Radical Candor

By Kim Scott
Image of the cover of Radical Candor by Kim Scott. Wesley Donehue's book reviews and recommendations.

Hi, I’m the asshole.

A few years ago a local magazine did this feature on me in which they wrote “If you don’t want to know what Wesley Donehue thinks, you’d best not ask him. He’s smart, passionate, talented, and ferociously honest.”

I’m not sure about being smart, but I am ferociously honest. Everyone will tell you that. It makes me a great consultant. It has also lost me clients, colleagues, friends, and staff.

Honesty is a great trait. At least compared to the bullshit artists who dominate business and politics. The problem is that people with absolute candor can also come across as absolute assholes. That’s me. I’m the asshole. ‍♂️

Most people are candid because they give a damn. They give too many damns. Unfortunately they, or we, don’t always show it. That’s where this book comes in.

In the comments of this post, I’ve included an image. You will see two axes.

The vertical axis is what the author calls “the give a damn axis” pointing toward care personally.

The horizontal axis is “the willingness to piss people off” axis pointing toward challenge directly.

The key is to get in the quadrant where care personally meets challenge directly. This is where radical candor lies.

Truthfully, I live in this quadrant. Or, I should say, I think I live in this quadrant.

I care. I care too much. I care about my clients and I care deeply about my staff. The problem here is balance. I have a natural tendency to lean more into candidness than caring because I assume people know how much I care. That assumption gets me into trouble and I fall into the bottom right quadrant, what the author calls “obnoxious aggression” or “the asshole quadrant.”

The best bosses challenge their employees while showing empathy. It’s not enough to feel compassion. You have to actually show compassion. That’s easier said than done. Luckily, the author gives a detailed roadmap on how to get there.

I enjoyed this book because I needed this book. In a lot of ways, it was a slap in the face. Mostly I realized that it doesn’t matter what I think about myself. What matters is what others think about me. They won’t think of me as a wise consultant, good teammate, or great boss if they think I’m an asshole. As I tell every political client, they have to like you before they will listen to you. Your ideas are shit if they think you’re an asshole.

As for me, while nailing the honesty part of this equation, I have to not only care but show I care.

I recommend this book to all entrepreneurs.

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