Birds of a feather flock together. Why is that? Turns out, we are most comfortable being around people like ourselves. How can leaders build diverse teams while still building rapport among teammates? The Enneagram provides an answer.
Rapport and Team Effectiveness
The Oxford dictionary tells us that rapport is a close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned understand each other’s feelings or ideas and communicate well. But is rapport important for team effectiveness? Do effective teams communicate well? Yes! Do effective teams share and understand each other’s ideas? Yes! Are they in a close and harmonious relationship? Yes! Clearly, rapport is essential for effective teams.
Mirroring is a phenomenon that occurs when we communicate with others—it’s a natural rapport-building mechanism by which we reflect back verbal and nonverbal cues. Those cues include posture, arm placement and speech patterns, among others. Have you ever noticed during a conversation that you’ve positioned your body in the mirror image of the other person? That’s mirroring in action. You can learn more about mirroring here. Mirroring is the way we tell the other person, “Hey, I’m like you; we’re birds of a feather.” It’s our instinctual method for building rapport.
Knowing the power of mirroring for rapport building, why not deliberately use this technique for increasing team effectiveness? For instance, when you are with someone who takes a relaxed posture and speaks slowly, you can deliberately relax and slow down your pace. Conversely, if they sit up right and talk fast, you can do the same. Another simple way to mirror, is to repeat back someone’s idea to them before you respond. Doing that, you are communicating that you listened, heard and understood their ideas. By mirroring in these simple ways, you are making the other person feel more comfortable, thereby building trust and rapport.
Birds of an Enneagram Type
At an Enneagram workshop I conducted, I asked the group to think about their best friends in high school and guess what Enneagram type they are. As we went around the room, the pattern became clear—most everyone concluded that their best friend was the same Enneagram type as themselves. It’s easier to build rapport with someone whose Enneagram style is similar to our own. But can we adjust our own style to build rapport with any other style?
Knowing the nine distinct Enneagram styles adds more arrows in your mirroring quiver. When building rapport with someone whose style is the same as yours, easy-peasy, you can just be yourself. When building rapport with other styles, learn to adjust your own style to accommodate and mirror their style. Doing so will help you build rapport with that person.
Cut to The Chase
I am Enneagram Type 6, and I like putting my ideas into context when communicating. You can probably tell this from my writing style. Type 8s, on the other hand, just want to get to the point. If they want context, they’ll ask for it. Otherwise, don’t bother. You’re just wasting their time. Knowing that my Type-6 communication style does not match well with the Type 8’s style, I deliberately adjust my style—I just get to the point and wait for questions. Letting the 8 lead the conversation will make them feel more comfortable, improve communication, and build rapport.
Why So Many Questions!
Conversely, if a Type 8 communicates with a Type 6, the Type 8 will simply state the point. The Type 6 will want to know the context and start asking questions (sometimes Type 6 is labeled the Questioner.) Since the Type 8 will feel like they’ve already worked out everything, rehashing issues may annoy them. Being a Type 6, I have to check my tendency to ask lots of questions with Type 8s.
Starting Point—Knowing Your Own Type
For both scenarios, the starting point for me was to know my own Enneagram type and associated communication tendencies. Once familiar with those, I was able to adjust my tendencies based on the preferences of the other types. By learning to match the communication styles of the others based on their Enneagram type, you will be building rapport with your teammates.
Mirroring 9.0—Rapport Building Communication Tips
While each Enneagram type represents a tapestry of behaviors, there are some simple tips you can use to improve communication with each type.
Enneagram Type 1—Acknowledge my desire to get things right; give me the information and time I need to do it.
Enneagram Type 2—Appreciate me for my contributions; provide me with new opportunities to help.
Enneagram Type 3—Recognize me for my accomplishments; show me ways I can continue to achieve.
Enneagram Type 4—Acknowledge my unique perspectives; engage me in conversations about emotions and feelings.
Enneagram Type 5—Recognize my deep knowledge and understanding of a subject; allow me to contribute my knowledge is safe ways.
Enneagram Type 6—Recognize my abilities to think about the future, plan and strategize; indulge me in conversations about what may happen.
Enneagram Type 7—Let me know how much you like me; let’s dream about new and fun things to do.
Enneagram Type 8—Acknowledge my desire to get things done; get to the point so I can get into action.
Enneagram Type 9—Acknowledge my ability to understand other’s perspectives; don’t push me to share my own.
Knowing the Enneagram types of your teammates and practicing these tips will help you build rapport and trust with your teammates.
According to Gallup, in 2019, the percentage of “engaged” workers in the U.S. was 35%. Hey, lot’s of room for improvement! And, what’s the number one reason why it’s so low? Gallup finds that the relationship between the employee and the direct manager is responsible for 70% of low engagement. 70%! Now we know what to work on—building rapport and trust!
The Leader Sets the Tone
As a leader who desires a highly effective team with a diversity of styles, building rapport with your teammates is crucial. Learning the different Enneagram styles of yourself and your teammates and learning how to mirror those styles is a rapport building technique that will help improve team effectiveness and achieve higher employee engagement. Sharing your rapport building tips with your teammates will serve as a model for the entire team to build a self-supporting and self-sustaining environment in which the entire team can thrive. I detail leadership traits and Enneagram at work in Teamwork 9.0.
What rapport building strategies are you using to improve team effectiveness and employee engagement? How are you honing your rapport building skills?