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The Fast and Furious Guide to Great Rapport

How rapport and great relationships at work start just like brilliant stunt-driving

Imagine that you’re starring in an episode of the popular movie franchise ‘Fast and Furious’. You’re in a scene involving two speeding cars, possibly chasing a third vehicle, or a train or something. For some reason your task is to get somebody to step or transfer from one of those moving cars, into the other. And they’re both moving at high speed.

If you can do this, if you can successfully facilitate that step between these two speeding cars without crashing, then the day is won, or the bad guys are defeated, or something similar; anyway, in the movie it’s a good thing if you can do it.

This act, of transferring successfully between those two moving vehicles, has a lot in common with the way that great rapport starts. Roll with me on this.

Rapport: ‘a close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned are in sync with each other, understand each other’s feelings or ideas, and communicate smoothly.’


If you can get great rapport between yourself and another person at work, everything you need and want to achieve together just becomes so much easier.


But what if that rapport is not coming naturally, or if you’re unsure how to go about it, where should you start?

This is where our Fast and Furious car transfer comes into its own.

Imagine for a moment that you and your colleague are the two moving cars and that the act of stepping successfully from one car to the other is your relationship. Will it transfer successfully? Or will it plunge to its doom between the two and be left in the wreckage on the highway?

If you really did have to facilitate that rolling transfer, how would you go about it?


Before you did anything else, you’d make sure that you came alongside each other, and were then travelling at the same speed and in the same direction. In a real-life rapport-building situation this is the equivalent of:

  1. Reading and understanding the other person’s Emotional State; and
  2. Matching that Emotional State yourself, in a way that isn’t fake.

Let’s drive along that road in a little more detail…

First, reading and understanding the other person’s Emotional State.

People want to be understood. This is why we say things like: “He just gets me,” when we’re talking about our best relationships. And the best way to understand other people is to observe and listen to them.

In the early stages of a rapport-building situation, this is easier to do than you might think. Research shows that humans are evolved to recognise at least six separate basic emotions just from seeing facial characteristics alone – and possibly as many as 21. And more recent research shows that hearing the emotional content in what people say might actually be even more accurately evolved in humans. I’ve put some links about this stuff at the end of the article, in case you’d like to read around a bit more.

The key to doing the early stages of rapport-building well is just to give your naturally-evolved abilities a brief moment to operate. Think of yourself as the second car in our Fast and Furious episode. Your colleague is driving along as the first car. If you wanted to pull alongside them at speed, it’d take you a moment or two to judge how fast they were going and in what direction they were headed.

If you want to have better rapport with people, make sure you take that moment to look and listen and assess their Emotional State before you do anything else.

Second, matching that Emotional State yourself, in a way that isn’t fake.

It seems to me that this is the point where a lot of people come unstuck in trying to have better rapport. What if the other person’s current emotional state is different from yours? What if, for example, they seem quite grumpy, but you’re feeling good about things and would just quite like to get on with whatever work task needs their input? Or what if you think that the task you both need to be getting on with requires one emotional state – “steadiness” for example – but the other person seems anything but ‘steady’?

In these situations people seem to tell themselves that they can’t suddenly change their emotional state to match the other person’s because that would be like lying or faking it, and (a) I don’t know how to do that and (b) they’ll see through it anyway. Or we throw our hands up and ask why, just for once, the other person can’t be the one who changes their emotional state to match mine!

These are important issues and I’d definitely want to tackle them in order to have better relationships at work. But in a context where your immediate goal is to start having great rapport, it’s futile to address them now. They’re the equivalent of pulling almost alongside the other speeding car and shouting over at them: “I want to head in a different direction.” Or: “Change your speed to match mine.” But they can’t hear you – they’re in a speeding car!

Better, to nudge your speed and direction closer to theirs, and then have the conversation about where you’re headed, and how fast you should be going.

And instead of worrying about looking or being fake when you’re seeking to match someone else’s Emotional State – find your own real close equivalence, and then be that; it’ll be close enough to work.

So, if the other person looks and sounds like they’re ‘grumpy’ and you’re not feeling the grumps yourself, find something close to it that you can relate to, like ‘sombre’, or ‘serious’. Find the part of you that truly is at times ‘serious’. You know what that looks and feels and sounds like and there will be times when you’ve genuinely been that. This’ll be a close enough match; your cars will be wobbling and twitching at high-speed, but you’ll be close enough to connect in a way that really counts. And you won’t end up too fast, or too furious.

Drive well people 🙂

Off-site research and article links:

Evolution of facial expressions

Mapping facial expressions for 21 emotions

Does your voice reveal more emotion than your face

 


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Leading by Attraction

Sell your vision, not your soul. How leaders can use the power of attraction at work

For clients who want or need to really improve their leadership game, I sometimes work with the approach of two main groups of leadership styles. This is a great way of introducing people to the idea that there is actually more than one way of doing things. You’ll want to have this flexibility in the way that you lead people because it offers so much possibility.

Think of it this way – which of these approaches describes your typical way of leading others?

  1. Are you typically behind people, exhorting, encouraging or even pushing them to do stuff? Or
  2. Are you typically in front of people, enticing, attracting or even pulling them to where they need to be?

Both of these approaches are useful at times. The kind of positional authority that comes with being the boss might tend to make some leaders adopt the first way – the ‘push’ approach to leadership – slightly too much. I want to balance that by exploring one aspect of the other style – the pull style of leadership. In particular, I want to look at the ways you can entice and attract people forwards.

This is the important question to consider about your own leadership – can you attract and entice people into putting their efforts towards a common goal?

When you can do this, as well as ‘push’ people towards things, it just seems to make your working life a little bit sweeter and a little bit easier. The pull approach to leadership can be a welcome change from the ‘selling your soul’ effort of feeling that you always need to be pushing things along!

I’ve just sketched out a few notes here; things to explore and experiment with yourself if you want to try broadening your range of leadership styles in this way.


You want to get a sense that you’re drawing people into a brighter future of some kind. Somewhere either where the current problems that you’re working on together have been solved, or where you’ve created something important together.


You can learn a lot about the ‘pull’ method from great salespeople. The ones who do this well, are the opposite to what you’d describe as a ‘pushy’ salesperson. Here are some of the things to explore that you can learn from really good salespeople:

First, they’ve got the credibility – a track record of doing what they said they would do, of keeping their promises. Leaders might refer to this as walking their talk.

Second, they’ve got a picture of the future – a description of how things will be once that problem has been solved or that achievement has been created. Leaders might call this a vision. Great leaders are really clear about what the core of their vision is, the part that absolutely must happen. Everything else, including the part about exactly how you will get there, is secondary.

Third, they’ve got a way of letting people hear their message. For a salesperson, this is about how they do their promotion, and there are lots of possible channels. For leaders, just what that method is doesn’t really matter, so long as there is a way for people to find out about your vision. Write about it, vlog about it, tour your business, chat about it over coffee whenever possible, put it on a t-shirt, have it tattooed on your forehead – just get the message out.

Those three areas are good places to start your exploration if you’d like to do more enticing and attracting – to be more like a great salesperson in your leadership. And they are really a start; if you were a salesperson, you could think of those three as being like the stuff that would get you in the door. Once you’re in the door, then the real work can start…

Go back to that ‘push’ approach of leadership for a second, just because the contrast will help us to understand the ‘pull’ approach more. A really good push approach to leading others is about making it uncomfortable not to do what is needed. In my jargon, you’ve trying to:

‘Deepen the pain of staying unchanged’

so that other people find it easier to do what you need than to not do it.

And this ‘deepen the pain’ approach is also something that good salespeople do. It’s often the thing that closes a deal, where they’ll ask something like “What will happen if you don’t do something about Problem X?”

In contrast, when you’re doing a ‘pull’ leadership approach, you’re trying to:

‘Feed the desire to reach even higher’

so that other people will be drawn to do what you need them to do, because they want to.

There are three more interesting areas to consider then, if you’d like to get into this pull approach. They’re about using your Vision of the future to appeal to some of the unconscious ways that people respond to their experiences: Logically, Emotionally via their Senses and through Relationships with others.

Logically

Can you set out the Logic of how your Vision makes sense as something that people would naturally want to do? Does it have diagrams and pictures to appeal to people who process logic visually? Can you tell the story of it, so that people who think in words can get on board? Can you do the numbers – do the figures really stack-up, so that people who think in abstract terms will be attracted by it?

Emotionally and Sensually

As my teenager might put it, can you share the ‘feels’?

My coaching friend Andy Denne describes this approach as selling a peach. You can talk about the great smell of a ripe peach, or its sweet juicy taste, or its lovely bright colour. You can even hand out samples, so people can experience for themselves what it’s like to eat a peach. I’m trying to sell you the idea of using metaphor to entice people into your vision. What will it be like for people to put their efforts towards your common goal – what will the sights, sounds and experiences be like?

Relationship

Can you ‘sell’ your vision by building Relationship with the people around you? How well do you know them and what’s important to them? What keeps them awake at night? What do they long for? Can you listen more than you talk, so that you learn and understand people better? Relationships are the platform from which you can adapt, improvise and overcome on the way towards achieving your vision.

“If you want people to build a ship, don’t just drum up people to collect wood, and don’t just assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the sea.”
Antoine de St Exupery


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Strategic Marketing

If you’re struggling to stand out in your marketplace, try going the extra mile.
It’s never crowded there!

Click the picture above and then right-click to download and save your copy.


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Leading with Motivational Source

How do you know when you or your staff do or don’t need recognition? And what tactics should you use?

Think about something that’s important to you in your work.

How do you know when you’ve done a good job at that?

Did you answer something like: “I just know” or “I can feel it in here“; or did you do something like touch your chest, head or stomach to show where in your body you know how you’ve done? If so, chances are that you’re Internally Referenced.

On the other hand, if you answered something like: “The results show that…” or “People tell me…” or you pointed towards some facts or figures, then you are likely Externally Referenced.

When you’re leading other people and want to be able to motivate them, or just need to understand more about your own needs for recognition (or not), then Motivation Source can be a really helpful tool.

For example, if you have a colleague who is strongly Internally Referenced, telling them “You did a great job with X” may mean very little to them and may even seem false or trite. Much better to just ask them to apply their own standards – “How do you reckon you did with X?” and then be prepared to explore that if their internal perception doesn’t match yours.

In these days of very wide and flat organisational structures, where people rarely get to see their boss, I often find myself with clients who are Externally Referenced and are really struggling with a lack of feedback. If you’re leading others who are Externally Referenced they either need to know from you how they’re doing, or they’ll need some regular data to show them.

People who are strongly Internally Referenced and able to keep it in balance can seem very self-confident. Unless they are extremely inflexible and never take into account other people’s points of view – at the far end of that spectrum is sociopathy.

People who are strongly Externally Referenced and able to keep it in balance will seem highly compassionate. Unless they are unable to be flexible and can’t ever make decisions based solely on their own views  – in which case they may become co-dependent.

If you can operate the right amount of choice and flexibility around being Internally Referenced or Externally Referenced in a particular situation, then you’re likely to have both self confidence and the ability to take into account the feelings and points of view of others. Which is not bad if you’re aiming at being a great leader!


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Motivation: Towards Pleasure and Away From Pain

Keep an eye out over the next few days to observe and discover something new about your own motivations and those of the people around you. Here’s how.

Did you know that people tend to operate either a Towards or an Away-From motivation pattern? And that this can change from one context to another?

Motivation Towards tends to show up as positive, goal-seeking reward-based behaviour; focusing on what could go right.
Motivation Away-From tends to focus on avoiding problems and pain; on what might go wrong.

Both are useful in different contexts. When I’m chairing the audit committee in a hospital, it really helps to have people around who can focus on what can go wrong, or on what’s not working. When I’m looking to win a new contract, it really helps that my associates are positive, can-do people.

It used to be thought that these “Meta-programmes” (thought processes that guide and direct the sorting of our perceptions) were fixed and unchangeable. We now know that this isn’t true and that it is possible to choose.

As with almost everything, being aware is what counts. Being aware of what habits we are operating ourselves and of whether other people are in Towards or Away-From mode. Only then can we choose which is actually most helpful for ourselves and for our influence with others.


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