Why Managers Need Effective Communication and Interpersonal Skills

Posted on April 23rd, 2018 by G. Riley Mills

Teddy Roosevelt once said, “The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.”

Hate to sound like a broken record, but if you want to increase employee engagement, improve your manager’s communication skills. If you want to increase profits, improve your manager’s communication skills. If you want your company to succeed, improve your manager’s communication skills.

Here’s why:

50% of adults surveyed said they left a job “to get away from their manager,” according to a 2015 Gallup study.

A manager’s leadership style is responsible for 30 percent of a company’s bottom-line profitability, according to the landmark study conducted by psychologist Daniel Goleman.

91% of employees say communication issues can drag executives down, according to a 2015 Interact/Harris Poll.

How far can they drag executives down? Here are the top communication issues preventing business leaders from being effective, according to the study:

  • 63% not recognizing employee achievements
  • 57% not giving clear directions
  • 51% refusing to talk to subordinates
  • 47% taking credit for others’ ideas
  • 39% not offering constructive criticism
  • 36% not knowing employees names
  • 34% refusing to talk on the phone/in person
  • 23% not asking about employees’ lives outside of work

While companies are aggressively addressing this communication gap – training for soft skills is the #1 priority according to LinkedIn’s 2018 Workplace Learning Report – there are three things your managers can do today to improve their communication and interpersonal skills.

Know your employees

In the Bullseye Principle, we share the best lesson Charles Schwab’s CEO Walter Bettinger learned as a business student. In a New York Times interview, Bettinger says he was enrolled in a business strategy course his senior year. He wanted to graduate with a perfect 4.0 average. All he had to do was ace the final exam. He studied and memorized formulas for the case studies. The professor handed out the final exam – a single sheet of paper. After everyone received his or her paper, he said, “Go ahead and turn it over.” Both sides were blank. Then the professor said, “I’ve taught you everything I can teach you about business in the last 10 weeks, but the most important message, the most important question, is this: What’s the name of the lady who cleans this building?”

Bettinger failed the test, earning him a B in the course. He said, “Her name was Dottie, and I didn’t know Dottie. I’d seen her, but I’d never taken the time to ask her name. I’ve tried to know every Dottie I’ve worked with ever since. It was just a great reminder of what really matters in life, and that you should never lose sight of people who do the real work.”

Accept more “bids” for connection

Dr. John Gottman, a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Washington, has conducted extensive research on the nature of building and maintaining relationships. While his work primarily focuses on romantic relationships, his findings offer valuable lessons for workplace relationships, too. According to Gottman, we need to pay more attention to “bids for connection.” A bid is any attempt from one person to another for attention, affirmation, affection, or any other positive connection. Bids show up in simple ways, e.g. a smile, and more complex ways, e.g. a request for advice or help. Asking a co-worker about their weekend or vacation is a bid.

Gottman suggests someone’s ability to recognize and respond appropriately to bids impacts the success rate they have connecting with those around them. Because bids for connection are not usually as explicit as someone saying, “Hey, I’d like to connect with you”, it’s important to stay open to bids and respond appropriately. Like a professional actor, this means being present in the moment and staying attuned to any intention cues or shifts in mood or tone you observe.

Show appreciation

78% of workers said being recognized for their efforts motivates them and 69% said they would work harder if they were better recognized for their efforts, according to a Globoforce study. According to Deloitte, companies with a highly effective recognition program had 31% lower voluntary turnover compared to companies with an ineffective program.  

Unfortunately, only one-third of all employees felt that their efforts had been appreciated in the past week, according to a Gallup study. Worse, the two-thirds of employees who didn’t receive any recognition in the past seven days were twice as likely to leave the company as those who received recognition.

Acknowledging employees for their work has a direct effect on their brains and the emotions they feel. According to Alex Korb, a neuroscientist who has studied the brain extensively, “The benefits of gratitude start with the dopamine system, because feeling grateful activates the brain stem region that produces dopamine. Additionally, gratitude toward others increases activity in social dopamine circuits, which makes social interactions more enjoyable.”

Want to help your managers improve their communication and interpersonal skills? Contact us.

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