7 Common Recognition Pitfalls to Avoid

An excerpt from Lauren Parsons’ book ‘Thriving Leaders Thriving Teams’.

Immediate specific feedback is one of the best leadership strategies, parenting strategies and relationship strategies available because of its power to reinforce behaviour and boost motivation. Rather than nagging people about what’s not been done or pointing out mistakes, highlighting positives can create significant behaviour change.

There are however some pitfalls to avoid. Here are seven of them:


People can sense insincere praise a mile off. While regular recognition is the ideal, forcing it can backfire; staff will doubt your integrity if you give inauthentic feedback. Avoid over-embellishing the facts. It’ll only undermine trust.

When choosing between frequency and sincerity, always opt for higher quality, genuine praise over contrived attempts at flattery.


I’ll always remember the parenting advice to avoid phrases like, “Good girl” or, “Good boy”. These generic statements don’t carry a lot of meaning. In the same vein, if you say, “Well done” or, “Great job” it doesn’t have much weight.

It’s important to specifically state what was good. For example, “I really liked the way you kept the meeting on track today. You did a good job of refocusing the conversation.” This lets the other person know what they did well.


Saying, “You did the best presentation today!” can actually demotivate people. At a subconscious level, we all know we can’t be ‘the best’ every time, which can create future worry. Also, being told someone’s better than others can stop them from striving to perform at their best.

It’s much more effective to applaud people’s effort, skill and progress. For example, “You spoke so clearly today and made great eye contact with everyone. I really liked how you closed with a story. I could see you put a lot of effort into crafting that presentation. It was compelling.”


If staff feel that showing appreciation is something only managers need to (or can) do, you miss opportunities for collegial appreciation and a culture of gratitude. Normalise recognition and encourage staff to thank one another. Have formal and informal ways for this to happen and praise the behaviours you want to reinforce (including praise itself).


Sometimes it’s easiest to thank and reward the person who brings back the signed contract, launches the product or delivers the final result, when really it was a team effort to reach that point.

Much like giving all the praise to the player who scores the touchdown, this can demotivate everyone else who contributed in vital ways. Avoid breeding apathy and discontent by celebrating team success and be careful to include everyone involved.


Yes, achieving the end goal is a fantastic thing to applaud. Too often, however, we miss the opportunities to praise towards the goal.

Ironman athletes, who have to complete a 3.9 km (2.4 mile) swim, 180km (112 mile) cycle and 42km (26.2 mile) run, train themselves to celebrate each milestone along the way, each buoy they circle in the water, each cone they go past. This keeps up motivation towards the end goal and ultimately helps them reach the finish line.

Praise the smaller targets on the way towards the bigger ones. This builds confidence and sets the tone for success.


While it can be an effective way to deliver constructive feedback, ‘sandwiched’ between two pieces of praise, if this method is always used it can sometimes come across as forced. For example, “Well done on taking care of that customer so well. They certainly seemed very happy with all your help. Just remember that you need to limit the time you spend to no more than 3-5 minutes per customer. There were a lot of people looking frustrated, waiting in line today. Thanks for always having a calm manner and a smile for our customers. You’re doing well.”

Find opportunities to provide praise in a stand-alone way at times, rather than always linking it to constructive feedback. This allows people to appreciate it fully without the subliminal thought in the back of their mind, “Oh no! What have I done now?”

Enjoyed this article?

To find out more about how to master effective recognition, read the whole Thriving Leaders, Thriving Teams book. Order your copy today here.

Complete will full colour, full page illustrations, it’s a fantastic guide to help you stop languishing and start flourishing.

A must-have for all leaders. Comprehensive, practical and easy to read!

– Karen Tui Boyes, CEO

“This book is a treasure trove of tips and insights on the landscape between wellbeing and leadership. Lauren generously shares her knowledge and experience on how to help leaders and their teams to thrive both personally and collectively.” 

– Lotty Roberts, Founder of Mind.U


Lauren is a multi-award-winning Wellbeing Specialist who believes that everyone deserves to thrive. With over 20 years’ experience, she is passionate about helping busy people re-discover how to feel vibrant, confident and energised.

Awarded NZ Keynote Speaker of the Year and Educator of the Year 2023/24 by the Professional Speakers Association. Lauren is a sought-after international speaker and one of only a dozen Certified Speaking Professionals in New Zealand, who integrates her wellness and business background to help leaders find the sweet spot between boosting both wellbeing and productivity.

TEDx speaker, Author of Thriving Leaders Thriving Teams and Real Food Less Fuss, Founder of the Snack on Exercise movement and host of the Thrive TV Show. Described as inspiring and life-changing, Lauren is a dynamic and highly-engaging presenter, and master story-teller who will have you laughing, moving and learning in a memorable way. Whether it’s virtual or in-person, you will leave Lauren’s session feeling uplifted and empowered to create positive change!

Based in the Manawatu, New Zealand, where she lives with her husband and three children, Lauren can often be found hosting dinner parties, playing board games, or spending time outdoors. She travels regularly to speak at conferences and in-house and specialises in helping organisations create a high-energy, peak-performance team culture, where people thrive.

To find out about working with Lauren for Leadership Development, Executive Coaching, Motivational Team Training or Conference Keynotes, visit  www.LaurenParsonsWellbeing.com 

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