Say what you think or risk stifling growth and killing innovation.

The secret to being a great leader

Leadership guru and former Director of Google, Kim Scott, describes radical candour as an invitation to “say what you think” a simple invitation that Scott encourages us not to shy away from.

For many, the invitation to “say what you think” may, at the very least, arouse suspicion. The thought of toe curling exchanges with your team or co-workers might leave you gnawing at your desk in despair but hold fire and read on.

Counting the cost of not being candid

For Scott, radical candour is all about being the kind of leader that inspires, motivates and develops others. In her forthcoming book, Scott argues that it’s the alternative to radical candour we should avoid and fear, she explains, “Bad bosses make people miserable. They also kill innovation, stifle growth, increase costs, and create instability. Well-meaning people become bad bosses without even realizing it.”

The balance between obnoxious aggression and ruinous empathy

To see real progress and change within your team encourage all team members to be radically candid. When you implement this culture of guidance within your workplace ensure that everyone understands that caring is key. Radical candour combines a high level of genuine care about the person receiving the guidance along with a willingness to challenge them directly, empowering and enabling growth. For Scott, the element of caring is essential and when it is absent, we end up with a challenge that Scott describes as obnoxious aggression. None of us are aiming for second best, Scott argues, so why would we sell ourselves short or those we lead?

When we act from a position that lacks the essential element of care and fail to adequately challenge, we risk what Scott calls ‘manipulative insincerity’. Conversely, when we fail to challenge under performance for fear of hurting others, we risk ‘ruinous empathy’, an approach that many may have found themselves adopting at some point. Scott describes radical candour as an obligation, recalling the moment she realised she’d slipped into ruinous empathy as the worst moment of her career. Scott realised she had no option but to fire a team member she’d failed to directly challenge for over a year.

A moral obligation

Scott is renowned for her inspirational work with teams. At First Round’s CEO summit, Scott explained her belief that leader’s have a moral obligation to be just as clear about what’s going wrong as well as what’s going right. Scott’s approach has gained popularity and she is keen to promote a focus on giving, receiving and encouraging guidance.

Putting radical candour into practice

Scott’s acronym for getting radical candour right is HHIPP:

  • H = humble,
  • H = helpful,
  • I = immediate
  • P = in person — in private if it’s criticism and in public if it’s praise
  • P = it is never personalized

Scott’s four steps to create a culture of guidance

  1. Find opportunities for impromptu feedback — turn radical candour into routine daily communication, encouraging team members to categorise the feedback they receive into i) radical candour ii) obnoxious aggression iii) manipulative insincerity iv) ruinous empathy.
  2. Make backstabbing impossible — Be clear that politics and point scoring have no place in radical candour. As a leader encourage reports to resolve differences before stepping in.
  3. Make it easier to speak truth to power — provide safe opportunities for people to offer their guidance.
  4. Put your own oxygen mask on first — or practice what you preach.

Originally published at on January 18, 2017.

Originally published at