Tech Teams-Build Rapport to Innovate

How can Technologists/Product Managers Collaborate more Effectively?

It seems so simple  yet it can be so difficult.  How do you collaborate with engineers, architects, product managers, and UX designers?  Many times each person has a different background, is fairly senior in their knowledge of their specific area, and can become a bit uncomfortable discussing things they may not be experts in.  There are many ways to enhance collaboration.  Let’s just discuss one of them.  Building Rapport.

The simple definition of rapport that I have come to use is this. Relating to people in a way that creates a level of trust and understanding. Think of the elements of rapport with the acronym PACT: presence, authenticity, confidence and truthfulness.

  • Presence as a state of mindfulness; an awareness of self and others that builds trust and understanding.
  • Authenticity is the art of being yourself and demonstrating a comfort with being in your own skin.
  • Confidence is having a clear sense of knowing and not knowing; and understanding and demonstrating the difference.
  • Truthfulness is communicating clear, honest and accurate information in a way that shows integrity of mind and action.

It’s only when you can build a PACT within your teams will everyone be able to open themselves up to new ideas and innovate collaboratively.

Here are some fairly simple ways to build rapport with your technology and product teams during meetings.

  • Find common ground and share something personal.  Whether it’s someone we both know, a place we have both visited or a movie we have seen recently, find something to connect yourselves.
  • Laugh (at yourself). I tend to lead with something light and and/or humorous. I typically use self-deprecating humor such as the latest time I spilled coffee on myself (which is fairly frequent unfortunately).
  • Make it about others in the room. I always ask the people I am working with about non work related topics.  Whether its how is their family, did they see the latest movie, or how was their commute today, I never start the meeting out with work.  I always start with casual conversation focused on the others in the room for around 2 minutes. For example, when I meet with a challenging architect who lives in the same town, I always discuss ‘town’ related activities such as the Farmers Market.
  • Read the audience: In some cases it’s best to get down to business and build rapport at the end of the meeting. When a conversation is serious or strenuous, such as the case when there is a release delivery at risk, then carry on with the task at hand.
  • Lean into the conversation and build rapport through non-verbal actions.  Non-verbal communications include facial expressions, the tone and pitch of the voice, and gestures. Non verbal communications can help build rapport by:
    • Reinforcing or modifying what is said in words. For example, people may nod their heads vigorously when saying “Yes” to emphasize that they agree with the other person, but a shrug of the shoulders and a sad expression when saying “I’m fine thanks,” may imply that things are not really fine at all!
    • Convey information about their emotional state.
    • Provide feedback to the other person.

Building great products and innovating sustainably requires both technical and product management skills. However, of equal importance are collaboration and team building skills.