recognition that mattersSomeone gets recognized with the best of intentions… and the eyes start to roll.

Or, the audience begins to clap very slowly with plastered-on smiles.

Or…a quiet murmur comes over the crowd.. and the text messages start to flow.

Sometimes recognition backfires.

On the other hand, we’ve all witnessed the exuberant celebration when a name is called, and the whole audience seems to scream ‘YES!”  People rise to their feet…. it’s hand slaps the whole way back from the stage. The congratulations go on all night. When the recognition is on target, everyone feels fantastic.

As a leader, I recognize.  I’ve been recognized. I have also been in the constant conversations about who should be recognized.  I must admit, the higher I get in the organization, the more recognition scares me.

Recognition matters.

Recognition can backfire.

It’s important to understand the impact.

5 Reasons Your Recognition is Backfiring

After participating in hundreds of recognitions over the years, I have seen patterns that cause recognition to backfire.  Avoiding these pitfalls will help to ensure your recognition is a success.

1.  Recognize numbers achieved through bad behaviors

In an effort to remain “objective,” many leaders rely heavily on numbers and stack ranks as they select who to recognize. Over-reliance on the numbers can be a slippery slope.  A good way to overcome this is to identify additional behaviors or related metrics to use as gateways. I encourage you to build a deeper context to your recognition criteria.

2.  Recognize the leader without acknowledging the team.

Leaders need recognition too.  Sometimes there is huge value in recognizing a leader in front of their team. However, this is risky and must be done with care. Many times it’s best to use big recognition forums to recognize team efforts, and save the individual leadership kudos for another time.

3.  Recognize a big deal as if it’s a small deal

Or… a small deal as if it’s a big deal.  “Thanks for saving us $5 Million dollars, here’s your certificate” can backfire. Ensure you calibrate level of accomplishment with level of recognition, as well as ensure all leaders doing recognition at the same event are aligned.

4.  Mispronounce the recipient’s name

This mistake seems really basic, but it’s all too frequent. It doesn’t help if you laugh first and apologize. Take the time to learn how to pronounce their name.

5.  Stumble on the accomplishment, or read from a script

The leaders who go to the microphone without the notes always win in my book.  They speak from the heart… so what if they can’t quote every number… their eyes light up… they tell a story. They mean it.  Make sure you understand the recognition enough to mean it.

How do you ensure your recognition has the impact you desire? 

See Also:

Why Isn’t This Incentive Program Working?

Recognition Power Words: The Phrases That Mean The Most

One Huge Step Every Great Boss Takes

Karin Hurt
Karin hurt is CEO of Let's Grow Leaders, a leadership consulting firm focused on helping companies achieve transformational results by building rock-solid frontline leadership teams.She has a diverse background of executive leadership experience in sales, customer service, call centers, human resources, merger integration, training and leadership development-- the last 20 years of which have been with Verizon.She most recently served as Executive Director of the Strategic Partnership Channel at Verizon Wireless where she transformed customer service outsourcing, working with companies and call centers to build great customer experiences and strong cultures. Her high-trust, high-collaboration approach has led to substantial improvement across the portfolio, with centers performing at parity or above internal centers.Prior to that she led a large Verizon Wireless sales team (2000+) leading the Nation in store sales to the Small and Medium business space. Her book, Overcoming an Imperfect Boss: A Practical Guide To Building a Better Relationship With Your Boss is available on Amazon. Karin has an BA in Communication from Wake Forest University, an MA from Towson University in Organizational Communication, and additional graduate work at the University of Maryland, where she taught communications classes.She was recently recognized as one of the top 100 thought leaders in Trusted Business Behavior by Trust Across America and as Multiplier of the Year by the Wiseman Group.Karin lives in Baltimore with her husband and two sons. She knows the long road of the marathon runner and the joy of good song, all of which inform her leadership.
Karin Hurt


Leadership consultant, speaker, author & MBA professor. Experienced Verizon Exec. Lead with confident humility. Become the boss you wish you had. #leadership
@JeffJayMiller chimed in on the bold and innovative leadership Frontline Festival this month. Thanks! - 1 hour ago
Karin Hurt
Karin Hurt