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5 leadership behaviours that empower and engage your team

Summary of Mark Green masterclass on a leader's role in lifting employee engagement


Tolerating ‘disengaged’ or ‘low engagement’ team members is frustrating. But do leaders realise HOW costly poor engagement can be?

  • Studies show organisations with low employee engagement scores report lower productivity (-18%), lower profitability (-16%), lower job growth (-37%) and lower share price (-65%) over time. (1)
  • By contrast, ‘high-engagement’ scoring companies attract 100% more talent, and in this organisation employees are more independent, more proactive, better decision makers and do the ‘right thing’ more often.

From our masterclass with CEO coach and author of ‘Activators’ and ‘Creating a Culture of Accountability’ Mark Green we learned how leadership behaviours help us move closer to becoming a high engagement company and further from becoming a low engagement company. Here’s a summary.


3 keys to employee engagement

When asked for factors that made them feel engaged, masterclass participants shared the words learning opportunity, stretch project, challenge, teamwork, given a task and trusted to nail it, purpose, enjoyment, autonomy, trust, respected, making a valued contribution, and being appreciated. 

Mark Green says all point to the 3 keys to employee engagement:

·       Autonomy – the same as ‘agency’

·       Mastery – an ability to progress or get better

·       Purpose – the ‘why’ or greater cause

He says there are 5 behaviours that help, and on reading them leaders should ask themselves

‘How can I create the conditions that lead to autonomy, mastery, and purpose?’

5 leadership behaviours that empower and engage your team

When employees show signs of disengagement or low engagement (absenteeism, silence, apathy, underperformance) it could well be a leadership problem. How do your leaders rate on these five leadership behaviours?

1.     Create Clarity

2.     Over-communicate

3.     Raise Your Expectations

4.     Coach for Growth

5.     Walk Your Own Talk

Here’s a brief rundown on each of these leader behaviours.

 Create Clarity

The leader’s primary role is to be clear and well understood on core values (culture), the behaviours that will ensure your team succeeds (strategy), the outcomes and KPIs for every role (accountability), and the 3 top things that must occur quarterly and annually (priorities).

“When everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.” – Mark Green


In Mark’s experience working with CEOs across the globe, he’s come to this conclusion:

“Most of us are not good communicators.”

He recommends leaders ‘assume the likelihood’ of a yawning gap between the leader’s efforts to communicate and the team’s full understanding of the information. 

Meeting cadence to improve communication:

·       A daily huddle of 15 minutes (Mon-Thurs) for daily metrics and task synchronisation (not problem-solving)

·       A weekly tactical meeting of 1 hour or less

·       A monthly ‘Make the quarter/track execution’ meeting of 4 hours

·       A quarterly ‘Make the year/plan next quarter’ meeting of 1 day

·       An annual strategic planning meeting of 1 day

Raise Your Expectations

This is a fascinating one. When employees leave or show poor engagement, it could be due to a lack of being challenged.

In October our Global Headliner speaker Liz Wiseman, author of ‘Impact Players’ will share her research on how the best leaders cultivate a climate that is both comfortable and intense.

“The best leaders create the tension needed to achieve high performance, for example, establishing high expectations, providing candid feedback and holding people accountable.” – Liz Wiseman

Mark Green says it’s a good idea to raise expectations on such things as metrics, results, performance (hard edge), teamwork, relationships, behaviours (soft edge), and delegating decisions and outcomes.

The Ladder of Leadership

Mark highly recommends the Ladder of Leadership framework for raising expectations of employees. Developed by former U.S. navy submarine captain Lieut. David Marquet, author of ‘Turn the Ship Around’ and ‘Leadership is Language’ the ladder lists out starting points for conversations. Leaders move employees up the ladder.

Example: If an employee says “Tell me what to do” a leader could respond with, “What do you think?” When they say “I think….” You ask “What would you recommend?” and so on.

·       I’ve been doing

·       I’ve done

·       I intend to

·       I would like to

·       I recommend

·       I think

·       Tell me what to do

Coach for Growth

Coaching employees for results will not teach them to think for themselves nor does it help their feelings of mastery or autonomy. Coaching for their growth, on the other hand, is pointing out patterns or insights that will help them progress and become more autonomous.

Action steps:

·       Use the sentence “You know, I’ve noticed…..” to point out behaviours or patterns that coach for growth. Top performers love to be coached for growth.

·       Practise radical candour. Kim Scott’s book ‘Radical Candor’ (featured in our Leadership Library) teaches how you can tell the brutal truth if you also care deeply for the person receiving that truth.

·       Get skilled in accountability. Mark Green will run an intensive on accountability for a small group of participants in late September/October. Details coming soon.

Walk Your Own Talk

Leaders must lead by example all the time. This requires self-awareness (book recommendation from Mark is ‘Insight’ by Natasha Eurich).

Ask yourself:

·       Am I Living My Values?

·       Am I Honouring My Priorities?

·       Am I Accountable for My Decisions & Outcomes?

·       Am I Balancing the Hard (metrics, results) & Soft Edges (behaviours, relationships) of Leadership?

·       Am I Being Coached for Growth Myself?

If you asked your team to assess you, would the answers be different? If you are up for it, have your team complete the questionnaire with you as the subject. Then find someone who can help you with areas where you fall short.

Conversation starter questions

·       Which of the 5 leadership behaviors have you successfully implemented already? Which ones do you have to improve?

·       What do you need to do to overcome your #1 obstacle to clear communication and understanding?

·       What sort of training or processes should you have in place to create more engaged and independent teams?


(1) Studies conducted by Queens School of Business and the Gallup Organisation, cited in Mark Green masterclass. 

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