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 will be included in “Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity” to be published by St. Martin’s Press soon. Learn more


Tip 1 of 8

Radically Candid praise is specific and sincere.

Easy to say, hard to do. Being specific about what’s great rather than just saying “good job” inspires growth rather than plateauing. Sincerity usually flows from the combination of specificity and caring personally.

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Tip 2 of 8

Radically Candid praise is helpful.

When you explain exactly what is good and why, it helps people know what to do more of. It helps them make good work great, and great work insanely great. It helps them grow personally and professionally.

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Radically Candid praise is humble.

When you explain in detail why you admire something and what you learned from it, you rarely seem patronizing or insincere.

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Radically Candid praise is immediate.

You’ll remember the specifics much better when you see something great and point it out right away. Just say it!

Tip 5 of 8

Radically Candid praise is delivered in person.

Communication is mostly non-verbal. You can know how your praise is landing and adjust appropriately only if you can see how the other person reacts.

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Radically Candid praise is delivered in public.

When you share specifically what was great and why it was great publicly, not only does it have more meaning for the person being praised, it helps the whole team learn something new. But there are exceptions — some people are embarrassed by public recognition. Make sure you know people well enough to flag this.

Tip 7 of 8

Radically Candid praise does not personalize.

Saying “you are great” when somebody does great work has an unspoken, dangerous corollary: if the work is bad, “you are terrible.” Personalizing praise promotes plateauing and avoidance of risks. Saying specifically what was great and how to build on it promotes a growth mindset. Save the phrase “good boy” for your dog…

Tip 8 of 8

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Radical Candor, the book, comes out on March 14th! Order your copy now