Coaching Reflections – Golden Triangle of Engagement

Three things you can, do at work or home every day, to build excellent engagement with others is…. mentioned further in this article, don’t worry we will get there together, after this I am sure you will see how easy it is to engage others, after all, you are reading this, so you must be interested in doing daily things differently.

You see, all the elements are in the opening statement and one learning I have been reflecting on lately is what people want in a meaningful working life, or home life. I have found that almost all of my clients are benefiting from their confidence improving, their courage increasing to go after things they thought impossible, and their drive for success growing. Asking them why this is so has led me to the following realisation of the Golden Triangle of Engagement. Engagement is not dissimilar to the fire triangle where you need three essential ingredients, heat, fuel and oxygen. Without any one of those three requirements you can’t make fire. Engagement requires three elements too, Challenge, Motivation, Recognition. Do you see these three elements in the opening statement? Let’s unpack this together.

It all starts here, challenge is what brings you to a role in the first place. It speaks the loudest to your personality traits or behaviours by reinforcing that “I can do that role”. In other words, there are conditions (challenges) of the role that must be met by the employer for you to be the right hire. Once in the role everyone requires challenge to make it through their day. Now you might be thinking “I don’t like challenge, I just do this job to get paid, I don’t want to have to think, just do and go home”. You see, it’s in that sentence already; the “I don’t want to have to think”, is the challenge and for some the idea of no challenge is the very thing they are trying to avoid.

Challenge comes in many forms and at many levels. Some of us don’t get out of bed unless we are packing to go walk solo to the South Pole, others of us just like the idea of staying in bed. The challenge is the fuel in the fire triangle, it’s what we need to start us off.
In coaching, building challenge is an important part of helping move you toward your goals. This is something all coaches can learn and finesse to ensure they are moving you forward.

A life or job without challenge is like eating the same cereal for breakfast every day for your entire life. Pretty soon it’s not pleasant and not long afterward its torturous. People leave roles because they hate the work, hate the boss, or hate the choice they made in applying. Underlying this is that the challenge quotient is out of kilter. Let me give you an example here, I was working at a place to help change the culture and they had a routine meeting that was known as “the bear pit”. Here the challenge was so high that the only outcome of the meeting was to survive it. The impression was that challenge is good as it critically deconstructed the argument and led to better outcomes. You be the judge.

Set some challenges for yourself and others that help them to grow and add value. Challenge builds resolve, courage and accountability and fuels people onwards toward success.

Rarely do we ever get anywhere by ourselves, even those who undertake solo challenges have a team of people who contribute to their journey. So too with challenge, is that it is rarely overcome or completed without the assistance of others. Motivation is the oxygen that builds the reaction to fire, it adds sustenance to the equation and it can carry you forward when situations get tough.

Motivation comes in two parts; you motivating others; and others motivating themselves. Motivation is more than just words from you, it’s about being responsible, supportive and committed to the outcome. This doesn’t mean you do the work of others or you step into the breach just in time, or you remove the challenge it’s about reminding others why they took it on in the first place. They have the capability to do it and that together you can problem-solve your way to the end point. Motivating yourself is about having an eye on the prize at the end of challenge. For some it’s a glass of wine at the end of the day, others it is planting the flag at the South Pole and knowing that you did it.

In my coaching experiences, this area is where most can be done to improve the work culture, by becoming part of the equation for success. Ask yourself about the project your team is working on, or that deadline your co-worker is facing and discussed with you over lunch “How did I contribute?”. Did you say something placating like “it’s ok, you will get there” or did you dig in a little deeper and say, “what does it feel like when its finished, is that something you are looking forward to, what do you need to get there?”. Here you have refocussed them away from the challenge and toward the goal, this is important as you are reminding them why they started.

Reward comes in many forms and it includes things like remuneration, recognition, promotion, life-changes, etc. For each person there is a different reward and it’s important to know what this is before you set out. Rewards act as motivators and can be frequent, leading to the big one! At the end of the challenge. Reward shows to you and others that it was all worthwhile. It reaffirms and grows confidence in yourself, it shows you have a focus toward a result and maintained the commitment to get there. Nothing feels better than confidence, it’s that warm glow you get as the endorphins pump through your system and let you know, on a subconscious level, your brain approves and so your gives your body a chemical treat.

So many times I have looked into organisation’s cultures to find a lack of reward built in to the system. As leaders and owners of businesses, it’s a responsibility you have to ensure your teams feel as though they are contributing to the business and are growing it. After all, systems, IT, machinery, markets, politics and economies are constructs of humans not the other way around. They work for us and as such keeping the largest and most complex business system optimised, as they are the highest priority for a business. Too often we pump all kinds of money into the other systems neglecting the critical interface, us.

What I enjoy most from my coaching is watching people grow in confidence; sitting upright and leaning forward to tell you of their accomplishments, talking to the next challenge on the higher path that they have been putting off. This is my reward, a successful leader.

So, there is my formula for the highest possible engagement with your team, yourself, your family and friends. Challenge, Motivate, Reward! Ask yourself the following questions to test your golden triangle formula:

  • What’s the level of challenge in my role/workplace/life?
  • Does this challenge help or hinder my/our journey to my goals?
  • What keeps me/us on the path to success?
  • Who keeps me/us on this path?
  • What rewards are waiting for me/us at the end?
  • What does success feel like for me/us?
  • Does this success overpower any other feelings of challenge?

I really enjoy my coaching, I work in many different environments and at many different levels. The Golden Triangle holds truth at all these levels and has helped me deliver the greatest results.

I would love to hear your stories on this topic, why not contact me at or visit my LinkedIn page and leave a comment.

About the author

Peter is the founder and Director of Holtmann Professional Services, a global provider of executive coaching, business excellence consulting and career path development. Peter has 20 years of experience in executive roles and has been the President and CEO of a global Non-profit. Peter has written for many journals and blogs, is a keynote speaker and is a champion of prosperity through excellence of leadership.

If you are interested in working with Peter, please reach out to