With some people, connections come easy. Maybe you have a similar background, shared hobbies or a mutual friend. With others, however, you may not have much in common, which can make it harder to connect. If business leaders aren't careful, this can also make these individuals harder to manage effectively.

However, research by Max Nathan and Neil Lee showed that diverse teams help companies be more successful. More often than not, this means that you will end up hiring employees with whom you share little in common but fill an important skill deficient area. 

Since having strong relationships is a key to successful leadership, it's important you cultivate great relationships with these individuals that aren't exactly like you. It may not seem like you have much in common at first, but with a little effort, you can strengthen your relationship and get better results from these essential team members.

Find common ground through achievement.

Despite your differences, you always have one thing in common with your employees: a shared goal for achieving the best possible outcomes for your company.

In many ways, this is similar to how successful sports teams operate. You bring together players with different backgrounds, who all play different roles on the team. Yet, they have the same end goal: winning. As coaches and teammates work together toward these common goals and celebrate their achievements, they build trust and unity.

In a business setting, leaders have the responsibility of helping to set and communicate goals with their staff. However, they should also be willing to seek employee input for additional perspectives on how to grow and improve the business. This helps everyone become more fully invested in the team, regardless of how much they share in common.

Spend double the amount of one-on-one time with these employees.

One-on-one time with your employees is crucial for building a successful team.

As Jeff Butler, a keynote speaker and workforce consultant for the likes of household brands like TEDx, Google, Amazon and Wells Fargo, writes, "When I survey crowds across various industries, usually 30 percent of attendees have consistent one-on-one meetings ... One-on-one meetings are an unequivocal way to foster employee engagement and increase employee retention."

In fact, research from Gallup indicates that employees who have regular meetings with their managers are "three times as likely to be engaged" as those who don't have this face-to-face time.

These meetings aren't just a chance to evaluate performance or go over an employee's goals. They also provide a valuable opportunity to get to know an employee better. This one-on-one time helps an employee feel valued and allows you to gain new insights into their personality and interests.

Who knows, you just might find that you share something in common after all.

Celebrate different backgrounds within your company.

Differences in background and interests can sometimes lead to misunderstandings and even conflict. It shouldn't be this way. The best managers celebrate the diversity of their staff, helping everyone feel appreciated as they learn more about each other.

As Rana el Kaliouby writes for Inc., her company Affectiva has introduced fun traditions to celebrate their team's diversity -- such as a potluck lunch. "Everyone is invited to bring in a dish from their home country or heritage with the larger goal to transcends the way we approach working together every day." 

Celebrating differences will help you and your employees better realize that these different backgrounds are a valuable asset to the entire team.

Practice empathy.

Empathy is a crucial leadership trait that allows you to better understand the unique feelings and perspectives of those you lead. When practiced properly, empathy allows you to connect with employees of all stripes and earn their respect, which in turn will improve workplace satisfaction, foster collaboration and even increase productivity.

I define empathy for our students as, putting yourself in someone else's shoes and acting differently because of it.  The only way for you to practice this on an ongoing basis is by being a phenomenal listener.  

If listening isn't your strong suit, try anchoring yourself in every conversation by eliminating distractions and being fully present.  As you get better at anchoring yourself, it will allow you to show the other person you are listening by changing your behavior based on what they say. 

The best leaders understand the value of building strong relationships with everyone in their company -- even those with whom they have little in common. While strengthening these bonds may require some additional effort, it will make all the difference in creating a work environment where everyone feels valued and motivated to give their best effort.

Published on: Aug 14, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.