Bosses, Here's How to Build Strong Rapport With Your Team

December 10, 2018

How to build rapport as a boss. A few tactics that work.

You might read the headline of this article and wonder why.

Why does it matter if I have “rapport” with my employees? Don’t I just need to maintain a professional relationship with them? How will this help the team?

Well, here’s why. Yes, you do just need to have a professional relationship with your employees. But think about it – what does the ideal boss-employee relationship look like?

It means you’ll help coach them through some of the biggest professional challenges they’ll face in their career. It means you’ll understand their ambitions and help them achieve their biggest goals. It means you understand a bit about what’s going on in their personal life, so you can build a schedule and goals that work for both of you.

And the only way to do any of those things is to have more than just a “transactional” relationship with your employees. It’s about having real rapport with them; so they feel like they can trust you.

“Rapport is about building a bond,” LinkedIn Learning Instructor and Leadership Expert Todd Dewett said. “It's about sharing not just words, but feelings and emotions as well. So, why should you care? Because next-level rapport establishes stronger connections and deeper relationships that almost always leads to higher productivity and better retention.”

And, in his course Leading Like a Boss, Dewett explains exactly how to do that.

LinkedIn Learning Instructor Todd Dewett explains how to build real rapport with your employees, which invariably leads to higher productivity and better retention.

How to Build Real Rapport With Your Employees, As a Boss

Four best practices for building a rapport with employees are, according to Dewett:

    1. Share your failures.

You want your employees to feel the psychological safety necessary to share their mistakes with you for a whole host of reasons. The best way to create that culture?

Share your own mistakes. It lets your employees know that you aren’t perfect, which signals to them that they don’t have to be perfect, either.

If you do this, your employees will start coming to you with their mistakes and challenges, instead of trying to sweep things under the rug. And that’ll not just lead to a much stronger relationship with them – but also much better business results.

    2. Talk about things you like outside of work, like your hobbies.

If you are professional all the time around your employees, and only ever talk about work with them, they are going to always have their guard up around you. And that’ll make it difficult for you to build rapport and have real conversations with them.

So, don’t be afraid to talk about what you do outside of the office, as well. Your hobbies, your interests, your family, your kids. Of course, you want to keep things within reason – probably best not to mention your political affiliations or your dating life, and you don't want to talk about personal stuff all the time – but sprinkling these conversations in can build a much more trusting environment in the team.

    3. Learn how to listen.

This is really key. People are never going to share their real challenges with you if they don’t feel like you hear them.

An example – say an employee of yours talks to you about their child, and you really listen to them. Do you think they are going to be more or less likely to come to you later with a work struggle they are having, as opposed to trying to hide it from you?

So invest some time learning the skill of listening. By really hearing people out, you vastly increase your chances of them coming to you with problems proactively and build a much stronger culture overall.

    4. Be genuine.

The first three are great. But, if people feel like you are doing them with the sole purpose of building rapport, as opposed to doing it genuinely, they still will have their guard up around you.

It’s hard to give advice on exactly how to be genuine other than to say, be genuine. I guess it really comes down to this – you don’t need to change your whole personality to build rapport. You just need to care about the people that work for you.

“If you're a leader, you need to hear this,” Dewett said. “Your team might be complying with what you ask, but the real question is, are they committed? Are they emotionally engaged and with you? If not, it is time to let down that professional wall just a little bit, to loosen up just a little bit and start building next-level rapport.”

Want to learn more? Watch Dewett’s full course, Leading Like a Boss.

Topics within the course cover: