Why Communication is a Critical Skill Not a Soft Skill

Interpersonal communication is a critical skill necessary for life, leadership and business. One reason communication skills training does not work is because communication is viewed as a soft-skill instead of a critical or strategic skill.  I talk about this in No-Drama Leadership at length. Your philosophy about communication (soft versus strategic) as well as your competency in various forms of communication brands you as a professional or a novice; savvy or clueless; responsible or inconsiderate. In short, the way you communicate affects brand YOU.

For example, I know baby-boomer leaders who are too stubborn to learn how to text, and I know Generation Y’ers who think its not cool pick up the phone. The need to be right keeps you from seeing the value of stretching beyond your comfort zone.

A commitment to being right will help you feel good at the cost of losing a client, creating misunderstandings, and positioning yourself as difficult to work with. A more productive viewpoint is to focus on being excellent.

Your communication skills brand you as competent or incompetent: In the know or out of touch. Not responding to email or voice mail brands you as one who is inconsiderate or unorganized. Here are some communication errors that negatively impact your brand:

  • Starting emails without a warm introduction
  • Writing a long or detailed email
  • Letting voice-mail back up
  • Losing control of a meeting
  • Interrupting
  • Telling long stories instead of getting to the point
  • Criticizing and complaining

These errors brand you as one who wastes time, is insensitive, or unorganized–definitely not leadership material.

In contrast, managing your email and responding with a yes or a no, brands you as decisive and in control. Starting emails with a warm greeting brands you as approachable and friendly. The ability to craft a concise email brands you as one who is clear and focused. Getting back to voice-mail brands you as organized and responsive. Holding a tight meeting brands you as a competent leader. Listening rather than interrupting brands you as sensitive and interesting. Getting to the point brands you as clear and decisive, and taking responsibility brands you as trustworthy.

Today’s leader needs to be multi-lingual in all the forms of communication, from email, to text, to using the telephone.

Right or wrong, people make judgments. As a leader you must understand that the actions you take, the decisions you make, and the language you use work together to help people form an opinion of you.

 Marlene-Blk4Marlene Chism is an executive educator, consultant, and author of Stop Workplace Drama, (Wiley 2011) and No-Drama Leadership (Bibliomotion 2015). She works with executives, and high-performing leaders who want to transform culture in the workplace. To explore opportunities please email marlene@marlenechism.com