The power of rapport
One of my clients called me in to work with, one-on-one with some of their top performing employees who they felt needed to assistance in certain areas to become more well-rounded. One of the managers they assigned to me was an awesome woman, Farrah, I was told was excellent at what she did. She was reliable and consistently delivered with excellence. However, her seniors felt she did not have the communication skills to move to the next level. They noted, she had a high pitched whiny voice, used improper grammar, was drab in her appearance and that presentation did not fit their boardroom or the c-suite. Though her performance was commendable, personal presentation was holding her back. As they described her to me and I asked questions, they struggled with a label to describe her. I offered the adjective ‘enigma’, they said I was spot on. She was an enigma, she did a great job, but they didn’t know much about her and she was not on their radar for promotion.
In our first session together, apparently, she felt comfortable with me and I gave her the opportunity to ‘puke’. She told me how she felt ignored by the organization. She relayed how when given a project she would complete and submit it early, ensuring she dotted every ‘i’ and crossed every ‘t’. Then she said something very telling. “When I hand in a project, there is no need to ask me anything, it’s perfect, no need for discussion. Yet, John, a colleague on my same level probably does half the work I do, and the quality is much less, but when Mr. CEO passes him in the hallways, they are on a first name basis. They then have the nerve to promote him and not me.” I immediately understood the problem. As she expressed herself, yes maybe her voice was a little ‘pitchy’, she certainly used some botched grammar, but that was not uncommon in Bahamian speech.
The problem is she had not developed rapport with the people who were most influential to her advancement in the organization. Her seniors saw her as an enigma, they didn’t know her. When they gave her an assignment she would execute flawlessly, but she was almost like a robot in their minds. They did not see her humanness. She said she was a single mother and she did not have time to socialize, she never attended work socials and parties, in her mind they were a waste of time and she was not interested. She then expressed one of the greatest misnomers in the workplace, “I don’t have to do all that stuff, my work speaks for itself.”
I then understood why she was an outsider and in her defense, I understood why she chose to be. However, if you choose to stay outside, that is exactly where you will be. People skills are just as important, and in many cases more important than technical skills, because decisions about who gets what, is determined by people. People were created to be social beings. Our work should speak for us however, the reality is relationships rule.
When you are a mystery and people don’t feel they know you, beside being ignored, you may be subjected to extra scrutiny and nit picking. I explained to her, if the only time you interact is at a meeting when you have to present on what your department is doing, people will feel indifferent toward you. This makes it easy to pick on you. However, when people know you as a person and like you, many time they don’t notice your flaws. If they do, they are more apt to give you a pass.
In contrast, her colleague John developed relationships, so when promotions came up, his name came to mind. He had a social element that gave him an edge over Farrah’s flawless execution and truly that is a lesson to be learned.
My daughter learned this organically from a professor in college. She found herself really being challenged in one of her college economics courses. She attended every class, asked questions and even sought out her professor to find what she could do to bring her grade up. In a conversation with this professor, he spoke about how some people hardly ever come to class, so when their grades are borderline they get what they get because he doesn’t know them. However, when it is a student who attends class, asks questions and he knows who they are, he is more likely to use his discretion should they need a point or two to help them pass. Note to self, relationship is everything.
- Kim Welcome is the CEO of Influential Voice. A communication trainer and coach, she assists businesses and professionals to achieve their goals by helping them to develop deliberate, skillful, polished communication skills. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 242-225-9013.