Once again, this week I am connecting with you in a “Dear-Abby-Style.” The below is an *actual* question from a reader. I answered her question through the lens of what I believe to be one of the most powerful tools out there for creating better professional relationships–DiSC! If you’d like me to address a professional relationship question of yours (anonymously), simply email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. All questions are welcome!
I have a new team member on my team, and I’d like to build some rapport with her, to really connect. She tends to be very private and reserved, however, so I’m having a hard time getting to know her so I can manage her most effectively. Please advise.
Dear Managing Connection:
Getting to know someone who tends to be more private and reserved can be challenging (because they are so private and reserved!). The good news: it’s not impossible. What’s more, behind that quiet demeanor is a passionate and remarkable human being who is worth taking the time to get to know!
My advice: meet her where she’s at. Trust is formed when we acknowledge, recognize, and appreciate our unique behavioral styles…and then act accordingly. Given her quiet nature, she likely leads with an S or C style (or some combo of those two), so I would recommend the following three ways of connecting with her.
Give Genuine and Specific Praise (In Private)
Catch her doing her job well and, privately (like in an email or in a face-to-face convo behind closed doors), tell her how much of an asset she is to the team and why. Be specific. Point to the data that makes you think so. If you think there are things she could do differently, offer your point of view, but take an easy-going approach. S’s and C’s don’t respond well to heavy-handedness. You connect with them best when you offer feedback in private that is direct and forthright but not overly emotional or assertive.
Believe In The Power of Going Off-Site
Invite her out to lunch…just you and her. Go someplace that’s more intimate in nature, where you can have a private conversation and really connect. Keep it informal and laid back. Ask her about herself—show a genuine interest. Just because someone is highly private about themselves when they’re AT work doesn’t mean that they won’t share more in a casual and relaxed, off-site environment. Show warmth and concern when you talk with her, and don’t talk at her a mile a minute (like I tend to do!). Slow down your pacing and give her time to think and respond. That “white space” in the conversation is often when connection is quietly built with S and C styles.
Ask Her What She Needs/Wants In Work and Life
Take the-coach-approach and ask her what she needs/wants most from you as her manager. Since she is more quiet and reserved, she will likely need time and space to process this request. I suggest letting her know that you appreciate having her on the team, and that you want to maximize what you can do (as her manager) to make sure she’s going to stick around a while. Have her put together a list of how she likes to be managed. Keep that front-and-center so you can remind yourself before every interaction with her (until it becomes more natural). Also, ask her about her big life and career goals. Have her write them all down. Review her list with her, championing her dreams. Let her know that you’ll do your best to help her achieve her personal and professional goals. Then, make good on it!
Overall, remember that truly connecting–building rapport and trust–with anyone can take some time. And, with some individuals, it takes even more time than with others. Just be patient and take small steps each day toward getting to know this person. Before you realize it, you’ll know each other better than you think, and your working relationship will grow beautifully.