4.0 out of 5 stars
Another Winner from Kim Scott
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on May 25, 2021
Kim Malone Scott's "Radical Candor" was a life-changing book for me. If you've been around me in a professional setting, you've heard me sing its praises. After having been introduced to the book by my agency's personnel director, I became and continue to be one of the book's truly hardcore fans. I've incorporated it into both my personal and professional life and I can even say that "Radical Candor" helped me when I had to deal with healthcare during a hospitalization and limb amputation in late 2019.
I've even been impressed with Scott's team at "Radical Candor" and their presence on social media as the book soared in popularity and as the organization's efforts grew.
So, I eagerly anticipated "Just Work: Get Sh*t Done, Fast, & Fair," the latest book from Scott that offers a practical framework for both respecting everyone’s individuality and collaborating effectively.
"Just Work" starts off with what I can safely refer to as a "gut punch" of an introductory chapter. Without going into details, Scott shares aspects of her professional history that help to set the tone for this book and why this book is desperately needed.
If you know Scott, you know that she's both incredibly intelligent and richly human. She was a CEO coach at Dropbox, Qualtrics, Twitter, and other tech companies and has been on the faculty of Apple University and led teams for Adsense, Youtube, and DoubleClick at Google. To make her background even more compelling, Scott managed a pediatric clinic in Kosovo and started a diamond-cutting factory in Moscow.
"Just Work" is truly a book that will be most meaningful for corporate leaders. Scott has spent a good majority of her professional life in Silicon Valley and that fact radiates throughout the nearly 400 pages of "Just Work." While I won't go as far as to say that "Just Work" is meaningless for your everyday employee, there's little denying that many will be unable to identify the world in which Scott lives and works.
The good news is that Scott is aware of her own points of privilege. While she is a female corporate leader working in the male-dominated Silicon Valley, Scott is a white female who has, for the most part, grown up in and benefited from a certain degree of privilege.
"Just Work" can be an exhausting reading experience. Scott is refreshingly straightforward in her writing and she doesn't tend to mince words. At times, I wondered if "Just Work" is an act of penance by Scott. She's practically relentless in owning her mistakes along the way toward advocating for and helping to create more just workspaces. While this transparency is admirable, it's also often not countered with application of those lessons and a sense that she herself has truly grown beyond those leadership mistakes along the way.
"Just Work" explores the impact of unjust workspaces, leaders, and organizations. Scott dives into such issues as bias, prejudice, and bullying and how these issues undermine all organizations. She creates actionable responses to these issues and, yes, she passionately proclaims that none of us - herself included - are absent of these behaviors.
Scott plants the seeds for the growth of difficult yet necessary conversations and organizational actions so that workplaces can foster respect and collaboration rather than conformity and dominance.
At times, it felt like Scott's privilege peeked through. At times, I will admit that I found Scott's language a bit troubling and, at least a couple times, almost bullying. I will also admit that one of the greatest lessons I took from "Just Work" was that I would never want to work in Silicon Valley despite the apparent richness of rewards financially and otherwise. Quite honestly, Scott makes it sound dreadful here.
So, while there are things that bother me about "Just Work" there are also a myriad of ways in which I deeply respected the book and feel like it's a natural growth out of Scott's "Radical Candor" work. I do wish Scott had cast the net more widely here - while Scott is nearly always inclusive in her language, the vast majority of "Just Work," somewhat understandably, centers around gender inequity and gender injustice in the workplace. There are other areas mentioned, for example racial and LGBTQ and transgender, but other areas receive only minimal attention such as disability.
If there's a difference between "Radical Candor" and "Just Work" for me, it's that "Radical Candor" had undeniable broad application while "Just Work" never quite stretches itself beyond its Silicon Valley boundaries. While I do believe that CEOs and HR Directors will find much to love here, Scott's privilege is so pronounced here that it's difficult to imagine working class individuals reading "Just Work" and applying it into a variety of workplaces.
That said, I still loved "Just Work." I still applied it to my own life as a mid-level manager with a disability who found more than a little to identify with here. After "Radical Candor," I found myself thinking that Scott is something I would enjoy working for much as I am fiercely loyal to my current supervisor who is richly human, incredibly intelligent, and challenges me to perform at my very best. "Just Work" is compassionately written and incredibly researched. This book is bold yet vulnerable, wise yet willing to learn.
"Just Work" is another winner from Kim Scott.
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