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Why a coach leadership style may lead to better engagement

Updated: Oct 14, 2022

Metaphorically speaking, my bedside table is piled high with books at the moment. I say metaphorically, because actually all my books are on my Kindle which makes a very unimpressive pile next to my bed.

But the point is, I am reading a lot of books on leadership at the moment and want to share some of them with you because these are books that are changing my life (a bit dramatic??) These are books that are reshaping the way I think, altering some of my assumptions and lifelong internal chatter, and showing me new ways of communicating, behaving, connecting and interacting with the world.

In order to lead others you need to be able to lead yourself - and before you can do that, you need to know yourself, have self-awareness of your behaviors (and your triggers), your competencies and how you show up in the world.

The books that I am reading right now, I highly recommend as required reading if you have an interest in leadership - of yourself and of others.

The Engagement Equation: Leadership Strategies for an Inspired Workforce written by by Christopher Rice, Fraser Marlow, and Mary Ann Masarech.

The Engagement Equation

Engagement in the workplace has been a buzz word for a while now, with various metrics being offered to quantify engagement - but one thing is certain - if you are wanting to measure engagement, you probably already have an engagement issue!

It's also really easy to get caught up in over-analyzing the results of an engagement survey and end up doing very little to solve the issue. And let's be honest, if you have an engagement issue, you can generally feel it - low energy, high levels of absenteeism, a change in the way in which employees socialise with each other, closed office doors, gossiping and backstabbing.... all are pretty easy to see and feel and yet the concept of "engagement" seems to remain intangible in the minds of many.

So that understanding what engagement is would be the first reason to read The Engagement Equation. The authors have defined a very simple and pragmatic explanation of engagement - simply put, it is the intersect between maximum contribution to the organisation, and maximum satisfaction for the individual. It recognises quite clearly that what the organisation/project/department needs is only half the story. The other half of the equation is what the individual employees define as personally satisfying. The clincher is recognising that unlike an organisation/project/department, individual employees not only have many different criteria that contribute to their satisfaction, but also that what satisfies one person may not satisfy another.

And one may assume that this then leads on to the different values of generations which presumably is an important point to take note at a time when we have the greatest ever generational spread in workplaces.

What I really like about this book is that it dispels the myth that what satisfies Baby Boomers is quite dramatically different to what satisfies Gen X-ers and Millenials. It points out that actually for all intents and purposes the different generations have more similarities than differences and value the same things. However our differences lie our preferred modalities for expressing our values - which means that while the Baby Boomers are experiencing the world as an ever changing place and in many respects are fighting to just keep things the way they knew them once to be, Millenials experience the world as quite normal "their normal" - with many of the changes having happened in the course of their youth. For example, we all value communication - some just prefer it to be face to face while others see Twitter, WhatsApp and Snapchat as perfectly appropriate and efficient forms of communication.

So what does this mean? It means that building a culture of engagement takes effort - it requires strategically looking for ways to ensure that there is a mutually beneficial relationship for organisations and employees, that goes beyond measuring success as profit/salary, and ensures that engagement is not left to chance but is managed skillfully and consciously. The Engagement Equation helps us with this by:

  • exploring various factors that contribute towards engagement,

  • defining 5 levels of engagement

  • examining engagement trends

  • offering shared responsibility as an answer to embedding engagement in the DNA of an organisation

  • proving numerous case studies and approaches to raise engagement from being a task delegated to HR and brings it into the daily actions of everyone in an organisation - at organisational and individual level.

The second reason to read The Engagement Equation, and perhaps the reason this book resonates so deeply with me is the focus on coaching as a leadership style.

One of the greatest traps of being in a management position is the assumption that once that you are managing others, you need to tell them what to do, and that you need to have all the answers. From experience, I can tell you that's a great way to lose respect and confidence.

The new manager's response to losing confidence in their management and leadership skills is to go back to doing what they do best - and that is their technical work and the completion of tasks, rather than leading their teams. The result - individuals slowly start to disengage as a result of poor management and leadership styles - not because managers are intentionally badly behaved, but because they don't have the competencies to manage well. Unfortunately it's a leadership style that is so frequently modeled to new managers, that without clarity on "another way" it seems to be the only approach to adopt.

This book is a great first step in being a coach to new and existing leaders. A next great step would be to get a real live coach that will help you explore your leadership style, grow your coaching competencies, develop insights around your intent and impact, and be a soundboard and thinking partner.


I love conversations and would love to engage with you on your career and how you are managing yourself and your career like a business.

I believe "managing your career like a business" means having insight on where you want to go in your career, the agility and resilience to change track when necessary, competence to navigate transition points, and self-awareness to manage yourself.

I help you do that through one-on-one coaching, CV and LinkedIn profile writing, topic-specific workshops and a suite of blogs and other materials available on my website. Want more information? Books a discovery session to find out more.

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