What does it mean to build rapport? At first, it seems like an easy enough task towards forging healthy work relationships. But if you dig a little deeper, it also means having meaningful communication where you’re able to build trust, engage team members, and get them invested in a manager’s directives and business objectives. And rather than going about it with surface techniques such as making small talk, it’s more worthwhile to understand the role of building rapport in the larger scheme of things.
Why Building Rapport Is Important
Like anything in life, when you have good relations with the people around you, whether friends, family, or neighbors, it can shape the quality of life and in the in the case of co-workers, shapes the quality of work. In work situations, having a healthy rapport can predict the productivity of a manager’s team. And logic follows that the better the relationship, the more productive the team.
Managers need to meet department objectives by managing their team, but accomplishing this requires the collective manpower of that team. The best way to develop that manpower is through development, productivity, and communication. If the team isn’t engaged, committed, or collaborative, the process becomes stagnant. Having a healthy rapport between managers and their teams also ensures that when faced with obstacles or problems, the team will be responsive and work cohesively, utilizing each other’s strengths, perspectives, and input. After all, a large part of a manager’s role is to create a dynamic team culture.
Get to Know Someone
There are limited hours in a day, so it’s important to make communication meaningful rather than superficial renderings of the usual “hello” or “how’s it going?” Get to know someone outside the context of work while showing a genuine interest in who they are and where they’re coming from.
In some cases, showing an effort can be almost as powerful as taking action. For example, consider what Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr did to build rapport. Kerr led the Warriors to a record-breaking 73 wins in the 2016 regular season, leading the team to their second straight NBA playoffs. When Kerr first took over the team in May 2014, he met with each team member in-person to build relationships and trust. As Lighthouse points out, “One bench player said, ‘That’s big, actually making the commitment to fly out and see guys. It would’ve been easy for him to fly and meet Steph [the team’s star player] and just call everybody else.’”
Empathy can determine how managers react in difficult situations. First and foremost, managers need to understand that everyone is different. Not to be confused with sympathy – empathy involves a level of understanding. So when someone comes at you with a problem, rather than taking the “What now?” attitude, take a second to listen and think things regarding the person’s perspective and ways to improve on it.
Along those lines, Pepsi CEO, Indra Nooyi, says the best advice she ever got was, “Whatever anybody says or does, assume positive intent. You will be amazed at how your whole approach to a person or problem becomes very different.”
Sometimes, though, it’s hard to find that “connect” with some people, leaving managers feeling out of sync with certain co-workers. But dismissing these disconnects and giving up on certain relationships can lead to a long-term damaging team environment. One thing managers need to keep in mind are varying degrees of personality styles and behavior preferences. There are different ways to communicate with people who exhibit varying behavioral styles.
For instance, one communication-building workshop identified diverse behavior spectrums through personalities and communication styles. One such style is called “driving”, and is categorized under the Assertive Spectrum. People displaying such communication style is described as, “Hard-charging individuals prefer direct communication. Driving personalities view confrontation as a productive, healthy process to discover the best ideas for a given situation. When dealing with these individuals, peacekeepers can bridge the gap by simply saying what’s on their mind, regardless of any personal feelings involved.”
For some, this personality can be a turn off often seen as pushy but simply recognizing it as a communication style can alter the way a manager communicates and listens in a way that leads to embracing such diversity.
Like anything new, whether a mindset or technical skills, building rapport requires a bit of learning and relearning to make it a habit. Even managers need follow ups and check ins, and getting to know all levels of the team is important no matter what stage of leadership you find yourself in.