top of page

Receiving appreciation and recognition

A close up of boots infront of a campfire with other people in the background around the campfire.
Ember Experience Stoke Session

Much of the conversation about appreciation is focused on how to give it.

As a leader myself, and a coach for fellow leaders, showing appreciation and recognition is one tangible action that can have immediate impact on an employee and organizational culture. Earlier this week, Ember Experience posted a framework to use on how to give meaningful appreciation and recognition.

Receiving appreciation and recognition, on the other hand, is talked about far less and often overlooked. If you are like me, receiving attention or public recognition is not a comfortable place to sit or one we may not want to be in. Raised in a culture that values humility, I have operated from a perspective that accepting or seeking appreciation would mean I am egotistical or trying to hog the spotlight from others. This has been true in sports and continues to be true as a leader. However, I have come to learn there is a difference between accepting recognition and seeking it.

For much of my life I have operated from a perspective that accepting appreciation would mean I am egotistical or trying to hog the spotlight from others. This has been true in sports and continues to be true as a leader. However, I have come to learn there is a difference between accepting recognition and seeking it.

To get away from my own discomfort in these moments where others extended a compliment, I often resorted to deflecting, deflating, or changing the conversation topic completely.

I’ll share a story that best demonstrates this experience. As part of our training, new staff accompany a senior member to “learn the ropes”, observe, and practice consulting skills (holding tension, being aware of the room, learning how to support, processes etc.). While onboarding Bethany Hughes, we were working with a client that was navigating complex workplace concerns around inequity, privilege, and employee burnout. We worked through and grumbled with some difficult topics, leaders, and workplace circumstances. At the end of the week, Bethany offered her appreciation for the opportunity, shared her learnings, and paid me a compliment on the skills I had in facilitating a tough conversation with leader. I physically cringed and quickly deflected the compliment. It was so uncomfortable. I was squirming in my seat. I knew she could sense my discomfort. She held the discomfort. She was a quick learner. She jokingly stated “Oh, this is what is going to get me fired, giving you a compliment.” It broke the tension, we both laughed and moved forward with our day.

The scenario stuck with me. I shared it with a trusted confidant and advisor, Norah Marsh. I shared some of my own misgivings and programming about recognition and praise. She expressed similar feelings and reflected that gracious acceptance is a key part of fostering trusting relationships, and as a leader we are responsible for role modelling the behaviours we want to see throughout our culture. Accepting recognition is no different.

I have spent a considerable amount of time working on gracious acceptance, and while receiving any form of appreciation is still a cringey experience for me, I have learned and implemented the following strategies and reminders. I am sharing them in hopes of coaching you reader on how to embrace appreciation and model humble acceptance for recognition, and possibly even help keep me socially accountable.

1. Reflect on why you feel cringey.

  • Take a moment to explore how it feels, where does it show up in your body and what exactly are you moving away from… The reasons you feel cringey may be different the ones I experienced.

  • Accepting anyone's judgements of our “self”, positive or negative, can be challenging. This is because we are offered a perspective of ourselves that we can’t see, and that a vulnerable place to be.

2. Work to trust the authenticity of the appreciation given.

  • Take the recognition, appreciation, or comment at face value.

  • Assume positive intent. Choose to believe in the genuine nature of the one offering the recognition, appreciation etc.

  • By choosing to accept it, you are modelling trusting behaviour that over time builds towards a culture of trust throughout your organization.

3. Honour how people are showing up.

  • If we stop people from expressing their appreciation, you may be interfering with their authentic expression and attempt to connect.

  • Repeatedly doing this can also lead to censorship and prevent people from approaching you in other situations that are important (e.g., asking for help, addressing mistakes, sharing their experience).

4. Just say thank you.

  • Accepting praise does not need to be any more than saying thank you.

  • Acknowledging your own strength does not mean you are hogging the spotlight.

  • Saying thank you reflects your appreciation for the other person seeing the skills or hard work you have put it. By accepting this with grace, we will often end up depositing in their emotional bank account create a stronger connection.

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page