Are You Doing What it Takes to Build Rapport with Senior Leadership?

Eric Snider
Posted on: 01/17/17
Written by: Eric Snider
Topics: Leadership

vintage photos.jpgWe often spend lots of time working on communicating with (and impressing) our internal firm senior leadership. That is a part of business, like it or not.

Let’s think about it for a bit. After all, people are people. And whether they are individuals in our own architecture, engineering /construction (A/E/C) organizations or individuals in the client’s hierarchy, the motivations of people are the same.

Let’s start by saying that we in the work-a-day A/E/C industry usually are or deal with project managers and department head-level folks in our organization.

Sometimes if we are working in a small- to mid-size firm, we may interact regularly with corporate senior management, but that is not the norm.

The project managers and department heads have bosses, and they have bosses as well. How can we improve (or start) a relationship with those senior people who may influence the future direction of the firm and the careers of people like ourselves?

Here are a few tips on dealing (and building rapport) with the senior management of your firm.

  • They are people too and have a life! Many senior managers hide behind a façade of impersonal aloofness, but it is truly just a façade. Try searching on an individual manager’s name on Facebook or a browser to learn what makes them tick. I have found several who were white water kayakers or tennis buffs, and during meetings was able to relate based on those bits of intelligence. If you get to visit the boss’s office, search the walls for diplomas, plaques, and other signals of what is important to the individual. Use this information in developing or strengthening the relationship and rapport with the boss.

  • They have bosses too. Remember that even the president of a firm routinely reports to the board of directors. And that leads to a group of people you should have on your radar list to get to know.

  • They want to succeed. They need to look good to their bosses, and their bosses need to look good to THEIR bosses, and so on all the way to the president looking good to the board. If you can execute a project successfully so it garners no bad press up the ladder in your firm (and maybe even a client accolade), you have set yourself up well for the next opportunity.

  • Their business circles may not intersect often with ours. Business circles are not all unique and exclusionary, but the senior management of your firm may travel in the company of other managers, not technologists. There is a distinct difference in tech organizations and business organizations.

Business leaders routinely attend chamber of commerce events, not the monthly meeting of the local AIA chapter or ASCE. Be aware of where your bosses and their bosses are swimming and drop your bait there! 

  • Their social circles may not intersect often with ours. As with business circles, social circles of our bosses may not coincide with ours. My president is a key officer in the local Red Cross chapter, and he moves in the circle of other senior managers who support that organization. I occasionally attend their events, but he knows them all much better than I ever will. So I leave this group to him.

  • They appreciate people who can not only do good work but can communicate it. One reason senior management in our firms gets to that level is that they can communicate information well, even seemingly effortlessly. Management is good at communicating.  Keep that in mind.

People who make it to the senior levels always can communicate well (or have staff who can help them seem to communicate well!). They appreciate and recognize those who can communicate complex issues plainly and clearly so they do not have to ask embarrassing questions (thus exposing their ignorance of technical details).

Recognize this, start simple and build on details until their eyes glaze over. You will know when to stop. These tips will aid your efforts to build rapport with the senior management of your firm.

About the Author: Eric Snider, P.E., is a Principal with SynTerra Corporation. Eric frequently writes and speaks on marketing and business development and facilitates several PSMJ bootcamps and workshops. He can be reached at


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You also might be interested in these other leadership and ownership transition resources from PSMJ:

A/E Ownership Transition Study

Changing Expectations of Firm Ownership

How to Get Millennials to Buy In to Firm Ownership

How to Manage an Internal Ownership Transition

Ownership Transition E Book

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