• Susan Cuozzo

2019 Reflections and Radical Candor

Updated: Jul 8

It has been a hectic fourth quarter and an overall positive time for Scientific + Strategic insights. It is a great time to reflect on the year’s challenges, accomplishments, and key learnings. During the holidays, I had some time to read a book that has been in my library for a while, Radical Candor by Kim Scott. I recommend it as essential reading for leaders new to managing teams but even more so for those who have experience under their belts and are comfortable with their current approach. Scott asserts there is a sweet spot between being an aggressive manager and a “ruinously empathetic” one, and that providing guidance with a mix of praise and criticism produces better results and unleashes potential. This may seem like common sense but leadership and management are rarely straight forward.

How are insights from Silicon Valley and the tech sector relevant to medical communications and education? It turns out Silicon Valley was an ideal setting to explore the relationships between bosses and their direct reports. Scott explains this was so because the war for talent there is so intense. With many great companies growing and hiring, there’s no reason for a talented person to stay with a company if they are unhappy or feel their potential is being wasted. If people don’t like their boss, they quit, knowing other companies will be interested. Therefore, there has been and continues to be a lot of pressure on companies to get these relationships right. After decades in medical communications and education, this reasoning rang so true. More and more agencies continue to become key players in helping pharmaceutical and device companies accomplish their goals to advance care for patients. However, there is such a shortage of talent. I have spent months and, in some cases, years trying to find the right candidates to fill medical writing and editorial positions, even with the help of recruiters.

I have also spent significant time working with the same people I had hired years ago and I believe the low turnover on my teams had something to do with the investment I made in those personal relationships. According to Scott, the first dimension of Radical Candor is to care personally to really build trust and the bedrock of the working relationship. She notes that it is not enough to know superficial details about people but to know what matters to them and to actually care. I can attest to how exhausting this can be – knowing people’s health issues, relationship problems, etc. I have also experienced firsthand how building strong relationships is essential when things go sideways and unpleasant conversations need to take place. Such feedback is essential to help a team member grow, but it will not really resonate with them unless it is coming from someone whom they trust to know the difference between good work and work that needs improvement, including how to make it better.

Radical Candor is organized into Part 1: A New Management Philosophy and Part 2: Tools and Techniques. Part 2 is a great reference to consult when you have new hires, when you need ideas for communicating praise and criticism, techniques for building a really engaged team, and more. Archives of the Radical Candor podcast are also a great resource and can be accessed here: Here’s to a very happy New Year, working better together.


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