5 practical tips to build rapport with your team members

Written by 
Bryan Kitch
 and 
  —  
January 18, 2024
An image showing a manager and her coworkers laughing in an office setting

There’s a ton of advice out there on how to work on your interpersonal relationships. But what about your professional relationships? Although there are some similarities (of course), building relationships in the workplace has some key (like, really key) differences from the ones outside of work. 

If you want to have a harmonious environment where teams are more productive and satisfied with their jobs, building rapport is a critical step. As a leader, creating a good rapport across the team should be one of your top priorities. 

When you build harmonious relationships, you form a unified and effective team. Here, we’ll discuss a few practical tips you can use to improve your professional relationships and watch your team flourish. 

1. Find similarities to connect on a human level

Strong relationships can be built by finding similarities you and your team can bond over. This can be something work-related, like your favorite productivity app, or something from your personal life, like your favorite food or TV show. 

Here are a few tips on finding common ground with your colleagues: 

  • Show genuine interest when team members share stories by asking follow-up questions about their experiences or ideas. Remember, even though you are a manager, you most likely have things in common with your direct reports. 
  • Don’t make assumptions about others based on your first impression. 
  • Pose icebreaker questions to get the ball rolling on interesting and human-centered conversations. Try out different icebreaker games and see what’s most popular and fun for everyone.  

Whether you work remotely, hybrid, or in-person, there are so many ways you can connect with your team and enhance your team’s experience at work. 

2. Show empathy and respect 

Empathy and respect can make your team members feel seen, heard, and valued — an important part of building rapport. When someone shares their story with you, take the time to listen and empathize. This purposeful listening has the power to transform your relationship. 

Showing empathy and respect can be done through active listening: 

  • Provide your full attention by limiting distractions (e.g., put away your phone). 
  • Note the other person’s nonverbal cues so you can respond appropriately.
  • Use emotional intelligence to deduce how the other person is likely feeling, how you’re feeling, and how to appropriately react to them. 
  • Respond and give feedback to what they’re actually saying rather than the narrative in your own mind.  
  • Pay attention to your own nonverbal communication. Use positive body language, like maintaining eye contact and using supportive facial expressions and a calm voice. 

In addition to making employees feel good and building rapport, showing empathy this way has the added bonus of improving their performance

3. Praise work publicly and privately

Recognizing the great work that your team members are doing in a professional setting is another wonderful way to build mutual trust and strengthen relationships. Whether you do it publicly or privately, you’re conveying to the team and stakeholders how important they are to your working relationship. 

How to recognize your team members effectively: 

  • Do it either in person or in real time online: An email or Slack message is good, but doing it in real time has the added benefit of the recipient hearing the warm tone of your voice, creating a more genuine and authentic connection. 
  • Be specific about the praise: Give an example of what you’re referring to rather than just saying, “You’ve been doing great work.”
  • Be prompt: Recognize people in a timely manner, ideally soon after their accomplishment occurs.  
  • Recognize both big and small accomplishments.  
  • Connect accomplishments to the goals and objectives of your team. 

If you’re commending publicly, consider ways to praise more than one person involved in a project. For example, say you have a sales team that's shown excellent communication skills recently with a client. Select a few examples from various team members that show exactly how and why their communication was commendable. 

Sharing praise publicly also fosters a culture of recognition, which is important for a more engaged workforce. 

4. Create shared goals and solve challenges together

Shared experiences can enhance your working relationships while also boosting performance and productivity. That’s why setting shared goals and tackling a challenge together is another great way to build rapport. This can be anything from completing a project to a big-picture goal, like increasing sales, to a growth and development goal, like participating in more workshops together. 

Here’s how to develop and set shared goals with your team:  

  • Use the SMART goals method (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely).  
  • Gather feedback from your team members about the goals and potential challenges you might face. 
  • Brainstorm ideas together based on feedback.  
  • Create an action plan and make sure it is clear which team member is responsible for what tasks. 
  • Track progress and set up a meeting to evaluate how it’s been going for everyone. 

One way to provide a smooth collaborative process is to use visual collaboration tools that keep everyone informed on your project. Depending on the type of goal setting or project you’re working on, you can find templates for things like a daily scrum, a team alignment workshop, or a meeting to prioritize your goals and ideas.  

5. Connect with team members 1-on-1

Connecting with a team member 1-on-1 provides you both with a space to go beyond simple small talk. Meaningful personal relationships involve vulnerability and honesty. Since 1-on-1 meetings are more private, they open up the possibility of discussing more sensitive topics or speaking more freely without an audience.  

Here are a few tips for conducting effective 1-on-1 meetings: 

  • Learn about the three key features of meaningful conversations: humility, critical thinking, and sympathetic listening. 
  • Throughout the conversation, ask open-ended questions to leave room for the other person to bring their unique perspective to the table. 
  • Create a shared document for 1-on-1 meetings to keep you on track and on the same page before, during, and after the meeting.
  • Find out if the team member has any feedback or questions for you

During your 1-on-1s, you might notice that team members have varying preferences when it comes to communication style and topic interests. Finding the right comfort level for each person is key to increasing your connection with each one. 

A strong rapport can shape team success 

Building rapport and connecting with your teammates not only creates a more positive and harmonious environment but also shapes the future success of your team. A team that feels more connected and valued has better performance and productivity. 

Related: Why team building is important for exceptional teamwork

A strong rapport can also make you excited to show up for work in a place where you feel trust and support. It brings a sense of cohesion to the team and propels you down a path where, together, you can tackle any roadblocks that come your way.    

Mural can help you create the foundation you need to solve challenges, learn, and grow your business. Through Mural’s visual collaboration tools, you’ll be able to strengthen the building blocks of a successful team! 

About the authors

About the authors

Bryan Kitch

Bryan Kitch

Content Marketing Manager
Bryan is a Content Marketing Manager @ MURAL. When he's not writing or working on content strategy, you can usually find him outdoors.

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