Radical Candor - Kim Scott

Ok! I have a new favourite management book!

Kim Scott's "Radical Candor" approach to feedback was recommended by a manager I strongly rate, and that approach is pretty easy to summarise and is well-explained in a couple of YouTube videos (roughly, be really blunt with people, but make it really clear that you're doing this because you want them to improve, and be open to criticism yourself). It was helpful enough that I thought to get the book.

The book does cover roughly the same ground, but then expands on the ideas quite considerably, in a way that makes the book more than a retread of a 5 minute talk. There are plenty of examples and ideas from Kim's career at Google, at Apple, and running her own start-up. I think it's the best book I've seen at summarising the good bits of Google's people philosophy (and tempering those ideas with her experience at Apple and elsewhere).

It's not perfect. The second half drags a bit, as it tends to in these books (once the basic ideas are down, the rest is fleshing out). On the other hand, if you're wanting to use it as an ongoing reference, rather than a one-off read, I think those sections should be helpful.

Some of the background makes me a little sad. For all the talk of Google being engineering-led, Scott is another Harvard MBA. Early in the book, it talks about the way that she got her job being to contact her classmate, Sheryl Sandberg. At an internal presentation, I heard a senior engineering leader talk about their career - and again, they got their path from knowing an even more senior Googler (and our ex-head-of-cloud seemed to get their job from regularly doing dog walks with one of our senior VPs). This book tells you how to be a good people manager, but the secret of getting a good job does appear to be networking.

That grumpiness aside, I hugely recommend this book to anyone who wants to be an effective team leader.

Posted 2020-01-03.