Kim Scott is the author of several very impactful books, some of which you may have heard of, such as “Radical Candor,” that give some very useful perspectives on how to give feedback, and how to receive feedback. Her latest book is called “Just Work: How to Root Out Bias, Prejudice, and Bullying to Build a Kickass Culture of Inclusivity.” Kim was a CEO coach at Dropbox, Qualtrics, Twitter, and other tech companies. She was a member of the faculty at Apple University and before that led teams at Google, including AdSense. She also managed a pediatric clinic in Kosovo and started a diamond-cutting factory in Moscow. Kim is especially admirable because she’s not just writing from theory, but from deep experience.
In this interview on the School for Good Living Podcast, Kim joins Brilliant to discuss some of the different roles that we play as we go through life and in the workplace. She talks about the workplace, what to do when we are a person being harmed, or when we are the person who causes harm, when we’re in a leadership position, when we are someone who just observes this, and what our responsibility is or might be and how to effectively handle situations. Throughout the interview, Kim shares how effectively handling potentially difficult situations can be a key to good living.
Connect With The Guest:
Brilliant Miller [00:00:12] If you are a leader, if you aspire to be a leader, or if you just want to be a better human being, I think you’ll enjoy and probably be challenged by my guest today. Her name is Kim Scott. She’s written a few books. Some you might have heard of, maybe even read such as “Radical Candor.” That’s a book that gives some very useful perspectives on how to give feedback, and how to receive feedback. And her latest book is called “Just Work: How to Root Out Bias, Prejudice, and Bullying to Build a Kickass Culture of Inclusivity.” This is a book that challenged me, but a little more about that soon. Kim was a CEO coach at Dropbox, Qualtrics, Twitter, and other tech companies. She was a member of the faculty at Apple University and before that led teams at Google, including AdSense. She also managed a pediatric clinic in Kosovo and started a diamond-cutting factory in Moscow. That is pretty incredible experience. So Kim is one whom I really admire because she’s not just writing from theory, but from deep experience. So in this interview, we talk about some of the different roles that we play as we go through life and in the workplace. We talk about what it means, what to do when you are the person harmed, when you are the person who caused harm, when you’re in a leadership position or if you are an upstander, someone who observes this, and what your responsibility is or might be and how to effectively handle this. I took a lot away from this. I hope you do as well. You can learn more about Kim and her work on the Web by visiting RadicalCandor.com. You can also visit JustWorkTogether.com and you can find Kim on Twitter @kimballscott. OK, with that, please enjoy. Please take this. Use it to make the world a better place. Whatever your tiny corner of the world is, all right, and I’ll do my best to do the same in mine. So please enjoy this conversation with my friend, Kim Scott.
Brilliant Miller [00:02:30] Kim, thank you so much for being here and welcome to the School for Good Living.
Kim Scott [00:02:35] Thank you so much for having me and for all the great work that you do.
Brilliant Miller [00:02:39] Would you tell me, please, what is life about?
Kim Scott [00:02:45] I mean, who knows is the TLDR but for me, life is about becoming. It’s about becoming your best self. It’s about turning the things that are in your imagination into realities. That’s what it is partly about. But it’s also about doing that with other people. And allowing other people to enter your imagination and to change your imagination, to meld your dreams with their dreams.
Brilliant Miller [00:05:42] Our friend Sergio told me about this. With these rockets and these airplanes, Sergio did tell me something as well about stuffed snakes and about celebrating failures as well as successes.
Kim Scott [00:05:51] Yes. So one of the best things that I did to build a culture of radical candor on the team at Google was we had an all-hands-on meeting when I was managing the AdSense team. That’s about, you know, 115 people. And so we would all get together once a week and early on, I brought a stuffed daisy. There was a stuffed daisy. It actually wasn’t a daisy. It was something else. I’ll tell you that’s a longer story. But let’s just say for here it was a stuffed daisy. And I brought a stuffed golden retriever, so two stuffies. And the stuffed daisy, you would nominate yourself for whoopsie daisy? And so if you screwed up something that way, you’d say, I screwed up and you’d raise your hand and you’d tell the story. And the deal was you’d get instant forgiveness, but you’d also help all your colleagues not make the same mistake. And so that was that was sort of a part of building a culture in which self-criticism was safe and therefore viewed as a gift to others, and therefore it became easier for us to criticize each other as well. But very strict rule with whoops, you can only nominate yourself for a whoops and then for the for the stuffed golden retriever, the idea was that when you saw someone on your team do something fantastic, something really great, you would nominate them for the stuffed golden retriever and. This had the impact, you know, people are reluctant to give each other praise because it can sound patronizing. And it just reminded us that it’s important to take a minute to do that, to praise each other, and do that publicly. And it’s really interesting. There’s an interesting study I read about that said that when movie critics panned the movie, people thought they were smarter than when they loved the movie. And I think if you’re not careful in an organization that can kind of take hold where people try to sort of criticize one another to look smart and that you don’t want. So those were two important things I had to bring. At first, I had to put 20 bucks on top of whoopsie daisy because people didn’t really want to criticize themselves. And I don’t think that people started telling the stories on themselves just because they needed the twenty bucks. But it kind of gave them, you know, plausible deniability. They were just playing along.
Brilliant Miller [00:08:30] Yeah. Now what a great way to make it safe to acknowledge something that’s less than perfect and to help girls learn in the process.
Kim Scott [00:08:40] And to make you want to make a failure, if you want to develop a growth mindset on the team where it’s good to make mistakes because we learn from them and you know, we’re not going to innovate if we’re not making mistakes. And so that was a big part of the reason for doing that.
Brilliant Miller [00:08:59] Yeah. Well, in what you’re speaking to as well, this whole idea of, you know, people who maybe are critical of others to look smarter. What’s this cognitive bias that I come across every now and again? But people who are kinder are perceived to be less competent? Yes. I know there’s a name for that in the leadership psychology.
Kim Scott [00:09:23] When it comes to gender that people call that the competence, likability bias, that’s it. That’s very often in particular, a woman who is who is competent is viewed as unlikable, which is like, That’s kind of rough.
Brilliant Miller [00:09:39] Yeah. Why is that? Why do you think that? Is this a cultural thing? Is this is a pretty universal around the world have you found? Or what’s your what’s your understanding of this?
Kim Scott [00:09:48] Of the competence, likability bias? Yeah. Well, I think as it pertains to women, I think there’s a reluctance to see women in leadership positions and so when things surprise us, we tend to reject them. I think if you read Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking Fast and Slow,” there are a lot of examples of that happening. Bias kind of reflects and reinforces these stereotypes that are kind of in the air. And so it’s really important. One of the things that I spent a lot of time on in my book, “Just Work” is disrupting those biases. And there’s all different kinds of biases. There’s racial biases or gender biases. There are biases around, you know, like, for example, something that I used to say all the time, which reflects the biases. Oh, that’s lame. Why would I say that? You know why? What, why would I? Why would I have sort of a negative connotation with a person who can’t walk like that, you know? So choosing different words and learning to flag these biases is really, I think, important for all of us, where bias is a pattern, right? And we, as human beings we’re pattern makers, but we’re also pattern changers and we can change those patterns.
Brilliant Miller [00:11:26] What’s your take on this whole thing about those who say, like, we’re just so sensitive now like everybody, you know? Yes, words matter on the one hand. I don’t think there’s many people that would dispute that, that words actually do matter. Yeah. And there’s a whole and I’m related to some of them. I love some of them very much. But I also think there’s this view about I was like, come on, you’re just a snowflake or you’re just being soft, or it doesn’t actually matter that much what you’re saying right now.
Kim Scott [00:11:54] Yeah. You know, there’s Russell Way, who I worked with at Google and who I started a company with and and who went on to to lead the people operations team at Qualtrics. He has a really good response to that. There was one time when I tweeted something and I said something like, Tell me why I’m crazy, and someone tweeted at me and said, you know, that’s really offensive to people who struggle with mental illness. And I understood why, and I agreed, and I said, yeah, there’s no reason for me to use a sloppy metaphor like that, you know? Tell me why I’m wrong. That’s what I really meant. Right. And then there was a bunch of people who piled on and said, Oh, we’re all oversensitive. You know, you didn’t do anything wrong. And that put me in the slightly tricky situation because as a woman, I often get, you know, accused of being oversensitive or whatever. And then Russ jumped in and he said, look for the your-too sensitive crowd, let me explain the ROI of changing the words you’re using. And he said the investment is very small. You just change the word and you’re usually using a better word. And the return is huge, you’re communicating better because you’re being more precise, but you’re working better with a whole host of people you’re including. You’re able to recruit from a bigger group of people, you’re able to promote from a bigger group of people. You’re able to bring out the best in the people that you hire. You said that’s like a, you know, that’s a really positive ROI. Why wouldn’t you just change the word? And then he told me recently something else that I really liked about this. Someone said someone had used a word that offended someone else at work. I don’t remember what it was. And, you know, was told not to use that word anymore. And he said, I’m just being myself. I’m just being my authentic self. And Ross looked at him and he said, You know what? I’m pretty sure that using the word blah is nowhere on the top 100 things of who you are. You know who you are, you’re a good leader or you’re a good person. You care about being productive and this is unproductive. Don’t use the word. So, I guess those are a few things. I’m going to quote Ross Perot for the I’m-too-sensitive crowd because I liked what he had to say.
Brilliant Miller [00:14:28] I love that view about the cost is so minimal, but the benefits can be huge.
Kim Scott [00:14:33] Yeah. But you know, I will say I’ve been guilty of saying that myself. When I wrote Just Work, I obviously wanted to make sure that I was not using biased language. And so I hired someone who I called my bias buster. And so this person read the book and sort of identified some things that I had said that were problematic. And there were eight words that I tended to use in ways that were problematic. And my initial instinct was no word is safe in the English language. And then I, you know, quantified bias. Then I took this, I took a step back and I’m like, OK, those are eight words. How many words are there in the English language? I mean, 250000 and something like that, you know, there were plenty of safe words in English. So it’s really worth taking the time to think about what we really mean when we say things.
Brilliant Miller [00:15:29] Yeah, I totally agree. And I think that even it’s kind of, for me, a little bit like the, you know, fixed mindset and the yes and the growth mindset of where consciously choosing to orient ourselves toward something like growth of saying, Look, I might I might be wrong. I’m open to possibility and not just in the way we speak, but in the way we live. Yeah, I had an example of this where I went to an event in Washington, D.C. before the pandemic. So in modern times, this was forever.
Kim Scott [00:16:00] Yeah, yeah. Another world away.
Brilliant Miller [00:16:03] Yeah, the organizers had chosen, you know, on the upper level was the bathrooms were as they were. But on the lower level, they covered over the sign, it was like unisex or universal, whatever bathroom. And I didn’t know that, I just saw the toilet sign and I went in and then I realized I was in the women’s bathroom because there were no urinals. Yeah. And at first it was a little strange. Just because it was not usual for me. Yeah. Then there was a woman in the bathroom using the bathroom while I was there and I went ahead and used it. And it really, for me, was one of those moments that when I woke up that morning, I didn’t expect to encounter a situation like that. Yeah, it caused me to start to go, Well, yeah, why do we differentiate? I mean, we don’t at home.
Kim Scott [00:16:47] Yeah, yeah. My husband and I share a bathroom
Brilliant Miller [00:16:51] And it’s not strange. And I just kind of thought that maybe that was just one of many examples that I’m ignorant of, that my life might actually be enhanced by an awareness of and embracing of something that’s not familiar or comfortable or whatever. So I don’t know if that makes sense. They’re kind of the line that I’m following, but this whole thing about that is not a sensitivity that the investment might actually be pretty small. The return of inclusion or performance could be massive. Yeah, it makes a lot of a lot of sense to me. Yeah. But you’re thinking too about hiring this bias buster. I really admire that because I wrote a manuscript a couple of years ago and I had an editor edit it. And one of the examples she gave me was committed suicide and she changed it to died by suicide. Yeah. So I started paying attention to that and I realized there’s a lot of journalists at publications I respect that are still using committed suicide. Yeah, right. And it’s interesting to me that and another one for me was I didn’t get sexual preference vs. sexual orientation. Yes. Right. And that’s a pretty big implication. Yeah. So the things that we use without really thinking about it, that actually do represent a system, a pattern of belief and behavior that we can then modify. It’s pretty remarkable. But the fact that you wrote an entire book, open yourself up to that deliberately in the drafting process. Like, I really I really admire you for that.
Kim Scott [00:18:19] Well, you know, I would have been probably the world’s biggest hypocrite if I hadn’t been open to it since I was writing a book on that topic. But I want to come back to something you said that I think is so important about having a growth mindset. Like I have worked with almost nobody who really wants to be biased. You know who that’s their goal. That’s usually not the goal. And if they want that, then we’re talking about prejudice, not bias anyway. And so I think part of the problem is that I mean, it’s hard to have a growth mindset about math. You know it’s a little hard to say, Oh, I got this, I got this question wrong. Yay. It’s an opportunity to learn something, you know, that’s a big mindset mind shift in and of itself. But if you think about applying a growth mindset to these to who we are as human beings, it almost feels like sometimes applying a growth mindset to my ethics or my morality. Like, I’m never as good a person as I aspire to be. And and learning how to become the person I want to mean I have to be willing to notice when I have failed to live up to the person I want to be. I think that applying a growth mindset to becoming the human beings we want to be is is vital. But it’s also much harder because I don’t know about you. But sometimes when someone points out a bias that I have, I feel like, you know, I’ve revealed something horrible about myself. And you know, it’s like the fly to my soul has come undone or something
Kim Scott [00:20:05] description. And that’s like a that’s a scary feeling. So learning how to move through that shame, I think is really important to becoming the people who we want to be.
Brilliant Miller [00:20:16] Yeah, I totally agree. And it’s kind of like the Matthew McConaughey acceptance speech of Who’s your hero? My 10-year future self.
Kim Scott [00:20:22] Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Brilliant Miller [00:20:25] So with this most recent book, Just Work: How to Root Out Bias, Prejudice, and Bullying to build a Kick-ass Culture of Inclusivity. You started this before the pandemic.
Kim Scott [00:20:35] Yeah, before me too actually. Yeah. Or Harvey Weinstein story broke.
Brilliant Miller [00:20:40] It’s been a work in progress for a while. Why did you choose to write this book?
Kim Scott [00:20:47] You know, shortly after I published Radical Candor, I was giving a radical cantor talk at a tech company in San Francisco, and the CEO of that company had been a colleague of mine for the better part of a decade, a person I like and respect enormously. And one of too few black women CEOs in tech. And after I gave the talk, she pulled me aside and she said, Kim, I’m really excited to roll out radical candor on the team. I think it’s going to help me build the kind of culture I want. But I got to tell you, it’s much harder for me to roll it out than it is for you. And she explained to me that as soon as she would offer someone even the most compassionate, gentle criticism, she would get slimed with the angry black woman stereotype. And I knew this was true. And as soon as she said it to me, yes, I had four different revelations at the same time. The first was that I had not been the kind of the kind of colleague that I imagined myself to be that I want to be nothin and upstanding. I’d failed even to notice the extent to which she had always had to show up unfailingly pleasant and cheerful at every meeting we had ever been in together. And believe me, she had what to be ticked off about in her in that period of time as we all do our work. The second thing that I realized was that I had been in denial about the kinds of things that happened to me as a woman in the workplace. You know, hard for the author of a book called Radical Candor to admit I had been in denial, but I never wanted to think of myself as a victim. So I had gone through a lot of my career just pretending. That things that were happening weren’t happening, and then but even less than wanting to ever think of myself as a victim that I want to think of myself as a perpetrator. And yet I hadn’t been. So I had been even deeper in denial about the kinds of things that I had done to others without a never meant to harm other people who I work with. But I had done it. And then the fourth thing that I realized that as a leader, I always prided myself in, you know, creating these peace free zones. But I realized that I had failed to create the kind of environment that would specifically identify and eliminate bias, prejudice and bullying. BecauseI had, you know, you can’t solve problems if you refuse to notice them. So those kind of it was a mind blowing moment, but I think that was the moment when I sort of decided that that just work was the next book I had to had to write.
Brilliant Miller [00:23:21] Wow. Who’s who do you hope reads and applies what you have to say in this book?
Kim Scott [00:23:31] Yeah. You know, this is never a satisfying answer for people, but I did write it with four different audiences in mind, which I know is kind of a no-no, but I did it anyway. The first is for leaders.
Brilliant Miller [00:23:43] At least it wasn’t everyone.
Kim Scott [00:23:45] No, it’s not everyone, but four distinct audiences. These because these are the people who need to work together to solve this problem. So the first is for leaders there. I get very detailed about things that leaders can and should do so to address the problem of workplace injustice. But I also wrote it for upstanders because the people who observe this nonsense are often in a better place to respond to it than either the leader or the person who is harmed by it. So I want to encourage people not to be silent bystanders, but to be upstanders. And then I also wrote it for people who are harmed by these problematic attitudes and behaviors because I want to arm them with a way to choose a response. And last but not least, I wrote it also for people who cause harm because we all are bound to mess up from time to time. And so how can we learn to make sure that we listen to the feedback and address the problems that we change? But when we need to change, that’s who I that’s who wrote this for and I centered it on the workplace because that’s where most of us spend, at least before the pandemic, most of our time. And even though I’m not in a workplace now, I’m working all day long. But I think that the workplace is the place where we really can create and change rules quickly. I think we can do it at and must do it at us at a societal level as well. But I think we can all create a better place where we spend our days and should.
Brilliant Miller [00:25:40] Yeah, I agree. And I think with what we’re seeing with the great resignation and just I mean, all the factors in the world right now of people not wanting to go back to the office, many people, some people do. And clearly benefits. But you know, some people just leaving the workplace before they had probably planned to other people not wanting to come back, coming back, that now won’t come back. People want to be paid more. You know, this one issue just changed the experience of it. And I think at the root of all of this, this is my own take. I’d love your view on this, but I think. Although this isn’t true for everyone, of course, the level of prosperity globally, even though there are a lot of people, billions of people still without water or sanitation and things like that, and a lot of people in our country that still don’t have a great standard of living that nevertheless, the material prosperity on the planet is higher than ever before. Yeah, but what we’re all looking for, especially after a certain level of comfort is achieved and security is meaning. Yeah, and we’re craving that and we’re not going to feel satisfied if we’re part of a system or a group that we know is inherently unjust. Yeah, right. So until we do, until we achieve the kinds of place workplaces that you’re talking about, it’s we’re going to keep drifting or keep searching for something else, even if the money is there, I think.
Kim Scott [00:27:04] Yeah, I think you’re right. And I think we also need to sort of reexamine the way that we pay people. I think that the people at the top pay themselves too much and pay rank and file employees too little. And that’s what we really need to take a hard look at that.
Brilliant Miller [00:27:26] Yeah. Well, historically, and I’m not a historian, but a little bit I know that’s it’s never ended. Well, when there was this.
Kim Scott [00:27:35] It does not end well. So in fact, we’re seeing how that ends tragically right now with Russia. Yeah.
Brilliant Miller [00:27:43] So, OK, let me ask you this one of this, I want to ask you a little bit about some of the frameworks that you’ve put in this book. And I appreciate that because I think it makes it easier to understand to share with others to apply. But how did you think about the creation of frameworks as you drafted this book and what was maybe one or two that actually seemed really central or they’ve been really, really helpful in your disseminating these ideas with others?
Kim Scott [00:28:12] So as I started writing Just Work, I, you know, I always want to come up with the two by two and there is a two by two framework. I love a good two-by-two framework. But for me, the thing that really helped as I wrote and really trying to make sense of my own experiences and the experiences of others. The thing that really helped me was beginning to disentangle bias, prejudice, and bullying and offer really simple definitions because and simple responses because I think very often we conflate these things as though they’re one. But bias is very different from prejudice is very different from bullying. And so to me, bias is not meaning. It’s kind of a brain hiccup, whereas prejudice is meaning it. It’s a very consciously held belief. And bullying is just being mean. And all of a sudden when I had this kind of simple framework to turn in the moment. And you don’t have to be sure what it is, but for me to think, what do I think this is, then I knew how to respond because I think if it’s biased, you want to respond with an I statement which kind of invites the other person and understand things from your perspective, it sort of holds up a mirror. But if it’s prejudice and so an example of an I statement, by the way, is I don’t think you meant that the way it sounded or, you know, it doesn’t have to be a very, very confrontational statement. But prejudice demands a different response because if you hold up a mirror to prejudice, the president’s going to say, Yeah, you know, they’re going to like what they see. And so there you need an IT statement and an IT statement draws a line between one person’s freedom to believe whatever they want, but they’re not allowed to impose that belief on another person. And so in its statement, can appeal to the law. It can appeal to an H.R. policy, or it can appeal to a sort of common sense.
Brilliant Miller [00:30:07] So it’s like it’s not OK to say that kind of thing.
Kim Scott [00:30:11] Yeah, it’s not OK, or IT is ridiculous not to hire the most qualified candidate, you know, because of their hair or whatever. But IT’s also an H.R. violation not to hire the most qualified candidate because of their hair. And it’s also, at least in California, illegal not to hire the most qualified candidate because of their hair. So, you want to make sure that you’re, you know, you’re appealing to this boundary that is sort of generally understood. But if it’s bullying, you know, there’s no belief conscious or unconscious in operations, the person just acting like a jerk and trying to cause harm. You want to use a used statement and my daughter actually explained to me, explain this to me. When she was in third grade, she was getting bullied and I was encouraging her to use an ice tape. And I feel sad when you blah blah blah blah blah. And she banged her fist on the table and she said, Mom, they are trying to make me feel sad. Why would I tell them they succeeded? And you know what. That’s a really good point. Yeah. And so, so we’ve we talked about saying, you know, you can’t talk to me like that or you can’t do that or you need to stop now or what’s going on for you. Why are you doing this? And that, you know, now she was not in the subordinate role, you know, she was playing an active role and sort of pushing if an ICE statement invites a person in a used statement sort of pushes them away.
Brilliant Miller [00:31:43] So did she end up doing that with this bullying? And did it work?
Kim Scott [00:31:48] She did do it, and it helped. I mean, you know it, what really you need with a bully is you need the teacher or at work, you need the manager to create consequences for that bullying. And there needs to be sort of conversational consequences at the moment there need to be in the workplace sort of compensation consequences. You don’t want to give the highest ratings and the biggest bonuses to the bullies. And there have to be career consequences like there’s a fine with a lot of the companies that I’ve worked with. There’s a moment in their growth when the jerks begin to win. And that’s the moment when the company’s culture begins to fail, so you need to make sure I think, especially in the case of bullying. You need leaders to play a role, but you also need abstainers to play a role to intervene. And there’s. What are you going to say something?
Brilliant Miller [00:32:46] No, I was just saying that I totally agree with the upstander. That was a term that I hadn’t really heard. I think Starbucks had done a series called that or something, but before this about the four different roles, because that’s another framework, right? Yeah, that matters to know which like which is happening. So I love that bias, bullying, bias, prejudice, or bullying. And then what role are we in? Yeah. So helpful.
Kim Scott [00:33:10] Yeah. But it’s it gets complicated, right? Because there are four roles and three things. And then the three things can get worse when there’s once you layer power on. But it’s not that complicated like this. We can wrap our minds around this.
Brilliant Miller [00:33:22] Yeah, you know what? It reminds me of a little. And this might not be a perfect analogy, but I went through a period of time in my life where I put a lot of monopolies. I love that board game, and I went so far as I bought a book. There’s a book called The Monopoly Companion and it’s like two hundred pages on Monopoly. And now I got some history of this, and it points out certain things like, you know, which properties are landed on statistically the highest and which has the highest return and stuff that once it’s pointed out to you. Yeah. Oh, I get it.
Kim Scott [00:33:52] Yeah, it’s obvious. Now I know what to do now.
Brilliant Miller [00:33:54] I know what to do. But before you just like kind of playing the game as best you can and hoping something good happens are not too bad. But that’s one thing. And then the other thing is, I hear you share this and it reminds me I interviewed someone named Stephen Koepp, who’s a spiritual teacher back east. And when I asked him his opinion, like, we asked him to tell me what is life about? And I think about this a lot. He said that it’s about becoming in the Hindu tradition, what’s called a jemand mukti; awake in this lifetime? Yes, right? And what you’re saying, what I’m hearing now is like to be aware, like, Oh my goodness, this is like, this is a bully and this is what’s called for. It’s you. Right? Hey, I think this might be prejudiced and I love your formulation. And you just said most of it you hear about. I don’t think you meant I don’t think you meant what you said. Let me tell you how I heard it. Yeah. Yeah, it’s like very generous and different. And why I say like the soul awake in this lifetime is to be present to, to be responsive to or responsible. Like, there’s a lot in this that for me, it is just my orientation that there’s actually, I think, some spiritual work here if we’re willing to see it that way or take it on that way.
Kim Scott [00:35:06] Yeah, absolutely. I totally agree with you because it’s so you know, another way of saying something similar. Kimberly Crenshaw said, If you can’t name it, you can’t fix it. And giving things names can really help us be more aware of them. Yeah. And I think especially when there’s, you know, there are these patterns that happen over and over again, and it’s easy in some ways, you know, fighting to gaslight is another way of saying, I want to be aware, I want to be present because I don’t want to be confused. You know, I want to see things as they really are. I want to notice things I’m going to wave. One of the things I recommend is biased disruption, and I use a purple flag. And every time I say something biased, I’m going to wave a purple flag. So I just said, You see, and what I meant was, you notice and this is one of the words that my bias buster told me about.
Brilliant Miller [00:36:06] This is one of the eight,
Kim Scott [00:36:08] You often use sloppy site metaphors and it’s sort of ablest. And I knew that this was right because I don’t mean, see, I mean, notice and or understand or, you know, and it’s useful to stop and think about what I really mean. And the reason why it’s problematic is that it kind of implies that if you can’t see, you might not notice these things. And in fact, one of the people who is helping me edit the book is a historian who’s blind, and he’s one of the clearest thinkers I’ve ever met in my whole life. And so I really thought I understood it. I thought I agreed. I thought I had stopped using sloppy sleight metaphors. And yet I did a quick search of the document before I sent the final version to my editor and then a 350-page book. Guess how many times ideas? Sloppy site metaphors. Fifty-seven, ninety-nine. Ninety-nine. Yeah. Well, it’s every third page was unbelievable and I thought I was conscious. I thought I was enlightened, but I was not. Oh yeah.
Brilliant Miller [00:37:17] Yeah. That’s like I had the chance to do a motorcycle riding school once and the instructor rode right behind us and he would film us. And one of the goals most of the students had, including me, was to put our knees down. Like, if you mean that far, you’re like the pros. And I’m like, Man, on turn three, I was so close, I must have been half an inch and we come back and I’m like, that’s not even close.
Kim Scott [00:37:38] Yeah, yeah, no. The way we perceive things is often not how they really are.
Brilliant Miller [00:37:43] Yeah, no doubt. No doubt about that. OK, I do want to ask you about this, about I really appreciate something you. You write in this book where you talk about you, talk about silence and you talk about it as a default and then you also talk about conflict as maybe a reason, sometimes is the reason for a sense. But another is not necessarily. I haven’t put a clear question out there yet, but when you talk about silence, when you talk about defaults and when you talk about conflict and benefits, drawbacks.
Kim Scott [00:38:14] Absolutely. So one of the things that I learned in tech is the power of the default. And a lot of people have written about this for a long time. The default on your driver’s license is I’m not an organ donor. And then when the default is, you know, you are unless you opt-out, then you have way more. You know, it’s tragic, obviously, that there are so many organ donors, but you but at least you have benefited someone. And so I wanted to think about one of the things that became clear to me as I was writing just work is the number of times in my career where something really bad happened to me or happened to someone else I cared about when there was some sort of injustice and my default position was always to remain silent, not to speak up about it. And I really wanted to think about why is that? What’s the default to silence? And I think we’re I think part of the reason why we default to silence is that we’re so aware of the risks and costs of speaking up. It feels very risky. We’re less aware of the risks of remaining silent. And for me, at least one of the bad things that happened as a result of defaulting silence was that I felt like I was losing a sense of agency. And I also felt like I wasn’t becoming the person I wanted to be. And I felt like kind of a wimp. And it was really important to me in the book to encourage people to make a choice to respond or not respond. And when you’re the person who’s harmed, if you’re upstanding, you don’t have a choice, you must intervene. But if you’re harmed, you do get a choice. You don’t. You can choose your battles. But you want to make that a cost-conscious choice that you own, rather than one that is imposed upon you by default. I think,
Brilliant Miller [00:40:22] yeah, this power is huge power and choice.
Kim Scott [00:40:26] Yes. All right. Recognizing that you have a choice that sometimes you don’t necessarily feel like you have,
Brilliant Miller [00:40:33] yeah, I thank you for that. OK. Just to keep us on pace here. I want to move us through into the enlightening lightning round. But before I do, I do want to. I want to ask how there’s so much in this book. There’s a long book, by the way.
Kim Scott [00:40:50] I listen, it was it’s a long book, and it’s definitely it was hard to write and people have told me it was hard to read. So feel free to read it, you know, a chapter at a time.
Brilliant Miller [00:40:59] What I would do is I got audible and I would read it usually while I was on the elliptical for 30 minutes at a time. And you know, honestly for me, because I’m not currently in a leadership position. The leadership of people. But I thought, Man, this is a huge undertaking. You know, I used to wonder why more people didn’t aspire to be entrepreneurs or to be leaders or managers. And now I think I get a little more like it’s not just all his status or its income, but if you really take it on as the responsibility that it is, it’s pretty massive. So I would finish reading it going, man, I’m afraid that if I was in the leadership position right now, I’d be doing it wrong, you know?
Kim Scott [00:41:39] Well, look, I did it wrong. As you can tell from the stories I told in the book, I certainly got it wrong more often than I got it right.
Brilliant Miller [00:41:46] Well, and, the other thing that one of the other things that really stood out to me was some of the stories you tell from your own experience. I could hardly believe I would tell them to my wife about there was a time when you were working overseas and you were told there wasn’t a toilet available for you.
Kim Scott [00:42:02] Yes. Yeah. And that I had to pee in a mop closet.
Brilliant Miller [00:42:07] That is remarkable.
Kim Scott [00:42:08] Yeah, it really did happen. Yeah, it was. It was remarkable. It was really pretty shocking.
Brilliant Miller [00:42:13] Well, that and I learned some new words. Yeah, some things happened to you that I didn’t even know were a thing
Kim Scott [00:42:21] I didn’t know was a word, either. Actually, you’re talking about frotting.
Brilliant Miller [00:42:25] No way to conceal the Urban Dictionary handbook online. Yeah.
Kim Scott [00:42:29] Yeah. No. I googled what had happened and found there was a word for it. Who knew, you know?
Brilliant Miller [00:42:35] Well, and some of the other things like space flight. And I know for the listener, there’s almost no context here, aside from various incidents of what some of them were bullying. Some of them were, I don’t know, assault.
Kim Scott [00:42:47] Yeah, sexual harassment, sexual assault.
Brilliant Miller [00:42:49] That’s it’s remarkable to me that you had so many and then for me to realize that’s not unusual. I talked to my wife, who was a professional for many, many years. She was like, Oh, yeah, that’s that kind of stuff happened to me. People saying and doing that to me like that is not that is not right.
Kim Scott [00:43:06] Yeah, yeah. No, it is not right. And remember, like I am, you know, I was writing this book from a position of privilege. Imagine, you know, if I didn’t have, you know, the privileges that I have, it’s much, much worse for many other people than it was for me. And that was this, you know, you said you’re surprised one person. I was surprised. I had that many stories. I had been so deep in denial. When I started the book, I thought, Oh, you know, I have a couple of stories, but I’ll have to do research and interview other people. And I’m like, Oh, my goodness. Now that I think about it, I have enough stories for six books.
Brilliant Miller [00:43:43] What’s it been like? I mean, I know, I just know you a little bit from seeing your work online. And I think I told you before the interview that I was part of it is an entrepreneurial organization group that you addressed, which I got a lot out of. I enjoyed. But so I have some sense of your style. You’re pretty open. It seems you’re pretty warm. I think you come across to me as very smart, but to be so personal. Right? Because there’s a lot of people that teach this that are more, I don’t know, academic or less personal. What’s it been like for you to share so openly from your experience? How how does that make it? Has it been received or what’s that been like?
Kim Scott [00:44:20] You know, it was when I started writing, I always. Well, growing up, I always wrote a journal. I always wrote in a journal every day. And when I started writing this book, I almost kind of went into that headspace as though I was writing it just for myself. And I will confess to you that about a month before it was due to be published, I was like, Oh my gosh, why did I tell all those stories publicly? I had had a real moment of panic, and another guy who was on the the team that I led at Google read it and he sent me a note. He said, I hope you’re not having a vulnerability hangover. And in fact, I was having a vulnerability hangover. Like I hadn’t really. I told a bunch of stories, but at the so it was. But at the same time, it was sort of liberating. There were several moments when I was writing the book where I realized I’ve been carrying this thing around that I didn’t know I was carrying around. And now that I’ve articulated it, I can put it down. And so it was liberating as as well as scary.
Brilliant Miller [00:45:26] That’s great. Yeah, I think I think of that to this personal moment in the podcast here, but I think this is part of where I’ve been really hung up and getting my own book across the finish line to be something that’s published because it’s one thing if it’s like, you know, people like you and or many others will say, Hey, a hundred years after my death, you can cover this. But when the other people, even when you anonymize them or aggregate, it’s like there are people alive, they’re going to read it. They’re going to know. And hopefully, it will reach and serve a lot more than that. But I would imagine that that’s got to be challenging.
Kim Scott [00:46:00] But I would. Yeah, I think I think one of my failures as a person is that I often don’t imagine before I’m in the situation when it’s going to be like, so. I probably should have been more aware and more afraid as I was writing, but I wasn’t until right before it came out. It was sort of like one time I went to trapeze school and it just didn’t occur to me until I was two-thirds of the way up the ladder that how high I was climbing and how afraid I would feel. And then I just had no choice but to keep going.
Brilliant Miller [00:46:36] Yeah, well, that’s maybe not a bad thing.
Kim Scott [00:46:38] Yeah.
Brilliant Miller [00:46:40] OK, well, OK with that. And then what I want to ask this is this what haven’t we talked about that you want to talk about or you think would be of service to the listener knowing that we’re about to move on to the enlightening lightning around and writing and creativity?
Kim Scott [00:46:54] Yeah, I think that we need to talk for a moment about power and how much worse power makes all of these things. So when you have bias or prejudice plus power, you’re creating the conditions for discrimination. When you have bullying plus power, you’re creating the conditions for real harassment, and when you have physical touch plus power, whether it’s sort of physical power, positional power you, you have that you created the conditions for physical violations or even physical violence. And there are tons more to say about this. But we really need to make sure that we’re rigorous about creating checks and balances in the systems that we create at work and also in the world and in our political life, as well as in business life. Because otherwise, if we don’t consciously design the systems that govern our institutions for justice, we’re going to get systemic injustice. So tons more to say about that. But power is a real problem. And if one of the biggest mistakes that I made in my career happened because I sort of imagined, well, if I were in charge, everything will be sweetness and light, right? Bad, you know, bad things won’t happen, and they will happen when you’re in charge, even no matter how good your intentions are. So you really want to make sure that you place checks and balances on yourself as a leader.
Brilliant Miller [00:48:30] So, yeah, that makes sense. And this I think this is an example. Maybe, maybe you can tell me because it’s an example from your book, but you talk about one place where you worked that no single and no single individual can make a hiring decision or even a promotion decision. Yeah, right? Is that the kind of example that you said that was?
Kim Scott [00:48:49] That’s exactly so when I was when I first got to Google, and I want to say that Google was not perfect and a lot of people had terrible experiences at Google. But I will say that one of the things that I think they did right that Shona Brown, who let people operate business operations at Google did right was created systems where if you didn’t like your boss, you could move to another team because, you know, we know that people join companies, but they leave bosses and they didn’t want to lose people. So they were like, you know, like your boss, you can find another boss, you’re free to do it. There was no boss who could unilaterally hire someone you had to go through. No boss could unilaterally promote someone. No boss could unilaterally fire someone. No boss could unilaterally decide on someone’s bones. And so they very consciously stripped the usual sources of power that managers have away from managers. And that created a much better environment for innovation, but also, you know, for workplace effort to avoid bias, prejudice, and bullying.
Brilliant Miller [00:50:21] All right. So the enlightening lightning around again, this is a series of questions on a variety of topics. My aim for the most part is to ask the question and then be quiet. You’re welcome to answer as long as you want. I might tug on a response here or there, but OK, question number one. Please complete the following sentence with something other than a box of chocolates. Life is like a.
Kim Scott [00:50:49] Blank canvas.
Brilliant Miller [00:50:52] OK. Question number two here I’m borrowing one of Peter Thiel’s questions. What important truth do very few people agree with you on?
Kim Scott [00:51:09] The important truth that very few people agree with me on is that we should really dramatically limit income inequality and wealth inequality in the country like dramatically. No one should ever have more than $100 million. Period.
Brilliant Miller [00:51:33] OK, question number three, if you were required every day for the rest of your life to wear a T-shirt with a slogan on it or a phrase or a saying or a quote or quip, what would the shirt say?
Kim Scott [00:51:44] Radical candor.
Brilliant Miller [00:51:45] All right. Question number four What book other than what book other than one of your own have you gifted or recommended most often?
Kim Scott [00:51:56] Victor Frankel’s “man’s search for meaning.”
Brilliant Miller [00:51:59] Mm-Hmm. You know that this probably won’t surprise you, but that is the most common response to this question. Over a hundred and fifty interviews, I’ll bet it’s come up close to a third of the time.
Kim Scott [00:52:10] Wow, that’s amazing. Well, it is a remarkable book.
Brilliant Miller [00:52:13] Yeah, it is. It’s a kind of book that many people read many times in their life. What’s your relationship with this book like?
Kim Scott [00:52:23] You know, it’s interesting, I read that book shortly after September 11th, I remember I went to a conference I went to attach to the TED conference, and I was so sort of devastated by what had happened. I just remember going back up to my hotel room and spending the whole afternoon reading it. And the thing that is so inspiring about that book for me is just remembering that no matter what happens, you get to choose how you respond and that’s where your freedom is. And he was writing that from concentration camps, of course. So, you know, I’ve never, you know, I have lived a very, very comfortable life by and large. And so that’s really, I think, meaningful to me about that book I also love. There was, I think it was in May might have been something else, he wrote. But I’m pretty sure it is a man’s search for meaning. When he was trying to decide whether he should leave Germany and a temple had been destroyed, he walked by it and he bent down and picked up a fragment of stone, and it was sad. Honor thy father and my mother. And so he decided he had to stay because he couldn’t get his parents out. And I just thought that was so. I think about that all the time.
Brilliant Miller [00:53:54] Hmm. Remarkable. What are you currently reading?
Kim Scott [00:53:58] I am currently reading a bunch of books and the most recent one was an American kleptocracy. And I’ve got a I’m going to pull up the title because I can never remember exactly what the title and money land. I’m reading a book called Money Land about how we got to get the way that we allow people to hide their money. We got to stop it. What funded, I think Putin’s war
Brilliant Miller [00:54:32] with crypto now? Yeah, probably harder than ever. Yeah. So, OK. Well, thank you for that. All right. Question number five. So you travel. You travel a lot. I would imagine.
Kim Scott [00:54:44] I used to travel a lot
Brilliant Miller [00:54:46] in the days before the pandemic.
Kim Scott [00:54:48] No, not even before the pandemic. Since I had kids. I really hate leaving them. And so I do not travel unless they’re 13 now. So in the last 13 years, I have traveled a lot less.
Brilliant Miller [00:55:03] Oh, OK. Well, that answers the question. Oh, it was a question about travel. When you travel, what something you do to make it less painful or more enjoyable.
Kim Scott [00:55:13] Oh, I can tell you when I do, I listen to books on Audible and play 2048, which it just it allows me to block out everything on, you know, if I’m standing in line, I’m still listening to the book, but I also need that. I need, 2048 is just one of those silly games that you’re, you know, you’re making numbers go down, and it’s kind of like Tetris. This is another. There’s another game I get that’s called threes.
Brilliant Miller [00:55:44] And it’s kind of where you match it.
Kim Scott [00:55:46] And then the numbers add up and you try to like, you know, try to get as big a number as possible.
Brilliant Miller [00:55:54] All right. Question number six, what’s something you’ve started or stopped doing in order to live or age?
Kim Scott [00:55:59] Well, I stopped drinking, stopped drinking alcohol and I started instead of running, I started walking.
Brilliant Miller [00:56:10] Good for you. Yeah, I love to walk.
Kim Scott [00:56:13] I love to walk. It’s great. And my back was always hurting. And I feel younger now because I’m not. My back doesn’t always work anymore.
Brilliant Miller [00:56:20] So that’s wonderful. You know, just on that topic, I had this. I had this idea talking about unexamined assumptions. You know that the natural course of life was just too old to get sick and to die. And then I was reading a spiritual teacher and an Indian teacher, Yogananda. And he said he gave the analogy of aging like a fruit ripens and then you just fall from the tree. But that totally opened like, we don’t have to get sick. Have misstep.
Kim Scott [00:56:48] Yes. Or you love that? OK, I’m going from the train. That’s the way I’m going to think about it. I like it, right? All the way. Ripening.
Brilliant Miller [00:56:56] Yeah. OK, question number seven and even this. This might be one of these things. A bias buster would point out for me because I’m using the word American here. Or maybe I should say United States citizen. But what’s one thing you wish every American knew?
Kim Scott [00:57:13] I wish every American knew more about slavery and the ways in which it corrupted our country.
Brilliant Miller [00:57:23] OK. I feel like I should ask more about that, but sir, anything more you’d say, knowing where in the lightning round
Kim Scott [00:57:31] there is the trauma of slavery. I mean, the fact that people still vacation at places that are called plantations. I mean, what they really were was forced labor camps. Why would why would you? I’m going on vacation at a forced labor camp. I feel like we just have not at all come to grips with the ways that that slavery then impacted our incarceration system, the ways in which our laws around who lives, where are, you know, I think we have this tendency as going back to your thoughts about a growth mindset to assume that was there. And I think when it comes, you know, certainly and I grew up in Memphis and I live in California, and there’s this attitude that, oh, racism is in Memphis, not in California. Whereas recently I was, you know, I was talking to I was at home in Memphis and there were a number of Black Lives Matter signs in the yards and they were there and staying there. Whereas when I in California put a Black Lives Matter up in my yard, it gets once a week against stolen. I have to keep buying them. So I think we’re not as aware as we should be of the ways that the sort of original sin of our country is still with us today and we haven’t done enough to atone for it.
Brilliant Miller [00:59:12] I think you’re right. All right. Thank you for that question. Number eight. This one is about relationships. What’s the most important or useful thing you’ve learned about making relationships work?
Kim Scott [00:59:26] You know, I I think it’s so important to spend time every day with the people who you love. It’s just it’s it’s there’s just nothing. This is one of the things in the pandemic that I realized. I realized that. You know, when the when the kids were here I was, I was all day, every day, which they do not need to be for their own sake. But I realized it was it was disruptive and I was taking kind of like a 30 percent productivity hit at work, but I was giving a 60 percent parenting gain. And it was a great trade off and I realized, you know, I used to talk in radical candor. I write a lot about how important it is to have these conversations in person. And it is important to to get together in person with the people who you work with, but it’s way more important to be in person with your family. And now when I think about all these conferences and stuff that I used to go to all the time, a lot of them are happening virtually and that’s way better. I mean, it’s not quite as good, like they’re not quite as impactful. But now, all of a sudden, there’s 100 hundred people that didn’t have to leave their family for three, two or three days. And that matters.
Brilliant Miller [01:00:45] Yeah, absolutely. As well as the ecological benefits? Yes.
Kim Scott [01:00:50] Yeah, you’re not. There’s not as many flights, not as many hotel rooms. Not I mean, there’s the cost of getting a big team together in person is it’s astronomical, really. Not just and it’s, you know, paying for the flights and the hotels is the least of it. What we do to the planet, what we do to the families of people are in tents. So I think really remembering to have, you know, it’s easy. It’s also easy, like with my husband, especially when we have twins and when they were young, it was so easy to just never talk to each other and never to sit down and have a real conversation. And remembering to do that every day is important.
Brilliant Miller [01:01:39] Yeah, I like that. OK, question number nine, aside from compound interest, what’s the most important or useful thing you’ve learned about money?
Kim Scott [01:01:50] Money is the lack of poverty is bad, but but money is not good, right? It’s kind of a net, a net negative. So so for me, the important thing about money that probably the most important decision I made about money happen when I was in business school and I saw people were on this what I call the head, Dominic. I didn’t come up with this, but I love this term. The hedonic treadmill, like they were never going to have enough money and no matter how much money they made, and I realized that I made myself a really solemn promise. I said, once I have bought a house and I can pay for my kid’s education, that I’m done. I’m not going to do things for money. And in fact, when I when I started writing radical candor, I walked away from a job that was, you know, where the equity was worth a lot of money. And people didn’t believe that I was walking away from that job to write a book which was not going to make. I mean, I you know, I it’s been a great, great ride, but the book did not make me a lot of money. And, you know, I decided to do it because I had this dream that I’d always thought, Well, I’ll write, I’ll write in the future. I’ll write later. And I had this dream that I had gotten early onset Alzheimer’s and that it was too late for me to write the book, and I realized I got it like, this is what I want to do. Why am I going to stick around for the money? My husband and I have bought our house. You know, we’ve put money aside for college, and so I got to walk away. I got to do what I really want to do.
Brilliant Miller [01:03:36] Well, good for you for actually doing that.
Kim Scott [01:03:39] Yeah, you’ve got to manage your money. Don’t let your money manage you.
Brilliant Miller [01:03:42] Yeah, that’s great. Well, speaking of money, something I’ve done in an attempt to demonstrate my gratitude to you for making time to talk with me today is I have through Kiva.org. I have made a microloan for a woman named Zodzira, who lives in Kazakhstan. I’ve made $100 microloan to help her buy dairy cows, which she will then milk and sell the milk and improve the quality of life for people in her community, herself or family. Just 40 years old with six children, and she’s raising livestock for 12 years.
Kim Scott [01:04:14] So wow. Well, thank you. That is really that’s a meaningful gift I really appreciate.
Brilliant Miller [01:04:19] Thank you. OK. Well, congratulations. You survived the enlightening lightning round. So the last the last part here is just a few questions about writing and creativity. Where I’d love to start is I understand you have I don’t know what you I don’t know if you call yours. As she said, I know some people. Yeah. Do you call it?
Kim Scott [01:04:42] No, I call it the glasshouse, but it’s a little box in the backyard.
Brilliant Miller [01:04:46] Tell me about that.
Kim Scott [01:04:48] So when I was writing Just Work, I was writing a lot about. I was writing in my bedroom and I was writing a lot about gender injustice. And I finally said to Andy, my husband, I was like, This is the wrong place to be writing this book. I must. I need a space that’s outside of the house. And so we started building. We basically got three sliding glass doors from Home Depot and and worked with this great, this great contractor, Mike Turkington, I give him. Thanks, actually and the acknowledgment of just work because I never would have finished the book. And we built this kind of shack in the in the in the backyard, and it’s got a great view looking out over Silicon Valley. And it turned out we started it before COVID, but it turned out so important during COVID. Wow. I could have a place. It was like a room of one’s own. I had a place where I could go and focus. It was. It was wonderful. I love. I love that I’m not there now because the acoustics aren’t very good. But but it was it was really a creative, generative space for me, and my favorite part about it is at the end of the day, when dinner was ready, my kids would blow the trumpet. They were playing the trumpet and that was my sign that my workday was over. It was time to come down.
Brilliant Miller [01:06:17] That is really cool. That’s fantastic. And I understand. Well, let me ask you this instead. For now, the do you think? That writers are born. I could be born a writer, and if we’re just not, we’re kind of doomed to never actually be a writer or can anyone be a writer?
Kim Scott [01:06:37] I think anyone can be a writer. The question is, do you enjoy writing? I think and and it’s almost not even do you enjoy writing, but that doesn’t really risk. For me, writing is restorative and I love it. I would, you know, I’ve written several unpublished novels. I’m writing another novel. Hopefully it’ll get published. But I but even when I was writing radical candor, I was writing it because I needed. I needed to write it. Why I needed that. I can’t tell you, but but I don’t think. There are so many different ways to be creative, and you want to find a way that works for you. I mean, with all things in life, it’s it’s like you wanted. You don’t necessarily want to do the things that other people think you’re good at. You want to do the things that that that give you comfort and strength. And so for me, writing is writing is that thing.
Brilliant Miller [01:07:42] I think even among writers, not just among people, but among writers. I just learned yesterday a unique if you’re going to use unique it, it really does mean singular. So I won’t say you’re unique in this regard, but you’re rare in that writing is restorative for you because most of my guests, when I ask about the writing process, they will confirm my suspicion that writing never really gets easier or even more enjoyable, like writing. The quality of it might improve with practice, but for many people, writing seems depleting kind of the Hemingway. Oh, it’s easy. You just sit down at the keys and bleed. Yeah, you know of thing. But that’s not your experience. It is actually somehow fulfilling.
Kim Scott [01:08:23] It’s fulfilling, but I think that doesn’t mean it’s easy, right? I mean, it’s interesting when I was really, especially for me, the part that there are different writers who find different parts of the process easier and harder. For me, the first draft is the most fun part. That’s the part of actually editing is actually work. Editing does not. But all of that. It is for me, really, I just find that it is the opportunity to root around in my own mind and sort of have these arguments with myself and figure out what I believe is really rewarding in a way that few things are. A few other things are. And that’s the second hardest part of writing for me is getting inside my own head. The hardest part is getting back out, and that’s the editing part. And that’s where I need editors. And with both of my books, I had more than a hundred collaborators in the Google hack that I wrote, so I really value getting getting sort of thoughts and reactions from from other people. That’s how I clamor back out of my own head.
Brilliant Miller [01:09:41] That’s really cool. I had the opportunity a few years ago to develop a presentation for. At the time, we had about 10000 employees and we wrote a script. We started with the brief and wrote a script and all this, and I think I had a microcosmic version of your experience where I didn’t have 100 collaborators, but I had maybe a dozen. And I remember being so proud of looking back at that forty five minute presentation that was hundreds of hours of work collectively and recalling specific lines that were this desk, this discussion or that came from that person. And it was really a neat experience.
Kim Scott [01:10:15] Yeah, coming back to the very beginning of our conversation, it is sort of making your dreams come true and melding your dreams with others. And it’s cool, it’s a really cool experience.
Brilliant Miller [01:10:27] Now, I think this is part of the magic of filmmaking, quite honestly. Yeah. You know that it is so collaborative and people can be involved in different ways, but they’re all working toward one result and things. It’s not who has been influential for you in your development as a writer and what have you learned from them?
Kim Scott [01:10:46] George Eliot. So I mostly read novels. I find that novels are a great way to understand myself and also other people. And so one of the great novelists of all time, I think it’s George Eliot or Marianne Evans. Cross was her real name. Virginia Woolf is another another writer who I love Toni Morrison. When I was in college, I got to take a class with Toni Morrison. And here I had already read a number of her books and her. Her writing had a big impact on me, and she also encouraged us to sort of reconsider a canonical American letter, she has a great book actually called Playing in the Dark. I think it’s called about sort of reinterpreting sort of American know, Moby Dick, et cetera, American literature. And I just I learned so much from her and language and and how to identify these voices in your head that are getting in your way. So very, very grateful for that experience. I also. Love you know, I love reading young and Victor Frankl, and there’s there’s there’s Ken Harness, neurosurgeon neurosis and human growth. Some of these psychological attacks have had a big, big impact on me right on.
Brilliant Miller [01:12:22] How connected do you feel to the reader in the moment of drafting?
Kim Scott [01:12:28] I think that’s part of the reason why it’s so important to get other people to comment. I really try to understand. Hal, what I’m trying to say might get misinterpreted or interpreted differently. It’s for me, the reader, the whole reason to to write. And to edit more specifically, if I were just going to write for myself, I would just I would always stick with that first draft. Right? But the reason to edit is, is to help other people. You know, you want at least I want my ideas to have a difference to make a difference to. I want to make those dreams real in the world. And so writing for readers, there’s always a but hopefully a diverse set of readers in my head. But I remember there was one experience I had when a young woman came up to me right after I’d given a talk about radical candor, and she said. You know, I I read I became a manager for the first time. She said it was really hard and her eyes filled with tears, I could tell it had been seriously hard. And then she said, and then I read radical candor, and I felt like I had a sister with me who could help me. And that was like one of the all time great moments of my career. Similarly, with just work I, I got a note from a guy who had been one of the early engineers who worked on Lotus one two three and one of two few black engineering leaders and in tech. And he was raised in Oakland, California, and he said I never imagined that I could have so much in common with a white woman from the South. And that was that was like, yes, and I did something there. And so so those are the kinds of moments that that really, you know, are fuel for the next book.
Brilliant Miller [01:14:37] Yeah, that’s awesome. What happens in routines serve you well or which ones have you tried? And it didn’t really work for you kind of abandoned or just left behind?
Kim Scott [01:14:47] Yeah. The thing that is helpful for me when I first started writing, I would try to have these four-hour blocks of time and two and a half of those hours were always wasted. I cannot focus for that long. So the routine that works for me is to write for an hour and a half and then take a walk and then write for an hour and a half and then maybe have lunch and then write for an hour and a half and then have a meeting. And if I have energy left, I’ll do another hour and a half. But sometimes I just don’t and do not push myself beyond my limit, like allowing myself the freedom to take a walk or, you know, watch a TV show or whatever I need to do to rest and recover.
Brilliant Miller [01:15:33] Yeah. What tools do you find invaluable as a writer?
Kim Scott [01:15:41] Google documents. Because the collaboration is so easy that it is and being able to have what sort of document centric chat like, there’s a paragraph and one person will say one thing and another person will say another thing and it’s all right there. It’s really helpful for me and writing is the collaborative aspect of it is much easier.
Brilliant Miller [01:16:12] How do you organize once you’ve got your table of contents or your outline, kind of figure it out and you feel good about it? How how do you draw upon the research you’ve conducted like stories you think you might want to include? And then you know where to go to find them or develop them or statistics or other things? How do you pull all of that into the framework you’ve created?
Kim Scott [01:16:34] I have a pretty chaotic process, which is kind of, I don’t usually start with a list, the table of contents, and in fact, sometimes I get to one and I realize it’s all off. In fact, with just work, I wrote 80000 words and threw it away, and started again because I realized the structure was wrong. I don’t, you know, it’s funny. I was talking to my agent who’s like, Why can’t you just like, write your outline and write the book? I’m like, Well, if I knew the outline, then I wouldn’t need to write the book like that. To me, the writing, the structure comes out of the writing. And so it’s a little messy, too messy, messy process. Not very linear.
Brilliant Miller [01:17:22] Yeah. That just confirms for me this other suspicion that, you know, there really is no one size fits all approach is just what works for us. Yeah. And it’s one of the challenges. It’s one of the joys sometimes too, of discovering, you know, ourselves a little bit. The tools and the routines and things like that. OK, so the last couple of questions here, and then we’ll wrap what are the qualities of a great sentence and how can we write more of them?
Kim Scott [01:17:52] I think a great sentence does a couple of things, great sentence. Helps the reader feel the way that the writer is feeling, it tells like a little story, but a great sentence also offers up a kind of a way to think about that story. A framework, and I think very often when a sentence really packs a great punch and it’s communicating both on that intellectual plane and that emotional plane at the same time succinctly as short as possible.
Brilliant Miller [01:18:38] OK. All right. So my last question for you here is just what advice or encouragement would you offer to anyone who’s listening either in the middle of getting their own book across the finish line? Or it’s a dream they’ve had for a long time, but they haven’t actually begun? What do you say to that person?
Kim Scott [01:19:00] The thing that helped me write probably more than anything else was just blocking a couple of writing blocks in my calendar every day and and treating that meeting almost like. A sacred thing that I was doing, I told my assistant at one point when I was, I was writing a novel when I worked at Google and I had a writing block in the morning and a writing block in the late afternoon. And I told my assistant, those are my meetings with God. You cannot schedule over them. Wow. And and treating it like a like a sacred thing, but also doing the doing the mundane thing and putting it in your calendar was, for me, the most helpful thing.
Brilliant Miller [01:19:50] All right. That reminds me of Gavin Edwards, he wrote a book about life lessons from Mister Rogers kindness and support. Yeah. And I just always remember he talked about this just like. In some ways, writing is like building a brick wall that it really his words are like these bricks and we just look at them and then I love that same teacher Stephen Colbert I mentioned earlier. He talked about his work as to suit up and show up. So it’s one thing to have the appointment with God. But in order to show up and get you, you have a good for good for us. Well, Kim, this I’ve really enjoyed this. I did enjoy reading your book. It challenged me in many good ways. I’ve enjoyed this conversation. I’ve been inspired by your leadership is one thing I love about what I know of you. It’s you’re not just some theoretician. If that’s a word, it’s right. You’ve probably heard this in theory and practice. There’s no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is. Yes, right? But you are drawing upon a rich history like a rich experience of leadership. And I know I begin with Sergio, but I just want to maybe end with this too. He told me that of a team of about 100 people that you had, that you met with every single one of them, one on one every quarter.
Kim Scott [01:21:04] And then I did well. There was the thing that I loved about the job. And you know, once the team grew to 700, I could no longer do that anymore. But which was hard for me to come to grips with. But it was so important for me to really, at a personal level, get to know people and and not that you’re going to get to know people deeply and and to short one on one meetings, but to understand, to give them an opportunity to tell me what was bugging them, like, what was wrong and and and what can I do to help make it right?
Brilliant Miller [01:21:40] Yeah. And he’s probably told you this. Or at least I hope he has. But he and I talk about this and he writes and share. So I don’t think I’m betraying a confidence. Sorry, Sergio, if I am. I trust you’ll forgive me. He told me that growing up in Poland, his view of leadership was that it was very authoritarian, it was distant, it was cold and that as a twenty three or twenty four year old coming to the United States, working for Google and seeing your example taught him that what leadership can be and that is part of the work he’s doing now with these underrepresented and underserved entrepreneurs and making a difference, a big difference, I think, in the world. And so I think that’s pretty cool. And for what it’s worth, I just want to thank you for that as well.
Kim Scott [01:22:23] Well, I think him it was, you know, it was. So those those AdSense years were really special years in my career and they were they were special because of all the people on on that team who were all of them equally committed to making sure that we created the kind of culture where we did care personally and challenge directly where we really did support one another.
Brilliant Miller [01:22:47] That’s awesome. All right. Kim will please keep up the good work. Thank you so much. Thank you. Our paths will cross again, but I will look forward to it when they do.
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