Leadership and Rapport - Steve Barkley

Leadership and Rapport

Rapport refers to a harmonious and empathetic relationship or connection between people. It involves mutual understanding, trust, and a feeling of ease or comfort in interactions. Rapport is characterized by mutual respect, empathy, and a shared understanding of each other’s perspectives and emotions. “Knowing” each other is critical.

Google’s study, “Project Aristotle” sought to understand the dynamics of effective teams. The study aimed to uncover key factors that contribute to successful team performance. One of the findings was the significance of psychological safety within teams. Psychological safety refers to an environment where team members feel comfortable expressing themselves without fear of judgment or reprisal. This sense of safety and openness fosters trust and encourages collaboration. Building rapport can contribute to creating a psychologically safe environment. When team members establish connections, trust each other, and feel understood and respected, they are more likely to speak up, share ideas, and contribute actively to discussions. This leads to increased engagement, improved communication, and better overall team performance.

Mike Gilmour, the author of The Power of Rapport: A practical guide to build trust, increase productivity and develop authentic connections, joined me on a podcast. He reminds us that increasing rapport is a skill that we can build with dedicated time and reflection. He shares six strategies for building rapport.

  • Body Language“If you are going to build authentic and effective rapport you will have to gain awareness of your body language and master the ability to regulate it.”  In the podcast, Mike shared the following about uncertainty reduction theory: “It speaks about what happens in our brain when we meet someone for the first time and how our brain is working so hard to figure out if this person is someone who we will like, who we’ll connect with or not. Before we’ve even spoken, we need to know that their brain is “reading” us and is already sending messages as to whether this will be someone I will connect with or not. So, if we know that is universal, I’m going to be mindful about how I greet and connect with people, so I can help their brain in reducing any uncertainty they may have in me.”
  • CommunicationYou give people a window into your world through your words and allow them to either trust you or not.

 I see rapport being like a sieve. We’re pouring sand in every single day and it’s slowly leaking out and our job is to make sure that it remains full and never gets completely empty. Communication comes in every day or every couple of days, just checking in with people. “Hey, how are you doing? Good to see you. How can I help you?” Those little checkpoints that are seemingly so insignificant and small are simply just such a powerful check in to building that flywheel of rapport.  Listening is such a key part of that.

  • Authenticity is being real to who you are and displaying that to the world on a daily basis. “Authenticity is vital to building rapport. In fact, there’s nothing more repulsive than someone who is inauthentic. I think we can see it right away when we meet someone, and we know they’re just trying to get me to do something or achieve something for their purposes. That turns me off right from the start, and I actually want to do the opposite of what they want me to do.”
  • Consistency- One of the key things we need to do to build trust is to be consistent in our mental approach, our emotional approach and our social approach with people. Being consistent in our approach is very valuable because it helps people build trust in us.  They know regardless of what kind of day I might be having, they can approach me, they can come to me, they can speak to me and the way that I will respond to them or connect with them will be similar every single day.
  • Energy and Enthusiasm- When someone is portraying energy, enthusiasm, and confidence, I want to connect with that person. But it must be authentic. It can’t be a false facade because that becomes repulsive for people. Are we portraying the image of someone who is energetic, who is enthusiastic, who is positive? Or are we portraying the image through our body language and our actions of the opposite? Once we have that awareness, we can then begin to regulate our actions. 
  • Intentionality– I put intentionality at the end of the book because that is the crux of everything. We can have all these wonderful strategies, but if we’re not intentional every day to build rapport, if this is not something on our mind, if we don’t see or understand the value in this, it’ll just become something that we do every now and then, and then it sort of fizzles away.

Mike’s identification of intentionality as the “crux of everything,” suggests that reflection upon current practices and planning for purposeful future actions could benefit all of us in our teaching and leading roles.

Find “The Power of Rapport” here.


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