Alicia Diamond

Chief of Staff Blog

Actionable advice, tips, and musings from a 2x Chief of Staff

Radical Candor

When is radical candor not appropriate? Is candor so rare that, when deployed effectively, it must be branded as radical?

I’m a big fan of radical candor. Kim Scott wrote a genius book about the subject, which I highly recommend to everyone. Candor, especially the radical kind, is an oft-ignored requirement in all professional and personal relationships. 

Why candor works for me

Somewhere along the way, I became a direct person. I’m a naturally pragmatic person who loves efficiency, so why not communicate as directly as possible? I’ve worked extensively, and almost exclusively, with small teams where we each wore a different hat every day. We all did what needed to be done, which required an efficient, free flow of communication. 

How I deploy it successfully

You can be direct without being a d*ck. Ask permission to be direct and candid before proceeding. This small step gives the other party time to brace and emotionally prepare for what is about to come. I exercised the opportunity be radically candid during the process of selecting a web design company. We spoke with eight companies by phone, two in-person, and ultimately selected one to handle the entire project. Two of the companies who didn’t win the work asked for feedback and I was happy to provide it. I began those, and other similar conversations, by saying that I would wish someone would give me honest feedback about my organization. We cannot improve the problems that we cannot see. Perception is reality, and I want my customer’s reality to be sunshine and roses!

One of the vendors asked for feedback over the phone. I was thoroughly impressed with how graciously he accepted everything I had to say. I was 100% honest with him about the primary reason we selected another vendor (his pitch focused on capabilities that we didn’t need) and, based on his reaction, offered a number of other details that, while not fatal, contributed to our less-than-amazing meeting. For example, we arrived on the floor of his office building to a door with no signage or suite number. He included an external sales consultant in the meeting who was very pushy; we would have never had a second interview with him had she been involved from the start. 

Candor is hard. Radical candor is really, really uncomfortable. But, it’s critical that you give it if you want to receive it. Without feedback, we cannot grow, and isn’t that what we all want to do?



Alicia Diamond