Communicating effectively

“Developing excellent communication skills is absolutely essential to effective leadership. The leader must be able to share knowledge and ideas to transmit a sense of urgency and enthusiasm to others. If a leader can’t get a message across clearly and motivate others to act on it, then having a message doesn’t even matter.”                       

        — Gilbert Amelio, President and CEO of National Semiconductor Corp.

In April, we’ll be exploring MnSCU’s leadership competency of communicating effectively.  For the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, we define it in the following ways:

  • Effectively conveys ideas and shares information with others using appropriate methods
  • Listens carefully and understands differing points of view
  • Presents ideas clearly and concisely

It sounds simple. But in my experience, communicating effectively can be one of the most challenging tasks I have as a leader. As I’ve worked to build my communications skills over time, it has been helpful to identify my own strengths and weaknesses and to get feedback from others.

For instance, I feel confident in my written communication skills and have received feedback that reports and other written materials for my unit are clear and easily understood. With verbal communication, I’ve received feedback on a leadership competency 360 assessment that my verbal communication style is inclusive. One rater said, “she involves all stakeholders in the discussion and is open to opposing views.” These are strengths that I continually work to build upon.

At the same time, I know that I have particular weaknesses that I need to manage. One of these is my natural tendency to get excited when communicating in a meeting and begin to speak as soon as there is a slight pause from another speaker. Perhaps this is a result of growing up in a large, noisy family, but it is a behavior that I have to work to curb in myself. The most painful reminder of my behavior was when someone said to me, “Let me finish!” Ouch!

Continuing to improve my communication skills is absolutely essential to building good working relationships and getting work done. In many ways, everything I do hinges on the ability to communicate effectively.

As you think about your own communication skills, what are your strengths and weaknesses? What kind of feedback have you received to verify this?  What strategies can you use to build on your communication strengths and manage your weaknesses?

Anita Rios


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