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Review: Radical Candor

On several occasions, I’ve had the opportunity to participate in management training classes offered by my employer. Despite having taken the lessons a decade apart, during different phrases of my career, and with a varied set of instructors—they all sort of blend together with the same concepts and subject matters around management best practices. The reality is that these training programs are mostly administered to line managers, and the next level of managers either tailor their skills to their surrounds or worse, are too proud to admit to needing the training1.

Among those lessons, I had the good fortune of attending one at Square, hosted by Kim Scott, the author of the management book Radical Candor. Our session was before she had fully developed her consultancy and philosophies, but it harbored many of the same principles around caring about the team and providing straight-forward, honest feedback. The name “Radical Candor” is more a marketing catchphrase2, but it embodies the right ideas around the right way to lead teams.

The book is split into two halves. The first part is more inspirational, as Kim tells stories of her own experiences and those of other excellent managers, as examples of how to respond to tricky situations. I found this part to be the more interesting section; not only was there a good sampling of different management styles, but there was also a good variety of scenarios and tactical responses. Having spent the past couple of years establishing my own style of management and refining my favorite processes, I get the most out of picking up others’ ideas and adapting them to fit my overall system.

The second half is a more detailed, thorough set of instructions on applying the Radical Candor framework to everyday management tasks. Spelling out exactly how to conduct 1-on-1s or running a meeting efficiently is awesome if you’re starting from scratch, but it feels a bit too much like The Manager’s Path, in that the framework is best applied by the person who made it. I’m more of a fan of developing one’s own framework, sampling—and stealing—ideas from others and customizing to one’s unique personality, experiences, and perspectives.

Radical Candor is a good book on people management, one of several I’ve read around that’s centered around the tech industry. I may very well be in a bubble of my own selection, but I take having this kind of literature both as a critique on how much better managers can be, but also a boon in that there are plenty of thoughtful leaders who can offer guidance.


  1. I’ve seriously talked about this with a senior HR director, who lamented that the execs who actually could use the class refused to participate.

  2. And she tries hard to make it, along with the other quadrants of her behavioral framework, Proper Nouns in her managerial vernacular. It ends up feeling a bit forced.

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