by Steve Adubato, PhD

There is no exact science to the art of leadership. People are moved and motivated by all kinds of people, events, and circumstances. So how do you keep people happy and productive, and how much of that has to do with great leadership and truly getting to know your team? Here are some tangible tips and tools that belong in your leadership tool kit:

--Take the time to check in with your people and find out how they are feeling about what they are doing. The more input team members have into the way they do their job and the more they have the opportunity to share with you their own ideas and needs, the more motivated they are likely to be. For example, seek out your employees’ thoughts on finding a new way of doing old tasks. Ask, “what exactly would you change to get job X done in a more efficient or effective manner?”

--Go out of your way to catch employees doing something right. This often doesn’t come naturally to managers. As leaders, it is so easy to be blinded by people falling short or not meeting our expectations that we miss when they get it right. Look for employees’ successes and when you find them, immediately let the employee know exactly how much you personally appreciate it and how the organization benefits from their efforts.

--Establish trust among team members by creating opportunities to build personal relationships with each other. You can’t force team members to like each other or to be friends, nor should you even try. But truly getting to know your people will also present the potential to put them in situations where they can interact, connect, and find common ground with their colleagues. Often, in a way they wouldn’t be able to do if you as a leader weren’t aware enough to create such a positive and collaborative environment.

--Share the spotlight by encouraging team members to voice their opinions. Allow team members to make presentations both internally and externally; in fact, don’t only allow it, but encourage it, report it, and reward it. Just because you may be the official leader of a team doesn’t mean you should be doing all the talking. In fact, when you do this you send the message to your team that you believe you are the only one that has something to say. Plus, you lose touch with team members because they’re convinced you have no confidence in them and their abilities.

--Don’t make every decision. Rather, challenge team members to find the solution on their own with difficult problems and questions. Your objective is not only to get them to think for themselves but also to have them identify options and alternatives that you as a leader may not have thought of. In the process you will not only engage team members and motivate them, you will also get to know them better—including the way they think or don’t think about strategic issues and decision making.

Joe Torre, former Yankees manager and Co-Founder of the Joe Torre Safe At Home Foundation, shares his leadership advice about managing your team by knowing the people you lead.