Workplace Trends

Workforce Trends

Make Communication Skills a Priority in Leadership Development

By Helene Cavalli on September 5, 2014

We often hear about the importance of communication skills in leading effective teams. Unfortunately, many leaders don’t possess the self-awareness to recognize deficiencies in their own communication style. Some leaders who consider themselves great communicators are shocked to find out that their team considers them lacking in this area. As Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw put it, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

In her article, “Recruiters put premium on communication skills,” Jennifer Lewington discusses the emphasis placed on communication skills by recruiters in hiring new or emerging leaders. It’s ranked above teamwork, technical knowledge and leadership in one survey and noted as a key area in need of improvement in another.

One theory as to why managers are deficient in workplace communication is that they are relying on a “transactional” approach that focuses only on transferring information, without any focus on developing rapport, collaboration or establishing a connection.  As Sharon Irwin-Foulon of the University of Western Ontario explains – we need to approach communication as a relationship rather than a transaction.

Fortunately, communication skills can be learned.  Effective leadership courses provide opportunities for participants to practice listening skills, develop strategies for providing in-person feedback, and connecting personally with team members.  Importantly, participants will be made aware of not only how to read nonverbal cues, but also recognize the messages their own nonverbal signals are sending.

As the emphasis on building leadership pipelines increases, organizations must seek out young talent to step up to new challenges. Strong communication training can eliminate some of the less-effective shorthand habits fostered by today’s electronic mediums and introduce young potentials to a new perspective on the relationship-building effects of operational communication.

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