My kids have an amazing collection of trophies, medals, ribbons and certificates. I agree with the concerns shared by Ashley Merrman, in “Losing is Good for You” at NewYorkTimes.com. She writes about the downside of the “everyone gets a trophy” thinking that pervades youth sports, education and many homes.

Constant praise of a child’s innate characteristics (brains, looks, etc.) backfires; they “collapse at the first experience of difficulty.” Even when everyone is rewarded, kids know who really excels and who doesn’t. “Those who are outperformed know it and give up, while those who do well feel cheated when they aren’t recognized for their accomplishments. They, too, may give up.”

What does this have to do with grownups? It raises a lot of questions about how and when we dole out accolades.

Are you praising effort or a person’s innate characteristics? Kudos for hard work, like putting in extra time or approaching a problem creatively, may have better lasting effects than simply applauding traits they were born with, like intelligence.

Are you “all praise, all the time?” Pats on the back are important. So are painting a clear picture of success and letting people know when they need to course-correct. Check out Humanergy’s best practices for feedback in Three Questions for Helpful Feedback, Lead like a Band Competition Judge and Performance is Improving, but not Fast Enough.

As a parent, I know how hard it is to see my kids fail. It is all I can do not to step in and “make it all right.” However, I hope I remember (at home and in my leadership) that learning to fall is an essential part of standing with true confidence.


We’re putting away the trophies and certificates, and we are ready to help you ignite your people’s success.

Photo from freeimages.com.