Rapport — the glue for your team

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TradieHR director Leigh Olsen says the key to creating a connection in the workplace is through building rapport. Here she offers some top tips to help you do that.


We all have that one person that we struggle to connect with — whether it’s a client, a team member or even a boss — that we just cannot quite get on with.

For myself, last year, I found that I just wasn’t getting on with an important client, a key decision-maker who oversaw a lot of what I was helping with.

We were simply different. They were all about the numbers; I was all about their people.

Connection is at the heart of what I do, knowing that the key to creating a connection in the workplace is through building rapport. I knew rapport was what I had to start with, using more of it with my client.

Building rapport is all about showing the other person that we understand them, connecting with them in a way they prefer.

With my client, I began our meetings earlier, starting by asking about his family, including his child’s recent sporting achievements. He instantly began to share more and relax into the meeting.

For each meeting, I also started with “the numbers” to explain any upcoming HR initiatives and policies. His eyes lit up!

These were simple rapport-building techniques that helped to open up this client, relaxing them into the meeting. After a few meetings, there was a definite positive shift in our relationship, finding common ground that I didn’t know was there, and removing barriers that I thought were in front of me. In fact, I was enjoying the meetings a lot more myself!

The greatest form of power is relationship power!

Creating and sustaining rapport leads to the greatest form of power in the workplace — relationship power. The stronger the workplace relationships, the greater results you will gain in your company.

Why is this? Rapport leads to a sense of comfort that you have with someone. This then leads to a deeper trust with each other, creating more impactful working relationships.

Employees that have rapport with their managers tend to be happier in the workplace. This then leads to higher engagement, improved job satisfaction, higher productivity, and longer employee retention — all things managers are wanting in their business to make their business thrive.

Rapport leads to the greatest form of power in any workplace — relationship power.

Getting rapport right

As managers, your role is to coach, motivate and grow your teams, and building rapport is the foundation you have to lay down to make these things happen.

The more rapport you have in the workplace, the easier it is to achieve these key parts of your role. Here are some top tips to help you get that foundation right:

• Create two-way conversations: Make sure that any conversation is not just a “one way street.” Use open ended questions to get them talking about themselves, including the personal and professional topics, such as “How was your weekend?”

So simple, but can give you an insight into what really makes them tick. Remember though that once you have asked the question that you wait to listen to their response. I once worked with a client who would ask his staff about their weekend and then move on to something else halfway through their reply!

As you discover things about your people, share a little about yourself. In order to get people talking sometimes we need to share some information about ourselves first to make them comfortable to share back.

Ask questions to keep the conversation going, finding out more about what they are sharing with you. At the same time, check you’re not “over-questioning”, going too personal when it’s obvious on their face they’re just not wanting to share any more with you right now.

• Observe and notice: Take the time to observe and notice things about the person. What does their office set-up tell you about them? If they are drinking out of a Game of Thrones coffee mug, ask them about this show and who their favourite character is. A simple technique, but it shows interest in what makes them tick outside of work.

• Provide undivided attention: My son once said to me, “Mum, listen with your whole face,” encouraging me to stop looking at my text messages coming through. This great rule applies to building rapport.

Avoid looking at your texts or glancing at your emails when building rapport. These are instant ways to kill the rapport and lessen the relationship.

• Check your energy level: We all come to work with different levels of energy, so check that yours in is line with the other person. If you’re an energizer bunny and the other person hasn’t got their morning coffee yet, take the energy down a level, slow down your speech and give them a chance to have that first morning sip of coffee!

Above all, when building rapport with someone new or that we’re not connecting with, be patient.

Rapport is not a one-off moment. It’s a work in progress that has to be earned and also sustained over time. 

To kick-start your rapport-building this year with your team, contact us for some great workshops on how to develop this further to ensure you are ready to enhance your whole team in 2022.

Note: This article is not intended to be a replacement for legal advice.

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