As busy supervisors with lots on our plates, we’re usually so grateful to have help arrive that we sometimes lose sight of the need to intentionally build connections with our team.
The best time to do this is when someone first joins the team. However, if you feel you may have fallen short of building strong rapport in the past, there’s no time like the present to begin again.
I’ve seen the full range of supervisory styles in my career.
On one end of the spectrum are the supervisors who strongly feel it’s best to not get too close to employees. On the other end are those who believe that joining employees out for drinks after work is the best way to build a connection.
It’s true that supervisors must be careful not to become too chummy with their team members. It can muddy the waters when it comes to giving constructive feedback or if the employment relationship needs to end. It can also lead to other employees feeling like there is favoritism that has a negative impact on them.
But not establishing a close, professional relationship inhibits the free flow of communication. A supervisor’s job is much easier if they know that employees will openly share ideas, problems, and information.
It’s important to strike a happy medium. Placing the focus on building rapport creates the perfect balance.
What Exactly is Rapport?
Merriam-Webster defines rapport as:
“a friendly, harmonious relationship; especially: a relationship characterized by agreement, mutual understanding, or empathy that makes communication possible or easy.”
A positive work relationship created is connecting with another person on a human to human level; as an equal party open to listening as well as sharing.
What do top supervisors do to build rapport and thereby walk the line between too close and too far?
Let me give you the four most effective tools.
Recipe for Quick Rapport Building
1. Display relaxed confidence
Nothing draws us in more than eye contact and a smile. Both display confidence, and as long as you’re not trying to win a staring competition with the intensity of your eye contact, they also display warmth and openness.
Which stranger would you rather ask directions from, the one that’s smiling and looking at you or the one scowling and looking at the ground?
If the other person is leaning forward in his/her chair, you do the same. If they are speaking slower than you, slow down your tempo. If you can see the rise and fall of their chest, mirror the pace of their breath
You may not realize it, but it’s natural when two people are in sync with each other, they tend to follow each other’s body language.
It’s a way of using non-verbals to show that we are like the other person. Our brains are wired to do this when looking at others’ facial expressions. When someone smiles at us, most people’s automatic reaction is to smile back!
These are just examples. There are other gestures and voice qualities you can follow that will have this impact.
A couple tips. a) Don’t follow every move like they’re teaching you a new dance routine; just pick up one or two things and that’ll be enough to get you on the same wavelength. b) Only mirror positive body language or the interaction will take a turn for the worse.
This is an advanced technique, but with some practice, you’ll find it’s very easy to do.
3. Be genuinely interested
I’ve heard it said that you should worry more about being interested than interesting. And we’ve all heard the phrase that we have two ears but only one mouth for a reason.
Sure, holding up your end of the conversation is important, but if you focus more on learning the other person’s story, their thoughts and feelings, your ability to build rapport quickly will skyrocket.
4. Use their name
It’s been said that the sweetest word in the English language is a person’s own name.
You don’t need to start every sentence with their name, but sprinkle it in here and there to show that you value them as an individual and to make them feel known.
Focus on these four methods of deepening connections with people the next time you meet with a staff member. Even if you only remember one or two, your intention of building your professional relationship will come across and trust will be built.
What techniques do you use to build rapport?
You can leave your answer in a comment.
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