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I’ve been thinking a lot about the art form that is engaging your employees. There is a certain finesse needed to help your team reach their fullest potential. With that comes a level of trust, respect, and dependability, but you must first master those qualities yourself.

In any organization, whether it is a multi-million-dollar company or a dot-com start-up, the employees first and foremost want to feel safe. If they are constantly afraid of getting fired or getting yelled at, their work will suffer. I see a lot of people try to motivate their team with fear, but in my experience that never works the way they wish it did. I’ve also seen the other side where leaders motivate their team with positive encouragement and a safe space to work. In this case, productivity soars to a whole new level. I’ve found that when employees actually love their job, they will work and engage harder.

Creating a safe space for your team means providing them with an environment they actually want to be in. This could mean having free drinks and snacks in the break room, creating flexible work hours, developing a collaborative, open office, generating tuition reimbursement, and giving great health benefits. All of these little things ultimately lead to happy employees. When you have happy employees, you get a chain reaction that leads to happy customers.

People don’t respond well to be treated like lesser beings. In my many years on the job, I have discovered that when you treat people the way you want to be treated, things are generally better for you. I know the golden rule is pretty cliché and more often used to teach kindergarteners how to behave, but the sentiment is still important in a business setting. When you treat your team with respect, when you trust them to be dependable, they will give you the same attitude in response.

Ultimately, by giving your employees a safe space to register their opinion, you are allowing them to engage fully and thus increase their productivity. People give you what you give them. Trust them and they will trust you, respect them and they will respect you. It is a cycle that must not be ignored. Engaging your team is not only a way to increase efficiency, but investment on future success. True leaders know that this is a way of life.