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The Fifth Outer-Core Competency: Communication Skills
“The art of communication is the language of leadership.” – James C. Humes.
Communication is the True Mission of Leadership
The performance and survival of your organization depend on the communication skills of its leader and employees. Poor communication translates to significant cost and time overruns, inefficiencies, low morale, and missed opportunities.
Human connection is one of the central prerequisites of intelligent leadership. Communication is the primordial and essential connection that enables humans to organize, align, and strive toward meeting personal and organizational goals.
Communication skills define leaders.
We are all endowed with the ability to learn communication skills the way we learn to ride a bicycle. The more we communicate and the more effort we put into communicating well, the better we become at it. Let us look at some essential communication skills as I defined them in my book “Intelligent Leadership.”
Creating Genuine Relationships
Being able to create genuine relationships with peers, reports, and superiors is a leadership competency that involves the inner and the outer cores. A leader capable of this feat possesses a well-rounded selection of leadership skills. Such leaders are warm, approachable, and respectful. Those with whom they work see them as persons of integrity and unquestionable character.
Adapting Communication Style
Unsurprisingly, differing communication styles pose the most significant hurdle to communication. Pushing one style of communication on employees who prefer and respond to a different style can lead to misunderstandings, misalignment, and unclear priorities.
Being aware of your communication style, which results directly from your leadership style, is a question of emotional intelligence. If you understand the impact your communication style has on your employees and their motivations, you can use emotional intelligence to tailor your communication to meet their needs and consequently, those of your organization.
Listening to Understand
Most of the time, we tend to listen to reply and not to understand. Such an attitude constitutes a significant impediment to communication, rendering leaders unable to process the problems their employees present them.
Intelligent leaders have to rise above this problem. Listening carefully without interruption is a good starting point. Controlling one’s urges and gut reactions while actively excluding personal bias is the recipe for improving communication.
Communicating Clearly and Transparently
A leader cannot expect his/her employees to achieve personal alignment with the organizational goals without communicating these goals clearly and consistently. Being transparent about the challenges and opportunities these goals entail for the company is necessary for building trust and encouraging psychological ownership.
Honesty is the key to trust.
Employees, who understand their role in the context of organizational goals, find it easier to develop psychological ownership and motivation.
Giving and Receiving Feedback
Good communicators understand the importance of providing honest, respectful, and clear feedback to peers/reports while requesting feedback, listening to it, and committing to changes based on it.
The actions leaders take in response to the feedback they get from their employees/peers define the quality of communication in the context of feedback. When feedback fails to trigger action, it leads to the loss of trust and disengagement.
Good communication skills include at least adequate conflict management abilities. The intelligent leader always responds to conflict through a measured, non-blaming approach that focuses on problem-solving.
Empathy and Influencing Others
A core component of emotional intelligence, empathy plays an important role in communication. Only through the thorough understanding of an interlocutor’s perspective can a leader exert influence in a non-manipulative way.
Communication skills represent a high-demand commodity in the post-industrial leadership paradigm. If you want to improve communication within your organization, check out my leadership coaching services.