Communication Skills

A Ranting Hub for Improving Communication Skills

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The Importance of Communication for Managers

importance of communicationAnyone involved in management – whether it’s for a large or small company – knows well the relational complexities involved. Sometimes you have to give criticisms on an employees performance, other times you get the privilege of praising another employee’s performance. You’re often tasked with overseeing projects both large and small, while directing a diverse group of individuals and personalities in the process. Needless to say, communication skills are essential for any management position.

While communication in management is not always easy. You may find yourself having to work with difficult people, or with unmotivated people. But if you come to the table with the right tools to do the job, you will have an effective team of individuals proud of the work they do for you, and you can feel your own sense of pride in developing these key business relationships n the workplace.

4 Key Areas of Communication in Management

Relationship Building

Relationship building is a key discipline to master. It helps you establish trust and camaraderie with your employees. They will come to you with problems, and when the time comes that you must give negative feedback they will actually be able to hear you out. On the flip side of that coin, when it comes time to give positive feedback, your employees will take it to heart and it will motivate them to do better work. In any work environment, as a manager is important to build these relationships early on.

Employee Engagement

One aspect of the manager-employee relationship has to do with including employees in on project management and development – allowing them to give their input. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to accept every idea that comes across your desk, but the fact that you’re sincerely listening to concerns positions you as a respected and trusted leader within the company. In short, if employees truly feel like they are a part of the process, they will connect to projects in a more meaningful way, and do high-quality work.

Employee Recognition

Every manager should learn how to properly recognize employees in the workplace. However, it’s not enough to simply recognize and praise an employee in your office, you must make every effort to make recognition a very public event. Recognizing an employee for their hard work shows that you value their contributions to the organization. Again, this is another communication strategy that will motivate employees to do better.

Employee Coaching

Finally, there is the discipline of employee coaching. Unfortunately, not every employee candidate is going to walk into the office with a flawless performance record. They may fall down and make a mess a few times before really grasping the tools needed to succeed in the workplace. You, as a manager, are an instrumental part of that success. According to a Gallup survey, successful managers should be having in-depth conversations with employees about performance about once every quarter at least. It’s important that you keep these conversations as informal as possible, so you can actually connect with the employee you’re trying to coach.

Conclusion: Communication is Motivating

Communication is a life force. If employees know where they stand in the work place, and they feel comfortable in that environment, they will be motivated to do good work. Solid communication skills are not just good for the life of the company, but they help you understand how everything is going within the company. It gives you some real-world “data,” so to speak.

July 15, 2013 by


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8 Steps to More Concise Writing

You know you must streamline your writing, but the devil’s in the details. Here are some specifics about what to look for:

1. Remove Redundancy

Avoid double-teaming terms like “a period of one week,” “end result,” “free gift,” and “personal opinion.” Watch for phrases that echo the quality in question: “oval in shape,” “larger in size,” “shorter in duration,” and the like. Omit redundant words that are already implied as part of an abbreviated term, such as machine in “ATM machine.”

2. Reduce Phrases to Words

Replace a descriptive phrase following a noun with a one-word adjective that precedes the noun: “People who experienced at traveling know better than to label their luggage,” for example, can be revised to “Experienced travelers know better than to label their luggage.

A modifying phrase, similarly, can be reduced to a simple adverb: “Sympathizing with her concerns, he nodded in response to her complaint,” for instance, is more concisely expressed as “He nodded sympathetically in response to her complaint.”

Delete extraneous phrases such as “which is” and “who were,” as shown here: “We drove down Lombard Street, which is considered the crookedest street in the world” is easily simplified to “We drove down Lombard Street, considered the crookedest street in the world.”

3. Omit Gratuitous Intensifiers and Qualifiers

Use adverbs that intensify or qualify in moderation: “They had an extremely unpleasant experience” isn’t accurate unless a subsequent explanation justifies the intensifier extremely, and “I was somewhat taken aback” isn’t necessarily an improvement on “I was taken aback.”

4. Expunge Expletives

“There are” or “there is” is a weak way to start a sentence. “There is a telling passage toward the end of the story” lacks the focus of (and the more vivid verb in) the sentence “A telling passage occurs near the end of the essay.”

5. Negate Nominalizations

“The report gave an analysis of the accident” uses a phrase where a single word suffices. (This is known as a nominalization, or smothering a verb.) When you see a “(verb) a/an (noun)” construction, convert the noun into a verb and replace the phrase with it. In this case, “The report analyzed the accident” is the more concise result. As with deletion of expletives, a stronger verb is an additional benefit.

6. Delete Superfluous Phrases

“At the present time,” “for all intents and purposes,” and “in the event that” are just a few of many meaningless phrases that clutter sentences. Trim them to tighten your writing.

7. Avoid Cliches

Likewise, “face the music,” “litmus test,” “tried and true” and other timeworn phrases add nothing to your writing but words; they’re useful only for padding a word count, but instructors and editors (and readers) will notice.

8. Eschew Euphemisms

Generally, words that disguise concepts degrade language, which is all about expressing, not repressing, meaning. For example, “collateral damage,” in reference to warfare (and, by extension, to all interpersonal relationships), invites derision. However, use of some euphemisms, such as those for human disabilities, is a well-meaning effort to preserve the dignity of the disabled, though some people argue that such cosmetic wording actually harms people by diminishing the seriousness of their condition, or that it is for the benefit not of the disabled but of people who would rather not be reminded of the disabled.

by Mark Nichol

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The practice of saying “o’clock” is simply a remnant of simpler times when clocks weren’t very prevalent and people told time by a variety of means, depending on where they were and what references were available.

Generally, of course, the Sun was used as a reference point, with solar time being slightly different than clock time. Clocks divide the time evenly, whereas, by solar time, hour lengths vary somewhat based on a variety of factors, like what season it is.

Thus, to distinguish the fact that one was referencing a clock’s time, rather than something like a sundial, as early as the fourteenth century one would say something like, “It is six of the clock,” which later got slurred down to “six o’clock” sometime around the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries. In those centuries, it was also somewhat common to just drop the “o’” altogether and just say something like “six clock.”

Using the form of “o’clock” particularly increased in popularity around the eighteenth century when it became common to do a similar slurring in the names of many things such as “Will-o’-the wisp” from “Will of the wisp” (stemming from a legend of an evil blacksmith named Will Smith, with “wisp” meaning “torch”) and “Jack-o’-lantern” from “Jack of the lantern” (which originally just meant “man of the lantern” with “Jack,” at the time, being the generic “any man” name. Later, either this or the Irish legend of “Stingy Jack” got this name transferred to referring to carved pumpkins with lit candles inside).

While today with clocks being ubiquitous and few people, if anybody, telling direct time by the Sun, it isn’t necessary in most cases to specify we are referencing time from clocks, but the practice of saying “o’clock” has stuck around anyway.

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Bonus Fact:

  • The word “clock” is thought to have originally derived from the Medieval Latin “clocca,” meaning “bell,” referencing the ringing of the bells on early town clocks, which would let everyone in a community know what time it was.
  • Contrary to popular belief, the clock tower in London commonly called “Big Ben” is not named “Big Ben.”  Rather, it is named “Elizabeth Tower,” after Queen Elizabeth II; named such during her Diamond Jubilee (the 2012 60th anniversary of her accession to the throne).  Before that, it was just called “Clock Tower.” So why is it so often called “Big Ben”?  That is due to the great bell inside the tower that chimes the hour out and goes by that name.  Over time this has morphed into many calling the clock tower itself that even today, despite the recent, very public, name change.
  • The Tower of the Winds in Athens, which lies right under the Acropolis, is thought to be the first clock tower in history, constructed sometime between the 2nd century BC to 50 BC.  It contained eight sundials and a water clock, along with a wind vane.
  • If you’ve ever wondered what a.m. and p.m. stand for, wonder no more: a.m. stands for “ante meridiem,” which is Latin for “before midday”; p.m. stands for “post meridiem,” which is Latin for “after midday.”
  • The International Space Station orbits about 354 kilometers (220 miles) above the Earth and travels at approximately  27,700 km/hr (17,211 mph), so it takes about 92 minutes to circle the Earth once. For this reason, every 45 minutes the astronauts on-board see a sunrise or a sunset, with a total of 15 – 16 of each every 24 hours.

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Communication skills for managers: Become confident, comfortable and consistent with staff communications.

It is important that communication with staff does not only occur around negative instances and that positive achievements are well communicated as well.  All of this helps to engage staff and reduce turnover – highly engaged staff are more profitable staff.

Communication and feedback is the key to a successful working environment as it helps:

  • people learn
  • create opportunity for professional and personal development
  • boost morale and loyalty
  • provide insight into how your business is running

A great way to set the foundations for successful staff communication is to use our template to clearly outline your businesses policies and procedures.

HR manual template (DOCX 234.96 KB)

Common errors and simple solutions


Some things to avoid are:

  • only ever giving negative or redirecting feedback
  • sandwiching negative feedback in between two positive feedback messages – the person will only hear the good
  • storing up 12 months of feedback and dumping this on employees in one meeting
  • being insincere when giving positive feedback
  • not being direct enough or honest enough – fluffing around the issues
  • yelling, screaming or getting emotional
  • allowing the employee to steer the conversation
  • communicating in an inappropriate forum – e.g. email, publicly, hallway conversations
  • avoid making it personal and by the way it’s not about YOU, focus on the receiver
  • being unprepared and ‘winging it’.


Things to try instead are:

  • being balanced and giving positive and negative feedback when its due
  • be direct and honest and give the feedback truthfully
  • be timely in your feedback and communication as it happens – don’t put it off
  • practice and prepare what you are going to say – be specific, use examples
  • practice and prepare what you are going to say – be specific
  • be prepared you are the manager and you need display a calm approach – do not match behaviour
  • allowing the employee to steer the conversation
  • always communicate face to face – so much is lost in translation when you shoot off emails, also as a general rule praise in public criticise in private
  • focus on facts, have all the right information and evidence if possible and use examples
  • have a script and plan what you are going to say.

Specific examples, guidelines and tools

The following provide some common sense scenarios that business owners may face.  All of the issues listed below should be a part of regular discussion when you review staff performance.

Constant lateness

An employee is constantly late to work, you have spoken to them informally but now you want to speak to them in a more formal setting.

To solve the problem you should:

  • organise a meeting with your employee
  • go through the actual dates and times they were late – be specific
  • ask them if there is a reason why they are continually late – listen and give them a chance to speak
  • document the conversation and place in their file
  • give them a copy and ask them to agree to try to be on time in future.

A job well done

An employee has completed a major project and you want to give them positive reinforcing feedback.

To give great feedback you should:

  • organise a meeting with your employee
  • gather all the information about the project
  • be generous and specific with feedback
  • explain how their contribution has benefited the business
  • be prepared and be sincere, practice if you need to.

Dealing with redundancy

You need to make an employee redundant as you have had a downturn in work.

To best support the employee you should:

  • organise a meeting with your employee
  • prepare a formal letter to help structure the conversation
  • be prepared for the employee’s adverse reaction
  • listen to the employee if they want to vent or voice how they are feeling
  • don’t avoid if they get emotional
  • be professional, don’t promise things you cannot commit to.

Find out more about how to deal with redundancy and retrenchment including creating a redundancy pack and final payments.

Staff not working well together

Your team are having issues communicating with each other and you need to get them together to outline your expectations for how you want them to work together.

To deal with this issue you should:

  • organise a meeting for the whole team
  • ask the team to voice their frustrations in a constructive manner
  • document team responses and try and come up with fixes or recommendations
  • get the team to agree on an action plan
  • act as a facilitator for the session, but do not take over or railroad outcomes
  • document your action plan and make it happen.

Inducting a new staff member

You have a new staff member that you need to induct into your business

For a great induction you should:

  • make time, be present – the new employee is probably nervous your job is to make them feel at ease and welcome them
  • be prepared, have a plan
  • be friendly don’t leave them by themselves
  • use our induction plan to help make it a smooth transition.

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Tips for Writing a Good research Report

Title Should be clear and descriptive, but not too long. Ideally should state main result. Introduction In about 3-5 paragraphs, an introduction: 1) introduces the problem and describes why it is interesting; 2) summarizes what’s known about the problem, citing prior work; and 3) summarizes your approach. • Ask yourself: Why is this problem important? Why is it timely? How does your approach to the problem differ from other approaches? • You may provide a brief preview of your results at the end of the introduction – but no more than a preview. • Do not use subheadings in the introduction. Methods • Explain your methods in enough detail for a researcher in the same field to replicate the experiments and for a researcher in a related field to understand the essence of the methods. • Do not include results (or discussion) in methods, only methods. However, you can briefly indicate the rationale for a procedure if it makes the methods more readable. • Use bold subheadings (on separate lines) to break up the methods. This organizes the methods section by topic and allows readers interested only in some aspects of the methods to quickly find what they are looking for. • Each subheading should be followed by one or a few paragraphs. Each paragraph should have a topic sentence and should be written clearly and concisely. • Avoid repetition. Use “see above” when appropriate and cite published methods when appropriate. Results • Organize your results in a logically coherent order. The order does NOT have to be the order in which the experiments were done, but rather the one which makes the most coherent “story”. It is not necessary to describe every experiment that was done during the summer. Focus on your best experiments. You can mention experiments that did not work briefly and comment on why they may not have worked. • Figures should be numbered in the order they are cited in the text. Insert figures into the document near where they are discussed. • Each figure or table MUST have a legend. Discussion • Discuss your results, putting them in the context of what was known before your study. • Highlight any agreements or disagreements between your data and those of other published studies. Comment on possible reasons for disagreements. • Discuss open questions raised by your findings and any general lessons or conclusions that can be drawn. References • Cite relevant references for statements of known results, hypotheses, methods, or background information. Cite them in the text like this: “In response to death stimuli, ubiquitination of DIAP1 is enhanced by interaction with Reaper (Martin, 2002; Palaga & Osborne, 2002).” • For references with one author, cite as (Smith, 20XX), where 20XX is the year of publication. For references with two authors, cite as (Smith & Jones, 20XX), and for references with three or more authors, cite as Smith et al., 20XX (Latin for “and others”). Include an alphabetical list at the end (ordered by last name of first author), in this format: Martin, S. J. (2002). Destabilizing influences in apoptosis: sowing the seeds of IAP destruction. Cell 109, 793-796. Palaga, T. and Osborne, B. (2002). The 3D’s of apoptosis: death, degradation and DIAPs. Nature Cell Biol. 4, E149-E151. • Note that the journal name is italicized and the volume number is in bold. In the reference list, include all authors, even if there are more than two. Make sure that all references cited in the text appear in the reference list at the end and vice versa. Final Comment Remember, this is a research report, not a grant proposal or grant progress report. Specific aims are not relevant and should not be mentioned, although of course you will discuss the overall goal of your study in the introduction.

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Entrepreneurs Face Serious Communication Barriers

University of Manchester, home of Emeritus Professor of Management, Derek Torrington (photo: Wikipedia)

Most startup mentors tell me that the single biggest problem they have to deal with in small companies is the lack of open, honest, and effective communication, both from the top down and from the bottom up. Some entrepreneurs forget that talking is not communicating. Fortunately these skills can be learned, and the barriers to communication can be overcome one by one.

Founders have to communicate their ideas and products to investors, business partners, and the rest of the team. Then, hopefully, come customers, distribution channels, and going public or merging with an attractive buy-out candidate. Communication is not just talking, but also listening, writing, body language, and “actions speak louder than words.”

According to a new management guide by Professor Derek Torrington, “Managing to Manage: The Essential Guide to People Management,” it is the listener who determines the extent to which a message is understood, and that is shaped largely by their own experience and background. From an entrepreneur perspective, here are the understanding barrier categories:

Unclear frame of reference. Whenever you discuss any startup matter, the receivers will view it from their particular frame of reference, including their values, their priorities, and their background. The responsibility is on you the entrepreneur to decipher the receiver reference, and do the “translation” of your message to them.
Stereotyping and biases. This is the other end of the spectrum, where the entrepreneur defaults to an extreme extrapolation of the listener reference base. Common problem stereotypes relate to age constraints, gender roles, and cultural performance implications. Effective communication requires compensating for language barriers, no stereotyping, and first focus on performance here and now.
Cognitive dissonance. Psychologists use this term to describe the genuine difficulty the people have in understanding, remembering, and taking action on inputs that they find irreconcilable with the current reality, or with strong existing beliefs. The message heard may be unintentionally distorted, and you must repeat and rephrase often to be effective.
Failure to build relationships. When people are listening to someone with confidence and trust, there is a predisposition to hear the message and agree. On the other hand, if the source is unknown or un-trusted, the message may be ignored or minimized. The solution is to work on relationships first, before attempting persuasive communication.
Technical semantics and jargon. Jargon only has meaning if the symbols are already understood. If an abbreviation or phrase is not commonly used outside a specific group, or experts, it becomes negative communication, with people reading it as presumptive, insulting, or an attempt to deceive. The remedy is to use clear and concise language.
Not paying attention and forgetting. We all have the human predilection to be selective in attention. Attention spans seem to be getting steadily shorter. Add the problem of noise, external and internal, which can blank out whole messages. Pick the right time and place for each message type, to maximize attention and retention.
Information withheld. Sometimes an entrepreneur or executive tries to communicate without full disclosure, perhaps to minimize impact, or due to company policy. This is readily recognized by most constituents, negates the message, and erodes trust. In startups, the best policy is transparent honest disclosure across all levels of the team.
It’s important to remember that communication only happens when the other person really hears what you mean to say. It’s not a one-way street, and there are often barriers on both sides. To be successful, the entrepreneur has the responsibility of overcoming all of these barriers to make the interaction effective. The alternative is a lose-lose situation for both sides.

A climate of open, two-way communication is also the only way to ensure that those who do not understand feel free to ask for clarification. No questions does not always mean that everyone heard the message. How often do you ask for feedback to make sure your communication has been effective?