Managerial communication mastery: essential skills for effective leadership

Effective communication is a vital aspect of successful management. It helps to avoid misunderstandings, errors, and conflicts. As a manager, you’re responsible for ensuring that all messages are clear and concise and received by all groups in the intended manner.

In addition to facilitating conversations between team members and company leaders, you should ensure that employees understand their roles and responsibilities. Creating a welcoming environment where sensitive topics can be discussed and resolved efficiently is essential.

If you are facing communication difficulties, rest assured. Communication skills can be learned and improved. We have created a comprehensive list of essential communication skills to help you enhance your managerial performance.

Why are communication skills critical for managers?

Effective communication is foundational to successful management for several reasons.

First, how managers communicate with their employees significantly influences morale within the team. Open communication fosters trust and transparency, increasing job satisfaction and motivation.

Moreover, communication directly impacts employees' perception of the company. 

When managers communicate effectively, they convey the organization's values, goals, and vision, which can enhance employees' commitment to the company's mission and objectives. 

Conversely, poor communication can result in confusion, skepticism, and disengagement.

Strong communication skills are essential for delegation, a fundamental aspect of managing and leading teams. Managers must be able to clearly articulate tasks, expectations, and objectives to their team members to ensure that everyone understands their roles and responsibilities. 

Effective delegation improves productivity and empowers employees to take ownership of their work and develop professionally.

Furthermore, effective communication is crucial when addressing and resolving conflicts or issues within the team. 

As a manager, you are often the first point of contact when problems arise, and your ability to communicate calmly, empathetically, and decisively can make a significant difference in finding solutions and unifying your team.

The benefits of effective management communication

According to Gallup's State of the Global Workplace: 2023 Report, employees in the modern workplace are discouraged, distrustful, and tired of working for companies that don't seem to understand them. 

Effective communication can address disenchantment by achieving these essential goals:

  • Building trust: only 23% of US employees strongly agree with the statement, “I trust the leadership of this organization.” Clear communication is essential to inspire employee confidence in the company's future. 
  • Increasing motivation: Nearly 6 in 10 employees are “quiet quitters” who show up physically but don't know what to do or why it matters. Communication is essential to motivate these employees to excel and perform at their highest potential. 
  • Improving engagement: Effective communication from managers helps employees establish meaningful connections with the workplace, boosting engagement in their roles. 
  • Boosting retention: Over half of employees are actively or passively job-seeking. Besides pay increases, employees seek improved well-being and opportunities to grow and develop. Managers who develop authentic relationships can better understand employees' dissatisfaction and share information about growth opportunities.
  • Better risk management: Preventing fires is more effective than putting them out. Encourage employees to share ideas and feedback to avoid potential catastrophes.
  • Increased innovation: Employees who are afraid of making mistakes aren't free to test the bounds of their creativity. When managers encourage team members to share ideas, project meetings become more productive. As a result, teams work together efficiently to create innovative solutions. 

8 essential communication skills for managers

Great managers carefully balance authority and support. Achieving this harmony depends on various communication skills for different situations. 

Brushing up on these eight critical communication skills can help you excel as a manager:

1. Active listening

Active listening involves immersing yourself in a conversation to fully understand what the speaker is saying and showing your interest. To listen actively, give your full attention to the speaker, and avoid formulating a response before they finish speaking. 

Maintain eye contact throughout the interaction and ask questions as necessary to clarify the speaker's position. Use open body language, such as leaning forward and nodding, to demonstrate your engagement.

Effective listening also involves using additional communication to ensure that you and the speaker are on the same page. Rather than immediately responding positively or negatively, ask open-ended questions that allow the speaker to think more about their position and add helpful context. Responding may include paraphrasing and asking for clarification.

For instance, consider Sarah, a project manager discussing a timeline with her team. Emily expresses concerns about completing her tasks on time.

Sarah: "Emily, I understand your worries about the deadline. It sounds like you're unsure if you'll have enough time for quality work. Is that right?"

Emily: "Yes, exactly."

Sarah: "Let's review tasks together and see if we can adjust the timeline or provide extra support. How does that sound?"

Emily: "That would be great. Thank you, Sarah."

2. Unbiased conflict resolution

In professional environments, conflicts often arise due to tight deadlines, diverse opinions, and demanding workloads. While some employee conflicts stem from a genuine passion for projects, others may be more rooted in interpersonal dynamics.

Regardless of the nature of the conflict, practical communication skills are essential for managers to navigate and resolve disputes constructively. In most disagreements, individuals strive to express themselves, often talking over each other. As a mediator, you create a space where each party feels heard and respected.

It is crucial to provide a structured environment where both parties can articulate their perspectives without interruption. 

Actively listen to each person, intervening only to ensure clarity or when one party attempts to speak on behalf of the other. Taking thorough notes during the discussion can aid in understanding the underlying issues and facilitate the resolution process.

By fostering open dialogue and acknowledging the expertise of each individual involved, managers can effectively address conflicts and promote a collaborative and harmonious work environment.

3. Sharing a vision

Every team comprises individuals with different backgrounds, beliefs, cultures, and experiences. A manager communicates a shared vision to inspire the entire team.

The growing number of quiet quitters in workplaces across all industries makes it clear this type of communication goes overlooked. Employees are looking for more from their jobs than a paycheck, which is a positive because such interest drives engagement. Yet, to drive engagement, managers must ensure employees understand the big picture and how their role contributes to success. 

When delivering instructions for a project or providing feedback, managers should include communication that clarifies an employee's required duties, how performing those duties contributes to their personal career goals, and why they should care about contributing to the company's success. 

By placing an employee's role in the context of the company's overarching mission, you can help employees envision their future.

4. Clarity 

There are four significant ways to promote clarity:

  • Develop a goal: When crafting a message to an individual or a team, consider the goal for your message and ensure it doesn't get lost in the language. 
  • Avoid jargon: Technical terms may work as shorthand among certain groups but have the potential to create confusion. Use clear language that is likely to be understood by all audiences. 
  • Use calls to action: Employees must know what you expect of them. Avoid fluff when delivering instructions and clearly state what to do, how, and why it must be done. 
  • Repetition: Repeating a message across various communication channels helps employees commit important information to memory. Repetition keeps messages top of mind and promotes prioritization. 

5. Empathy

Empathy is crucial in today's workplace, as highlighted by the American Psychological Association's 2023 Work in America Survey, which found that 90% of workers prioritize psychological well-being

Your team members, like you, have lives and responsibilities beyond work. They face limitations and challenges that can impact their performance, compounded by heavy workloads.

Empathy entails understanding the needs and emotions of others. By building solid relationships with your employees, you gain insight into their needs, informing decisions and cultivating a positive work environment.

6. Transparency

Managerial communications aren't only about sharing positive information. Managers are often in the uncomfortable position of delivering uncertain or unpleasant news. 

Sparing employees from lousy news might seem like it would benefit them, but a lack of transparency can build stress and lead to distrust. 

When workplace and economic conditions are constantly changing, employees are concerned about their financial future. 

Transparency requires sharing good news and bad. Employees want to know what the company's future looks like and their place in that future. 

Managers who practice transparency talk with employees about successes, failures, and lessons learned—holding difficult conversations when necessary and providing praise when earned. 

7. Forging genuine connections

Fostering authentic connections can be challenging in today's dynamic work environment, characterized by bustling office spaces and globalized teams. 

With the rise of hybrid and remote work arrangements and international expansions, team members may sometimes share different physical spaces or time zones. However, building relationships between managers and employees remains paramount.

Whether through brief meetings or informal chats, managers can gain an understanding of each employee's workload management and adaptability to changing circumstances. 

Personal interactions also humanize the workplace, fostering open and honest dialogue. Consequently, discussions about work performance feel more organic and productive. 

Take the opportunity to inquire about any challenges employees may be facing and collaboratively explore solutions. 

Moreover, actively seek employee feedback and encourage them to contribute ideas for improving the work environment. This proactive approach enables managers to address concerns before they escalate and facilitates more accurate task delegation.

8. Approachability 

It's essential to keep the door open to your employees, but that doesn't mean you have to leave your office door open all the time physically. The most crucial thing is to let your employees know they're welcome to approach you. 

You can create an environment where your employees feel comfortable by being available to them and providing them with opportunities to connect.

Try to interact with your employees regularly, discussing work-related and non-work topics. Always be open to questions and respond thoughtfully to new ideas. 

If there are any failures or setbacks, stay calm and approachable so your employees will feel comfortable coming to you with any concerns or problems. 

If you're frequently unavailable for logistical reasons, provide an easily accessible method of communication. Quality communication depends on trust, and your employees need to trust that they can come to you for help.

Want to learn more about developing managerial communication skills?
Read What is leadership accountability, and why is it important?


How do you train a manager's communication skills?

Training managers in communication skills typically requires a tailored, comprehensive approach. Here’s an overview for ensuring your managers develop practical, well-rounded communication skills:

  • Initial assessment: evaluate current skills and identify areas needing improvement.
  • Customized training: develop a program covering theoretical knowledge and practical exercises.
  • Focus areas: upskilling managerial communication involves active listening, conflict resolution, public speaking, and interpersonal skills.
  • Practical exercises: Use role-playing, case studies, and simulations to apply skills.
  • Feedback: Provide feedback for continuous improvement.
  • Continuous learning: encourage ongoing practice and education
  • Leadership communication: train specifically for inspiring and motivating teams.
  • Applied learning and evaluation: have managers apply their upgraded skills in real-world scenarios and evaluate their effectiveness.

How much of a manager's time is spent communicating?

Several research studies have been conducted to investigate how much time managers spend communicating. The results have shown that managers typically spend a significant portion of their workday communicating with others. This communication can take various forms, such as face-to-face interactions, phone calls, emails, or written reports. The time managers devote to communication ranges from at least 50% to as much as 90% of their workday, depending on the industry, company, and specific job responsibilities.

What's the difference between management communication and leadership communication?

The words management and leadership are used interchangeably. However, there are distinct differences in their meaning. Although a manager can be a good leader through inspirational communication and actions, not all leadership roles fall into the management category. 

From a professional standpoint, leaders and managers have different roles

Leaders develop company vision and strategies, while managers implement the game plan by communicating with relevant teams. Leadership communication involves inspiring individuals to work toward a company's long-term success, usually achieved by sharing a compelling vision through tactics like storytelling to articulate organizational values. 

Management communication frequently revolves around efficiently coordinating resources and processes to achieve short-term goals contributing to an organization's mission. Managerial communication often includes planning, workshop techniques, organizing resources, and delegating tasks to complete a specific project. It also requires conveying upper management decisions and handling their impact on employees in a way that maintains team morale and motivation.

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