Effective communication skills are important in many life areas, personal and professional. We can hardly imagine a job description that doesn’t include requirements and phrases such as – “highly developed communication and negotiation skills”, “strong communication skills”, “effective communication skills”. This implies especially when it comes to managerial and supervisor positions in organizations.
So, effective communication skills are key to professional success. Good thing is that they can be developed through education, training, and practice. The problem that might occur at the very beginning of this journey is – where to start? Communication, communication skills, and their effectiveness are very broad area and it can be a bit difficult to focus.
In this article, we will put attention on some question related to communication skills such as:
- What actually are good communication skills?
- How can communication skills be measured?
- What are the key areas for improvement?
…and much more
What are the Effective Communication Skills?
Communication skills are crucial interpersonal skills that we use when we communicate and interact with other people, both individually and in groups.
So, communication skills belong to the group of interpersonal skills which also include skills like – team working, emotional intelligence, negotiation, persuasion and influencing skills, conflict resolution and mediation, problem-solving and decision making. As you already probably perceive, all of them together are extremely important for any level of a managerial position.
As we emphasized in the article Importance of Leadership Skills in Modern Business, good leaders are exceptional in this field. For example, creating a good vision is not enough. A good leader must also be able to communicate the vision effectively to the followers. If people don’t get a clear picture of where are they going, no one would follow.
There are many particular communication skills which can be generally grouped like this:
- Verbal communication skills
- Non-verbal communication skills
Verbal communication is, at its simplest, the communication that uses words to share information with others (spoken or written). It is important to know that verbal communication goes side by side with non-verbal communication and it can not be completely isolated. It includes skills such as:
- Effective speaking – It is obvious that this is an extremely important skill for leaders. To be able to speak effectively to your followers, you should pay attention to the following: the words you choose, how you say them, and how you reinforce them with other non-verbal communication. The message you are sending is not just the words (that should be chosen carefully). The audience can learn a lot from your ton of voice and pace of speaking.
- Focused listening – Whether you are in a leadership role or a manager, strong listening skills are essential to your success. Hearing something other than what is being said or trying to think of what to say while the speaker is talking, can have dire consequences. Regardless of the industry or position you work at, focused listening is a great skill to sharpen.
- Asking questions – Asking probing questions is a component that goes hand-in-hand with focused listening. Rarely does someone truly understand everything another is saying without at least asking a couple of probing questions. The key is to not ask questions for the sake of asking questions or ask questions that do not relate to the conversation.
- Communicating with Flexibility and Authenticity – When speaking to another, the one rule you want to always observe is that you are being honest about what you are saying. This can be somewhat of a challenge because we are taught to speak with diplomacy. Being politically correct, especially in the business world is a sort of code. However, it is still necessary to make sure you are not sugar-coating or dancing around an issue. Effective communication does not require the speaker to repeat or continuously restate what is being said. Even though sometimes one is as honest or clear as they could possibly be, it takes a little more work to relay the message. The ability to be flexible in your speech, whether to make your meaning more clear or to ‘show off’ that diplomacy you have been working so hard at, is significant for verbal communication success.
So, verbal skills are an important element of communication, but one must be aware that the overall message we are sending to another person or a group consists of more elements. Some research has shown that verbal communication is, in fact, a smaller part of the overall message that anyone should expect – just 20% to 30%. However, it is significant and it is worth improving through learning, training and practice.
For support and training visit Accordemy course Delivering Impressive Speach
Besides verbal communication skills, there are also non-verbal cues that all of us use in everyday conversations. Being mindful of the signals you send others through body language and the manner in which you speak may get your point across a lot faster than your mere words.
The manner in which you say something could be the factor that determines what the listener hears. It is important to be aware of your emotions, body language, tone, speed, and pitch when you speak. This may sound like a lot of work and until it becomes second nature, it may be, but consistently doing so can produce a favorable outcome. It is possible to send the wrong message without intentionally doing it, so be careful. An innocent request such as ‘Please shred that document’ can sound like a rude command.
The saying, ‘Actions speak louder than words’ is so true in the world of business. It is easy to shower someone with promises, but when it is time to perform, if the actions do not measure up to the words spoken, the words spoken will be forgotten.
The use of body language can have both positive and negative effects. The thing to remember about body language is that if you are not conscious of what your body is doing while you are speaking, people can get the wrong message. A simple life example can illustrate this well – if you are congratulating someone on a job well done, but with a frown on your face, you could seem to be unhappy for the person.
Non-verbal signals are a great way to reinforce what you’ve verbally spoken. It can also be used as a tool to further explain what you’re talking about. On the other hand, it can be a way of confusing the listener. So, non-verbal communication is a valuable skill as long as you are conscious of it and have trained it to have a positive effect. Of course, using it as an uncertain form of communication is a bad thing in business as in private life.
For support and training visit Accordemy course Communicating with your Body Language
There is no effective verbal communication without effective listening skills. In the communication process, it is extremely important to accurately receive and interpret messages. When this is left out the person who is sending the message can easily be misunderstood. That leads to frustration and breaking down the communication.
Many successful managers and leaders emphasize the importance of effective listening skills and managers are frequently being sent to training in order to improve them.
Richard Branson, a British business magnate, investor, author and founder of the Virgin Group, finds listening as one of the main factors behind the success of Virgin. He says:
“Listen more than you talk. Nobody learned anything by hearing themselves speak.”
How can Communication Skills be Measured?
In order to value the communication skills of managers and leaders and whether they are effective or not, you need to measure them in some way.
When it comes to technical skills the question of measuring them is usually not a problem. For example, it is not difficult to measure how many words per minute the typist can deliver. But, when it comes to soft skills like communication, it is not so obvious and easy to measure. However, it can be done.
There are communication activities that managers should conduct during a year in order to establish and maintain good communication with their staff. The communication activities include things like conducting regular formal and informal work progress review meetings; conducting regular face-to-face team briefings for the staff who report directly to the managers; publishing newsletters or sending informal emails to the staff; setting the time and channel for the staff to hear about any of their concerns, etc.
One way to measure the effectiveness of managers’ communication skills is to measure the extent to which they meet the types of activity targets. You can conduct simple surveys among staff and check what they know about the information managers passed to them.
A questionnaire in which you ask the staff questions about their manager’s communication skills can be useful too. Even a simple scale for rating manager’s communication skills from one to ten can be extremely insightful. Checking what the staff knows about the mission and vision of the organization and how they understand their role in it is a way to measure the communication skills of a leader.
What are the Key Areas for Communication Skills Improvement?
Training can do a lot in the improvement of communication skills. The first thing is to be aware of the necessary skills for effective communication and to recognize where the effort is most needed.
As already outlined above, listening skills are very important for effective communication and often they are overlooked by managers. Many managers focus on what they are going to say rather than actively listen to the other side in the communication process. In other words, they fail to listen to the response. And the fundamental thing is that communication is a two-way process. Working on listening skills is likely to pay off and show positive results with time.
Questioning skills are also important. Questions ensure that you have understood someone’s message correctly and a way to obtain more information about a particular topic. Good listeners often have effective questioning skills.
Learning about non-verbal communication can improve communication skills dramatically. Managers are often unaware of their body language and some suggest that as much as 80% of the message is delivered in this way. Besides avoiding being misunderstood or learning how to support the speech with non-verbal signs, managers can learn to understand other people better by paying close attention to their non-verbal communication.
A skill that is very important in the superstructure of leadership skills is emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence covers a wide range of skills, and many of them permeate the communication process, such as self-awareness and empathy. Basically, you have to be aware of and understand your own emotions in order to understand and work well with others, and that includes communication. This is also a skill like any other and can be improved through learning, training, and experience.
For support and training visit Accordemy course Developing Emotional Intelligence
We sincerely hope that this helped you to get a quality start of improving the effectiveness of your communication skills. That could be a lifetime journey, but as we like to say, only the best leaders and managers know that there is always something new to learn.