Expert Manufacturing Advice tailored for step-by-step implementation in the workplace. Small Manufacturers, Machine Shops and CAD Engineers improve and thrive with our hands-on help. Leadership Communication Skills: Effective Listening and Verbal Communication Leadership and Management Skills for Engineers
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To get their message across and really inspire others, the best leaders possess great communication skills. Most engineers and technicians in teams will have expertise in a given field. Many are creatures of habit, typically trusting in years of training and experience, with an inbuilt reluctance to change too radically. As such, leaders will sometimes find themselves having to overcome this. Persuading technical professionals can be challenging. A powerful combination of evidence-based demonstration and effective communication is a good starting point. So what are the traits of a leader with strong communication skills?
Leadership Communication Skills: The Importance of Listening...
Listening - probably one of the most underrated communicated skills there is. To listen effectively requires the ability to concentrate on what others have to say. This may involve requesting opinions from a range of perspectives, some of which may differ from yours. The ability to listen well requires strong self-control – actively stopping yourself interrupting and replying because you are itching to put your opinion across. It requires keeping your feelings sufficiently under control, even when what you are hearing is highly emotive. Also, letting the speaker finish ensures you receive the whole complete message in the correct context.
Sounds obvious? Well it’s amazing how many people don’t do it. Listen out for this at your next meeting if you want proof! Listening to others will give a broader, more balanced perspective. In turn, this provides you with the basis to make the best decisions – a core skill for a leader.
Active listening involves being conscious about the purpose of your communication. What is the message you want to deliver. What is it you want to hear from other people? Be aware people tend to filter information when they hear it – this is natural, but may affect the message being communicated. To further explain, we tend to welcome and hear information we agree with or we find welcome. The opposite is true, in that it is natural to pay less attention to bad news or parts of the message we concur with less.
Listening to others includes other signals, particularly when the conversation is face to face. Be aware of vocal signals like tone and pitch which add emphasis to particular parts of the message. In addition, body language and gestures provide you with information over and above the words used. Eye contact is important in conveying sincerity.
Leadership Communication Skills: How to Others to Listen to You...
A good starting point with verbal communication is clarity. When speaking, be clear about the message you want to deliver – preferably before you to start speak! As a leader, ask yourself what is the message I would want my audience to receive? Once you’ve considered this point, it really is a case of constructing a clear message that conveys the key information you aim to get across, in the best way. No waffle, no long yarns, instead the key points you want to communicate.
Once these have been delivered, then you can consider further explanation and other details. To enable this, some leaders tend to start with the essential information, perhaps following this up with additional data, before summarising with the main points again. Finally they checking the audience are clear at the end.
Consider appropriate language for the audience you are addressing. Again, it’s all about getting your message across. For example, as an engineer you’ll want to use different language to train a shop floor team, than you would for trying to convince the board to financially back a new project. Adjust your language accordingly.
Other considerations include being aware of how fast you speak. Clarity diminishes with speed. You know what you are about to say but obviously others don’t. So slow down and emphasis key points to ensure others ‘get it’. Tone and pitch are other verbal communication considerations to be aware of. Use these appropriately to make your message interesting. Body language and gesturing also help make verbal communication more human and memorable. Don’t overdo them, but use them fittingly to help deliver a convincing message.
Aim to build rapport with you audience. Mutual respect and understanding go a long way to helping deliver an effective message. There are practical ways of building rapport such as matching the tone, pace and body language of those you are speaking to. Other tips include appropriate banter and jokes, as well as smiling and nodding.
Practice what you preach and lead by example. Aim to actively listen to those in your team, seeking and acting on feedback. Leaders need to make it their priority to get out and about and talk to team members, discussing issues, offering advice and generally being visible. Drive the activity or project with your presence. Find out what’s going on and the mood of the team at an operational level. Likewise, listening to others outside the team is vital; such as other technical staff, suppliers and of course customers.
Being conscious of the points above is key to developing effective leadership communication skills. Once you have this awareness, it really is about frequently practicing, to refine your personal style.
In addition to the information listed here, please see the Public Speaking section for some first class advice. Public speaking is a particularly useful skill with the potential to advance you career and employability. What’s more, it goes hand-in-hand with leadership.
Have you come across highly effective engineering managers and inspirational leaders? Are you one?!
Describe the qualities you think set the best apart from the rest. What practical tips and styles get the best results?
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