Storytelling: Struggling with Building Rapport

A few weeks ago, a very keen learner asked a question, “I am posted out to Europe to take on a role as a representative of my organisation there. I am looking forward to it but here is a little something that is bothering me. The person who will be my assistant not only has more experience in the job but also has better know-how of the market. Now, it is all very exciting because we can form a great team but I am worried that we might not be able to build good rapport because he may not have the same feelings about me taking over the new role.”

What do I do? 

Here is what I am suggesting this Business Professional should do.

Let us look at what happened with another person who needed to build rapport with his team.

Told by Tim Coy (not his real name), the Head of Innovation at SAP

The setting was a team meeting. The challenge was, Tim was a recently appointed head of innovation and had 10 people reporting to him. He had not really built rapport with the team as yet and was finding it somewhat difficult to deal with them. Everybody was watching the new boss with folded arms and not sure if they wanted to trust him as yet. Working against Tim was also the fact that the team was more experienced than him and had a better know-how of the market.

Tim shared this story to build rapport in an informal team meeting

5 years ago I was posted to Japan and the business there was really bad. We were losing market share, the team was unhappy and things looked all doom and gloom. I realised that the business lacked a dynamic person who could be the face of SAP in Japan.  

I knew this guy called Matt Akamori (an American Japanese) whom I had worked with in our LA office. I thought someone like him would be great for this role. I called Matt and asked him to visit Tokyo. He is single and young, which made him very mobile. He came for a visit on his first day in Japan. We went to a pub for a beer. We had just arrived at the pub and looking for a place to sit when he said to me, “What’s up? Why did you want to see me?” I said to Matt, “I need you here to be the face of SAP”. He said to me, “What about you? You are the boss, you should be the face of SAP.” I told Matt that I did not give a damn about whose face it is as long as it’s the right person, and at that time, it was him. Matt got transferred to Japan and in 6 months we turned the market around. He really got along with the locals but was also able to fit in with other nationalities since he was American Japanese. He now leads our office in Japan and only he is to be credited for the success we have had in Japan.

 Now, I am here and I am looking for another Matt who could be the face of the company. I know it’s one of you and I can find him, but that would need us to go and have beer together.

 After Tim finished his story, everyone laughed and that was just the start of his great relationship with his team.”

If you could take only one thing away from stories for leadership, that would be – Never tell a story where you are in the spotlight.

Additionally, you can learn plenty about Tim’s character from this story, which is precisely what helped to build rapport.

Be Strategic, Tell an Authentic Story and See the Results

Narrative’s Storytelling Workshops are designed to help you to achieve success via stories.

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