Rapport describes the close, empathic relationship that shapes connection with a person or group. The ability to create this bond, which enhances trust, understanding and relationship-building, is an essential competence for professionals selling ideas, services or themselves and can have a profound impact on accelerating a leader’s career.
I recently coached a CEO who is a master at rapport-building. In 360 feedback interviews his clients and subordinates consistently described his charisma. They spoke of his ability to turn his concentration on the individual with whom he was speaking, making that person the sole focus of his attention. It was noteworthy that each person independently reported that they believed that they held this special position with the CEO. This leader successfully used his ability to build rapport to build loyalty, garner honest feedback, grow a cohesive team, encourage top performance and to lead his organization to market dominance.
This leader instinctively understood that rapport building is key to success. He understood that the stronger the rapport, the greater chance that the individuals on his team would be inspired to push harder and be invested in the success of the team. He used his rapport-building skill strategically, to develop an engaged, powerful workforce.
Whether using these skills to enhance one-on-one interactions or large group connections, whether developing interviewing, selling or leadership skills, building rapport can help enhance credibility and improve your presentation effectiveness.
In some cases, rapport can develop quickly, or it can be nurtured to grow over time, and as with all relationships, rapport must be cultivated to continue to develop.
Here are some ways you can develop your skill:
- Create awareness. As with all aspects of personal development, begin with noticing. Take note of your own effectiveness at rapport building. What are you doing to build connections?
- Look for role models. Is there someone in your sphere who, like the CEO above, is a master at rapport building? Notice what she does to build connections.
- Prepare for the personal side of meetings. In addition to planning a content agenda for your meeting, sales pitch or interview, think about how you want to ‘show up’ to the encounter. Ask yourself, who do I want to be in the meeting? Create a shadow agenda for the meeting, detailing how you want to be perceived. Consider how you can build rapport to help you achieve your objectives.
- Create a bond of shared experience. If you are meeting someone new, conduct research before the meeting to ascertain where you have common ground. Check Linked in for insights. When entering, survey the office for clues. Make the connection. Schools, kids, sports. Don’t be overly aggressive or annoying. Show genuine interest in the interests that you share.
- Listen more than you talk. Ask questions and allow the person the space to respond. Don’t be so quick to jump in with your own story. Listen to what is being said and then respond.
- Be aware of body language. Notice how you are showing up. Assume a welcoming posture. Be sensitive to the non-verbal cues. When working with a larger group, survey and read the room. Listen for what is not being said.
- Be authentic. Find the genuine human connection that allows you to be yourself and enjoy building those connections.
By cultivating the capacity for rapport-building, top leaders have successfully built relationships and created high-performing teams. The talent can help you enjoy your connections at work, enhance your humanity and propel your success.