Radical Candor and Organizational Health

Ohana Editor Blog

At last week’s Ohana Leadership Essentials event, four Indianapolis business leaders shared practical solutions for building trust, improving communication, and inspiring employee engagement. Our keynote speaker, Aaron Dimmock, retired Naval aviator and seasoned team leader, shared wisdom from his own life using the concepts found in Kim Scott’s book, Radical Candor. Dimmock’s talk compared the pitfalls of working in an environment where people do not care personally or challenge directly to a culture of Radical Candor where people do just that. Our panel participants then discussed the impact Radical Candor can have on organizations using their own personal stories.

According to Scott, there are four primary ways leaders and colleagues communicate with one another anddeal with themselves internally. Ruinous empathy, manipulative insincerity, obnoxious aggression, and radical candor. Our personalities naturally operate in one of the quadrants shown in the diagram below, and you should strive for Radical Candor when providing feedback.

Care Personally and Challenge Directly

Teaching Radical Candor is rather simple.  There are four styles of communication, and we use them in our organizations and with our family and friends.  Identifying our unsuccessful patterns and striving to correct them leads to thriving, high-performance environments. 

Obnoxious Aggression

Obnoxious Aggression happens when we’re more worried about the message than the person. It can sound like a sternly voiced, “Get that done!” or an exasperated “What a terrible meeting!” The Obnoxious Aggression statement may be directed at a person or a team or nobody.  Either way, when the team doesn’t feel you care about them, future communication will be uncomfortable.  It’s difficult to run a healthy organization with a room full of brilliant jerks.

Manipulative Insincerity

Manipulative Insincerity happens in low-trust teams where some of the players are making sure they have more power than others. Almost always, fear drives manipulation: fear of failure, fear of appearing weak, and fear of losing perceived power. People can detect insincerity and may be less compelled to have open communication with us in the future. It’s difficult to have a healthy organization with a room full of sneaky snakes.

Ruinous Empathy

Ruinous Empathy shows itself when we care more about keeping peace and having immediate approval than we care about the truth and holding one another accountable. Letting things go unsaid when they need to be expressed leaves us in Ruinous Empathy territory. Everyone is superficially happy, everything appears smooth, but no one communicates the valuable information required for positive change. It’s difficult to run a healthy organization with a room full of kind pushovers.

Radical Candor

Radical Candor begins to happen when we care personally for the people in our circle of influence. We innfluence the people around us every day whether we like it or not, and they know if we care or if we don’t. Our colleagues, our families, our direct reports, our executive teams, our boards of directors are all within our sphere of influence. Caring personally means knowing and investing in the people in your circle. Challenging directly, according to Scott is “…not just your job, it’s your moral obligation.”  The people around you deserve to know where they stand and need to be challenged in order to grow.

Keep an eye out for videos from the event on our website