As a nonprofit leader you are constantly surrounded by people: volunteers, staff, donors, your board, your organization’s clients etc all of whom want to feel special and noticed by you. I don’t know about you but I detest small talk and meaningless chit chat. If I’m going to talk to someone, I want to take something away from the conversation and have used that time to get to know the person I’m talking to a little better.
Many type “A” leaders have a hard time creating conversations with people they don’t know well. We all know we need to build relationships with our team mates but don’t know where to start.
Here are three tips to develop great rapport with almost anyone.
1. Use first names. In my previous life as a financial services branch manager, I spent years cold-calling prospects to recruit into my sales team. In that time, I became an expert at turning strangers into friends. One thing I noticed that separated me from my colleagues in terms of my ability to build great rapport was my practice of using “friend-like” phraseology. When I made a call, I would say “Hi Jack, this is Natasha calling from XYZ company. Have I caught you at a bad time?” Some of my colleagues commented that I sounded unprofessional but I found after almost a decade of experience that people want to connect to a person, not a formal name and a job title. Some of my partners would say “Good afternoon, is this Joe Smith?” Yuck. When talking to your team mates, allow them to call you by your first name and use their names in return.
2. Ask them about their personal life. People love to talk about themselves (I know I do) but how often do they get an opportunity? It’s a funny thing but when people answer questions about themselves, they feel like they have deepened their relationship with you (even if you didn’t say anything at all). I love to ask questions like “how did you get started in this line of work?”, “what did you do before?” , “do you have any kids?”, and “where are you from originally?” Don’t be afraid to ask really personal questions if it feels right. I was talking to a new client on the phone today and she mentioned that her son was adopted. Immediately I began asking her questions like “how do you feel about..?.” and “do you ever worry about….?” or “wow, what is it like to….?” When I ask really personal questions, I always preface my question with “if you feel like this is too personal, please don’t answer” but am always surprised that people want to share their story and will tell you everything if you ask in the right way.
3. Be enthusiastic about talking to them. Everyone wants to feel special – we all love the feeling of walking in the door and the kids and the dog come running to greet us. Be the one to offer that same enthusiasm to your people. Example: you get a call from someone on your cell phone. Instead of saying a boring “hello”, why not say “Joe, how are ya! I’m so happy you called!’ before they even get a word in. By you making them feel great about themselves, they will undoubtedly feel better about you. (At the end of a phone call, I love to say “thank you for calling” even if the call wasn’t that important). Another example, say “hello” to everyone you walk by in the hall even if it takes more time. Don’t miss an opportunity to show your team that you notice them and are glad they’re there.
What do you do to successfully build rapport bridges?