How many job descriptions have you read (or created) that include “excellent communication skills” as a requirement? With the impact communication has on businesses, it’s no wonder that so many companies seek out these competencies to contribute to their workplace environment.
Salesforce reported that 86 percent of employees and executives cite lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures, and according to a study performed by Watson Wyatt, businesses with effective communication practices were more than 50 percent more likely to report employee turnover levels below the industry average.
It’s understandable that companies actively seek out strong communicators to support their businesses. Where the challenge lies is in identifying what “excellent communication skills” really mean. What are those specific talents that candidates should have and organizations should develop within their employee base?
To help your company excel, I recommend building these five communication skills:
1. Active listening
Whether working with a customer or connecting with a colleague on a project, active listening is essential. From an external perspective, it will be challenging to make strong recommendations to clients if you do not listen to their needs. Internally, it will be hard to get a project done if you do not take in the ideas of your colleagues and hear their needs, challenges and questions.
To develop active listening skills, try practicing paraphrasing or restating what your counterpart has said. Committing to this practice can help you stay focused and attentive to your conversations and ensure that you are not missing any aspect of what is said or asked for.
2. Giving and receiving feedback
A report by PricewaterhouseCoopers revealed that nearly 60 percent of employees want feedback on a daily or weekly basis. For employees under age 30, this number increases to 72 percent. To grow and support the needs of your teammates or staff, feedback is an essential component of excellent communication.
Giving and accepting feedback takes practice. One of our Certified Associates, Joanne Trotta, recently wrote about how to practice giving feedback, which I recommend reading to get started. For those with an Emergenetics® Profile, I also encourage you to review our Giving Feedback and Accepting Feedback job aids on the Emergenetics+ app to tailor your communication to individual Thinking and Behavioral preferences.
3. Asking questions
The ability to probe is somewhat related to giving feedback in that asking questions – rather than telling – helps you encourage learning and growth in others. Beyond feedback, asking questions also supports communication because it helps you seek clarity and better understand the viewpoints of others. Clarity and context can help you make more informed decisions and build stronger relationships with colleagues.
To develop this skill, reflect on some of the questions you’ve recently asked in meetings. Were they open-ended or yes/no questions? Were they phrased in a way that would help you get to the answer you were looking for? For example, if you were looking for only the facts, did your phrasing make that clear? Try asking open-ended, follow-up questions in meetings.
4. Closing the intent-impact gap
The intent-impact gap occurs when the message we want to deliver is not received in the way we intended. For communication to be effective, it’s important that our messages are clearly interpreted. One of the biggest impediments to closing the gap is when we communicate only from our own preferred ways of Thinking and Behaving, and do not consider the communication needs of others.
One way to address the gap is to ask your teammates what sorts of information they need to feel empowered to accomplish a task. I also recommend our Intent-Impact Gap eLearning course to help close the gap.
5. Managing conflict
Conflict will always occur in business and often, that is a good thing. Having differing opinions is vital to success, and studies have shown time and time again how important it is to have cognitive diversity in the workplace. The trick lies in ensuring that conflict remains productive and not damaging.
One tip I recommend when managing disagreements is to assume positive intent. Often, conflict arises when emotions run high. To keep disagreements productive, practice assuming that statements are coming from a positive place and avoid making assumptions. Approach the situation without judgement and seek to understand differing viewpoints.
Effective communication is essential to workplace productivity – as well as the growth and development of individual employees and teams. As you consider your own skills or what strengths you’d like your team to build on, I encourage you to reflect on these five talents and try using a few of these suggestions to strengthen your communication practices.
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