How “Radical Candor™” by Kim Scott applies to your personal style.

Erin Keam
8 min readSep 27, 2020


I recently listened to Radical Candor ™by Kim Scott on audio book. It is bloody (yes, I can say that, I’m a Kiwi) amazing.

According to Kim (may I call you that?) Radical Candor™ is “Caring Personally while Challenging Directly. At its core, Radical Candor is guidance and feedback that’s both kind and clear, specific and sincere.”

It can be applied to personal style. Yes, it can.

So…read the actual book as I’m about to paraphrase what I learned, and relate it to how you present yourself in the world. Without permission, Hopefully Kim will see it as a tribute. Hey, I can always take the story down.

Apply Radical Candor™ to your clothing. Style. What you see in the mirror.

Which is someone awesome, in case you were wondering.

Let’s start by simultaneously caring and directly challenging. I’ve always tried to use the sandwich technique — say something nice (Kim says be be genuine and specific as opposed to a vague, “hey I like that color on you,”), feedback where you are honest and blunt, (“however, I have noticed your jacket doesn’t fit at the shoulders,”) and then tidily finish up with something that shows you care about that person (“I know a good tailor.”)

Keep in mind, the person you are talking to has a) want feedback (I avoid confronting strangers) and b) you know what you are talking about.

So feel free to look at yourself in the mirror, or in a photo, and say, “Wow, I love the fact that I have such a great smile on my face because I was really enjoying that activity. You know what? I could have made more effort with my outfit because I met people that day who I could have pitched my business to, and I wasn’t representing my company’s message well. But yay for me! I still smiled, said hello, and introduced myself. Well done!”

Kim suggested giving feedback in person (ah…this was written pre-Covid) especially with your staff or team, so let’s just say Zoom vs. What’s App messaging or an email.

If you want to give feedback to yourself on your style when you’re interacting with other humans (if you simply show your cat, disregard the following and we applaud you) record yourself on Zoom and then play it back.

The camera is always more objective. Take note of what you’re wearing, and what your background looks like. Is there anything distracting? Cat excepted. Pets always a bonus and acceptable accessory.

Is it cluttered, dark, are you lit well? Are you in a bath towel? You might want to change. Record yourself saying your elevator pitch, or introducing yourself to somebody, or even just reading from a poem that speaks to you.

What are your hands doing? Are you looking at the camera? Are you smiling? Does the background detract from what you want to share with the world? Is your clothing drawing attention to your eyes, your smile, your face, which is how we connect with other human beings? Are you using a lot of gestures that pull your audiences eyes from what you are saying?

According to Kim Scott, “culture eats strategy for lunch.” Culture in a company can be described as how the employees feel about the company, how they feel about you, and how they feel about your brand, your mission, and your statement.

What is the culture you are creating with your wardrobe?

Culture comes from the CEO down, so remember that YOU are the boss of your wardrobe. Yes, you can hire consultants and get a Board of Directors, however, your wardrobe starts with you. It is a reflection of your skills, attitudes, and abilities. You can learn to style yourself, or hire someone to help. I’m a stylist. Just saying…

Make sure you don’t look at yourself through the lens of a funhouse mirror. When you are a boss, Kim says, (or thereabouts, remember I’m paraphrasing) every one of your character traits and flaws is magnified. Take a breath, look at your incredible self and remember that you are perfect exactly as you are. Or forgive what needs to be forgiven. We all need a little more grace.

Be aware of where you are now, and know you can learn, grow and change — if you want to. There are no such things as wrong bodies, just wrong clothing.

She talks about “blind skills.” I took this to mean when you’re interviewing for jobs — find a way to redact personal details and don’t look at photos or names of the candidate.

When you look at your clothes, try to redact personal details as in “Why did I waste money on that?” “Why on earth did I date him?” “I look like a blueberry,” “What was that cocktail again?”

Look at your clothes objectively, as if they were someone else’s. What information would you gather from your clothing if you knew nothing about the person who wore them?

Take a photo of yourself from the neck down. What are your clothes telling the world about you?

Always be curious. Ask why, why, why. Why are you wearing this? Why do you like what other people are wearing? Why do you not wear clothes that you adore? Why do you wear clothes that you don’t particularly like? Why can’t you get dressed quickly and easily?

Kim (I like to pretend we are on a first name basis) talks about having “enormous goals.”

Have an enormous goal for your wardrobe.

Maybe it’s to be a minimalist? Or in one client’s case, only enough clothes to fill a go bag.

Maybe it’s to have a wardrobe that you can take to Italy with you for a 3-month sojourn in a villa? (yes, once it’s safe).

To have a wardrobe that you can take with you on your speaking tour or can wear on YouTube and share your message (or dance moves) with millions?

Kim talks about having a long-term vision, but having shorter term plans with concrete action steps you can take towards the direction of your vision. So, declutter, buy pants that can be converted into a tent or a dress you can dance in a fountain in, depending on your goal.

What is your long-term vision for your wardrobe? What can you do right now?

Align this with your ideal life. Those dance moves may require a top hat and tap shoes.

And since there are four seasons in a year, why not start there? This includes a 12-month spending plan, a 12-month action plan, and a 12-month assessment of your wardrobe so it’s appropriate for each season. You get to decide what’s “appropriate,” I like to wear swim suits to dinner.

My friend Kim talks about the importance of measurement. Yes, get a tape measure, as we are all shopping online. However, measure whether your clothes are achieving the goal that you set for them. Measure whether they free you to undertake the activities that you want. Track improvements. Applaud your successes along the way. This could includes walking away from that luxury designer gown on sale because you decide to invest the money in in Tesla. No, I don’t give stock tips. Just style tips.

She says a good boss should remove obstacles in her staff’s way. I have recently become a boss, and wow, it is a learning curve. Right now, I feel that I am the obstacle in my team’s way, and certainly a bottleneck. But I’ll learn. You can learn how to be your own stylist, too, if you want to.

What obstacles can you remove between you and the wardrobe that you want? Do you need to get clothes repaired? Do you need to get them cleaned? Do you need to replace items? Do you need to find clothes that are easier and quicker to get dressed in? Do you need to declutter and curate your wardrobe so you can see only what you love?

Recommendations were to collaborate and get help. This can include a clothing swap or hiring a stylist. DO NOT get friends to assess your clothing. They adore you (if they don’t, fire them) and they simply can’t see you objectively. Take photos with your phone. They are much more clear sighted. It doesn’t have a filter unless you add one.

Collaborate with others in your networking groups by asking them what they wear when they’re pitching to clients or when they are on social media, and why they make the choices they do. You are unique — no need to copy, but we can share what we have learned. It’s never a competition. Except Project Runway.

Encourage new ideas. Try and combine your clothing in ways you never have before. Try adding a new color you’ve never chosen before. Try a new pattern you’ve never worn before.

Somewhere in the book it suggests asking for bad news. I don’t remember the page, so don’t quote me.

If I remember correctly (notice all the caveats?) this is when a boss asks her staff what she’s doing wrong. This can be scary for staff to answer, but Radical Candor™ is important for us all to grow. So, ask a professional or someone higher up the style chain, what could I be doing better? But remember to only ask someone who is kind, knows your overall goals, and genuinely wants you to succeed. Never be afraid to find a coach.

Be informed. Make sure your clothing aligns with your values, your brand, your message, your goals, and your dreams. For example, if your value is conscious consumerism, are you informed as to the materials they’re sourced from, whether they’re fair trade, or whether they impact the environment, or whether they support an underrepresented community that you feel passionate about? Also check cost per wear–how many times you have worn this outfit — and then do the math.

Follow up. This is where you keep in touch with your coach who can measure your progress. They remember where you started, and they can tell you how far you’ve come.

Look back at photos of yourself from previous meetings, seminars, events, family celebrations. Has your style changed and has it changed in a way that you’re happy about? What went well, and what didn’t? What did you love about it? Were those shoes too uncomfortable to walk in? Were those trousers a little bit too tight, which made it uncomfortable to sit down? Did your favorite pajama pants make you feel incredibly comfortable even while doing a work-from-home Zoom meeting? Did you forget you had them on and stood up?

Fire the wrong people. This means getting rid of the clothes that don’t suit you and don’t make you happy. Don’t fall into the sunken cost fallacy. Often you may spend months training staff and paying them and then you must let them go — you learned something during that process. Maybe you bought something that you regret — you learned something during that process.

Hire the right people. This means learn how to choose the right clothing. TI was told to hire slowly, fire fast. One rule of thumb is if you’re thinking about buying something, give yourself 24 hours (some clients give themselves longer) and make sure it fits with what you already have in your wardrobe, your future goals, and if it’ll be taking money away from your ultimate dream.

Thank you Kim Scott. You taught me a lot.

If you’re still reading this — go buy the book. Now.



Erin Keam

Owner of The Happy Wardrobe, which helps women identify their unique Style Statement and impact the world via their closets, careers, businesses and life.