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9 Communication Skills to Master for Leadership Effectiveness


Whether you are a parent, spouse, friend, manager or coach, there are skills that, once mastered, are exceedingly helpful in building constructive relationships, leading more effective lives and helping others do the same.

Nine ‘masteries’ have been defined by the International Association of Coaching that, when woven together help you guide others through challenges and make progress in their lives.

1.    Establishing and maintaining a relationship of trust.
Trust is at the foundation of human relationships. Trust arises when the following things are present: candid communication, support in the form of help, advice, coaching or endorsement, respect, fairness, reliability and technical, professional or personal competence. When these items are missing, the people around you may feel like they’re walking on eggshells or are ‘on their own’ to make things happen.

2.    Perceiving, affirming and expanding the person’s potential.
People grow when they feel that someone else believes in them. So often in life, people are criticized. When you take the time to notice what someone is good at and tell them, they will not only feel appreciated but will grow in confidence and become better in other areas. Everyone has a gift. Notice them. Mention them and watch the person blossom.

3.    Engaged listening
Think of a time when you were talking about an important project at work or baring your soul to someone close to you and it seemed like they weren’t paying attention. How frustrating was that? Did it ‘take the wind out of your sail’? Did you get mad or feel like ending the conversation?

Engaged listening involves eye contact, verbal confirmations, occasional questions, demonstrated empathy for what they might be feeling. Giving your full attention to them allows an amazing thing to occur. When someone is listened to, they often talk themselves through to their own solution. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened intently to someone with an issue who in the middle of the ‘conversation’ declares, “Oh! That’s it! That’s what I’ll do. Thanks for listening!”

4.    Processing in the present
When you’re talking with someone who is in the middle of a crisis, it’s possible that you may experience emotions that arise out of the conversation. Be aware of your own thoughts and body sensations. Silently name and observe them.

5.    Expressing
Be clear that your reactions are yours. Don’t blame the other person for them. Having said that, putting words to your thoughts, feelings and sensations can provide valuable feedback to the other person, particularly if they are struggling with how to communicate a tough message to another person. Your response can help them strategize on other ways to deliver their message.

6.    Clarifying
Part of your role in this process is helping the other person think through their issue and potential solutions. Their initial thought process may not be clear. Reflect back what you hear from them. Ask questions to help them explore alternatives and potential consequences.

7.    Helping the person set and keep clear intentions
There are two aspects to this mastery. One, clarifying the intention for the conversation you’re having with them and two, uncovering the ultimate outcome they want from the actual issue they’re discussing.

8.    Inviting possibility
People in a conundrum are often blinded from seeing all of the options that exist. They may be feeling trapped and helpless or angry and resentful. Those emotions arise from a set of beliefs and perceptions that may not be true. By respectfully challenging their perceptions, beliefs, and motives they may have ascribed to others, new options and possibilities can arise.

9.    Create and use supportive systems and structures
Decision-making tools can be helpful in these situations. A simple pros/cons list is a good start. Supportive systems might include daily check-in conversations. Group brainstorming sessions can generate creative ideas and potential solutions. The important thing here is to provide support for the person dealing with the situation so they can unleash their inner creativity.

Master these skills and you’ll be well on your way to becoming an empowering force for the people in your life.