Encouraged, Free and Agile

Organizational culture Respect Teamwork


Key Point: “What the people in our lives want is to be treated like people: Encouraged, free, and agile. That’s how you lead.” That’s the closing point from a great article published in Mashable by Aaron Orendorff, the founder of iconiContent and a regular contributor at Entrepreneur, Lifehacker, Fast Company, Business Insider and more. 

Recently, I sparked much reader interest in a blog referring to my eight ingredients in building an ever-evolving great culture. Inside those ingredients you will find the same elements of encouragement, freedom and agility. Orendorff refers to a couple of studies to support his findings. 

“When Stanford business professors James Baron and Michael Hannan concluded their expansive eight-year study of over 200 tech startups, one finding emerged… They discovered that the ‘commitment’ model — which relied on ‘emotional or familial ties of employees to the organization, selection based on cultural fit, and peer-group control’ — outperformed its counterparts on all fronts… In fact, not a single of the commitment organizations they studied failed.

Leaders can build commitment through a host of methods, but the most uncomplicated answer lies in one we often overlook — encouragement.” (You will note in my last Sandberg blogEncouragement leads to confidence).

“Likewise, Duke behavioral economists Dan Ariely validated this finding through a series of experiments at Intel. Compliments — nothing more than a simple ‘Well done’” from the boss — increased productivity 34.7 percent more than monetary bonuses over a one week period.”

People often wonder why I feel so strongly about our recognition program, where 5,000 team members exchange 30,000 recognitions per month. It is a platform of peer-to-peer encouragement. It’s also why I send out DWDs! (Darn Well Dones).

Orendorff notes in his Mashable blog: “Daniel Pink — in both his TEDTalk and book-length treatment — lays out the comprehensive benefits of autonomy: ‘According to a cluster of recent behavioral science studies, autonomous motivation promotes greater conceptual understanding, enhanced persistence, higher productivity, less burnout, and greater levels of psychological well-being.’”

The Orendorff trifecta: “Essentially, agile leadership blends commitment — namely, collaboration and relational ties — with autonomy — flexibility and decentralized decision-making. Agile leaders entrust responsibility to their teams knowing that humans naturally reciprocate that trust with passionate, long-term commitment… The quickest way to go agile, however, comes from the last phrase of [Charles] Duhigg’s definition: ‘pushing decision making to whoever was closest to a problem.’” 

Character Moves:

  1. After all the research, people just want to be treated as PEOPLE! Encourage them! Give them the freedom to unleash their contribution and support agility by helping people make decisions closest to the problem. It’s that simple and that hard!

Encouraged, Free and Agile in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: Millennials get some scruff about always wanting “trophies for participation,” and special recognition for achievements. Nah. Not the best ones. We understand we don’t need cannons to fire in celebration every time we do our jobs, but we can sniff out when higher ups refuse to give a nod of appreciation. Consider something like a “well done” just polite… No more, no less, but enough to at least let us know we’re encouraged, free and agile.

– Garrett