Everybody talks about the importance of building rapport with clients, employees, coworkers and supervisors. The idea is that once you establish a rapport, you can go on to build stronger relationships, teamwork, collaboration and communication. All of which are critical in the workplace.
But when you can’t rely on chit chat in the break room, casual lunches and after work social activities, how do you build that rapport? Here’s how:
- Create opportunities. Even if you can’t afford to bring all your team members together for a face-to-face, you can still create opportunities to connect beyond work. Every Friday, host a 30-minute coffee break where people are given the opportunity to talk about topics that aren’t related to work. Don’t think it’s a waste of time. The more people get to know on another, the more they trust one another, and the more they trust one another, the better they will work together.
- Learn what is meaningful to other people. Everyone has something he or she cares about, so pay attention and learn about people. Topics could include their families, hobbies or interests, favorite sports team, their alma maters or even their favorite foods. Don’t pelt people with questions, but do show interest when you have opportunities to talk. Learn something new with every encounter, even if that is just a quit chat on the phone.
- Keep track of what you learn. It is great to learn things about others; it is folly to trust it all to your memory. Create a process for keeping track of important pieces of information. For example, keep a file for each of your employees and add notes as you learn new bits of information.
- Ask for advice. Even people who are straight-up business focused want to be understood and valued for who they are. Whether your questions are business or personally focused, when you ask other people for their opinions or advice (and really want it), you acknowledge their expertise and experience. You also get them talking, and that is key to developing a relationship.
- Listen. When you really listen to people, you are investing not only in their ideas, but in your relationship with them. That means offering your undivided attention and remembering what people say to you. When you can recall a previous conversation, you show people that what they say and think matters to you, and that is a great foundation for building a relationship.
- Be accessible. This one might be the most important. If you are always busy, slow to respond and rushed during the few encounters you do have with employees, they will never grow to trust you. Set aside time regularly for one-on-one sessions with employees, and make sure you are focusing 100% on them when you do.
Now it’s your turn! We’d love to hear how you connect with your virtual employees. Share your tips in the comments section.