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Your Questions Answered: Follow-up Q&A on Building Rapport at Work

Daina Middleton, author and independent director of Marin Software, responds to questions regarding her presentation, Building Rapport: The Lost Art and Science of Effective Workplace Relationships.
Your Questions Answered: Follow-up Q&a On Building Rapport At Work

SWE hosted the live session Building Rapport: The Lost Art and Science of Effective Workplace Relationships with speaker Daina Middleton. To thank everyone who attended, Daina took the time to answer some additional questions that viewers had after the event.

For those that were unable to attend, Building Rapport: The Lost Art and Science of Effective Workplace Relationships is now available in the Advance Learning Center.

Building Rapport Follow-Up Q&A:


I have a superior who demonstrates poor verbal consciousness and can be very offensive. What can I do in these situations?

The first thing to remember is that regardless of how frustrating this may be, you don’t have control over others’ actions, only your own. It’s easy to slip into your own bad behaviors when those who are expected to set the tone are leading by bad example. If you find yourself in this situation, take a breath and remember the values of your own energy brand. Stick to them – even if the other person is not. After the meeting, approach your manager and ask if you can provide feedback on the meeting. This may or may not be an option. Sometimes, individuals have gotten into bad habits and don’t realize the energy they are leaving and welcome the feedback if it is provided. In other cases, feedback may not be welcome and that’s a choice you must respect and then decide if you can thrive in that environment.

Can you share the name of the relationship coach that you mentioned during the session?

Because I was focused on my personal relationship, I went to a wellness center in Hawaii. The coaching I received was purely based on relationships and had no work application. This was why I decided to develop something. I felt it would be valuable in a work setting as well as a personal relationship.

Can you provide topics for small talk that aren’t intrusive or personal to break the ice?

Seek ways to find common ground. In today’s world, it could be Zoom technology challenges or Zoom fatigue. Do you both have children? The weather. The key is to inquire and relate but not talk about yourself.

Can you explain the concept of divergence and convergence?

Divergence happens when the team considers as many different potential solutions as possible. During the divergent stage, a team lead may ask for a number of potential solutions and invite team members to discuss the pros and cons. Convergence happens when the variety of proposed solutions are evaluated. In this phase, a large number of ideas are whittled to a smaller set of candidate solutions to the current problem.

The core principle is that individuals working alone diverge while group members working together converge. As humans, convergence is more comfortable because as one person states a potential solution to everyone else that influences the memory of every person in the group in ways that make everyone think about the problem more similarly. That is why groups working together diverge less than individuals working alone.

Great teams learn to diverge and converge and actively manage the process. There are numerous ways to do this, such as alternating individual and team exercises that allow divergence to occur individually and convergence to occur by building on the ideas of colleagues. This process maximizes the contribution of the group. Everyone gets to engage their knowledge in service of the problem to be solved without having their memories influenced by other people’s solutions. Everyone also gets to enhance the ideas generated by their colleagues. Finally, the group gets to work together to build further on the ideas and to evaluate the candidates.

In the session, you talked about remote best practices and Key Performance Indicators. Can you provide examples of team-based KPIs virtually?

Sure, any group project that can be solved by more than one individual. Many companies are shifting their KPI’s from face time or time spent to outcome-based measures. Finding projects to invite two or more team members to work together on a deliverable is an example. There’s no magic here, other than it’s often a forgotten opportunity. A recent example is a company decided their new employee onboarding was not sufficient for the virtual workplace. A team of three employees from different departments was nominated to work together to propose a plan. They determined that new videos were required, and the team nominated other individuals to create and post these new videos. The team created new content that vastly improved the onboarding process and got to work with individuals not part of the teams they worked with regularly.

How can I Interject an opinion without interrupting?

This is another example of maintaining your own behaviors while dealing with someone who is not. In a virtual environment, you might raise your hand (even using the technology feature). Begin by acknowledging the individual who was speaking before validating their point of view. An example would be: I understand you support green table cloths, they complement the curtains in the room. I personally prefer the red ones because they match our brand colors. As you can see, you are asking to be heard and then acknowledging the prior speaker’s point of view even though you don’t agree with it, then stating your point of view.

I hope this helps and wish you all good luck in your awakening journey. Please feel free to reach out to me directly at

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  • Daina Middleton

    Daina’s career began in marketing at HP where she spent 16 years. She then headed Innovation and Analytics for Moxie, pioneering the social media practice resulting in $4M. As CEO of Performics, she created the performance marketing category growing revenues from $14 to $150 million and expanding into 34 countries. Daina then joined Twitter running B2B marketing building the global sales marketing team resulting in a 40% growth in revenue. As a leadership consultant for Gryphon Investors, she coached leadership teams in 14 portfolio companies. Recently, Daina was the CEO of Ansira, a technology and services firm. She serves as an independent director of Marin Software. She is a published author: Marketing in the Participation Age: A Guide to Motivating People to Join, Share, Take Part, Connect, and Engage; Wiley, 2013; and Grace Meets Grit: How to bring out the Remarkable Courageous Leader Within; Bibleomotion, 2016.