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83% of workers today say that they do most of their work as a team.

As Marcus Buckingham and his research team at ADP Research Institute found this turns out to be a very good thing, not only because in a team people can work to their strengths and utilise other people’s strengths to cover their weaknesses.

It is also good because their extensive global research into engagement revealed that being part of a well-functioning team was the single biggest factor for improving the level of engagement and motivation.

For almost 30 years we have known how important it is to a business’s success to have engaged staff.

Our problem has not been in recognising the importance of engagement, it has been in actually finding a way to increase engagement across an organisation. This has eluded us, in spite of us fastidiously measuring engagement levels each year and focusing on trying to improve them.

We have often tried to improve engagement by replicating what large, well-known companies do, believing that surely the methods they use and the changes they make must be proven ways to increase engagement. Sadly these companies have been no more successful in improving engagement than the less well-known companies. Hence Marcus Buckingham’s decision to research what does impact the level of engagement.


The Power of Teams

Marcus and his research team completed the most extensive and methodologically consistent global study of engagement yet undertaken. They studied 19,000 people from 19 different countries, in different roles, at different levels of the organisation and in different industries.

Their discoveries were surprising and surprisingly clear.



In our lean businesses, where we are now expected to do more work and better work but with fewer people and resources, this level of engagement is clearly a major problem.

The quality of your team experience translates to the quality of your work experience.

Not surprisingly, when the quality of your work experience is high your level of engagement is also very high. You are then more productive, happier, more creative, more resilient. You want to be part of what’s happening, you want to do your best work – for your satisfaction, for the good of your team, for the benefit of the customers (internal and external) you serve.

When people feel they are part of a well-functioning team the number of people ‘fully engaged’ doubles, from 8% to 17%. Finding out how to build a well-functioning team pays big dividends.

Of course, working as a team is not as simple as merely being in a team.

In a quality team, people feel that their work is part of a whole, that their work is purposeful, that together they are making a difference and a difference that actually matters. They feel listened to, they feel supported, and in turn, they want to support others. They see and utilise, the value of other people’s expertise and strengths.

In a great team, your leader and colleagues speak with you frequently, listen to you and support you.

It sounds so simple doesn’t it, almost simplistic. The truth is most of us speak with some of our team well, we listen to some people some of the time (and most often when it suits us, rather than when they need it most). We often expect more support than we are prepared to give, at least that we are prepared to give willingly.


Do you trust your manager?….. Really?

Feeling part of a team doubled engagement levels. Marcus Buckingham and his team then discovered an element of team that delivered an exponential shift in teamwork and therefore the level of engagement.

Perhaps we have suspected this element for some time, but have shied away from it because it puts such a large responsibility on the team leader or manager.

Perhaps it is time to face up to the results, to take the research on board, and accept that as leaders we are hugely responsible for our team’s work experience. We can, and do, have a huge, positive impact on their work experience by building a deep level of trust with each person in our team.

The research shows that when people trust their leader deeply the engagement level explodes from 17% to 45%.

Imagine what you and your team can achieve with engagement scores like that!


The power of trust


The trust must be deep and not in doubt.

A team member who merely ‘agrees’ (rather than ‘strongly agrees’) that she trusts her manager/leader shows roughly the same level of engagement as someone who actively distrusts his team leader.

As a leader how do you develop and maintain this deep level of trust with each member of your team? Marcus Buckingham and his team discovered that strong agreement with two of the eight statements from their survey was critical for this extreme level of trust. These statements were:

  1. ‘At work, I clearly understand what is expected of me.’
  2.  ‘I have the chance to use my strengths every day at work.’


These are tangible statements and actions. As a manager or leader, you can ensure that you do them and that your team members are therefore able to ‘strongly agree’ with each statement and trust you implicitly.

Begin, or continue, your pathway to deep trust with each person in your team by answering these 4 questions today:

  1. How sure am I that each person in my team knows what is expected of them – or have I assumed that they know?
  2. Am I sure that they know what they need to achieve and how they should achieve it?
  3. What are each person’s key strengths?
  4. How do I ensure that they get to use at least one of these strengths, every day?


Not only will this make your role as a leader less stressful and more enjoyable, but your team’s performance and their engagement levels will rise so that they produce excellent quality of work, in less time, with less frustration and less stress. It will give you the best chance of retaining your best people – when they are fully engaged it is much harder for your competitors to tempt them.


To discover how to set clear expectations, to get buy-in, to identify and utilise your team’s strengths, contact us on 1300 085 248 or email