What is communication?
Can sitting in a chair, thinking and observing the world be a form of communication? Or is it talking to people the true art of communication?
Most people who have grown up in a purely social situation will believe the latter case is true. People who have grown up to be an independent thinker and observer will tend to believe the former case is true. In truth, communication is a combination of both.
Communication may be defined as the flow of information containing potential ideas or knowledge which affects something in some way. That something could be people, or anything else for that matter.
And from this we can appreciate the fact that we are all constantly communicating at all times and with all things. In fact, we have all been communicating every since life appeared on this planet.
Humans have been verbally communicating with each other for over 500,000 years. But communication also encompasses the more non-verbal types. With this in mind, one could say that within the non-verbal forms of communication such as dreaming/visualisation/thinking and interacting (or engaging the brain and body sensors) with the environment, communication has been around ever since the days when the first life forms developed a highly primitive nervous system or perhaps even earlier to when the first microbes appeared on Earth nearly 3,500 million years ago.
So we have always been communicating, whether or not we decide to utter a "word" to the world.
Why do we need to communicate?
The changing world
The world appears on the surface of things to be constantly changing. So naturally managers focussing on these changes will find a few problems to be solved. It is the presence of these problems and the need to find solutions that help to contribute significantly to the process of communication.
Money makes the world go around
And the other reason we need to communicate is to survive. In this present climate, this means making money.
Is communication the most important skill for an effective manager?
The answer will depend on how you problem-solve and survive in life. Perhaps you believe problem-solving should always be done in a group, or instead on an individual basis.
If communication is taken to mean verbal and non-verbal communication, then it is obvious communication is the most important skill not just for the manager, but for everyone else. Why? Because we are all doing it. Even if we don't utter a single word, we are already communicating.
But if communication is restricted to just verbal communication (probably because we see people verbally communicating so much (1) or we are use to solving problems in a group situation), then from a more "balanced" approach one has to say communication is not the most important skill for an effective manager.
Why? We need more than verbal communication to effectively solve problems set before us. It has to be backed up with an equally strong observational powers and information-seeking behaviour, a willingness to learn and listen, the ability to think about the information on one's own, and then to put that information into action (which does not necessarily have to mean talking about it).
Then it may also be useful to record what we see and hear and have learnt onto a suitable medium. All of this is a form of communication. And once you have done all of that, you could decide to communicate your results verbally, or may choose non-verbal avenues to get the solutions out into the real world. It doesn't really matter what you do!
It is easy to rely on verbal communication for answers because it does not require a great deal of thinking by the people in a group. All it does is help people to recall common facts and figures that wasn't previously known before the group discussion. Then facts and figures are brought together to form a coherent and highly rational common framework where hopefully the best solution will lie.
However, this common framework may not always reveal a quality solution to all problems until independent and effective "creative" thinking on one's own, combined with adequate information-gathering and action, is performed. In that way, an uncommon framework can be developed which will, more often than not, better solve a wider range of problems.
So while verbal communication is said to be an important skill for the manager, it should not be seen as the most important skill. It should form part of the repertoire of skills for the manager. Otherwise, it would be better to say we are all communicating and so the original question has no real meaning.
How should managers communicate?
It all depends on the type of organisation being managed and the type of manager managing the organisation.
For example, some organisations like a lobby group may require more verbal communication skills than non-verbal types. Other organisations may require the opposite. Likewise, if managers believe problems should be solved in a group situation, then they will believe it is necessary to know how to verbally communicate with other people. Other managers may believe the opposite.
For the most effective management of an organisation, managers should try to communicate using a wide range of communication mediums (from verbal to non-verbal types).
Are people skills business skills?
What do we mean by business skills?
- People skills and individual skills;
- The ability to make money.
What do we mean by people skills?
- To listen to the needs of people;
- To communicate (verbally or otherwise) in a complete way the potential solutions to people.
What do we mean by individual skills?
- To gather information;
- To think about things;
- To pick out or create original patterns from the information;
- To act upon decisions.
So while many people may argue endlessly that verbal communication is the most important skill of a manager, it is understandable for us to hear from them that people skills are business skills.
In truth, verbal communication skills are just one aspect of a multi-skilled manager. Therefore, business skills is both individual and people skills. And depending on the type of business you are in, you may need to decide how much of both you will need for a truly effective organisation.