Rapport: A Key Ingredient to Business Innovation

Many organizations have a sound strategy, but fail to execute their full potential. Why is that?

Because culture eats strategy for breakfast. Easily!

Culture is the way ‘we’ do things. The behavior of a network of people (a workforce) is continuously shaping its own culture. This culture is driving performance, or it does not.

So, what is the lever to optimize the effectiveness of a network of people?

Where is the power of a network?

A network consist of nodes and links. While both the quality and the quantity of the nodes matter, it is the quality of the links that constitutes the power of the network.

Atoms bond to become elements. Humans bond similarly; becoming nodes in a network we call an organization. The strength of the links of a human network is rapport.

The stronger the rapport between two or more people, the stronger the network, the better the collaboration, cooperation and existentialism of the network. In business context: the more rapport, the more collaboration, and the more innovation.

This makes rapport one of the most fundamental elements for a successful business.

What is rapport?

Rapport is a connection with your environment, trusted and filled with emotional affinity. A state of connection in which you can be more authentic, creative and collaborative.

Have you ever spoken to somebody, who barely seemed to listened to you? Somebody who did not look you in the eye, but looked over your shoulder — left and right – as if to see if there was somebody more important or interesting to speak to? That is a good example of not having rapport.

Another example is this conference call, which, humorously, explains so clearly why our ability to establish rapport anno 2016 is so limited. Our current state of technology is pretty far from what we need, but I’m optimistic about the future.

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My favorite example is what I call the “birthday conversation.” Somebody starts talking about something irrelevant, often gossip, or a story on how cool or dumb or important somebody is. Rarely followed by genuine interest, but usually triggering multiple people to spit out a me-too story, instead of asking follow-up questions to dig deeper into the topic.

The same thing happens in business. People tend to ventilate too much information nobody is asking for. Like an eternal transmission into space, hoping for some alien life form to pick up the message and understand what we are saying.

What can we do to create rapport?

It’s difficult for me, since I’m junior to understanding the principles of building rapport. This stuff is hard. It’s difficult (for me) to silence my ego and listen before I speak; to connect before I influence. Nevertheless, this is what I have learned so far in helping to establish rapport:

  • Empathy, the capacity to understand what another person is experiencing from within the other person’s frame of reference, is a reliable guide to create rapport.
  • Vulnerability is fundamental to create meaningful connections. Without vulnerability, we put on a mask that is like building a wall, which prevents connection. Without vulnerability, we take no risks and prevent failure. Without failure, we do not learn or innovate.
  • Authenticity takes courage, but the reward is connection!

Communicating has major obstacles like language, culture, education, nurture, competencies and individuality.

Establishing rapport is the best way to transcend these obstacles of communication and to connect with each other on a deeper level.

Rapport increases respect and understanding, which lead to trust and affinity, which leads to better collaboration. And that empowers our ability to execute our goals.

Patrick Willer has 20 years’ experience in Human Capital Management. After HR line management he specialized in how technology can improve engagement and performance. He became one of the first employees of SuccessFactors in Europe and introduced the concept of Business Execution from the cloud. Today, Patrick works as Workforce Innovation Consultant with SAP and helps large organizations world-wide to improve innovation and performance. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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