How to Develop Your Communication Skills

What are Communication Skills?

Communication refers to keeping direct reports and superiors informed about decisions, events, and developments that affect them.

The Importance of Communication Skills

Aggregate data from SIGMA’s consulting engagements has shown that out of all 50 competencies in SIGMA’s Leadership Competency Framework, “communication” is the most sought after. What that means is that when organizations hire or promote new leaders, communication skills are among the key strengths they look for in potential candidates.

How to Practice Communication Skills On-the-Job

Would you like to begin developing your communication skills? Below are ten on-the-job activities you can use to help you get started. We strongly recommend that you do not try all of these at once; start by picking one activity and pace yourself from there. Depending on your schedule it might only be feasible to do one activity per week. Note that some activities will also need to be repeated in order to help strategic thinking become a habit.

  1. Review past content put out by your organization to get a better understanding of the tone and style used in client- and public-facing documents.
  2. Spend ten minutes every day reading communications relevant to your industry; this will help build your professional style, vocabulary, and knowledge.
  3. Ask to sit in on presentations to learn from superiors or peers in other departments.
  4. Create mock presentations or reports to practice verbal and written communication in a low-stakes environment with peers or trusted managers.
  5. Prepare ahead of time; practice creating outlines for presentations, written communications, and agendas for meetings.
  6. When writing drafts of important communications, such as emails, proposals, or reports, have a peer review them before sending.
  7. Rehearse presentations using a video camera or in front of a mirror so that you can observe your non-verbal communication (i.e., posture, gestures, facial expression).
  8. Practice active listening by taking notes, asking relevant questions, and referring back to what was previously stated in follow-up communications. Communication is a two-way street; the better you listen the better you will be able to speak.
  9. If you don’t use Microsoft Office regularly, experiment with different programs and learn how to present information, such as using Excel charts or PowerPoint slides.
  10. Hold informational interviews with managers in your organization to learn what works for them; ask how they communicate with their superiors, direct reports, and peers.

Download the Communication Competency Guide

These tips are a part of SIGMA’s Communication Competency Development Guide. Download the free PDF below for a complete list of tips and tricks for developing this critical leadership skill.

SIGMA Can Help

Since 1967, SIGMA consultants have helped thousands of organizations across North America develop their people potential and increase organizational effectiveness. Explore our assessments, coaching, and consulting services below, and contact us if you would like to speak about creating a custom plan for your organization. Develop your communication skills with SIGMA today.

Leadership Skills Profile –
Revised™ (LSP-R)

Take our flagship leadership assessment and see how you score on communication skills.

Talent Development

Use SIGMA’s scientifically validated, industry-tested tools to give your talent development a strong start.

Coaching with a
SIGMA Consultant

Participate in one-on-one coaching with SIGMA’s expert consultants.

Looking for More?

If you would like to speak with a consultant about what communication looks like at your organization, contact us today. We are happy to share what we’ve learned from client experience and talk about the specific needs of your organization and your team.

Glen Harrison is an organizational transformation consultant and succession planning expert. Over the course of his career, Glen has worked with one-third of the Fortune 500 list and with every level of government in Canada and the United States. Having worked with numerous clients to build robust succession plans from the ground up, Glen has extensive experience in the application of SIGMA’s products and services to help organizations realize their people potential.

About the Author

Helen Schroeder

Marketing Coordinator

Helen completed a dual degree with Ivey Business School’s HBA program and Western University’s Honours Specialization in Psychology. As a Marketing Coordinator and Consultant she creates and manages content for SIGMA’s webpages, blogs, and coaching resources. Helen also assists in new product development, go-to-market strategy, and client consultation.