I got out the feedback form and we went through it together. 3 words stood out for me:
Outstanding: Something outstanding stands out for good reasons. Your outstanding presentation captured everyone's attention; unfortunately, so did the tear in the seat of your pants. An outstanding performance of any kind will impress people, but there's one meaning to outstanding that most of us would rather avoid: that which remains unpaid.
Exceed: To exceed is to go beyond expectations, or to go too far. If you exceed the speed limit, you might get a speeding ticket. Exceed and excess share the Latin root excedere meaning to "go beyond." An excess is too much of something, like the piles of sweets after Halloween, and exceed means the action of going too far in a good or bad way. You exceed in school when you get straight A's.
However, neither of these struck a chord, like Exemplary....
Exemplary people excel at what they do and are excellent examples to others. Something exemplary is so good that it is an example for others to follow. When something is the best it can be or reaches the highest point, it is exemplary and thus worth imitating. Exemplary comes from the Latin exemplum, meaning "sample" or "example." While some people and things are held as examples of what not to do, an exemplary person or thing is always a positive example.
When was the last time you thought of the words you use to praise someone?