Radical Candor:
Feedback for Agility and High-Performance

"Value the other person. Challenge him/her with honesty."

Throughout history we have evolved and survived as humanity, lived in society, worked in groups, discovered how to overcome our limits, and reached common goals. Being part of a group means being «protected» by its members – aligned with the same ways of acting and understanding the world around – and, therefore, communicating and telling others what we think is totally necessary and inherent in our nature.

Thanks to feedback we can become more than simple programs with simple reflexes, and develop more complex responses to the environment. Feedback allows animals like us to follow a purpose. Tom Stafford.

Agile, High-Performance Organizations such as Netflix and numerous of our clients, including Adevinta, a multinational listed at the Oslo Stock Exchange, have been successfully leveraging this idea as the bedrock of their culture: success as a team is based on honest communication and must be based on constant feedback. It must be based on Radical Candor.

Radical transparency, autonomy, self-responsibility and truth define the DNA of Agile, High-Performance Organizations. Likewise, people and teams interact continuously in these organizations and feedback is given and received to improve everything they do.

Radical Candor at leading organizations

Feedback is the best guardian of the culture of Agile, High-Performance Organizations such as Netflix.

Thanks to the radical transparency of their OKRs, and their projects, any colleague feels empowered to give feedback to another one and to receive it to help improve.

Therefore, it is a common habit: when you present your OKRs, everyone can join in giving you feedback,

Hence, it is a common habit: when you are presenting your OKRs, everyone can join in giving you feedback on them, regardless of the department and his/her hierarchical position. This is how all our clients practice it regardless of their sector: Unilever in FMCG, Danone in Food, Angelini in Pharma, Kendu in Retail, Adevinta in Digital, Marriott in Services, etc. By the way, this is right as we apply it in our team at ActioGlobal.

What really matters is the truth of the subject and the honesty of a feedback with the purpose to always help improve.

This also applies after any meeting or work session with colleagues of the organization.

"Honest feedback is the food of agility and high performance. These data gives us the advantage to grow as individuals and as an organization."

To do this, we are adopting Radical Candor as the feeback model that teaches us to challenge with honesty and appreciation. Without a doubt, a “must have” in our day to day, to continue promoting a great mindset for a great team. Thank you ActioGlobal for joining us on this path.
Helena Matabosh
HR Director Unilever Spain

Feedback is data. Data that we previously didn't know about but that help us improve now.

It also happens at the end of any meeting or work session of the organization where colleagues give each other feedback on those behaviors that during the meeting or work session may have reinforced or jeopardized their culture.

In the same way, all weekly check-ins between leader and staff include a 360º feedback about actions observed during the past week.

At Netflix or Adevinta, if people think they can help you improve, they will give you honest feedback with facts and data that will leave no room for interpretation.
In all these organizations, feedback is given with a radical honesty. We’ll see what «radical candor» means later on.

The lifeblood of Agility and High-Performance

For the rest of us mortals outside these organizations, without a doubt, giving feedback is not an easy thing, it’s even “hard” because we somehow are not trained to do it inherently. However, we have to learn how to do it.

The problem is that the feedback many of us have experienced has not been positive, neither at the time of giving nor receiving it. Thus, feedback has become the Achilles´ heel of the personal and professional development of many people and organizations on the road to high performance.

Honest feedback is the lifeblood of high performance.

It helps us grow and become much more effective. In Spanish, the word feedback as it is defined in the Royal Spanish Academy dictionary, is a very significant word because it refers exactly to this: «returning energy or information output from a circuit to its input system». That is, from one person to another.

"It was a turning point to have given Radical Candor training to 1100 employees. It was the best investment we have ever made."

Elisabeth Guasch
HR Director Europe Adevinta

If you want to do just one thing right in your company, it' s all about establishing the right feedback culture.

Claudia Braun

Individuals, teams and organizations must provide feedback to each other in a communicative way, because this is the basis for development and high performance.

What does feedback with Radical Candor mean?

To illustrate the feedback with radical candor in action, Kim Scott, author of the bestseller Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss without Losing your Humanity shares a story about the moment when her boss have it to her for the first time:
«I had just joined Google and gave a presentation to the founders and the CEO about how the AdSense business was doing. I walked in feeling a little nervous, but happily the business was on fire. When we told Larry, Sergey, and Eric how many publishers we had added over the previous months, Eric almost fell off his chair and asked what resources they could give us to help continue this amazing success.»

«So… I sort of felt like the meeting went okay.»

Scott left the meeting satisfied. But after the meeting, Scott’s boss, Sheryl Sandberg, suggested they take a walk together.

She talked about the things she’d liked about the presentation and how impressed she was with the success the team was having – yet Scott could feel a «but» coming.

Finally, Sandberg said:

«…But you said um a lot.»

And Scott thought:

«Oh, no big deal. I know, I do that. But who cared if I said um when I had the tiger by the tail?»

Sandberg pushed forward, asking whether Scott’s ums were the result of nervousness. She even suggested that Google could hire a speaking coach to help.

Still, Scott brushed off the concern; it didn’t seem like an important issue.

Finally, Sandberg told her this:

«You know, Kim, I can tell I’m not really getting through to you. I’m going to have to be clearer here. When you say um every third word, it makes you sound stupid.’»

That really got Kim Scott’s attention, and she has remembered it forever.

For all of us, raised in a culture that preaches that if you´re not told something nice, you´ll feel awkward, the feedback above would not be perceived as very nice. But Kim Scott, today, knows it was the most honest thing Sandberg could have done for her.

«If she hadn’t said it just that way, I would’ve kept blowing her off. I wouldn’t have addressed the problem. And what a silly thing to let trip you up.»

In the years that followed, Kim Scott has worked to put into practice the form of feedback with Radical Candor that Sandberg taught her.

High-Performance Feedback

Finally, after all those years of practice and study on the nature of feedback that Sander thought her – how it is given appropriately, when it turns sour or how we can evolve through it – Scott sums up the formula of ideal feedback in our teams with a model that we should always remember:
Scott claims to achieve high performance, we must be committed to give and receive better feedback (based on Radical Candor) to turn it into a tool for growth and learning.

“Care and challenge to improve in an honest way.”

To do so, it is necessary to know how Scott defines the different types of feedback that are given in the organizations and their actual impact.

Understanding her needs to explain the four axes in the model above:


Radical Candor

«Caring and challenging»

This is the communication sector we could call the ideal feedback, the perfect balance between caring for and challenging (understanding it as a positive challenge) other people so that they can progress and develop. 

Somehow, radical candor is almost intuitive in people because, if you take care of your colleagues, you want them to succeed and you want to communicate in a way that can be beneficial to them and for no other reason.

The story of Scott and Sandberg at Google I told you before, describes perfectly the effects of this feedback.


Ruinous Empathy

«Caring, but not challenging»

It’s not easy to tell someone you appreciate something negative about him/her. Sometimes we try to ignore reality and don’t communicate what we think for fear of hurting the feelings of the people we like. 

You have to be careful, yes, but you also have to be honest if you want to strengthen personal relationships in your teams. 

Probably, our colleagues want and need our feedback because we can’t see ourselves (but we can listen to how others see us). 

So don’t let someone you have a good relationship with have to say “why haven´t you told me?”. It’s like a small betrayal of trust.


Obnoxious Aggression

«Not caring, but challenging»

Maybe you are right in what you are saying and it is true, but just because something is true it doesn’t mean you need to put it in a way that hurts.

People who receive feedback must be able to sense that we give it because we care for them and because we care about their well-being. It is this kind of radical candor that should really motivate us to give them our opinion. 

Before giving feedback, we should ask ourselves whether what we are going to say is to develop or to hurt the other person.


Manipulative Insincerity

«Neither caring nor challenging»

Welcome to the communicative horror. When you are in this sector, or you listen to a feedback located here, be sure it is only about: insecurities, anger, and lies. When these factors influence our communication, we tend to manipulate rather than give feedback that fuels both sides. 

If you never want to arrive in this sector, always ask yourself before giving feedback: is what I am saying true? 

Knowing the feedback sectors, which we should stay in, and understanding that total sincerity is our goal, we must take a step further and see how our communication can help other people succeed. It helps the whole team and also ourselves as an integral part of it, because understanding and adopting feedback of total sincerity, as they do in Netflix, can change the culture and life of our organization completely. 

Be committed to give and receive better feedback in order to transform it into not only something positive but also into a tool for growth and learning towards success. So:

Accept the truth and take responsibility for it.

4 steps
to embracing feedback with Radical Candor

It will help you if you remember four things in learning how to give and receive better feedback (Radical Candor):

1. Accept

The first step is to accept feedback when we receive it. We have to learn to feel comfortable asking our team about ourselves or receiving opinions from others, because it´s the basis for establishing a culture where feedback is not something to fear but part of our day to day, of our work as a team.

Take it as an opportunity. It may not be comfortable at first, because it is not always given to us when we want or need it, but it must be transformed into an opportunity to become familiar with its use, to study how to receive and how to respond to it.

It’s about trying to understand, not just responding. It seems simple, but perhaps it is one of the greatest challenges of communication. So, a little trick is to take a deep breath and count to ten when you get feedback. Give room for understanding and don’t leave the communication in a vacuum of silence.

Being honest is something you should always be grateful for to people who invest their time to help you. This is especially true for something you are not pleased to hear and few people would dare to tell you. Say thank you – always.

2. Offer

Give feedback well. It’s like learning a new language: you have to practice it. And by practicing you will probably make mistakes but you will also improve, for sure.
Try to praise rather than criticize. We tend to focus on the negative when it comes to reinforcing the team. Always remember to also tell them when they do things right.

Be honest. 
Help with your comments
React immediately. Give feedback as quickly as possible. If you can help someone, why not do it as soon as possible?
Do not prejudge. We are full of constricting beliefs, do not let yourself be blocked by your prejudices. Do it in person. In the closest possible way: face to face, through video or, if not possible, by phone. Use writing as the last option, think of all the non-verbal nuances we lose along the way.

Give feedback in private, praise in public.

3. Improve

Whenever you can, remember to ask people if the feedback you have given them has been useful, if you have been able to help them with it. You will also recognize if you can improve it or do something else for that person within your possibilities.

4. Promote

Having a great team depends on having a communicative culture based on honest feedback, and, I’m sorry I don´t want to be too enthusiastic, it’s not going to happen inherently, unless you are at Netflix,

If you have read this, I trust that you will be able to take the lead, encourage your team, all the people around you to communicate with others. Especially if you are in management positions, or lead teams, you need to deploy effective and sincere communication through example.

Don’t let people gossip or speak ill of others in front of you but behind their backs.
Ask if they are trying to improve in their communication, if they are trying to solve problems that may come up.
Suggest to enhance the quantity and quality of feedback between all of you.

In a nutshell, this is how to embrace feedback by Radical Candor:

And now it´s your turn

Of course, each company is different, but no High-Performance Organization can be built without honesty.

No matter what our current culture is like, with radical candor, we can transform it – now.

Let me ask you for this: Do give feedback. Accept feedback. Promote feedback. Improve it and remember:

Honest feedback is the lifeblood of Agility and High Performance.


I recommend all readers of this article to also see Radical Candor- Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity. Kim Scott, 2017.

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