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Communication as a management skill: plenty of room for improvement
Executive Education / 6 March 2020
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Freiberufliche Rechtsanwältin, Mediatorin und Business-Coach; Gesellschafterin der mediate.am
Anke Stein-Remmert ist freiberufliche Rechtsanwältin, Mediatorin und Business-Coach sowie Gesellschafterin der mediate.am. Sie begleitet Unternehmen und deren Mitarbeiter in Krisen - und Konfliktsituationen. Ihr Schwerpunkt liegt in der Arbeit mit Blockaden, Emotionen und der Entwicklung einer ziel- und lösungsorientierten Haltung.

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It’s something we do all the time, and yet sometimes we still stumble on how best to do it: Depending on the occasion, communication can be easy or hard. Especially in critical situations, finding the “right words” can quickly become a tricky balancing act.

The term “communication” derives from the Latin word “communicatio”, meaning “the message”. The term embraces any exchange of information, whether by signs, symbols or language. In the process of such exchanges, there is considerable scope for personal interpretation, which is in turn a frequent source of misunderstandings. The field of communication psychology for executives is one which still needs a great deal of development, because of the steadily growing pressure on managers. Managers are expected to be approachable at all times, provide their teams with constructive criticism, radiate positive feedback and motivation, and make sensible decisions at a moment’s notice. The need for executive coaching is growing in parallel with these expectations, but those most affected are not always aware of it.

Effective communication makes people happy

Communication, like so much else, has undergone major changes in the wake of digitalisation. From text messages to social media, from e-mail to interacting with chat bots: Communication is becoming increasingly terse, concise and goal-driven. This makes it all the more important to activate one’s personal resources. Each one of us is capable of communicating with our fellow human beings, but people in management positions must also possess a number of additional communication skills.

Do you feel able to give your employees a competent appraisal with feedback? Can you judge behaviour, communicating praise or criticism as appropriate? Do you know how to conduct a proper job termination interview? As everything becomes increasingly agile and digital, a transparent communication culture is needed now as never before.

Adding more yellow to blues

Things get really exciting when highly analytical, rational thinkers must confront the art of communication. According to Frank M. Scheelen’s four-colour model, each personality type can be assigned a colour energy – blue, red, yellow or green. The four colours form a circle. Red and green are opposites, so difficult to combine. Similarly, blue and yellow are opposites and do not get on well.

Blue personality types are thoughtful and love facts. They are only impressed by objective arguments, conveying rational, comprehensible values. People in management positions often fit into the “blue” energy category.

Yellow personality types are sociable and creative. They are interested in people, are good listeners and respond emotionally. This personality type has no difficulty learning the principles of communication and putting them into practice.

You’ve spotted the obvious conflict here? Quite right!

Even so, it’s not impossible to combine the two.

This year, we delivered our Certified Technical Building Equipment Manager certification course for the first time. Aimed at budding executives in the building-technology sector, the course includes a “Communication & Conflict” module focusing on a broad range of the above-mentioned management skills. The module was extremely well received; traditional training courses in this industry focus primarily on strengthening purely technical skillsets.

“Leading is also always about serving”

During the course, it quickly became apparent that communication is a vitally important management skill in this industry, as in so many others. We explored typical pain points such as upcoming annual appraisals, which must be scheduled under enormous time pressure. Employees and executives seldom run into each other in the course of the normal working day. In reality, skilled personnel spend most of their time out working on projects, not sitting in the office. During feedback interviews, areas of tension become palpable and must be taken into account. The valuable conclusion from this real-world example was that being well prepared is everything – the lynchpin of communication. When everything must be covered in the space of few minutes, it is essential to choose exactly the right language for conveying information swiftly, but without jeopardising respect or appreciation. Empathy becomes especially important when you cannot meet an employee’s demands.

The shortage of skilled personnel shows no signs of abating – today’s labour market is sparsely populated. So if you have good employees, you should make every effort to keep them. But not at all costs! By asking exploratory question, you can offer employees something without discarding your own requirements. Try changing your perspective and putting yourself in their position. This is not manipulation; it is about identifying needs.

Techniques such as the Harvard concept, a negotiating tool, will help you in a very wide variety of situations. This knowledge is not just valuable in interviews with your employees; you can also use it to save time and money in customer projects by ensuring that communication runs smoothly.

If you would be interested in our Certified Technical Building Equipment Manager course and other programmes focusing on communication, please contact Annette Blank, Head of our Professional & Executive Education Competence Centre.

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