There may be no “I” in team, but there needs to be a “U,” because it’s your ability to relate to team members at all levels of an organization — whether that colleague is based in a field branch, working in an on-site role or supporting the back-office operations — that is key in your success as an industry executive. While client relationships are always important, rarely do these relationships depend solely on a top executive nurturing that partnership.

Rather, it is the collective team you lead that will drive your ultimate success. Therefore, the development and retention of a strong team of dedicated professionals at all levels of your company is key for long-term and sustainable growth.

During my 35-year career within the industry, I have found that being able to relate to, empathize with and genuinely appreciate every employee throughout the organization have been key to both my team’s success and my professional growth. Sitting in the so-called ivory tower at a corporate office will never enable a staffing industry leader to truly understand what (and who) is ultimately driving your company forward. While you have most certainly earned that nice office, don’t ignore the activities and experiences that have gotten you there. Here are a few techniques I have learned over the many years:

Engage with your team. Spend your time in the field with a careful balance of activities to make sure your presence is felt when you visit a market. While the primary purpose of a market visit may be that important sales presentation, don’t stop there. Use the time in the market to directly engage with staff at different levels. This can be accomplished through activities as simple as joining a morning stand-up meeting to kick off the day at the branch or client site or attending a recruiting event as an active participant.

Spending a couple of hours “carrying a bag” again with that new sales representative. The knowledge you can share with your team by this type of active engagement will be remembered, and the experiences you can gain by reliving your past roles will renew your excitement about the great industry we work in. I have joined organizations in stagnation due to prior leadership being disconnected from the field teams. By placing myself close to the action, and dedicating appropriate time in the trenches, these same organizations have sprung back to life.

Measure internal employee satisfaction. Through internal employee surveys and talent satisfaction measurements, you can quickly ascertain how your employees feel about the company as a whole and their individual role within it. While internal surveys can certainly be helpful, I have found much higher response rates and honest commentary is gained by using an external service to gather information and provide feedback.

Your employees will feel more inclined to provide quality feedback when they are speaking from the comfort of anonymity. Once you receive that feedback, what you do with this information is critical. Share the results and point out common survey trends. If there is a strong common suggestion, take action — even if it goes against your pre-conceived notions about the subject. Demonstrating a willingness to listen and act on survey results shows the team that you value their collective opinions.

Reward your performers. Setting up internal contests and reward programs outside of the normal compensation structure is a sure-fire way to rally your troops toward higher achievements. It doesn’t always need to be a monetary award to produce outstanding results. As we all know, competitive spirit is a key driver of success within a staffing organization — whether this is against your actual market competition or within your internal peer group. Focus on contests designed to reward your known “A players,” as well as to lift the efforts and spirit of the smaller offices and markets. Getting uplift from your bottom 20% can be the difference between ultimate success or failure in meeting your growth objectives.

In the end, great leadership in staffing really comes down to staying engaged. This is the ultimate people business — so staying personally connected with all the people who make it work will always be a winning strategy.