You made it through the interview process, wowed them with your skills and what you’ll be able to do for the company.  Today is the day, your first day at the new job.  You are excited, nervous, happy, and looking forward to your next adventure.  You go in and meet all the employees and the executive you’ll be supporting.  Everyone is friendly, helpful, engaging, and happy that you are there to help get things on track.  You and your executive are immediately on the same page and have great conversations about goals and expectations.  Stepping into this job is like putting on a well-loved comfortable glove.

Right?  It would be nice if that were the case, but, it’s probably not.  Building rapport with a new executive is a process of getting to know each other over time.  It’s like dating before you get married.  You each must learn each other’s styles, quirks, likes and dislikes, as well as, the company culture, dynamics, processes and goals.  So how do you navigate the dating stage?  What are some things you can do to build rapport?

One of the most important things to do with a new executive is to listen.

Listen to what they say to you, to coworkers, to peers, to customers or clients.  Listen to the words they say, the tone they use, and the body language that goes along with it.  Body language is the most significant part of communication and paying attention to what their body will give you more insight into how they feel than words alone. You will learn about how they think, what is essential, and what they need by actively and carefully paying attention to their communication.

This goes much farther than just hearing what they say.  It means listening to them without planning your answer or the next question you want to ask.  Listen to the specific words they use and how they say them.  Watch how others interact with them and how they react.  Take note of when they are chatty or reserved, and when they are casual or formal.  Make notes on how they communicate with you and others – email, call, text, face to face. These observations are the secret code of how to interact effectively with them.  When you start communicating in ways that use all these cues, it will make them feel at ease and that you can “read their mind.”

The next stage of building rapport is spending time with your executive.

It’s vital to get time one-on-one so you can discuss their needs, goals, and ways that you can help make their time more effectively.  Go over their calendar and understand who they are meeting with and which are optional, so you know their priorities.  Attend meetings with them to learn about the executive, the company, and the business.  Be creative and strategic with your time with them.  Several 5 min talks on the way to or from other meetings may work best in your environment.  A couple of lengthy meetings each week might suit another Executive.  Try out different options and note which are the most productive, then continue using that method.

Building rapport with your executive requires your soft skills and your emotional intelligence.  Pay attention, make notes, try different approaches and remember that every person you support will have different preferences.  It’s your job to pick up on the unspoken cues in communication and interaction and use those cues to build a strong relationship.

This is a guest post from Debbi Tank. Debbi is a seasoned Executive Assistant who has served C-Suite and senior level Executives for over 20 years in a variety of industries from education, to technology, to finance.  Debbi is a vocal advocate for the Administrative Profession and is an active member of the International Association of Administrative Professionals, Office Ninjas, and has presented at the Executive Leader Support Forum.  She shares her passion for the Administrative Profession through original articles on LinkedIn as well as mentoring other Administrators both online and in person. Debbi has held leadership positions in the Junior League of Collin County and successfully launched a corporate Women’s Networking group. Debbi holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Houston and adds to her knowledge base continually by attending relevant conferences and networking events.

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