Can Praise Set You Up to For Failure?


Why is the right kind of praise so important?

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Developmental Psychologist and Stanford University Professor Carol Dweck. Her research indicates that too much praise can make your child fear failure or not work hard enough, and she suggests it’s better to praise effort such as “hard work” or “strategy” and not genetic attributes like intelligence.

 mindsetDweck has closely looked at the impact of praise, specifically the type of praise that learners receive. Her research has shown that praise linked to reassuring learners about their intelligence or talent is detrimental to their view about their abilities. It reinforces (fixed mindset) ideas that their achievements are a consequence of IQ or other finite innate ability. In Dweck’s work it led to students worrying that future tests might reveal their shortcomings, and that challenges were to be avoided as, again, struggling demonstrated that they weren’t really as smart as their teachers had believed.  Dweck’s research has demonstrated the importance of praise that recognizes effort. Praise that acknowledges process related activities such as practice, study, persistence and good strategies are proven to instill and develop a growth mindset in learners.


Dweck believes the best managers are those with a growth mindset — those who believe in their ability to change and a conviction that learning it the way forward.

Organizations can have fixed mindsets, too — and in the war for talent, those that do are losing out on great people, said Huysse. As Dweck pointed out, trusting in the value of hard work and effort is not just a stronger predictor of success, but a much more powerful motivator.

“A fixed mindset doesn’t tell you what to do next,” said Dweck. “It provides no recipe for recovering from failures,” which makes it tough to take on new challenges where stumbling is possible or even likely.

At the core of a growth mindset on talent is neuroplasticity — the ability of the brain to reorganize itself with learning. It requires not just working at what you know, but pushing past into areas that stretch your knowledge and skills. A favorite quote of Dweck’s: “Anyone who’s never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”


Mindsets are transmitted in an organization through a shared understanding of what’s valued: being right or being open to learning. “We are very tuned in to messages about what will make people like and admire us. We’re wired to pick this up,” said Dweck. Praise for intelligence instead of praise for effort sends the wrong message. People who are praised for being smart “don’t want to risk their newly minted genius status,” and that fosters static, rigid organizations. Praise for effort keeps people engaged and willing to work hard.

 Try this:

  • Instead of “person praise” (e.g., “You are creative”), offer “process praise”:
  • Praise the strategy (e.g., “You found a really good way to do it.”)
  • Praise with specificity (e.g., “You seem to really understand fractions.”)
  • Praise effort (e.g., “I can tell you’ve been practicing.”)
  • Keep it real: Don’t say, “Good job!” when it’s not.

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How Failure In Q1 Can Be A Good Thing!

Astro Teller is an entrepreneur, inventor, and author.  He worked as the “Captain of Moonshots” for X -formerly called Google X.

He reveals the secret of their success.  “We spend most of our time breaking things and trying to prove that we’re wrong. That’s it, that’s the secret. Run at all the hardest parts of the problem first. The only way to get people to work on big, risky things — audacious ideas — and have them run at all the hardest parts of the problem first, [and you do this by making] that the path of least resistance for them.” And Google X does this by making it safe to fail.

According to Teller: “Teams kill their ideas as soon as the evidence is on the table because they’re rewarded for it. They get applause from their peers. Hugs and high fives from their manager, me in particular. They get promoted for it. We have bonused every single person on teams that ended their projects”


Your corporation probably has big ideas, big plans and big goals for 2017.

My advice, seek failure, fail fast and learn from it.  The more projects or ideas that you can prove wrong (not viable business endeavors /investments) in Q1 the better your company will be in Q4.

Most companies percolate ideas and project throughout the year and arrive at somewhat obvious conclusions too late and thus are unable to pivot to a better ideas before the year ends…

Read more about failure in Q1 on

-Shane Lester, Author of Hacking Failure

Learn more about Hacking Failure

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