“ Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity ”

by Kim Scott

Book Cover


Radical candor is a human management framework organized around two axises: caring personally and challenging directly.

Care personally about people in your team, understand what motivates them, help them define their career (their actual dream, not what you want to hear) and get the skills they need. Spend time with them.

Challenge people directly by giving them immediate, specific and honest feedback. Don’t flank in front of difficult conversations. Do not hide dissatisfaction and make sure people know where they stand. Give specific feedback when giving praise. Make sure people give you feedback honestly as well.


Hiding the truth does not set a trust environment

3 responsibilities as leader: build a guiding environment with feedback, understand what motivates people reporting to you, drive results collaboratively

Radical candor is the intersection of care personally x challenge people directly

Care personally - bring your whole self at work, tell when you are having a bad day and show vulnerability to encourage others to do the same.

Challenge people directly - it’s not mean, it’s clear. Challenge their external behaviour, not their internal essence

Care + challenge = radical candor

Don’t care + challenge = obnoxious agression. Obnoxious aggression is the next best thing to radical candor : at least you communicate.

Care + don’t challenge = ruinous empathy

No care + no challenge = manipulative insincerity

Taylor management to each person.

People have different growth trajectory : some are fine with what they are doing, some look for steeper progression. Giving goals and jobs for one another is a recipe for failure.

Taking a job and working hard for the pay check makes sense. The 5% who have a vocation make it very confusing for all of us

Rockstars are the ones good at their current job and fine with their current craft. Be sure to recognize and sustain them and dont forget them for superstars (those on steep growth). Reward tenure.

Everyone has talent but some people are not good at their jobs. Help them change where they can be good. But you need to keep the bar high and not lower it.

Fire people who are mediocre and not on a growth trajectory.

People are good in something and not good in others. Sometimes it’s just the culture (agile v wf, polish v launch), sometimes the skills (alone va social),…

Don’t label people, because they change and they won’t perform as well depending on the context

Drive people collaboratively. Telling people what to do doesn’t work

Two ways of listening : silent and loud. Loud is dropping your idea provocatively and encouraging to criticize it.

Allow people to come with ideas and build them ; however there are more ideas than time and so allotments are necessary


Start with yourself. You need to be centered, i.e. things need to work for yourself.

Getting to know other personally can be done on work hours. Don’t force people to

Trust is built over time by consistently acting in good faith

Allow people to have emotions, express them. Recognize them, and don’t think you can control them.

Count to 6 when waiting for the answer of any complex questions

Tell others to help you fix your behaviour issues (eg signal when interrupting)

Praise can also be patronizing

When giving feedback, use Sbi (when x you y and consequently z), both for + and -

Say right away, so that example is vivid

Criticize the behaviour, not the person. Don’t personalize. Don’t ask to not take personally

Dont postpone because you’re afraid of emotional response. Be there for the emotions in order to show you care personally

Prefer feedback vocal. Never correct someone in reply all. Do praise with reply all.

Reward the candor, don’t critic the criticism. Ask people if they want it direct.

Have the patience to Listen, the courage to challenge, the wisdom to commit and leave an argument

Commit to candor in perf reviews. Write the review first.

Encourage and incentivize to share mistakes

Have skip meetings. Once a year. In support of the manager. Share notes bjt not attribution

Ask: What if you could change one thing

Career discussions

You want an 18m plan and a long term plan. Find what truly motivates people = their dream, and map career to help that happen. Use three discussions

  1. Tell me your story starting from daycare. Take note of all changes and what motivates them. Financial independence, prestige,… . Also helps caring
  2. Tell me your dream. Stick away from standard promotions and what the boss needs to understand, look actual ambitious dream. Find what can help their dream come true in current work. Try to challenge dream vs values
  3. 18m plan - what leaning, whom from,… Develop skills that take you in right direction

Determine growth plans. Identify rockstars or superstars. Be sure to calibrate to avoid bias due to care axis


Bias towards no. If you don’t die to hire don’t hire. Let others overrule you and prevent you from hiring. If you die to hire do so right away. Use written feedback and share with the panel to calibrate.

Diverse. Other teams


Firing is hard

Make sure you act early

Build a pip

Follow your gut. Give a damn. Do with humility. Make it easy for them

Follow up


Calibrate. Receive data.

Don’t send an announcement email. Celebrate accomplishments and praise along the way, and acquisition of skills, but not random company level. If anything this should be a measurement rather than token.

Announce when there is a change of role.

Send thank you notes. Praise recognize skill, thank you is personal gratitude.

Touch level

Absentee management: Hands off, mouth off, ears off

Micro management : hands on, mouth on, ears off

Partnership management: Hands on, mouth off, ears on


Keep time for thinking.

Don’t cancel 1:1 they’re the most important to build relationships.

If people don’t have topics in 1:1 ask why

Decouple debate meeting and decision meeting. In debate meeting no decision will be taken so that all ideas flow.

Staff meeting, townhalls,…


Act in accordance

Beware of the small things you say that get taken at face value

Beware of the small things you do that clash with the culture you are trying to create, and of the things that reinforce your it.

About Reading Notes

These are my takes on this book. See other reading notes. Most of the time I stop taking notes on books I don't enjoy, and these end up not being in the list. This is why average ratings tend to be high.