How do you develop the relationships that truly matter to your career success? As I discussed in my last newsletter, the first step is to focus on the “critical few.” There are about 15-25 key individuals—not hundreds of superficial contacts—who will make a disproportionately large contribution to your success. Do you know who these are for you?Next, you need to master nine attitudes and skills that enable you to rapidly form new connections; build deep, trusted relationships; exercise influence; and heal relationship conflicts. (I developed my new program, called Building Relationships That Matter , to teach these essential capabilities—see below). Let’s look at one of these competencies that many people struggle with: establishing rapid rapport with others.
Science tells us that we can make up our minds about someone very quickly. One study at Princeton showed that people made judgments about someone’s trustworthiness in one-half a second, just by hearing them say “Hello.” Never mind that research also tells us that first impressions are often wrong.I’ve interviewed many top executives about what creates an effective connection in first meetings. Consistently, they mention the same things: Focusing on their agenda, asking good questions and listening carefully, having confidence that is tempered by some humility, being enthusiastic and energetic, adding value in the conversation, and—coming across as relaxed and likeable.Believe me, though, many people can’t muster these seemingly basic behaviors. A chief financial officer (CFO) who I once interviewed told me that for over a decade he had refused to work with one particular investment bank—he blackballed them. He said that when he was a more junior manager, a banker from this firm had walked into a conference room to meet with him and, without breaking the ice and without asking, grabbed the last ham sandwich sitting on a platter—which happened to belong to the future CFO. He told me, with a straight face, “Never steal my lunch. It’s a bad way to build rapport.” This may sound like an extreme example. But some people are so full of themselves and what THEY want to say that they just shoot themselves in the foot. They don’t connect with the other people in the room.
There are two popular misconceptions about Rapport. First, that some people are just born with natural charisma. This is not true—you can learn to create a harmonious connection with people. And second, there’s this idea out there that you can manipulate anyone into feeling rapport by using special techniques—like mirroring body language, for example. Studies have shown, however, that if your efforts are insincere and manipulative, the other person usually sees right through them.When you first meet someone in a professional setting, there are three, essential factors that drive rapport: You need to come across as trustworthy, competent, and likeable, in that order. These factors have been validated by social science research.These studies tell us that the other person first tries to sense whether or not you are trustworthy. They are wondering: Do you have my interests at heart, or are you here purely to pursue your own aims—or even to harm my interests? Their brain is asking, “Are you friend or foe?” You can rapidly project trustworthiness by focusing on the other person and their needs, asking thoughtful questions, exhibiting warmth and authenticity, listening deeply, and showing integrity (e.g., consistency in your behavior).The second factor that drives rapport is perceived competence. In a professional setting, people are evaluating if you know what you’re talking about! Can you deliver? You can demonstrate competence through professionalism, communicating confidently and clearly, and having thoughtful and informed points of view on issues that are relevant to the topics at hand.The third factor is likability. We want to work with people we LIKE, and when we like someone we feel at ease with them and more open to a relationship. You accentuate your likability by giving your full attention to the other person, uncovering commonalities and similarities, and showing enthusiasm and passion, Engaging in self disclosure—that is, appropriately sharing about yourself—also enhances likability.Are you coming across as trustworthy, competent, and likable each time you meet a prospect or client? Just released: my new Building Relationships That Matter digital learning program.I’m now releasing my new eLearning program, Building Relationships That Matter . It is a unique resource that will accelerate your career success, increase your influence, and amplify your leadership. (My clients have told me there’s nothing like this on the market, anywhere. I’m confident that’s true.) Visit the course site, here, and see for yourself—if you scroll down, you can watch a free animation I created on Power Questions.