7 Essential Communication Skills Every Manager Must Master

Of all of the skills and competencies that supervisors and managers must have to be effective, communication skills are arguably the most critical. Communication skills apply to a broad range of managers’ responsibilities—from providing direction, to offering feedback, to coaching, counseling, disciplining, resolving conflicts, and more. 

In today’s hybrid work environment where many managers are overseeing people both on-site and working remotely, communication skills are even more critical than ever before. 

Whether communicating face-to-face or online, whether providing instructions verbally or via email or text, strong communication skills can boost engagement, employee effectiveness, and productivity.

Here we take a look at the “top 7” communication skills that managers must develop to be effective when supervising others.

Why Managers Need to Communicate Effectively 

The role of managers is to oversee others who are doing the work of the organization. Their goal is to ensure that employees are performing their responsibilities effectively and productively. 

That requires a commitment to effective communication to ensure teams are productive, satisfied, motivated, and operating at their full potential.

Managers also need to communicate effectively with their own leaders and those above them in the corporate hierarchy, as well as with customers, vendors, and others.

Effective communication ensures that everybody is on the same page, understands their goals and objectives, and that conflict is minimized.

list of 7 key communication skills for managers

The Most Important Communication Skills for Managers 

There are many skills related to communication that managers must hone to be most effective. The ability to achieve success through others requires strong verbal and written communication, including the ability to listen well and understand others’ needs.

1. Active Listening 

Listening is easy—active listening requires more effort and focus. Active listening involves maintaining eye contact, listening to understand and asking clarifying questions if something is not clear, reflecting, summarizing, and remaining attentive while resisting the urge to be judgmental or to interrupt.

2. Conflict Resolution 

Conflict resolution is important, but often avoided aspect of management. Conflict will always exist in any organization. Effective managers understand that conflict is a given and that they play an important role in managing conflict, and setting a good example through their own actions.

It is important to allow those involved in the conflict to have an opportunity to share their perspectives, to listen objectively, and to work together to come up with a mutually satisfying resolution to the conflict.

3. Motivation and Influence 

Through their motivation and influence managers are able to guide employees to effective action, even when employee commitment may be low. 

Communication plays a key role here—one wrong message can demotivate staff members.  Effective motivation requires a clear focus on expected outcomes and communicating those desired outcomes to employees objectively.

4. Body Language 

Body language is an important part of communication. We convey our emotions and feelings through our physical responses—from eye contact, to how we sit or stand, to the gestures we make.

Managers need to be alert to the signals they are sending and to ensure that their body language signals that they are approachable and warm. Body language also extends to how managers carry themselves and how they project confidence.

5. Transparency 

Transparency reflects the ability to be open and honest in communications—openly sharing information with employees. Managers need to be comfortable showing their human side, honest about the feedback they provide and consistently delivering clear and concise messages whenever they interact with others.

6. Empathy 

Empathy involves understanding. Managers convey empathy by listening well, asking clarifying questions, and reflecting back on what they have heard. 

Through communications and actions, effective managers let employees know that they understand their needs, concerns, and ambitions. Doing so is critical for building relationships, trust, and a strong culture.

7. Praise & Recognition 

Employees need feedback to understand how they’re doing. That involves both positive and constructive feedback. 

Praise and recognition, though, are especially important when managing others. Acknowledging outstanding performance through written and verbal praise and recognition—even something as simple as a “thank you”—can go a long way toward motivating employees to meet their goals.

Every manager needs strong communication skills; not every manager has them.  The Leadership Journey is a management training program with a proven, tested approach to help managers develop, and apply critical communication skills.

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Categories: Communication, Leadership, Management
Lin Grensing-Pophal, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

Author: Lin Grensing-Pophal, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

Lin is a business journalist and communication strategist with expertise in HR and employee relations. She is accredited through the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM-SCP) and Human Resource Certification Institute (SPHR) and writes frequently for SHRM, HR Daily Advisor, and a wide range of trade publications and corporate clients.