Skilful management of challenging interactions is a leader’s brand. But, it’s not about publicly issuing directives and enforcing conformance. Those are the tasks of a functionarial overseer. A leader must learn advanced communication skills, to help people recognise their ability to accomplish more than just meeting requirements. To succeed, leaders need to know how to inspire people to strive to meet higher self-expectations. For this elevated endeavour and all others that drive the organisation toward its goals, leaders must have proven abilities in strong critical thinking, and do well in leadership training to develop adeptness in articulating ideas in a compelling way. In other words, advanced communications skills are basic for leaders.
What Types of Interactions Require Advanced Communications?
There are myriad forms of interaction in business leadership that call for sophisticated approaches to helping drive motivations and lead the group to outcomes that move the organisation forward toward the fulfilment of its mission. The Harvard Business Review reflects on the timeless knowledge that these business interactions require leaders to demonstrate exceptional levels of communication skill. Current and aspiring business leaders should receive training and executive coaching, as needed, in these types of business interactions, among others:
- Public speaking to internal and external groups
- Working with internal and external stakeholders
- Selling and marketing (including scripting)
- Conflict resolution
- Dealing with prospective investors
- Managing customer services
- Building relationships with employees, customers, and vendors
- Providing employees and employers feedback
- Public relations, community engagement, government relations
- Managing mergers, acquisitions, and other major change
- Recruiting, training, mentoring, employee development, coaching
- Inspiring creative risk taking and innovative collaboration
- Team building, maintaining agile teams
- Fostering a workplace culture of aspiration
- Guiding progressive discipline processes
What Kinds of Advanced Communications Skills Do Leaders Need?
In all of the above categories of leadership interaction, various classes of advanced communications skills must be applied. Good leaders, with well-developed skill sets in these areas are at an advantage. They’re more likely to be able to bring people along in their understanding, perspectives, and opinions, to an extent that allows them to succeed their leadership roles. Some of the key business communications skills needed in meetings, as highlighted in the Wall Street Journal as well as in the types of leadership interactions listed above include:
Specific Communications Skills Leaders Need
In order to manage the highly challenging kinds of business interactions listed above, by drawing from the kinds of communications skills listed above, leaders need a well-developed set of specific communications skills. That skill set includes the following 14 essentials, among many other advanced skills, such as those discussed in Inc. magazine and other leadership industry publications. These skills allow individuals to operate well beyond untrained levels of ability to manage the leadership role in communications:
- Active Listening: Techniques for developing active listening habits make leaders much more effective in negotiating, training, conflict resolution, counselling, and all other leadership interactions. Beyond listening carefully and focusing harder, the skill involves self-engagement in deeper considerations of individual’s experience, attitudes, ideas, and interests even as they speak.
- Reframing: The technique of cognitive reframing is used by psychologists to help patients develop healthier perspectives. It involves helping people to try different ways of thinking about what seems clear to them in their fixed opinion, conception, or emotional response to some event, object, concept, etc., and helps them open their minds to experiencing it in a new way.
- Mirroring:Matching another person’s physical behaviours, verbal style, and language is a common subconscious effect that people often adopt in interpersonal communications. Though replicating actions can be subtle, the bonding effects on both the mirrored and mirroring parties can be very powerful. Recognising mirroring by others or by yourself reveals subconscious impressions.
- Body Language Interpretation: There are two ways to apply interpretation of nonverbal cues. Together these applications amount to a large skill set. Decoding involves interpreting emotional and psychological indicators from others’ body language. Encoding involves your own conveyance of such indicators to other people through your nonverbal cues.
- Eye Movement Interpretation: Humans unintentionally share the narrative unfolding in their thoughts by the nonverbal cues they deliver through the speed and the continuous directional shifts in their eye movements as they speak and listen. Skill in reading these signals is powerful.
- Projection Interpretation: A sub-psychological defence many people employ in order to cope with unwanted feelings (of guilt, love, hate, desire, fear, or any other emotion), by ascribing the emotion to someone else instead of to one’s self. The trained ability to recognise occurrences of projecting can be very helpful in guiding interactions toward positive appropriate conclusions.
- De-escalating: Important strategies can be applied in managing escalating behaviours that can often lead already intense interactions to spin out of control. Being equipped with knowledge of specific steps for de-escalation can often quickly diffuse extreme tensions and lead to more collaborative thinking.
- Escalating: A technique to tone down loud talk to a more conducive level is ironically found in a method of momentarily escalating communications. To equalise conversational status of the parties, one may elevate his/her voice volume to a level just higher than the other(s). This works well to encourage the other(s) to a quieter, more conscientious interactive position.
- Counselling: A counselling approach to sales, team management, employee development support, and other deeply involved interactions is a refreshing and comparatively productive approach to leadership in these contexts. It is focused on collaborative problem-solving, working to build mutual trust, and providing support.
- Stage Setting: Knowing how to design spaces for purposes, or rearrange furniture, décor, lighting, etc., to make settings more conducive to desired outcomes of meetings, presentations, or other interactions can help sales professionals and organisational leaders provide an environment that is warmer, more inviting, more congenial, and more encouraging to people.
- Demonstrating Empathy: Intellectual intelligence (IQ),the ability to process information and make decisions based on it, is relatively fixed. Emotional intelligence (EQ) can be more easily further developed. Training in this area promotes greater self-awareness, ability to appropriately channel emotions, recognise emotions in others, appreciate the value of emotions, connect values and emotions, and better understand humanity.
- Emotional Support: Providing in-depth emotional guidance is the domain of professional psychologists. Offering emotional support, on the other hand, is everyone’s job. Learning the range of emotional triggers that generate emotions is practical knowledge for leaders, allowing them advanced abilities in providing support that can have lasting impact on the behaviours, motivation, creative assertiveness, happiness and even the personalities of people around them.
- Visualisation: There are exciting techniques for helping people picture what the world around them could be like after achievement of their individual goals and their team’s goals. In addition to visual aids, such as charts, diagrams, sketches, animations, there are verbal approaches to helping people form visualisations that can be highly effective in inspiring people to challenge themselves to consider new possibilities.
- Various Other Techniques: There are many other advanced skills for enhancing communications and driving outcomes of professional interactions. Many are addressed in detail in leadership training programs, numerous sales and leadership training books, published academic studies, and business leadership articles.
The Value of Developing Advanced Communications Skills as a Leader
Advanced communications skills is a core leadership competency, which, combined with advanced industry and product knowledge, elevates the image and abilities of a leader to that of a true authority. Great leaders’ effectiveness in the kinds of critical interactions mentioned above opens doors to broader ranges of opportunities in multiple directions for their organisations, to the benefit of all stakeholders. In fact, executive leadership training to develop company leaders and top talent aspiring to leadership into powerful communicators can be expected to have the most pervasive positive impact of any type of business training, on the organisation, its mission, its stakeholders, and the larger community.