Over the past two years, many of my clients have come to me, wringing their hands, saying, “We’ve got an experience gap. Our top leaders and managers will be retiring in the next 3-5 years and the next generation is just not prepared to take over.”
There are many aspects to preparing the next generation of leaders, but one of the most important, common denominators is developing their communication skills. No matter your field or industry, communication skills are what will make or break a leader.
The following six communication skills are critical to every leader’s success. Lacking even one of these skills will put a potential leader at a great disadvantage and could hinder his or her success and that of your organization.
Has your next generation of leaders mastered these critical communication skills?
1. Intrapersonal Communication Skills
Intrapersonal communication is the communication we have with ourselves inside our own heads. It includes the things we worry about, thinking through possible solutions to a problem, planning a conversation we’ll have later in the day, criticizing ourselves for a mistake we’ve made, praising ourselves for a job well done, and more. Intrapersonal communication can increase self-confidence, give leaders the opportunity to practice challenging conversations, allow them to analyze and challenge assumptions, provide emotional understanding and the first steps toward control, and can even help minimize procrastination.
2. Emotional Awareness and Control
In my years working both within organizations and as a consultant, I have seen all kinds of bad behavior in leaders when it comes to expressing their feelings. I’ve seen employees buried under a mountain of profanity, sarcastic leaders who belittle others, and the opposite extreme- leaders who are too weak to express the seriousness of a situation and how they feel about it. Leaders who act out their emotions are destined to fail. Leaders who learn to communicate their emotions will not only be more successful, but are perceived as more honest and genuine to those around them.
3. Interpersonal Communication Skills
Interpersonal communication is one-on-one communication between two people. It is essential that leaders have the ability to communicate one-on-one with their leaders, those they lead, customers, vendors, and the public, both face-to-face, on the telephone, and via written communication, such as email. Interpersonal communication includes skills such as empathy, listening, nonverbal communication, word choice, context, social awareness, self-management, and tailoring a message to the receiver.
4. Public Speaking Skills
Even if a leader never has to give a formal, public presentation, a lack of public speaking skills can hinder his or her ability to conduct a meeting, present ideas to staff, advocate for their department or organization to upper leadership. For those who do speak in a public forum, it’s even more critical that they receive formal public speaking training and practice to ensure they can communicate their messages effectively and represent your organization in a positive and professional way.
5. Conflict Resolution Skills
Similar to #2 above, I’ve seen a lot of leaders in my day who create unnecessary conflict with themselves and individual employees as well as between employees. Most people don’t look forward to conflict and see it as a negative. A leader with great conflict resolution skills sees conflict as an opportunity to get things out in the open and solve problems. However, it takes specific understanding of individual conflict styles, the conflict process, and how to hold conflict discussions to reap the benefits of a positive outcome from a conflict situation.
6. Effective Coaching and Feedback Skills
If your next generation of leaders’ idea of feedback is the annual performance appraisal, you’re in trouble. It’s critical that leaders be able to effectively provide DAILY coaching and feedback to employees, peers, and supervisors. This includes redirecting poor performance, feedback to maintain good performance, and praise to reward excellent performance.
Bottom line, excellent communication is the most important key to any leader’s success. If you want your organization to succeed once you’ve moved on and the next generation has taken over, you need to prepare them to “take the reins,” by helping them master these and other critical communication skills.
Amy Castro is a workplace communication expert, speaker, trainer, and writer of The Performance Communication Blog. She also authored the book, Practical Communication- 25 Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Getting Along and Getting Things Done. For more information on workshops and programs she offers, including the ICTS Supervisor Academy and “Growing and Cultivating Your Next Generation of Leaders”, “Assertiveness for Leaders,” and more, go to www.amycastro.com/programs/.