Sometimes soft skills are the ones that get the least attention in management training, even though they come with the most significant levels of potential to drive performance at every rung of the leadership ladder. Although technical training is not necessarily a highly common practice for managers, it has become clear that a wealth of business leaders have never been offered the opportunity to polish their influence effectiveness, which is likely even more critical than a high-level understanding of products their companies sell.
Influence skills are important for every type of workforce member but, considering how managers and supervisors are essentially the glue that keep the entirety of staff and operations together, they should be the highest priorities when deploying educational opportunities in the area of communication.
The brass tacks
Author and consultant Ron Flavin recently wrote a blog for LinkedIn Pulse that posited many leaders might not be reaching their full potential as professionals because they are lacking in the communication skills department and are not even aware of the problem. As such, after providing a brief synopsis of why leadership-level employees need to have strong communication skills, he dove right into some of the more common signs that there is an issue in need of correction.
For example, Flavin stated that some of the indicators are a bit more subversive and difficult to nail down, such as poor clarity when delegating tasks or delivering information to employees. If staff members do not speak up about this problem, it will often go unnoticed for long periods of time, while operational productivity and employee engagement might go down significantly in the meantime.
He went on to assert that deception, bullying, arrogance and even being too reserved are all signs that a leader is not striking the right chord with respect to communication skills and is certainly in need of further training. Now, it will always be a bit more difficult for a manager to truly govern himself or herself and understand what needs to be done to improve, meaning superiors at the executive level should be enabling performance improvement in these regards.
Where to begin
Decision-makers can first begin to evaluate the influence skills of managers and supervisors through assessments and surveys of lower-ranking employees. This should quickly reveal where the problems are originating and what is needed to correct them. It is generally best practice to conduct these types of evaluations at least a few times each year, as allowing the issue to fester will only hold the firm back from succeeding.
Furthermore, it will always be wise to have a running communication skills training program in place in which all managers and supervisors have to participate, as this is a more preventative approach to mitigating the risks of poor communication between leaders and other staff members in the workplace.