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6 Effective Communication Skills for Managers and How to Develop Them

Communication is a core skill of leadership. The ability to listen, speak, observe and empathise is an incredibly important part of a professional presence. Managers need to develop their communication skills in order to create an energetic and aligned working environment.

To help get your communication on track, here are six communication skills all managers should possess and how you can develop them.

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6 Effective Communication Skills for Managers and How to Develop Them

  1. Being Able to Question Accurately and Actively Listen
  2. Calmly Recognise and Overcome Barriers
  3. Know How to Navigate Difficult Situations
  4. Use Language Everyone Will Understand
  5. Display a Good Level of Emotional Intelligence
  6. Adopt Open and Reassuring Body Language

1. Being Able to Question Accurately and Actively Listen

As a manager, directing the line of questioning will be something you do daily. It could be focused on anything, be it disciplinary or the exploration of a new partnership, idea or implementation. 

The ability to effectively raise a line of questioning helps manage performance, feedback and conflict resolution. Asking questions helps to make difficult conversations that much easier and can help to strengthen your relationships - even in situations where you have to be the bearer of bad news.

How to Develop Good Questioning Skills

Questions need to be based on an open understanding between the asker and the receiver. Within a professional setting, it is always better to ask rather than tell. Think of the question “How do you think you’re progressing?”. It asks the receiver to talk about their personal experience, allowing them to speak their mind and have agency, rather than being on the back foot. 

Questions should be open like these, non-threatening and allow for thinking time on behalf of the person responding. It also gives you a chance to evaluate the answer, building upon what has been said and deepening the understanding between both parties. This is an example of active listening, where full concentration is maintained and well-developed responses are given.

...and How to Ensure You Actively Listen

In communication, we’re not simply waiting for the opportunity to speak, we’re supposed to be listening for clarity. Active listening is another way of saying pay attention to your audience, what they’re saying and any nonverbal details such as body language. It can help us empathise with their point of view.

Make sure you’re maintaining eye contact, responding to their ideas and statements and concentrating on offering well-rounded responses.

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2. Calmly Recognise and Overcome Barriers

Within any business, barriers to effective work may form. These may come about through a multitude of reasons - workflow problems, personal relationships or any other issue that affects the day-to-day runnings of an office. As a manager, you need to act as an unchanging point of calm within this changing environment. 

How to Overcome These Barriers

To overcome barriers, you need to support this environment in a number of ways. Firstly, diversify your communication channels. Email is a great way to communicate en masse, but it’s not very personal. You could always hold a weekly meeting to keep team members updated on current processes which can have more of a positive effect than a mass email. 

Furthermore, try to understand your coworkers. Each communication issue arises because there is a misunderstanding on a particular side. Most times it will be about something work specific, a piece of terminology that may go in one ear and out the other. 

As a manager, you need to ease the cut-off between team members in different roles and departments by creating an ecosystem of group understanding.

Everyone should have some knowledge of what others do, their problems and their pain points. This can be done through proper training, making sure new starters have a good working knowledge of the whole company, rather than just their specific role. 

You can utilise your weekly meetings to include a round-up of what each department is working on and any challenges they’re currently facing. Developing this company-wide understanding will only aid collaboration in the future, preparing your team for more success.

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3. Know How To Navigate Difficult Situations

All managers will have to deal with difficult situations at some point. These situations are never easy, but there are a number of ways to make them as painless as possible.

Be Direct

Getting to the point as soon as possible can save a lot of time and anxiety. These are not situations where you want to mince your words. Using direct speech will maintain the impact of your words.

Talk in Specifics

Fully clarify to all parties why this conversation is occurring and what you’re hoping to get out of it. Offer concrete facts - don’t pull things from thin air.

Offer Solutions

Ending a conversation with no obvious solution will only cause more issues in the future. This means that preparation should be done prior to a conversation on your part so that you can offer a solution then and there.

Practice Empathy

Conflict resolution should be done in a fairly stoic manner, but you should always offer empathy. The hallmark of a good manager is one who can empathise with all parties involved, allowing them to process any emotions in the calmest manner. Offer support if they need it. 

Related: How to approach difficult conversations in the workplace

4. Use Language Everyone Will Understand

What Kind of Language Should You Use?

Execution and language use relate to what is being said and how it is being said. Think of your role, industry and audience - what language are they used to hearing? In any communication setting, be it an email or a public speech, the terminology you use can be the difference between hitting or missing the mark with your employees.

Communication within a specific setting should contain relevant terms - ones that are tailored to your industry and the topic you’re talking about. However, a good piece of communication isn’t overly jargon-rich. 

With communication, there will be a level of assumed knowledge but it’s possible that someone isn’t as savvy on a subject as others. Reflect this in your language - your communication should be accessible to the largest number of people.


When we’re communicating, we’re either explaining, inquiring, defending a point of view or speaking with an intent that will hopefully move people to action. If your desired action was not met then it’s time to go back to the drawing board and discover why.

One of the main ways you can create and deliver a persuasive, passionate and impactful speech is by considering your execution and how you can enhance it.

Are you making a good effort to enunciate your words properly? Are you projecting your voice? Even something as simple as standing up straight will increase your confidence and allow your voice to project fully. This is just another way to practice authority within a work environment.

5. Display a Good Level of Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is our capacity to recognise, define and react to our feelings and the feelings of others. It covers how we manage our emotions in each of our relationships. Some of the measures of emotional intelligence are:

  • Correctly identifying your emotions
  • Overcoming stress
  • The ability to read social cues
  • Controlling reactions

When it comes to effective and confident communication skills for managers, having a good level of emotional intelligence is key. If we lack this skill, anything unexpected, such as a question or interruption may leave us flustered. This can lead to the wrong facts or statements being said which won’t go down well. Poor emotional intelligence can jeopardise a relationship.

So what can we do to increase our emotional intelligence and lessen the chance of making mistakes?

Respond Rather than React

Conflict of any kind can lead to emotional outbursts. In these situations, remain calm. If something is presented to you that you’re not prepared for, give yourself a few moments to assess the information. ‘Reacting’ is an animalistic response and can usually lead to a worse situation. 

If we respond calmly and carefully, we’re more likely to process the information properly and produce a well-rounded solution. 

Be Self-Aware

Practising self-awareness is an important part of confident communication and emotional intelligence. When we’re self-aware, we take note of our own emotions and how they can affect other people. This can come across in our body language, what we say and how we say it. 

A self-aware person can see how their actions are affecting the people around them. If they’re producing a negative response, the self-aware person will alter what they’re saying and doing.

The final thing when it comes to increasing emotional intelligence is simple - remain approachable and maintain a positive mental attitude. 

Learn more about emotional intelligence and why it can help you become a more successful leader

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6. Adopt Open and Reassuring Body Language

Body language is the unspoken element of communication. It can be given off and read by yourself and others, adding to verbal communication by revealing implicit emotion. For example, you might be talking to someone with their arms crossed and a stern expression. The chances are that they might not agree with what you’re saying or be angry or upset about something else. 

There’s not a lot we can do to alter someone’s body language, but we can make sure that when we’re communicating, we adopt one that is open, confident and reassuring. This will make it more likely for people to listen to what you have to say and react in a positive manner.

Here's how we can improve our communication through body language:

  • Maintain an open posture. 
  • Refrain from slouching.
  • Use a firm handshake when greeting someone.
  • Maintain good eye contact.
  • Keep your head up.
  • Use open hand gestures.

These six skills will allow you, when improved upon, to communicate confidently and effectively. That being said, there is a lot to communication that we haven’t covered yet. 

Download the Communication Skills Handbook for More Tips and Techniques

Our Communication Skills Handbook details key information on communicating with confidence within a professional setting. You’ll be able to discover how to communicate with your team confidently, how to practice effective public speaking and how to improve the communication within your team.

Access your free copy by clicking the link below.

communication handbook for the public sector

Chloe Martin
Content Editor

2+ years in SEO and content marketing. Striving to help public sector professionals develop their skills and learn something new through high-quality content.