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Conveying ideas and explaining information to others is an essential part of a manager’s job, from daily feedback and instructions to in-depth employee development and training. Many managers have never received formal training on how to relay information in a concise, clear and effective way, yet those who invest time in strengthening their written and verbal communications have a clear advantage in work relationships.

A “communication breakdown” can result in serious problems within an organization, so it is more important than ever for leaders to work on improving communication skills.

1. Get your purpose straight.

Before you begin speaking, go over your objectives and talking points in your mind. What are you trying to accomplish? Can you sum up your message in a sentence or two? Start with a concise overall statement of purpose and go from there, supporting your message with brief clarifying points.

2. Remember that others have objectives, too.

When you are communicating with other people, don’t be so focused on your own goals that you forget to listen. A conversation involves give and take, so be flexible in your interaction and give others a chance to talk. Listen to what they have to say, and try to find ways to achieve everyone’s objectives as much as possible. You know your efforts toward improving communication skills have been successful when all parties feel that they have been heard.

3. Consider how your words will be interpreted.

Choose your words carefully and pay special attention to how you insert bias or personal opinion into your message. Are you speaking out of negative emotions, such as anger, frustration or resentment? Will your words have a hurtful effect on the people you are communicating with? Are you using bias to influence others into giving you the answer they think you want to hear, instead of the truth?

4. Create a comfortable environment for discussion.  

What kind of atmosphere do you create when communicating with others? Do your employees feel at ease discussing problems and questions with you? Do they know they can expect honesty, respect and support when they speak to you? Improving communication skills requires you to be frank about your weaknesses as well as your strengths. Challenge yourself to work on a few different ways you can encourage a climate of open dialogue with your employees.

What steps do you take at work to avoid a communication breakdown?

Learn more about improving communication skills with the Communicating to Manage Performance course.

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