Ever been part of a fabulous team? Where the energy was electric, the engagement fun, the synergy terrific?
I’ve been in many teams that operated that way. In some cases, the camaraderie and relationships have lasted much longer than the team focus itself. As a case in point with my old Outward Bound buddies – we now use our effective team skills to plan great weekends away – instead of planning multi-day, multi-group leadership adventures for young people.
It’s not a haphazard thing. Great teams can be cultivated. In this series, we’ll look at some key strategies for you to implement to build a robust, dynamic team.
Where do you start?
When you have good rapport with your team members, you build trust. When trust flows, it creates a safe place for people to share ideas and build on these. This is what Tara Neven and Linda Ray call the “collective brain” in their article, “Ditching the boss: How the collective brain empowers organisations” on their blog, the Brainwaves for Leaders. When you feel safe, you feel confident that you can put an idea out to the group without being judged or ridiculed.
In this way teams have got each other’s back, instead of being at each other’s backs.
Rapport is like an electric fence – you feel safe and protected. If it’s breached, you get a bit of a jolt.
So how do you build rapport?
Here’s a diagram that shows the dynamic of rapport
Let’s tease out the main components.
1. Attention. Multi-tasking not allowed.
When you are developing rapport with someone, you need to pay them attention. Your full attention. Close down your laptop. Place your phone on silent and face down. Look at them. LISTEN. Observe their body language. Listen and feel for the tone of their message.
2. Position. Be a mirror not a parrot.
How are you positioned in relationship to them? You want to be on an even level and you want your body posture to mirror theirs. A word of caution on this point: Parroting someone’s movements is creepy and uncomfortable! Just simply move your body so it approximates a similar stance. You will naturally feel more comfortable this way.
I was at a networking meeting recently, feeling a little tired and not all that enthusiastic. I thought, “If I don’t do something about this it’s going to be a loooong meeting.” The other person across from me was sitting up, arms on the table. I realised I was slouched, leaning back in my chair, far away. So I sat up and crossed my arms on the table. I instantly felt better. I was in a better-matched position. My energy picked up and we had a great conversation. After this initial matching move, the conversation, and the subconscious body positioning matching that followed, felt great.
We do this naturally because it feels comfortable to be in synch with another person. In Leadership – the Power of Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman explains, “we get in-synch non-verbally through what neuroscientists call ‘oscillators’. These are neural systems that at like clocks, resetting over and over their rate of firing with the periodicity of the incoming signals.” The effect is like body language ballet, a tango of rapport.
More often than not we do this naturally in our conversations. If it is a difficult conversation, or with someone we don’t know that well, we can help jump start the oscillation by matching their position initially. The oscillators will take over after that.
3. Attitude. Drop some Love Bombs.
If you don’t like the other person (for whatever reason – personality differences, body odour, they’re a dog person and you’re a cat person…) reach deep within and find that place where you can respect them – as another human being. Whatever your differences, seeing the other person as HUMAN – like you, full of frailties, and with a whole iceberg of hidden history, then you will access that place of compassion.
I call this sending a “Love Bomb”. A Love Bomb is a silent message of approval that emanates from your inner dialogue. It goes something like this, “You’re a good person. I know you’re trying really hard. I respect you. I care about you as another human being. I have compassion for you. I know you’re doing your best. There’s a lot about you I don’t know – I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. I am listening deeply.”
A last word on rapport for influence.
Developing rapport can be seen as manipulation instead of influence. Do a self-check. WHY do you want to develop rapport? What’s your motivation? Is it so you can get people to do what you want? This is manipulation. Is it because you want the other person to do their best and feel successful? This is influence – with good intentions.
With apologies to the Jedi, ‘use the Force for Good not Evil’.