Communicating openly with your team, recognizing them for their efforts, and giving them room to grow will greatly improve their engagement and department efficiency.

What difference would it make for your department to get each one of your team members excited about solving problems, making recommendations, expressing their new ideas, and taking care of our clients?

The single element that distinguishes one company from another, more than anything else, is its people and the effort they exert.

The secret to unlocking this source of energy for your team is to build and strengthen the bonds between you. When you trust and respect your people, and really connect with them, they will respond with commitment and enthusiasm.

Give these seven strategies for connecting with your team a try and see for yourself how your team benefits.

1. Put your team members first.

All team members want to be respected and valued for their contributions. Respect comes in many different forms: respecting opinions, respecting time, respecting culture, and more.

2. Create a safe space.

In many organizations, bosses rule their employees through bullying, threats, and intimidation. Unfortunately, over the long term, fear causes employees to contribute less to their organizations and to disconnect both mentally (checking out, clamming up) and physically (absenteeism, resignation). Team members must feel safe when they take the initiative to try something new, whether the idea works or not. It's your job to provide your people with a safe space to bring forward their ideas, and to tell the truth, no matter how hard it may be for you to hear.

3. Break down barriers to information.

Team members must be informed through constant and clear communication by their co-workers, managers, and customers, about what's going on in the organization and their place within it. Only when they have complete information can they give all they have to their organization.

4. Create opportunities for personal growth.

There are many non-financial ways that leaders can provide opportunities for growth.  Building an owner's mentality in the department, including giving team members real responsibility and authority to make decisions that affect their jobs and their work.

When you give your team the responsibility and the authority to do their jobs, you and your department will be successful because you're depending on them to do the right thing on their own instead of depending on policies and procedures that force them to do so.

5. Engage your people.

Dedicated team members are a tremendous potential source of organizational improvement, and you should make it a point to regularly tap this wealth of ideas.

6. Make recognition the norm.

The amazing thing about this is that the most effective forms of employee recognition cost little or no money, such as verbal and written thank-you notes for team members who do a good job, and publicly celebrating team and group successes.