter 7: Team – Techniques for avoiding boredom and burnout.

This is the chapter that answers the question about whether or not you can teach someone to care personally. Hint: You can’t.

But, it’s still a qualification for the job of manager.

And this chapter does an excellent job of tackling the practical questions of how do you get to the point of knowing and caring about your “direct reports” personally.

This is probably my favorite chapter of Radical Candor so far; likely because it’s the part of management I love the most. Working with people.

Real people.

There’s still that one tiny problem, though.

The practical aspect of Scott’s advice in this book doesn’t work for small businesses.

She talks about how managers in large organizations with huge budgets will complain that they don’t have time for this; and she tries to help them figure out how to find the time…

But forget it if you’re in a tiny organization.

You’ll have to adapt the concepts, and she offers (thus far) no help in doing so.

Okay, so it’s supposed to rain sometime soon. Hoping it waits until after my afternoon walk. Back in a bit…

Chapter 6: Guidance – Ideas for getting/giving/encouraging praise & criticism.

Chapter six was similar to Chapter 5. We’re definitely in the prescriptive portion of the book.

The big takeaway of the sixth chapter is that you should invite criticism and feedback before delivering it…

In some ways, this chapter was more like Radical Rapport than Radical Candor.

But I agree with the premise that you need rapport to sustain candor, so it wasn’t really surprising.

The part I will say I was relieved to hear was that she doesn’t recommend practicing Radical Candor with your boss – at least not until you pave the way for it.

Still, throughout the book she’s been pretty quick to advise that you find another job if you’re not in a place that’s suitable for Radical Candor. So I was relieved to hear her suggest that you shouldn’t do so without having a back up plan – to make sure you protect yourself.

The problem here is that means that there is an edge to the author’s prescription of Radical Candor that doesn’t seem present in other communications books. The edge being, if you use this on your own boss, you could end up fired.

And the assumption is that it’s not worth it to work at a place that isn’t suitable for Radical Candor. But there are A LOT of processes that have to go into place to make Radical Candor as a culture viable within a business.

As willing as I am to say that people shouldn’t stay in positions that aren’t fulfilling, I think I prefer the message from Crucial Conversations better…

Basically, in Crucial Conversations by the team of Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler, or even in Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg – they teach YOU how to communicate when a conversation becomes crucial. Not how to communicate when you can manage to make changes to an entire workplace culture…

I’m getting a lot out of this book. But keeping it in perspective helps, too.

I’m also open to the possibility that I’m wrong here; maybe I’m just not seeing everything she’s put on the pages. I’ll be going back through this book to write the guide, so maybe it will pop out at me then.

Of course, I’m always happy for feedback from authors when I get things wrong, too. 🙂

November 25, 2019

Chapter 5: Relationships – An approach to establishing trust with your direct reports.

Okay, entering the “how-to” section of the book, and Scott is doing a pretty good job of delivering tools within the pages. She’s getting some extra credit love from me for not referring us out to external resources.

I’m still leery about whether or not you can teach people to care personally about their “direct reports,” as she calls team members.

I mean, I get why that’s so important and why it can make a huge difference in the rapport and cadence you set with your team.

But what if you don’t care? Does that mean you can’t effectively manage a team to achieve results?

She doesn’t seem to be asking that question or including it in alternative hypotheses…

The only answer she seems to have offered is that not everyone wants to be or should be a manager as a matter of growth with a company; and I completely agree.

So maybe, if you can’t bring yourself to care personally about team members as their manager, you shouldn’t be their manager…

This brings up another, if redundant, point, though.

That’s all well and good in a large company; but if you own a business and you’re responsible for managing a small team of 3-20 people, where at least some of the day-to-day interactions happen on your watch, you cannot avoid the responsibilities of management – regardless of whether or not you care personally about the people who work for you.

So there’s that.

Anyway, Chapter 5 is a little cliche on the self-care side – not much practicality offered. Basically an acknowledgement that self-care is imperative, but it has to be different for each person – so figure it out yourself.

On the team member side, it’s a bit more instructive. She gives some good tips for improving the odds of having radically candid conversations with direct reports.

I’d say it was a solid chapter.

I’m half-way through Chapter 6 now; hopefully it won’t be raining when it’s time for my next walk…

November 24, 2019

Chapter 3: Understand What Motivates Each Person On Your Team – Helping people take a step in the direction of their dreams.

Chapter 4: Drive Results Collaboratively – Telling people what to do doesn’t work.

Wow. Sometimes you figure out you were so wrong about something and it just makes you feel a little silly.

I was so enamored with the concept of Radical Candor from such a narrow slice of what the author was tackling that I failed to see what the book was about from the outset.

Which certainly clouds one’s judgment on the quality of the book

I thought Radical Candor was about having difficult conversations with people at work, and how healthy it is when people are able to be candid with each other.

Instead, Radical Candor is about a management practice.

I would rename the book, honestly. The fact that I was so confused over what the book would be about is problematic.

And clearly, I’m not the only one. Scott added a preface to the second edition to help clarify some of the confusion around her first edition.

Part of that confusion is in the name. She defended the name; but perhaps she needed a bit of radical candor to arrive at a different conclusion, because she’s confusing people.

Radical Candor is a book with a bunch of stories, thoughts, and ideas about management practice that best fits within the walls of the “unicorn” companies where she’s reminiscing about having worked.

There is value here. But it’s so difficult to get a handle on what this book is actually about and what it’s use is supposed to be, that I’m not sure I can give her a lot of credit for it all without having to go back and retrace my steps. Something I’m planning to do, by the way – but for the average reader, that’s just not something to expect people to do.

If I were going to rename this book so people would have a better time orienting themselves for the message, I would call it either Radical Management or Candid Management or Radically Candid Management, and I would subtitle it “Stories from my time in the management trenches at Google and Apple.”

I do not think I would add “Theory” to the end of the title; like Radical Management Theory or Candid Management Theory; I don’t think she’s there, yet. But I do think she’s on her way to articulating a theory or a method.

Had she named her book appropriately, I would have been much better prepared to find what I’m finding in these pages. Which is an extended essay about about why candor is so valuable, and then an approach (mainly some graphs/charts/visual aids) to management that makes candor possible, probable, and most likely to be successful.

Funnily enough, in the third or fourth chapter of the book, Scott talks about the onus of understanding being placed on that of the communicator. Going back and reading what others have said about the work (which is something I typically avoid before reading given what I do), and then reading the copy on the Amazon page, I see where the feeble attempts at talking about this book as a culture-building exercise.

Still, I missed it. I thought I was going to learn tactics and receive tools for having candid conversations with people when it matters. Instead, I’m learning a management philosophy that is very much geared toward behemoth companies with tremendous resources the majority of the world’s managers and business owners just don’t have at their disposal.

All that, and I’m so much happier reading this book now that I have a better idea of what I’m reading. I’m listening to stories from Apple on my brand new noise-cancelling Airpods, connected to my brand new iPhone 11.

I’m hearing stories from Google and then typing up my notes and doing the review on my trusty, three-year old Chromebook that I’m about to replace with another Chromebook…

It’s onto Part II of the book on my next walk. Let’s see where it takes us! (I gather it’s the “how-to” section… which is a precarious part of a book in my experience. Here’s hoping she knocks it out of the park!)

November 23, 2019

Chapter 2: Get, Give, And Encourage Guidance – Creating a culture of open communication.

Okay, so I listened to the second chapter and half of the third chapter yesterday on my afternoon walk, and then read the second chapter to rubricize it this afternoon…

I’m warming up to the author.

I don’t think she’s tackling the fundamental causes of feedback challenges in the workplace, but she’s doing a good job of labeling types of feedback and giving a language for talking about what’s happening in any given feedback dynamic.

My concern about this top-down approach is she’s describing what happens, and what she sees, not why or how these things come about. So it’s symptom and treatment, rather than cause and treatment.

And that’s not going to translate easily across workplace cultures. Scott even mentions that you don’t do Radical Candor the same, everywhere. That you have to adapt it to fit what’s happening on the ground where you are.

There are plenty of methods of doing things that need adjusting based on the culture within which you’re trying to fit the method.

But usually that’s because the method being given is a bottom-up approach; it’s teaching principles and foundations.

I don’t have the sense that Scott is teaching principles here. I think it’s observations with some theory. And that makes sense; she wasn’t working at Google or Apple to figure these things out – they were just things she noticed on the job, and now she’s getting around to investigating what she observed.

What is particularly refreshing in Scott’s account in Radical Candor is she seems to be practicing radical candor (in a different way) about what she’s bringing to the table here. I don’t get the sense that she’s pretending to be anything she’s not.

Thus far, I have yet to hear or read her discussing applying Radical Candor to a client’s business; she’s recounting her own stories. Which IS what she has to work with.

And she is delightfully honest about her past. She’s not painting a rose-colored picture of her expertise and method. She’s brazen about her outcomes that she labeled as failures, and even tells some stories about her own past that are not so flattering to her.

Also surprising, she hasn’t once mentioned an external resource, and I’m in the middle of the third chapter. In the last two books I’ve reviewed, I had already been sent to the website a number of times by the third chapter.

One other concern that I’m not sure she addressed fully is that a prerequisite to delivering Radical Candor is caring about the other person, personally. Not just about their career and performance at work, but them as a whole person.

I don’t know if that’s something that can be taught.

And I think that might be one of the reasons why she’s found that some people have misunderstood Radical Candor, and use it as an excuse for what she calls Obnoxious Aggression.

Still, I thought the second chapter was much better than the first (which you can see on the Review Page); and I have more hope for the third chapter as well.

Which I’m less than an hour from finishing…

More later tonight, or maybe tomorrow… it is Saturday, after all.

November 21, 2019

Chapter 1: Build Radically Candid Relationships – Bringing your whole self to work.

I got started with Radical Candor by Kim Scott today.

In thinking about what I read, I was taken back to how I first learned about Radical Candor. It was an article by Kim Scott, which you can find here.

(It turns out that article is basically part of Chapter Six in Radical Candor.)

It was such a good article. I read it twice, shared it, and immediately put the book, Radical Candor, on my list to read.

But like many of the books on my list, it kept being pushed off…

Until now.

Today I bought the 2nd edition, which was just released last month, both on Kindle and Audible.

My process is to listen to the Audible version on my one or two hours of walking each day, and as soon as I return home, to read the corresponding chapters in the Kindle app on my Chromebook, grading each chapter as I go.

One of the things I notice is how much the preceding book affects my feelings and thoughts about the next book.

I just finished Crucial Conversations by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, and Switzler. And I appreciate it so much.

[I thought] Radical Candor was about how to be candid with people about tough subjects, and the key ingredient (as far as I can tell from the first chapter) is doing so while making sure the other person knows that they are valued as a person. [11/24/2019 – I have since learned that’s not what this book is about. At least not entirely.]

Crucial Conversations is essentially about the same thing, but the key ingredient is slightly different. In Crucial Conversations, it’s about maintaining safety in the conversation, for all parties.

The similarities are striking, but the books are so different thus far. I was originally considering comparing/contrasting Crucial Conversations with Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg; but I might have to make it a comparison/contrast of all three.

Anyway, I was so looking forward to tackling this book, but I’m finding that Crucial Conversations was so good, I’m not getting into Radical Candor as quickly as I would like…

Let’s see if Scott can change my mind.