As I was getting ready to de-plane after a business trip two men began to exchange heated words over one’s complaint that the other man was standing in his aisle space. It kept escalating, but luckily the line started moving and then it ended.  On the news the other night, a man shot and killed his neighbor over the neighbor putting his trash in the alley for pick up. All of this was caught on iPhone video, or I would not have believed it.  The world seems to have a short fuse right now.  We have lost rapport.  Rapport is a close and harmonious relationship in which people or groups concerned understand each other’s feelings or ideas and communicate well. Rapport has not just left airplanes and neighborhoods it is often missing in the work place, hindering real progress.  We are not communicating well.  We ascribe motivations and intentions to “the other” which are negative. We don’t want to listen as we think “the other” is manipulating the truth.

This needs to stop.

Rapport is a magic ingredient. It doesn’t require I agree with you, but it does require I honor your right to be you, to have your point of view and your truth. It requires I seek to understand you and communicate well. Rapport requires that I see you as a human being and I am willing to be in relationship with you.  In my consulting practice, I have found I cannot do my work without building rapport first between the people in the organization or work session.  It seems we have lost our ability to establish it naturally or grant it and so it must be attended to as part of the work.  It is an essential ingredient to setting the conditions for creativity, candor and collaboration to flourish.  Without rapport, a team cannot get to empathy that unlocks deep insights to drive the business. Without rapport, a business challenge cannot be discussed and solved because there is not candor and truth being shared.

This week I led a co-creation session that was a huge success. I’d like to think it was my great planning, facilitation and leadership. But I believe all of that would be for naught if we had not attended to rapport.  We brought people together who don’t normally work together or even know one another.  People from all ranges of ethnicity and experience were expected to co-create. The client held a cocktail party the night before; and during our work session, I intentionally built in rapport exercises during our busy day. To the client’s credit they did not push back on this important work, even though we were time constrained. Rapport opened the group up to being able to collaborate, disagree and progress the work.  It was an accelerator. No surprise to me. I have seen his time and time again–when we attend to rapport, we set the conditions to something magical happening.


Take Action

Take the first few minutes of any meeting or business exchange to establish rapport. It doesn’t take long and is not difficult to do.  Connect on something human before you move into the business at hand. As I have discussed in a prior blog, it is about COG: Connect. Orient. then Guide. For bonus points, try establishing rapport with people as you go about your life, taking a little bit of time to see them as human and honoring that.

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