skip to main content
How to Create Shared Ownership of Team Engagement

How to Create Shared Ownership of Team Engagement

by Brian J. Brim, Ed.D.

Story Highlights

  • Involvement is the key to shared ownership
  • Employees perform better when they know their work matters to the company

Leaders often make a mistake in their approach to engagement. Building engagement is not a separate activity from the actual work that needs to be done.

The best leaders Gallup has studied do not see fostering employee engagement as a separate part of their job, but as something that informs how they should do every part of their job.

What's more, leaders must realize that the key to engagement is through a shared ownership of it with their people. When leaders use shared responsibility correctly, it can become the best way to build strong and sustainable employee engagement.

What is shared ownership?

It is the process in which leaders work with their people to determine what needs to be accomplished in order to meet critical objectives.

Involvement is the key to shared ownership.

One of the most important tools to build engagement with is involvement.

When people are part of the solution and know they are a valuable part of the work and decisions being made, that is to say, when they have a sense of ownership -- and if they know what excellence and success looks like -- they are that much closer to being engaged.

When leaders don't understand this, employee engagement efforts can produce strange outcomes.

Leaders can become consumed with being order-takers and social chairpersons. They spend days trying to figure out what their people want and then trying to fill that order, or they focus on trying to make work fun with things like quiz bowls and pizza parties.

This is not to say that leaders shouldn't provide the tools and resources to help their people succeed, but there is a right and wrong way to do this. It also doesn't mean we shouldn't attempt to bring some fun into the work environment, but again -- it's important to consider the why and how surrounding the fun.

Regardless of whether executed correctly or not, if these actions are leaders' only attempt to affect engagement, these leaders are missing what's at the core of engagement.

Instead of involving their teams, they end up coddling them.

Shared responsibility can actually help leaders provide resources that employees need, but to achieve that outcome leadership needs to have the right approach.

For example, one manager in a manufacturing environment recently fought to get his team members separate locking toolboxes, because they had a strong business case for why they needed them. They all worked together to show how dedicated toolboxes that lock allow for workers to plan for their job the next day and know they can hit the ground running and get to work right way.

Because team members had a clear business case for their need and because they worked with their leader to state that case clearly, a problem was solved through involvement, the team grew more engaged and people were more productive.

Leaders need to shift their perspective on ownership of engagement so that it becomes a natural and positive discussion among their teams.

One common barrier to this is weak leadership who feel they need to have all the answers or they will appear unsteady.

A strong leader knows that the best answers often come from their teams. They honor the new insights their people bring and they encourage sharing those insights and applying them to the work.

They share the responsibility for how to successfully reach desired outcomes. This shared responsibility results in people knowing that they really matter to the success of the work being done.

A strong leader also understands the importance of the manager in engagement and supports managers and empowers them to drive engagement. Gallup finds that 70% of the variance in a team's engagement is influenced by the manager. Managers create the conditions that empower employees to feel a sense of shared ownership of engagement.

How are you creating opportunities for team members to share responsibility?

As a leader, how do you help team members see that things aren't happening "to" them but "because" of them?

Take the time to look back on your past week. Play the highlight reel in your head, and find the plays where you didn't involve your team but instead felt like you had all the answers.

  • What could you have changed?
  • Where could you have changed a statement into a question to get your people involved in the situation?
  • Where did you coddle versus involve?

Then, think back on the moments when you did invite your team to share responsibility.

  • Where were you successful?
  • Where did you get the team to take initiative and help build a plan for solving a real issue?

Consider these questions each week as you consider how well you led your team. Then work on shifting a few conversations each week to be about shared ownership of and involvement in engagement.

Gallup can help you foster shared ownership of employee engagement among your teams:


Brian J. Brim, Ed.D., is a Senior Practice Consultant at Gallup. He is coauthor of Strengths Based Selling.

Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030