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How to Build Rapport with Team Members Virtually & In the Office

Building rapport with team members is a crucial part of a company's success, but how can you do it when your employees are not in the same room? Is there anything unique that goes into building relationships across distance? The answer is yes! This article explores how to build rapport with team members virtually. We'll provide tips on how virtual interactions play an important role when done right, how good communication leads to successful interaction, and finally how those moments could be used strategically in building happy and successful hybrid teams.

Build Rapport Remotely Meaning

Before we dive deep into the specific ways you can build rapport with your team and the importance of building rapport, what does it mean to build a good rapport that strengthens team relations? It all starts with...

  • Trust
  • Mutual Understanding
  • Agreement

When you have a mutual understanding and agreement with a colleague, it builds trust. The more trust that is built, the easier it is to build rapport.

Rapport Team Building & How to Build Rapport at Work

There are several reasons why you may want to spend your energy on rapport team building. When it comes to working online, rapport is very important as we cannot always  see each other, but we need that connection to create the best possible outcome for both the company and the team. According to an employee engagement survey from Harvard Business Review Analytics Services, 71% of the 500+ executives that were surveyed ranked employee engagement as "very important to achieving business success."

Building Rapport Virtually

One of the most natural and easiest ways to engage an employee is through building rapport. So, how do you establish rapport with your team members? As a manager, it is important that the employees on our team feel comfortable enough to ask questions and share their thoughts or concerns. A good way to do this is to have regular 1-1 meetings where you ask questions about how they feel about their role or the projects they're working on.

Another way to build rapport virtually for larger teams is to have town hall meetings or even add some spice to your usual weekly meetings. For example, try out using fun virtual backgrounds to jazz up your next Zoom meeting.

Lastly, building rapport doesn't only happen during synchronous meetings. Building rapport between co-workers who work asynchronously can be just as enriching. For example, start a non-work-related channel on Slack where teammates can share their cat photos or latest Instagram-worthy vacation pics. If you've built an async-first culture, bonding and rapport can happen beyond Zoom calls. Email rapport can even happen regularly and is a less demanding way of connecting with your team.

How to Build Rapport with Team Members

Besides adding some fun twists to your recurring meetings, what are three ways to build rapport? Here's a quick list of how to build rapport with team members virtually.

The 3 Ways To Build Great Relationships With Your Team

1. Make them feel like your friends.

How to build rapport quickly? Consider your colleagues as your friends. This can be done by asking how they are doing. As an example, if they recently got engaged, make sure to congratulate them. One thing that I do is to notice people's new haircut or hairstyle. Since you don't see people in person, you can't compliment them on their full outfits or a new pair of shoes. But you can always see their hair! Just make sure that you genuinely want to compliment someone.

2. Engage in small talk before getting into business or work-related conversations.

You want the other person to see you as approachable and not too formal. Be sure that it is appropriate though if this is what your company culture dictates! Try to keep it short, so people won't get distracted from the meeting objective. If you're a hybrid team and you occasionally meet your co-workers in the office, you can use what you've talked about in the last Zoom meeting as a conversation starter.

2. Learn about things they enjoy outside of work.

How do you build rapport in the workplace? Talking about your hobbies, interests, and other topics outside of work will help you relate on a personal level which helps strengthen relationships over time. For example: "Have you watched the latest episode of [insert a popular show that everyone's watching]?"

When I was working as a Marketing Manager, we would play the game "2 Truths and a Lie" every time a new member joins the team. It's a fun way to get to know cool things about a new coworker. For example, I've discovered that some of my co-workers are Jujitsu experts or have a Ph.D. in Philosophy. As a brand-new manager, integrating simple games like this in your meetings is a highly engaging way to build rapport with your team without spending a lot of time and resources.

Bad Rapport

Is there such thing as good or bad rapport? Rapport depends on the situation, but it usually involves being sensitive to how others feel. If there is a good connection between two people then they will have a good rapport. It's not just about being nice; it's about seeing things from another person’s perspective. Ultimately, the quality of rapport is subjective and will always differ depending on the person you're speaking with, the situation, and other unforeseen factors.

Another question worth asking is this: Is rapport really built, or is it earned? The difference between how these two phrases are used is the subtlety of how rapport can be created. Rapport can be built through communication exchanges that require some form of effort, or it can be earned over time based on how well your interactions go. What's interesting about building rapport virtually is knowing how to establish a beginning level of trust so you're able to build upon this foundation as conversations progress.

In general, according to Hassan Al-Juaidi, MENA HR Manager, there are three types of rapport:

  • Normal - This occurs naturally with your co-workers, especially if you find out you have something in common.
  • Impromptu - This happens when you welcome a new team member and you're figuring out what you have in common, so you can build rapport. How to build instant rapport? For example, if you notice that your colleague is using the Central Park virtual background during a Zoom call, you could strike a conversation about how much you love the Friends TV show.
  • Custom - This is the hardest type of rapport wherein you may have nothing in common initially, so you might have to do some research.

Understanding these three types of rapport can help you assess situations and understand the different ways you can connect with a colleague. And if you want to learn more about empathy and rapport skills, the best way is to read books about the science of social skills and rapport building.

Best Books on Rapport Building

If you only have time for one book, I highly recommend reading the classic How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie; it's one of the best books on rapport building. While it was originally published in 1936, it's still a relevant book to read if you want to learn how to build rapport with employees.

The best advice from this book that you can implement right away is to be genuinely interested in other people. Think of yourself as a talk show host and the people you meet are your guests. Ask them interesting and fun questions about themselves.

If you've got more time on your hands, here are 24 more books on social skills from UpJourney.com. At the end of the day, building rapport is all about flexing your social skills. The more you learn about how people behave, you'll naturally get better at building rapport.

Knowing how to build team rapport helps develop better relationships and improves how you communicate, especially when there are physical boundaries between people in different locations. Try the different strategies from this article. It can be as simple as starting a small talk at your next virtual meeting or soaking up more knowledge about social skills, so you'll become the master rapport builder.