I was fascinated recently when Brine Hamilton, Healthcare Security Leader, ran a poll on LinkedIn asking people to vote on what they thought was the top leadership skill needed to be able to successfully manage a team.
“Communication” was one of the four listed choices. And yet, many people selected “Other” as their response, but then in the comments shared answers such as listening, having influence and persuading others as their answers.
I found the answers super interesting because in my Masters degree to become a Speech-Language Pathologist, we’d been taught that these are all elements or functions of communication.
What it made me realize more than anything is that I’ve been promoting my services and expertise as a Workplace Communication Expert to a public where at least a certain percentage of the audience had a much more narrow definition of communication than I do.
The goal of this blog post is to provide an overview of the holistic vision of communication that I use in my work with middle managers who want to refine the communication skills needed to effectively lead their teams to greatness to help you understand how to get the best out of your teams.
So, what does communication encompass?
Becoming a successful leader means learning the skills needed to inspire people to follow your lead – even when they disagree with you. Even when they’re frustrated and worn out. Even when there’s conflict within the team.
It means being able to adapt your communication style to different personalities and different situations.
It requires leadership communication skills that extend way beyond talking.
Let’s take a further look at the various components of communication so that you can better understand the impact of communication on your team’s engagement and performance.
1. Receptive Language (Comprehension)
Receptive language is the ability to understand messages we are listening to or reading.
Good receptive languages skills are dependent upon many other skills, such as attention, listening, as well as the ability to process and comprehend messages of increasing complexity.
It also includes the ability to make inferences or read between the lines and to make predictions. It involves being able to understand idioms such as “he twisted my arm”.
It’s still much more complex than this, but I’ll leave it at this for the sake of simplicity (although that still really isn’t all that simple, is it???).
Bottom line is that being able to understand a message, and interpret it as it was intended goes way beyond simply understanding the words someone else has said. Nowadays, our attention is being constantly pulled in multiple directions which means we’re often not truly listening.
So even if we have great comprehension skills, we’re not fully present to connect with what the messages beyond the words the person is sharing. Just think of the last time you said “uh huh, yeah” to your child or employee while doing something else. I’d be surprised if you haven’t done this at least once in your life. And if you haven’t, congratulations, because you’re likely in a tiny minority.
2. Expressive Language (Using Language)
Expressive language encompasses many of the same skills as above, but in relation to how we express ourselves using words, sentences and complex discourse, both orally and in written language. Beyond simply using sentences, it includes being able to organize and share our thoughts in a coherent manner and to find the exact word we are looking for.
3. Pragmatics (Social Skills)
Pragmatics language skills refer to the skills needed to be able to use our language skills effectively in interactions with others. It involves skills such as the ability to accurately interpret non-verbal cues (such as tone of voice, gestures and body language) as well as appropriate use of such skills.
Have you ever known someone who speaks in more harsh of a tone than they intend sometimes? Yup, that fits in right here.
The person who turns their back on you while talking to you while telling you they’re still listening? That fits here too.
Respecting speaking turns (avoiding interrupting) and being able to maintain the topic of conversation without always heading off on tangents are also important social skills. That person who is constantly interrupting or changing the topic may not just be rude. This may simply be a weakness in their pragmatic skills.
Again, the pragmatic skills are much more complicated that what I’ve shared, but this gives you a taste of all of the different ways that interactions can go wrong when one or several people have an area of weakness.
4. Functions of Language (Varied Use of language)
A function of language basically means various ways in which language is used. For instance, we use language to share information, to learn and to educate. We use it to comment, to make requests, to refuse. We use it to explain, to describe and to justify. We use it to persuade, to influence and to inspire.
The more complex the function of language, the better the other underlying communication skills must be.
Have you ever met anyone who is fantastic at using language to teach and explain but does it in a way that is so confusing and boring that they lose you halfway through?
This is likely someone whose receptive and expressive language skills are solid but who could maybe take their social skills up a notch so as to have better impact with more complex functions of language, such as being able to influence, persuade and inspire those who are listening to them.
To be able to do so successfully requires good communication skills to be able to flow between these different functions of language.
This is exactly where my expertise lies.
My expertise as a Workplace Communication Expert enables me to help you identify exactly which weaknesses are holding you back from having the influence that is needed to be able to elevate the performance of your team and bring them to greatness.
Book a complimentary 30-minute discovery call and we’ll explore together the root causes of the challenges you’ve been experiencing with your team’s engagement and performance using my model of the 4 foundational skills for effective communication:
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