David Wray

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Relationship Building: Master it in Your New Role!

Dilbert parody on relationship building in a new company. Credit: Scott Adams

Relationship building in a new company

Relationship building within a new company can be an adventure to some, a nightmare to others, and that’s in ordinary circumstances. Imagine joining a new company where individuals work from anywhere or working from home is standard practice. The traditions of bonding over lunch, going for a coffee, or chatting around the water cooler need creative alternatives. Additionally, we need to fine-tune our techniques to meaningfully connect with new colleagues. 

To add a tiny bit more pressure, we have a finite window to adapt to the company’s culture and make our way within it. Something commonly referred to as the first 100 days. When we sit back and think about it, how many organizations take the time to explain the cultural norms to new hires? And how effective are you at simultaneously multitasking the new job requirements, understanding the boss’ expectations, and reading the company’s cultural tea leaves? 

It is a lot to juggle in order to be effective and well perceived! Leading us to ask ourselves, are there some skills we can fine-tune to make this experience easier?

In a word: yes!

Relationship building through observation

Take the time to understand how teams within the new company collaborate, how they prefer to work (in person, via video conference, via teleconference, etc.), and how decision making occurs (for instance consensus-driven, influence-driven, or something else?). Organizations differ in their approach, which is mirrored in how companies are actively reconsidering their working arrangements. Bank CEOs, for instance, tend to value face time citing creativity, teaching others, and decision making as the reasons why. Whereas other CEOs are more relaxed about it, opting for a more flexible model favouring trust and accountability. Whichever work structure is in place, we need to take the time, when we join, to understand the company. 

Ask colleagues and peers how you should consider approaching relationships. For instance, do we need to build relationships with others before asking them for help or input on something? Or should we develop a contact list of individuals we can simply tap into for support or input when we need it?

Observe, in person and virtually, how, and where colleagues get work done and make decisions. For example, do colleagues spend significant amounts of time meeting with one another, or do they favour working from home (or an alternative location)? 

Developing Rapport, a Contemporary Look at Building Relationships

Rapport is built on four pillars: respect, responsibility, recognition, and reassurance. 

Rapport and the 4Rs, copyright David Wray, 2021

The pillar of particular interest in this BLOG is recognition – non-verbal communication to be more precise. When connecting with new colleagues, particularly when individuals work in remote locations, we increasingly need to rely on non-verbal cues to assess our progress. 

Non-verbal cues include tone of voice, breathing, language patterns, and body language, amongst others. Let’s look at a couple of those next. 

Non-verbal cues to aid in relationship building

Voice: in this space, it’s often more about how we say things rather than simply what we say. When we speak, other people interpret our voice as well as our words. The person listening to us will tune into our timing and pace, our loudness, our tone, our inflection, and filler sounds that convey meaning. Such as “ahhh”, “okay” or “uh-huh”, which tend to convey understanding. By listening for these cues ourselves, we can identify anger, frustration, sarcasm, fear, confidence, or comfort in others. 

Language patterns: there are several language patterns – an interesting technique in conversation (or in emails) is an embedded command. These statement types include an indirect command which is implicit within the statement itself. For instance: Yoda turned to Luke and told him to close the cockpit hatch before raising the plane from the swamp. Close the cockpit hatch is the embedded command within this statement. 

Body language and gestures: now think about how we perceive other individuals by the way they stand, walk, sit, or hold their head or shoulders. The way in which we move conveys information to others about our emotions, state of mind, habits, and so much more. Consider gestures, they are an intricate part of our day-to-day life. For instance, we wave, point, use our hands when speaking passionately (or angrily), and to beckon someone. All often done without thinking about it. Let’s round off this topic by considering our visual senses. Eye contact is a particularly important type of non-verbal communication. The way we look at someone may convey many things. For example, affection, resentment, interest, shyness, or curiosity. Eye contact is a helpful mechanism for gauging the flow of conversation and the other person’s interest or response.

Final Thoughts

Connecting with others is linked with our ability to effectively develop rapport. The key thing to remember when joining a new company is that our previous achievements don’t allow us to step outside of the norms of the enterprise culture we are now within. Organizations hire us for our experience; however, our career altitude is determined by how well we understand and work within the new culture. In other words, our relationship-building skills can amplify or derail our future success.

Your turn

Sign in to the Community Member Area or comment below to share your views and ideas for making meaningful connections with new people as effortlessly as possible. 

Give it a try!

Credit Dilbert cartoon: Scott Adams

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