Frequently Asked Questions
What Are Leadership Communication Skills?
Leadership communication skills involve communication practices that aim to develop strong teams, shared understanding, a common purpose, and sense of belonging among team members. Leaders must demonstrate good communication skills to foster better relationships and encourage their team to put their best foot forward.
For leaders, communication skills are about more than enhancing your organization’s bottom line; successful communication creates a positive employee experience, fosters trust, and allows team members to successfully navigate through organizational change.
Here are the six essential communication skills for leaders:
- Adapting to different communication styles. Each team member has a different communication style. Leaders should learn what the styles of each of their team members are and be able and willing to adapt to them. Moreover, they should assess whether the combined styles of the team pose any challenges and how the team members’ individual strengths can be leveraged.
- Active listening. Listening does not come naturally to most people. It requires willingness, practice, and patience. Active listening involves being focused only on the speaker, giving team members the opportunity to express their viewpoints, acknowledging underlying issues and emotions, and more. To successfully achieve these practices, leaders must display the proper body language, stay focused, eliminate distractions, maintain eye contact, and ask follow-up questions.
- Transparency. The goal of transparency is to actively share essential organizational information and issues with team members. Leaders must nurture a culture that values speaking openly about the organization’s goals, challenges, and opportunities. This transparency can help drive trust, confidence, and productivity among teams. Keep in mind that even though leaders should encourage open communication, they should also understand where to draw the line and practice confidentiality when appropriate.
- Clarity. Team members must have a clear understanding of what is expected of them. It is the leader’s responsibility to ensure that each employee’s tasks are well-defined and that their deadlines are clearly understood. If a team member is having difficulty understanding his or her responsibilities, leaders should be able to offer examples and further guidance. If leaders do not have the answers to an employee’s questions, they should know who to reach out to in order to acquire the information they need.
- Empathy. Good leaders demonstrate empathy. They know how to approach their team members in a courteous and caring manner. Empathetic leaders acknowledge the feelings and experiences of their team members. Not only does this show respect, it also helps team members feel valued. Leaders who struggle with empathy must mitigate their egos and step into another person’s shoes. This can help them perceive and appreciate others’ points of view.
- Feedback. Fostering an environment where constructive feedback is expected and encouraged helps spur ongoing learning and development for employees at all levels. Instead of simply initiating annual performance reviews, incorporating real-time feedback—smaller, on-the-spot coaching sessions—allows leaders to reward and correct behavior sooner rather than later. In addition, real-time feedback gives leaders the opportunity to hone their coaching skills, make progress on their own opportunities for improvement, and grow into well-rounded leaders.
What Are the Types of Communication Barriers?
Communicating effectively is often easier said than done, and there are some barriers that make communication especially difficult in the workplace.
Here are four common types of communication barriers:
- Poor listening skills. A lack of attention and failure to eliminate distractions can make leaders seem apathetic toward a team member’s thoughts and ideas.
- Differences in perceptions. Cultural and personal differences can create disagreements that can cause tension if not handled properly.
- Complicated or unfamiliar terminology. This may involve language or departmental barriers (i.e., departments may use acronyms and jargon other teams will not understand). If individuals do not take the time to explain the terminology they are using, this can alienate teams and individuals and prevent cross-functional or interdepartmental collaboration.
- Failure to understand non-verbal cues or gestures. Non-verbal cues (sitting up straight, facing the individual you are speaking to, making eye contact, nodding as a person talks, etc.) help create a safe environment for having honest conversations. An absence of these gestures can cause confusion among individuals and inhibit their ability to have productive conversations.
Can Communication Skills Be Developed?
Yes, strong communication can be learned and it’s never too late to start. The path to improvement requires learning effective communication techniques (active listening, transparency, empathy, etc.) and taking time to practice those skills.
CMOE’s workshop on communication skills for leaders is a great place to start. Our approach focuses on practical application so you can return to work with the tools and skills you need to further develop your ability to become a more effective communicator in the workplace.
How Do Leaders Develop Communication Skills?
In addition to learning and practicing key communication leadership skills, there are other ways leaders can improve their abilities.
Here are three components leaders should focus on:
- Create authenticity. Authenticity matters, and team members will follow leaders who are genuine. Leaders should find their voice and be themselves—and they should encourage their team members to do the same. This openness can help leaders and team members build more-meaningful relationships with one another and find ways that each person can contribute their unique strengths to the team.
- Take note of each person’s communication style. Since every person is different, leaders should identify ways to better communicate with their team members depending on the style that suits them best. For instance, while one person might absorb information best through email or chat, another person may find more value in a face-to-face discussion.
- Offer acknowledgment. Communication is a two-way street. Leaders should pause after someone speaks and restate what they heard. Paraphrasing is a core component of active listening, allows leaders to show that they are paying attention, and provides employees with an opportunity to make corrections and confirm what they are trying to communicate. This results in conversations that are more valuable and productive. In addition, using this process can help you assess the emotions behind what is being said and get to know your employee better, helping you to overcome any communication barriers that may exist.