Praise & Radical Candor

Radically Candid praise acknowledges the good work that someone has done and challenges them to do even better.

Kim learned that praise can be Radically Candid from Sergey Brin, Google co-founder, one day in front of the Executive Management Group (“EMG”). Google’s “EMG” spent hours every day listening to presentations — some new ideas, some updates on old ideas, some requests for additional resources — from various teams.

Kim was presenting details about how the size of the business was continuing to grow at a staggering rate, and she was hoping for extremely positive reactions.

Instead, Sergey commented, “That’s pretty good, but have you thought of…” and had a great idea for a couple of things Kim’s team could do that would help their customers make a lot more money with AdSense. Kim quickly got over her need for praise because she was excited about Sergey’s idea.

Sergey was giving praise that was Radically Candid. He was challenging Kim to do even better, which is the highest praise there is. “What you did is great, but I believe you can make it even better” is a more productive way to praise somebody than just saying, “You are a genius!” Saying “you are a genius” would be to make the same fundamental attribution error that saying “you are a moron” would make. If you say, “you’re a genius” when the business is going well, what does that make the person when the results are bad (which they inevitably will be, from time to time)? It makes the person a moron. It’s important to remember to praise the work, not the person’s intelligence.

The best way to show people you Care Personally and Challenge them Directly at the same time is to praise them in a way that inspires them to do the best work of their careers.


More about this story and others is included in “Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity,” published by St. Martin’s Press. Learn more