Communication: A skill all managers must master

Adapted from Communication Bulletin for Managers & Supervisors.

Communication is at the heart of everything a manager touches – and it’s what separates the average manager from the truly effective one. Any manager can do the basics, like schedule, organize or measure.

But only those who practice good communication can motivate, inspire and develop people … and that’s how the best work gets done.

Thankfully, good communication is a skill that anyone can master with some practice. Here are six essential communication skills you can work on each day.  In the end, you’ll be much more effective.

  1. Listen more than you talk. Possibly the most important communication skill of all is the ability to listen. Avoid letting your thoughts wander: Focus on what the other person is saying. Not sure what they mean? Say, “Let me make sure I have this right. Are you saying …?”
  2. Keep your promises. Lead by example and be sure to keep your promises. For example, if you’ve been pushing your staff to raise their level of customer service, don’t contradict yourself by being rude to one of them. It’s the old “walk the walk, and talk the talk.” Another golden mantra: Follow through.
  3. Say it like it is. You know you can’t always tell everyone everything. But too much sugar-coating often obscures the truth, and too little information leaves things open to the wrong interpretations. Be straightforward and tell your employees when there are kinks that need to be worked out. If you made a mistake, admit it. If the company made a wrong turn, be honest and discuss how you’re planning to get back on track.
  4. Don’t react … respond. Everyone has buttons that, when pushed, evoke an emotional reaction. But reacting isn’t responding. Be mindful of situations when this arises, and practice being thoughtful first before taking action. Know your buttons and train yourself to respond rather than react when they’re pushed.
  5. Make it personal. Make it a point to have regular one-on-one conversations with some of your staff. Create time in your schedule each week to meet individually with people – and not just key staffers. Your involvement and interest in each employee will boost workplace morale and productivity.
  6. Give specifics. Managers give feedback throughout the day – sometimes without even realizing that’s what they’re doing. So it pays to be specific. The more you can fine-tune the feedback, the clearer the picture for the employee. Is it more helpful if someone tells you, “You need to give better customer service” or if he or she says, “Make a point of smiling and making eye contact with our customers, instead of typing on your computer while talking to them”? If your feedback contains specific action steps, your employees will understand exactly what you want them to do.


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