In the last few years, we have been seeing an increased demand for soft skills (or ‘power skills’, as they becoming more commonly known) in the workplace. Many of our daily tasks and processes are now automated, making our teams more efficient, but there is something that technology and machines simply cannot replicate – communication skills driven by the human element.
It is this human element – including power skills such as empathy, emotional intelligence, and communication – that is usually the key to business success. Without these skills, we would struggle to build trust, develop positive relationships, lead, and create the inclusive, supportive workplace culture needed for a company to thrive.
In this article, we look at the importance of communication skills in corporate leadership and delve into the eight essential traits every leader should develop to stay relevant in the modern workplace.
Why are communication skills essential for corporate leadership success?
Communication skills are vital across all levels of an organisation, particularly when it comes to leadership, and the biggest impact a leader can have on their team is to inspire them. Clear communication is a massive part of this, allowing leaders to motivate their employees, point them in the right direction, and help them achieve their goals and objectives.
In fact, a recent study found that leaders with power skills such as communication, teamwork, problem-solving and time management can improve their team’s performance by 30%.
Poor communication paves the way for misinterpretation and confusion, creating barriers that hinder progress. A survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit found that poor communication has far-reaching consequences, including delays or even failure to complete projects, low morale, missed performance goals, and even lost sales.
How to improve your communication skills
The art of communicating effectively is a complex skill set with many layers and moving parts. It is not enough to know what you’re talking about — you also need to be able to communicate your message effectively so that it influences people, inspires positive change, and rallies your team around a shared purpose.
How well you communicate verbally depends not only on the words you use but also on those you deliberately leave out. Certain words and phrases have the power to strengthen or undermine your credibility, a topic we explored in a recent article.
If you want to become a better communicator, and in turn a better leader, start by honing the following eight essential skills:
Empathy is frequently cited as the most important leadership skill, and with good reason.
A recent study by Catalyst shows that employees who report having an empathetic leader are more innovative, more engaged, and less likely to change jobs. They also feel that they have a better work-life balance.
One of the biggest barriers to effective communication is poor listening skills, so try practising ‘active listening’ when someone is speaking to you.
This means that you pay attention, understand what’s being said, reflect on it, and respond appropriately. Doing so establishes trust between you and the other person, demonstrating to them that you are an empathetic, trustworthy leader.
Open body language
It’s important that your body language correlates to and strengthens your core message. If you are fidgeting and looking at your feet, you won’t inspire confidence in your listeners.
Pay attention to your body language — keep your face and voice relaxed, use open gestures, and make eye contact with your audience.
You can build trust among your team by being transparent about the organisation’s goals, challenges, and opportunities. In doing so, you will foster an open, collaborative environment where employees feel comfortable sharing their ideas.
Even more powerful, and essential to leading in a modern workplace is becoming a values-based leader.
Your core values underpin everything you say, every expression you make, and everything you do, and have a huge impact on your success — both at work and in your personal life. When your core values and those of your colleagues are in alignment with the company values, synergy occurs and energy, morale and productivity levels tend to increase.
Active listening also involves encouraging the other person to elaborate on what they’ve just said. This can ensure that everyone is on the same page and that you understand exactly what they need from you to succeed.
Open-ended questions are often formed with the 5 Ws and the 1 H:
Additionally, try using open-ended questions and phrases such as:
- ‘Tell me more’
- ‘Could you explain what you mean by that?’
- ‘Could you define that term/concept for me?’
Whether you’re delivering a presentation or speaking directly to one of your team members, ensure that you leave no room for confusion or interpretation. Be clear and specific about timelines, expectations, and desired results. Make sure you give people the opportunity to ask questions if they are unsure about anything.
When everyone on your team clearly understands their role and responsibilities, this leads to greater levels of engagement and productivity.
Ability to adapt
Everyone has different ways of communicating, and this can often be the source of problems in the workplace. In fact, according to research by the Economist Intelligence Unit, ‘different communication styles’ is the most frequently cited cause of poor communication (followed by unclear responsibilities and time pressures).
To avoid running into problems, learn how to adapt your communication style so that your team members have a clear understanding of their responsibilities and deadlines. For instance, try and figure out which of your team members respond well to getting a lot of information verbally and those that need a helicopter view, with details provided in written format afterwards.
Successful leaders are adept at tailoring their communication style to suit different audiences, ensuring that the core message resonates with them.
Receptiveness to feedback
Being open and receptive to feedback is another crucial quality for any leader, one that might require you to periodically evaluate and adjust your communication style.
A leader who shuts down when presented with constructive feedback or challenges to the status quo will face an uphill struggle to get their team to do anything more than the bare minimum.
Communication Skills In Corporate Leadership
Successful leadership requires a complex combination of skills to foster engagement, happiness and performance in the workplace — and communication is at the heart of it all.
At NxtGEN Executive Presence, we specialise in providing communication and presentation skills training for business leaders, managers, and executives.
Our programmes are designed to equip you with the skills you need to inspire and influence your audience, whether you’re delivering a winning sales pitch, presenting a powerful keynote speech, or rallying your team around a shared vision for the future.
Contact us today to learn how to communicate more effectively, inspire your employees and colleagues, and deliver an unforgettable corporate presentation.