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Appreciate people

Improve relationships with Radical Candor.

Learning outcomes

Developing this skill will help you:

  • Individualize your communication
  • Give feedback effectively
  • Strengthen your relationships
  • Leverage differences
  • Communicate your emotions

Radical Candor

People are awesome.

Unfortunately, we easily forget this fact in our daily grind. Radical Candor combines two ideas to the rescue:

  1. to care personally
  2. and to challenge directly.

A balance of both enables you to communicate your appreciation effectively in different situations.

Credits to https://www.radicalcandor.com/our-approach/

Radical Candor: The gold standard. Master both: caring personally for the fellow human as well as challenging that person to become the best version of themselves.

Ruinous Empathy: When you care deeply but stay silent out of uncertainty or fear of overstepping. You deprive your fellows of the opportunity to grow.

Obnoxious Aggression: You push for more and ask for ever higher performance. It's beyond tough love as the other person doesn't feel your love. Could also result from unfiltered aggression and frustration.

Manipulative Insincerity: Here you're just a political weasel. You leave everyone to their own devices as you don't care for them nor make the effort to help them improve.

Your learning journey

Look at the chart above and listen to your intuition: Where can you improve the most?

We recommend you go up and then to the right.

Going up first provides you with relationships strong enough to endure little errors when you go right and experiment with challenging directly. It's never a bad idea to be more caring.

For each exercise, pick 3 colleagues and apply the exercise to them.

We recommend to include one colleague who stretches your comfort zone a little bit. If you really want to develop here, pick 5 people including your boss.

Caring personally

Everything is driven by relationships. Our appreciation of someone is at the center of a personal relationship. Begin by seeing the person behind the role.

Exercise #1: Ask for feedback

We all feel valued, when we're asked to give feedback. By asking for feedback you make yourself vulnerable and show that you trust the other person with that vulnerability.

Make sure to ask precise questions, like:

"I think you're really good at presenting, would you share with me the top three issues you'd improve in tha talk I gave on ... ?"

  • A little flattering qualification why you're asking goes a long way to underline your appreciation.
  • Also clarify. Make sure you understand the core of that feedback correctly. One option is to repeat what you heard in your own words.

Exercise #2: Say "thank you"

With just these two words you can make somebody's day. It's a small gesture but an important one to reflect on your appreciation.

However, saying thanks goes beyond the words. Unless you've cultivated a short gesture like a nod to communicate your appreciation, this is your quickest tool.

  • Make it personal: "Thank you, Mike."
  • Connect it to the contribution: "Thank you, Mike, for that brilliant idea to ..."
  • Make eye contact (whenever possible).
  • Experiment with intonation and pauses to emphasize your appreciation.

As a starting point you could take 10 minutes every evening to reflect on three contributions from your colleagues and write quick thank you notes.

If you're up to the challenge, try to say thanks on the spot whenever something praiseworthy comes your way.

Exercise #3: Uncover interests

Just being curious about someones interests and passions shows your appreciation. Getting to know your colleagues personally also strengthens your relationship.

Create a list of topics each of your colleagues is interested in.

Go the extra mile to discover new facets of colleagues you know for some time now. Example topics are the live story, dreams and middle term plans (1-5years).

It's ok to make lists for this as a learning tool.

Exercise #4: Highlight strengths

Effort and contribution are one thing. Our personal qualities are another. Having worked with your colleagues for a while, you can tell where their strengths are.

So do tell them: "I love the way you visualize complex problems."

Sharing which strengths you see in a colleague is especially valuable if they happen to be plagued with self doubt.

Discovering qualities in other people that we appreciate is also a reflection of our strengths and weaknesses as well.

Exercise #5: Offer support

You should definitely complete exercises 1-4 before offering support.

Support can be a wonderful way to show your appreciation but it can also feel patronizing. So please be careful how and when you offer support. Here is a rough guide:

  • State your intent: You want to be helpful to boost even further out of appreciation for that person.
  • Offer support to boost a strength: "You've got a sixth sense for details. How can I help you to leverage the impact that has on our bottom line?"
  • Offer support on pet-projects: "I really appreciate how you've convinced customer Z. What can I do to contribute to project A?"

Exercise #6: Be a secret santa

Gifts should not be wasted on mindless birthday routines.

Small, personal gestures delivered in relation to big contributions or efforts made are the ultimate way to communicate your appreciation.

Since these events don't always announce themselves we recommend you prepare a list of little things (0-10€ each) based on the interests of your colleagues.

Also make sure to give a gift in such a way that the receiver really feels appreciated.

Example: Don't call a shy colleague from IT on stage at the christmas party to hand over a stereotypical bouquet for employee of the year because she's a woman. Maybe she likes Metallica so you get her a fan shirt you haven't seen her with. Then give it to her in quiet moment with some kind words of appreciation before you leave for christmas.

By now you've probably noticed that appreciation requires this kind of attention and interest in personal details. It is one of the best investments you can make.

PS: Good luck in figuring out shirt sizes ;)

Challenging directly

Caring about someone includes seeing the best in them. Encouraging their discovery of that best self sometimes requires you to challenge them. With Radical Candor the emphasis is on personal growth.

Exercise #7: Communicate your values

To begin challenging others, you need a benchmark of good performance that you personally aspire to.

Take at least 10 minutes to answer the following three questions:

  • What are your values? And how do you live them?
  • What makes good performance?
  • What makes bad performance?

It's ok, if this takes several sessions of 15-30 minutes to iron out.

Bonus: Brainstorm ways of telling others about your benchmarks.

→ Example: Good Product Manager/Bad Product Manager by Ben Horrowitz

Exercise #8: Invite criticism

Critical feedback does not come natural for most. We are all wired to be kind and non-threatening. So you've to go the extra mile to get the good stuff.

A) Develop your go-to question. Brainstorm phrases and wording you can use to elicit feedback on the spot. E.g. "What should I stop doing now?" Look for something that comes natural for you.

B) Develop your way of rewarding criticism. Imagine a kid unwrapping a christmas present and frowning. Don't be that kid. Explore how you can show your appreciation of critical feedback - especially, if you disagree with it.

Exercise #9: Ask for critical feedback

We return to our starting point of inviting feedback to highlight its importance in communicating appreciation.

But this time, go for the ugly truth. The more you make yourself vulnerable, the more appreciation you show.

"Tell me, what holds me back?"

"What's the one thing that really bugs you about me?"

The message is loud and clear: I trust you.

Exercise #10: Give critical feedback

Having been on the receiving end of critical feedback, you now know how it feels.

With that in mind, write down how you would respond to being asked for critical feedback.

Here are some tips:

  • Give feedback immediately. It has a half-live of minutes, not hours nor days. Only delay, if dedicated review sessions are scheduled or immediate performance is in jeopardy.
  • State situation, behavior, & impact. Feedback quickly becomes personal. It shouldn't. It's all about behavior in context with a consequence. Behavior can change. Context can be avoided. Consequences can be mitigated.
  • Offer tips, contacts, or resources. Great feedback doesn't just put a finger in the wound, but offers aid as well. Amazing feedback leaves a little room for the receiver to respond with their options for improvement.

Bonus: Explore ways of giving unsolicited criticism on the spot - while being appreciative.

Exercise #11: Review your candor

Take some time to reflect on a recent conversation. Pick a conversation where you feel you could have done better.

Make two columns:

  • On the right side, write what was said - as precisely as you can.
  • On the left side, write what you thought, when you said something or heard it.

Reviewing our conversations this way quickly reveals patterns where we could show our appreciation better.

Exercise #12: Say "not yet"

Finally, prepare conversations to reject somebody asking for a promotion. Having to say "no, you aren't ready yet" is the ultimate challenge of Radical Candor.

Here are some tips:

  • Be direct, do not leave doubt.
  • Design the situation for that conversation.
  • Acknowledge the emotions.
  • Prepare space for the message to sink in.
  • Offer a path forward.

Bonus: How would you apply this to firing somebody due to low performance?

More resources

→ Kim Scott: Radical Candor - Be a kick-ass boss without losing your humanity

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