‘What traits truly define a great leader?’
When top executives were asked this question in a survey by Six Degrees Executive, attributes such as experience, success and decisiveness were surprisingly at the bottom of the list.
Instead, the top 3 traits were: Integrity and authenticity, team building, and outstanding communication skills.
From the graph below, it’s evident that soft skills, or – as we like to call them ‘Professional Skills’, are becoming increasingly important for career progression, as executives look to promote people who can persuade, influence and inspire their teams, clients and customers.
Effective communication and presentation skills are now a non-negotiable for business professionals – and research and industry experts substantiate this. The good news is that effective communication is a skill that can be mastered with practise, even if it is something that doesn’t come naturally.
The importance of communication skills in business
No matter how interesting the content is that you are sharing, if your communication skills are not up to scratch, it’s often an uphill struggle to inform, influence or inspire others.
Read on for research-backed reasons why everyone needs to develop effective communication skills no matter where you are in your career.
1. Effective communication enhances your professional success
Regardless of the industry you are in, or the level you’re at, being a skilled communicator will boost your credibility and reputation.
You may be surprised to learn that communication skills topped the list as the ‘most important asset for prospective employees’ in a survey of Australian business leaders entitled, The Future of Talent. This was seen as even more important than problem solving, collaboration or leadership skills. And as people scale the organisational ladder, the ability to communicate well becomes central to progress.
In a dataset collated by Harvard Business Review, over 300,000 respondents were asked to rank their most important executive skill. Regardless of the management level, the ability to ‘Inspire and Motivate Others’, and ‘Communicate Powerfully and Prolifically’ were in the top 5 leadership skills needed the most.
The bottomline: Your technical skills will only take you so far in your career. If you want to be seen as a (future) leader, being a skilled communicator is critical.
2. When you communicate well, you motivate others to act
Being able to convey your message with confidence and clarity significantly impacts your ability to influence and persuade others to follow your lead. Whether you are looking to inspire your colleagues to collaborate on a tough project, win stakeholder support for a new idea, or persuade clients to buy your latest solution/service, how you present your message is critical to your success.
Alastair Cox, chief executive at Hays, said recently that he looks for talent who have a clear plan and bright ideas for the future – and who (more importantly) can effectively communicate these ideas to others.
Effective communication is more than telling people what they want or need to hear. To fully connect with your audience and influence them with your message takes skilled communication on all levels – verbal, written, body language and of course effective listening.
The bottomline: Good communication skills can help you become more influential, inspiring and impressive professionally as well as personally.
3. Good communication improves your negotiation and persuasion skills
In an analysis of four key reports that looked at the most sought-after employability skills in Australia, communication topped the list, and negotiating and persuading came in at number seven. Both are important skills to cultivate, and by improving your communication effectiveness, you’ll also become a better and more confident negotiator in the process.
The bottomline: Every job involves some degree of negotiation – be it internally with your team and management or externally with vendors, clients or partners. Being a good negotiator is a valuable skill that can help you find a solution that’s acceptable to all and maintain positive working relationships.
4. High-level communication skills can fast-track your career progression
If you are scanning the current job vacancies or talking to recruitment agencies, you will likely find that many employers are now seeking professional skills such as communication, teamwork and planning. In fact, a recent report that analysed job advertisements in Australia over a six-month period found that 31.3% of all advertisements requested strong communication skills.
This was by far the most requested skill! More than triple the next best which was teamwork/collaboration at 11.8%.
For those who are looking for a promotion, another recent survey of recruiting professionals found that 94% believed employees with stronger soft skills were more likely to be promoted than those with more experience but weaker soft skills.
The LinkedIn APAC Future of Skills 2019 Report echoes this. As AI and automation become prevalent, soft skills are becoming more valuable, as the snapshot from LinkedIn’s report below shows:
The bottomline: Putting effort into developing your communication and other soft skills is a great way to separate yourself from your peers.
5. Confident communicators are better business networkers
Love it or hate it, networking is a big part of business today. However, if you are a poor communicator, networking can be painful! On the other hand, if you’re confident in your presentation and communication skills, you can make the most of networking events and the opportunities they provide.
If you’re looking for an edge over the competition, taking part in professional development activities such as networking is a great way to stand out. However, you won’t see the benefits unless you have the confidence and skills to start and hold conversations with the influential people in the room. If you hang back because you don’t know what to say or how to say it, you’ll miss your chance.
The bottomline: Forming long-lasting professional relationships is highly important for your career progression – it’s how you learn about new opportunities, find mentors, and become recognised in your industry.
Make effective communication skills a priority
Your ability to communicate well can play an important role in the making or breaking of your career. Well-developed presentation and communication skills will enhance your professional reputation, increase your ability to influence others, enable you to progress your career faster and give you the confidence to network successfully.
Is the lack of clear and persuasive communication skills holding people within your team back?
If you’d like to build on the presentation and communication skills of your people, our practical training programs and workshops are a powerful way to achieve long-lasting, meaningful results. To learn more, get in touch with our team today.
Written By Belinda Huckle
Co-Founder & Managing DirectorRead Bio
Belinda is the founder and managing director of secondnature. With a determination to drive a paradigm shift in the delivery of presentation skills training, she is a strong advocate of a more personal and sustainable presentation skills training methodology.
She believes in a training approach that harnesses people’s unique personality to build their own authentic presentation style and personal brand.
Belinda is currently helping to transform the presentation skills of people in organisations such as BBC Worldwide, DHL, ESRI, Heineken, MARS Inc., Moody’s, Pfizer, Roche, Triumph and Walmart – to name just a few.