Strong communication skills are necessary at every career stage, but especially for those in leadership positions.
In a new study from Robert Half Management Resources, however, nearly one in three workers (30%) did not give their boss high marks in this area, reporting that communication and diplomacy are where their managers most need improvement.
Greater technical expertise (18%) and leadership (17%) ranked second and third, respectively, on professionals' wish lists.
View the results by age and gender.
Workers were asked, "Which skill do you think your manager needs to improve most?" Their responses:
|*Responses do not total 100% due to rounding|
"At the managerial and executive levels, possessing technical skills is frequently less important than being a good leader and communicator," says Tim Hird, executive director of Robert Half Management Resources.
"The greatest ideas go nowhere if a manager cannot express them effectively, gain consensus, and build the work relationships necessary to execute them."
Hird added that interpersonal abilities and diplomacy play a role in how far someone advances professionally.
"Leaders must be able to tailor their communication style to the individual and recognize what motivates each team member. Managers who excel at this achieve higher levels of employee engagement and productivity."
Robert Half Management Resources highlights five ways managers can assess and improve their communication skills:
1. Request 360-degree feedback. Opinions from your manager, peers, and employees are invaluable. Ask them about your strengths and weaknesses, their communication preferences, and how you can make it easier for them to come to you with questions or concerns. Not everyone will feel comfortable giving candid feedback, so consider gathering input anonymously.
2. Find a role model. Think of a manager you admire who enjoys great rapport with his or her staff. What makes this person stand out? Observe how he or she interacts with others.
3. Define your comfort zone—and go outside of it. If you struggle handling difficult conversations, ask a mentor or trusted colleague for pointers. If giving presentations is not your strong suit, take a public speaking class or join a group like Toastmasters.
4. Practice active listening. In conversations, focus on what others are saying instead of formulating your next thought. Pause an extra second before jumping in to make sure you don't interrupt others.
5. Be yourself. Don't try so hard to be a manager that you stop being an individual. Be honest and relatable, and show vulnerability from time to time. To err is human—your team wants to know that you are not perfect and don't expect them to be either.