A particular point of emphasis in many MBA programs is the value of communication skills in all professions, especially at the management and executive levels. Report after report confirms how strongly employers value this skill:
- Employers rated verbal communication the most important candidate skill, according to NACE’s Job Outlook 2016 report. It was rated above teamwork, decision-making and problem-solving.
- Research published in the Journal of Education for Business shows that managers pay special attention to communication and analytical skills when reviewing an employee.
- Effective communication is essential according to The Balance. Job candidates at every level need to be able to communicate effectively with employees, managers and customers — in person, online, in writing, and/or on the phone.
As important as communication skills are in managing teams and individuals, 90 percent of managers lack this skill. “New managers typically receive little to no training in ‘people management,’ although it is the crux of their job,” according to Forbes. Often this is the result of professional development budgets being slashed, especially in the area of soft skills development. It may also be due in part to the erroneous expectation companies have that communication skills are developed in business school. The emphasis on communication skills varies from school to school, but it is a strong priority in Northwest Missouri State University’s MBA in General Management Online.
Across course offerings, this program has been designed to develop communication skills that can be used in negotiation, argumentation, persuasion and conflict resolution. Over the course of the MBA program, students practice these skills until they become second nature.
Here, we provide an introduction to some of the communication skills students develop in Northwest’s online MBA program:
Tailor Your Message to Your Audience
Effective communicators understand their audience as well or better than the subject matter they are trying to convey. The better you recognize your unique audience, the more you can tailor your message to their needs.
Whether you are giving a formal address in a boardroom or writing an email to a team of subordinates, think about your audience’s commonalities, needs and areas of understanding. If you are an IT manager speaking to a team of marketers, limit the technical jargon you use. If you are a C-suite executive speaking to a group of newly hired Millennials, learn about their generational tendencies. If you love the creativity of a financial analogy you use when speaking to a group of financial analysts, consider that it may go over the heads of their administrators.
Empathy may be the mother of all virtues in the world of business (and beyond).
“The only way on earth to influence other people is to talk about what they want and show them how to get it,” says Dale Carnegie in the classic book How to Win Friends and Influence People. He refers to Henry Ford who once said, “If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.”
To do this effectively as a manager, you must reflect on and scrutinize unproductive conversations. Ask yourself why someone else took the position they did, or expressed an unexpected viewpoint. Journal these experiences, as well as those in which taking another person’s perspective yielded a more positive result. Keeping track of these experiences has a powerful effect on shortening your learning curve.
Being affirmative increases the level of engagement another party will have with you during any time of communication, from short texts to long public speaking engagements. Effective communicators think about how they want their audience to feel. They avoid negativity and division, seeking instead to elevate the level of discourse that may have previously taken place around any contentious subjects. They want their audiences to feel mutual trust, appreciation, confidence and even inspiration.
Having a positive manner in all of your communications takes practice. Often, managers who are naturally positive in small settings need to learn how to be themselves in larger communication venues. Soliciting feedback helps to monitor perceptions and to create opportunities for improvement. Few effective communicators were always naturally good at radiating positivity.
Are some people more predisposed to communicating effectively? Sure, but with practice, most managers who understand the importance of communication in their roles and in their careers can develop these skills. An MBA program provides an ideal opportunity to do that as a key component of developing a well-rounded set of leadership skills.