The Secret to Building Great Rapport

5 Forces That Attract

What is it about some people that give them the ability to attract and hold influence with just about anyone? Especially when there are others out there who seem to be able to repel just about everyone.  The former is called rapport, also more commonly known as “connection”. The later goes by a number of names (most can’t be written here).

Why is the ability to establish strong rapport so important? Because it’s essential if you want to have optimal influence with people as well as organizations.

While most of us are between the two extremes mentioned above, the reality is that all of us, like a magnet, are capable of either attracting or repelling to various degrees.

Who are the people in your life you’ve seen or known who seem to have a natural ability to attract anyone, even the most disagreeable?  It’s not just about being “nice”. In fact, having great rapport gives you the ability to say hard things to hard people who not only listen, but really feel like you still care for them…..even when the stakes are large, emotions run high and opinions differ.  My dad is like that and has been as long as I can remember.  In fact, he is so good at it that when I was a kid he could shift me from crying to being optimistic in seconds sometimes, or even have me laughing.

5 Forces That Attract

While some people no doubt are naturally gifted at rapport, the good news is that you can grow your rapport by focusing on the following five forces:

  1. Self-awareness- is simply to know yourself as you really are in all domains. It comes from developing a straight-forward understanding of how you experience things and what makes you tick.
  2. Empathy- is simply to see and feel things from someone else’s perspective; to put yourself in someone else shoes. At a more granular level, there are various kinds of empathy as well as ways to effectively leverage it.
  3. Positive Regard- is not just viewing another as a person worthy of respect, but allowing yourself to experience positive attitudes like warmth, caring, and interest about them as well. You don’t have to necessarily like him or her, you just have to keep your personal judgements from interfering with a view from which positive attitudes can flow.
  4. Genuiness- may also be known as authenticity or congruence and relates to trust. It’s not just about what you do but about who you are: open vs closed; owning it vs avoiding it; kind as well as challenging when necessary.
  5. Presence- It’s a way of bringing yourself and being with another with. It is an in-the-moment experience that is bodily, sensory and interpersonal and features a quite confidence and accompanying gravitas.

3 Foundational Traits

While the five forces that attract are extremely powerful and synergistic, they have to rest on a three-fold foundation:

  • Self-control- is required to maintain focus, manage self-talk, making judgments, regulate emotions and find the positives in the other person regardless of their characteristics or situation.
  • Psychological mindedness”-  involves being aware of the thoughts, feelings and behaviors of both the other person and yourself, then “reading between the lines” and putting the pieces together.
  • Genuine interest-  means you have the other person best interests in mind and care about them…even when you have to work hard at it.

The ability to establish strong rapport is essential for optimal connection and influence. Is your’s where you want it?

As you reflect on what your rapport building ability, a good exercise is to think of how various people might answer if someone else asked them about it. That would include not only your fans but those who are a challenge for you as well .

Regardless, the good news is that you can grow your ability to build rapport. The other news is you have to work at it.

What would having the ability to build better rapport do for you personally as well as your most important enterprise?

Please leave a comment and let me know, I’d love to hear about it.

4 Questions That Can Make You Whole

Why Maturity Beats Growth Every Time

Growth. Bigger. More. Faster…..the list of what were being told we need and need to be doing could go on.  That message seems to be an incessant drum beat from the media and culture. What we don’t recognize is that the message for most continues to reverberate in our head and echo long after the noise outside stops.

Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you that I’m all about growth and getting better. Early on that meant taking on more and saying yes. Later on I realized I needed to let go of some stuff and say “no” more. What I am finding out as the years have gone on is that a simple binary response to decision making doesn’t suffice. Life is not that simple. The good news is that it’s not that complicated either. The other news is that it still isn’t easy.

As I began thinking more about the person I ultimately want to become, a few things became very clear: there are some things I need to add, several I definitely need to take away, some I want to keep and others I realize that I’m just going to have to accept (and so is everyone else). My guess is that  this  probably resonates with you as well.

What Is Maturity?

Marshall Goldsmith beautifully lays out a model for maturity in his book Triggers and calls it the “Wheel of Change”.  It reminds me that growth alone isn’t the object; maximizing potential and effectiveness is. We’re kind of like fruit: best when mature. The closer we get to maturity the more able we are to operate effectively in our sweet spot and do so in a state of flow.

Maturity provides the context  for considering our strengths and acknowledging our limitations, which keeps unhealthy comparisons at bay.  Yes, its true: there are some things you and I just aren’t good at and never will be, even if we try to make ourselves feel better by calling them “challenges”.

The Wheel Of Change

Marshall Goldsmith’s “Wheel of Change” represents the interchange of two dimensions we need to sort out in order to become the person we want to be. On the positive side are the things that help, on the negative side are things that hold us back. The element that’s different in this model is that instead of always adding or taking away, there are things we intentionally decide to keep, or at least not try to change……even when we know they hold us back.

A 4-fold decision making framework:

Regarding what holds us back, ask-

  • What do I need to Eliminate?
    • While this  is probably the most liberating and freeing thing we can do, it’s also the hardest kind of decision to make. There are many reasons it’s hard, not the least of which is that losing something is always more painful than the pleasure we get from gaining something (known as loss aversion bias).  What we don’t realize is how much not doing this costs us.
  • What do I need to Accept?
    • This is probably the one we are most uncomfortable with and have the least amount of experience doing…intentionally, that is.  In fact, admitting the fact that some things just “are” can feel like defeat and giving in. However, it can be extremely valuable when we are truly powerless to make a difference in things, whether they be inherent to us or are external circumstances.  Make peace with it.

Regarding what helps us, ask-

  • What do I need to Create?
    • Most everyone loves this part and it’s almost always the easiest to do. Creating gives us a sense of self-direction and control. It’s important to not get faked-out with this one: are you creating what you really want or are you only reacting to external forces and pressure instead?
  • What do I need to Preserve?
    • It goes without saying that familiarity breeds contempt, and that can include our own accomplishments and what we’ve become. This choice isn’t as adrenaline charged as Creating and may even seem boring; after all, you’ve already been there/done that, right? The key is being self-aware enough to know what serves you well and then the discipline to stick to it, refine it and maximize it. New and shiny isn’t better….it’s just new and shiny.  I think it’s safe to say most of us don’t do enough preserving.

This model is a reminder that more is not better; better is better.

Which element of this model do you need to focus on most to get where you want to go?

Please leave a comment I’d love to hear.

How To Make Decisions That Leave No Regrets

I think subconsciously we hope we don’t have to make our next big decision for quite a while.  The reality? You and I will make a lot more of them a lot sooner than we like, and often when we least expect it. We all want to make the best decision, but how?

I had to make four major decisions this year, two on the personal side and two professionally related.  In retrospect, I also made a lot of small decisions along the way that affected what happened with the big decisions.  A couple worked out the way I wanted, one turned out unexpectedly and another was a disappointment.  The one thing in common with all of them is that I have no regrets about any of them.

Making Decisions

You and I make a lot of decisions each day.  Most of those are small and occasionally some are big. While the results of our “small” decisions accumulate over time, the results of our “big” decisions  have a more immediate and larger impact.  Having a decision making framework won’t always lead you to the right decisions, but it will leave you with fewer regrets.

I like the following two-fold decision making framework because it takes the realities about ourselves and others into account:

Managing Yourself

  • In light of my past, what is the wise thing to do? What might not be an issue for another person could be a stumbling block for you.
  • In light of my current situation, what is the wise thing to do? What will be the impact of what your currently doing on your decision and visa-versa?
  • In light of my future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing to do? Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should; what long-term effects will your decision have?

Managing Others

  • What is the real sum total impact of my options? Often you can’t answer this alone, so get insight and input from your inner circle.
  • What are my core obligations? How does your decision line up with your responsibilities; who else and what else will be affected by your decision?
  • What will work in world as it is? As my great-grandmother used to say, “don’t deal with life the way you want it to be, deal with it the way it comes.” Don’t be pollyanna and do stay positive while handling the negative.
  • Who are we? How does your decision line up with your core values, your team, your culture, home and community? There is often tension between these and knowing the answer to the first three questions can help you get clear when it comes to this one.
  • What can I live with? If you’ve given your decision the reflection time it deserves, processed it with  both your head and your heart, then commit….even though you may not have 100% certainty.46833006 - old wooden veranda and the cornerstone of natural stone

The first part of the framework comes from Andy Stanley (The Best Question Ever) and the other from an article by Joseph Badaracco (HBR, Sept 2016). The additional commentary is mine.  If you use all or part of this framework  or another, you’ll develop your own commentary to consider and share.

The truth is you already have a decision making framework, even if it’s one more akin to a “punt” or coin-toss. The difference is whether or not you’ve chosen your framework intentionally.

Your Decision Making Framework

Is your current decision making framework by design or by default? If you can articulate it, then your on your way to design; if you can write it out you know you are there.   The next step is to use it consistently.  Simple in concept and difficult to do, not just because we naturally bend toward default but because life is messy, hard and big decisions usually aren’t easy.

The good news is that when you practice filtering your decisions through an intentional framework, you get better at it and so does your framework; both you and it adapt toward a “best fit”.  And while you won’t always make the right decision or even the best decision, it’s a lot more likely you will.  And the best news of all is that  you’ll have few if any regrets.

Here is a challenge: write down your current decision making framework (literally). What’s serving you well and needs to remain? What’s not and needs to change?

Please leave a comment and let me know what’s working well for you.

3 Non-Negotiables for Ideal, Engaged Teammates

The work by Gallup and others have made it clear that employee engagement across the board is a low 30%. Why would we expect it to be any different for someone simply considered to be an employee? The term “employee” and “engagement” have no natural relationship to one another; the same goes for project or committee member.

The role of an employee or member is to simply perform a particular role for an agreed amount of pay, reward or recognition……regardless of whether they are engaged or not.  A  teammate, on the other hand, is by definition engaged in the vision, mission and committed to competition. If not, they are no longer a team-mate but dead weight.

Could it be that our real problem with engagement is our own perspective? While a teammate can serve as an employee or member of some sort, a member isn’t necessarily a teammate.

Pat Lencioni’s latest book “The Ideal Team Player” speaks to this issue. It has a simple premise that makes sense: great teams require ideal team players. His definition of an ideal team player or teammate encompasses engagement and more. He defines an ideal teammate as someone who has the ability to work effectively with others and add value within the dynamics of a group endeavor.

What isn’t so simple is how to identify and keep ideal, engaged teammates. Lencioni say’s there are three fundamental virtues that help you do just that:0204 TeamPlayer IIjpg

  • Humble: No excessive ego or status concerns; quick to point out the contributions of others and slow to draw attention to their own. Emphasize team success over self success. This is the single most indispensable virtue.
  • Hungry: Self-motivated and always looking for more to do, learn and take on; always thinking about the next-step and opportunity.
  • Smart: Not head-smart but heart-smart. They have a high SEI, common sense, and listen and ask more than show and tell.

Notice he refers to these three as “virtues”,  not values.  This is because virtue denotes both a quality and asset, which indicate each can be cultivated.

The other critical key point: the three taken together is greater than the sum of their parts. In other words, it’s the combination of the three that makes the ideal teammate.  And while “ideal” likely isn’t attainable, it is possible to hit a certain “sweet-spot” close to the ideal.

What became obvious to me in reflecting on my own experience with memorable teams is that most if not all the individual team members strongly exhibited these 3 essential virtues.  This held up across the board, regardless of personal, business or recreational domains.  These qualities not only made them great teammates, they also made them great people you just wanted to be around (which holds true for my current Confluent Team as well).

Want to find and partner with teammates who can come together and create low maintenance, high performing teams? Then look for someone who is humble, hungry and smart.

Reflect on teams you’ve been a part of in the past in relationship to Lencioni’s three fundamental virtues.  How could you leverage these three to make your current teammates and team better? If you included them as part of your hiring criteria, what impact could they have?

Please leave a comment, I’d love to know.

6 Critical Abilities To Grow Your Integrity And Results

How to be a “Good Guy” AND Win!

When you take an integrated view of character you end up with Integrity.  And integrity goes beyond the moral and ethical dimension. Living a fully integrated life….a life of integrity…. allows us to hit on all cylinders in business and in life.

I’ve observed some people who are enjoyable to be around and are as upright as they come. Unfortunately, some of these same people have a repeated pattern of failure in their results, both with people and tasks. Who do you know that is like that? Now, they’re “good guys” in the truest sense of the word. The problem is that when it comes to getting stuff done, these “good guys” sometimes make things a lot worse! They’re great to talk to and be around, you just don’t want them on your team. I bet you’ve experienced some of these people too.

So why is it that “good guys” sometimes seem to lose and cause your team to fumble? Why is that some….leaders in particular…. get to a certain level and then flatline or fail?

While there can be many reasons, Dr. Cloud has observed that often they are lacking one or more of the following 6 abilities critical to integrity:

  1. The ability to connect authentically.
  2. The ability to be oriented toward truth.42611843 - close-up of person looking at diamond with magnifying loupe
  3. The ability to work in a way that gets results and finishes well.
  4. The ability to embrace, engage, and deal with the negative.
  5. The ability to be oriented toward growth (i.e. a “Growth Mindset”).
  6. The ability to be transcendent (i.e. see the bigger picture).

As he says, “ethical functioning is a part of character, but not all of it. And is certainly not all of what affects whether someone is successful or becomes a good leader.” If you want healthy “wake” of results, you’ve got to be a person of integrity. This is especially the case for leaders and leaders of leaders.

All of us need to be working on the most important asset we have all the time: ourselves.  While we can’t focus on everything at the same time all the time, we can focus on something all the time at any given time.

And as you work on the 6 areas above, you’ll find out something interesting and profitable as well: they’re all integrated and have a synergistic effect. The dividends you reap as a whole by intentionally working on any given one will be much larger than that yielded from any single one. You can then win in the truest sense of the word.

As you look at your wake of results, which of the 6 critical abilities, if you had more of it, would help you grow in your integrity and get more true wins? What’s the next most courageous step you could take to start that process now?

Please leave a comment, I’d love to know.