Forget Naughty or Nice. This Christmas, give “Radical Candor” a Try

This Christmas season, don’t settle for Santa’s “Nice” list. This former Google exec says the real gift we should give is “radical candor.”

Ever gotten some painful, maybe embarrassing, but (sadly!) accurate feedback?

Not fun.

Executive coach and former Google exec Kim Scott recounts (fondly!) the day her boss took her aside and told her

“You say um a lot, and it makes you sound stupid.”

Rather than being offended or becoming defensive about this direct, negative feedback, Scott–

a.) Took the advice and got a speaking coach to eliminate her um problem.

b.) Figured out what exactly makes for effective feedback or guidance.

The result of Scott’s research is her rather surprising claim:

“I would argue that criticizing your employees when they screw up is not just your job, it’s actually your moral obligation.”

Scott asserts that the single most important thing a boss can do is learn how to give, receive, and encourage guidance. She calls her approach “radical candor.”

Radical candor is telling the hard truth from a place of caring.

Radical candor happens when you both “care personally” and “challenge directly.”

She pictures it this way:


Or in other words, at the intersection of the “give a damn” axis and the “willing to piss people off” axis. A place where you care enough about a person to tell them hard truths.


Radical candor is—




In person (in private if it’s criticism and in public if it’s praise)

Doesn’t Personalize.

Here’s a video of Scott’s talk describing how she hit on the notion of radical candor and how to use it to become a better leader and friend.

Can you see some places (at home or at work) where you could use a little more radical candor? And which axis do you need to work on? Are you short on caring personally or challenging directly?

Merry Christmas!