Research shows that companies who demonstrate they care – about their employees, about their customers, about their community – significantly outperform their less-caring peers. People want to work there. Customers want to buy there. And they all want to tell their friends.

So what’s the magic formula? Building personal connections and developing strong and enduring relationships. When leaders connect with their employees by showing empathy, listening to them, recognizing the value they provide to the organization, and providing growth opportunities, those employees are more likely to care about their work, their customers and the business.

One example of a company that understands the importance of building connections is Zappos. They provide 24/7 customer service – by phone. Zappos encourages phone calls because they enable in-depth conversations with customers and a better opportunity to create personal connections. A June 2017 Forbes article described Zappos’ model this way: “When that one call comes in, Zappos will do anything to make sure it’s an engaging and personable experience for the customer, in the hope that a single great phone interaction will serve as a proxy in the customer’s mind for the overall personality of this company.”

Making personal connections and building relationships have traditionally been relegated to the “soft” side of business skills. But as described in a recent article in Chief Learning Officer Magazine, there’s “hard” science evidence indicating that “our brains are wired to be social” and that we can leverage that information to learn how to create personal connections and build lasting relationships.

According to the article, KPMG partnered with the head of the Wharton Neuroscience Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania to evaluate the strength of their relationships with clients and within the organization. One of the outcomes was “an instructional program on applying practical insights from neuroscience to build trusted relationships.”

Some of those insights were:

Initiating a relationship. The brain seeks social cues – “the real-time behaviors that display connection.” When you first meet someone, make eye contact. Smile, and pay close attention to them. Listen. “Failing to look and listen reduces information flow into the social brain, limiting the potential for building connections, establishing trust and working together.”

Engaging emotionally. Don’t jump into a business conversation. Engage in a conversation to get to know the other person better. Adapt your communication style to theirs – for example, if they’re soft spoken and you tend to be loud, lower you voice. Build rapport by finding things in common.

Engaging cognitively. This is where empathy plays a big part. Ask about and listen to their perspective. Try to see things from their vantage point. “Activating perspective-taking engages the social brain, which enhances your ability to develop understanding, and helps to achieve common goals.”

A culture that fosters strong, trusting relationships – both internally and externally – begins at the top.

As the old adage says, “If you take care of your people, your people will take care of the business.”