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All the Goods on How to Self-Develop Your Communication Skills

While nothing would make me happier than discussing how your manager can help you develop the core soft skills often cited as reasons for not getting that big promotion, sadly, the opposite is true. Organizations have a lot of work to do to turn their organizations into thriving coaching cultures. Not only is coaching the top skill that both the Millennials and Gen Z are looking for in their managers, but it’s also a clear path to enhancing their ability to attract and retain top talent. Although that’s the ideal development path, fear not. Much development work is possible under your own motivation and determination that can help you close these promotability gaps and enhance your opportunity to advance your career. Today, I'll cover the first of the top three core competencies related to the soft skills cited as promotability gaps: effective communicator. Check back next week for self-development tactics for the other two big ones - emotional intelligence and effective planning and organizing.

Core Competency #1 – Effective Communicator

Becoming an effective communicator is one of those development areas that will help you in your professional life and cascade over into your personal life. Significant development, bang for your buck! The ability to communicate effectively has three core skill gaps. First is your ability to stand up in front of a room full of people and deliver your plans and ideas effectively and confidently. The same skills will help you master your presence in the front of the boardroom or on stage at a conference. The second is brevity; it’s essential to distill your communication into the key messages, especially when trying to engage with executives with limited time and bandwidth to channel their listening focus to you. Brevity will also help significantly from both a leadership and peer relationship perspective. We all have such small attention spans that getting to the heart of the matter in as few words as possible will serve you well. The last skill gap is listening because you cannot be an effective communicator without a solid ability to hit level-five listening or, simply put, listening with the ability to empathize. Let’s take a closer look at the developmental possibilities for each of these ‘effective communicator’ skill gaps. Skill Gap – Effective Presentation Skills Read Move the Room – Seven Secrets of Extraordinary Speakers – costs $22 – head to to get your copy of Trevor Curries top rated book about practical ways to enhance your presentation skills. Practice at Toastmasters - costs $45 for a six-month membership – head to to find your local chapter, and sign up today to find out where your local club meets and when. Clubs meet weekly for hour-long meetings where you can practice your speaking skills in front of other group members and receive meaningful feedback that will help you improve. Watch the Speaking Greats – costs $0 – head to for inspiration and to evaluate all kinds of different speakers and presenters on various topics. Remember to note what some of the greats do to connect with their audience! Complete a Public Speaking Course – costs $0 – head to the self-development site /content to take their free public speaking course. Learn how to assess your audience, build and deliver your speech and combat your nerves!! Practice Recording Yourself - costs $0 – recording your audio and visual is a great way to see and hear how you sound to an audience. Here are the four key buckets to critique when watching or listening to your presentation: Trigger Words – count how many times you use a 'trigger word' during your presentation. These are your filler words, like ‘and’, ‘so’, ‘um’, and ‘like’. These words negatively impact the duration and flow of your content, so figure out what they are and ask someone to count them for you each time you present in public so that you can measure your improvement over your last presentation. Pace – by observing some of the greats, you’ll see that their pace is consistent from start to finish. They don’t rush, which is our natural tendency, especially if we’re nervous. Toastmasters taught me to speak at what I thought was a very slow pace, only to learn that what feels painfully slow to you is the perfect pace for others. Tone – recording yourself is a great way to listen to how engaging you sound to others. Do you speak in a flat, monotone voice or use your tone to create excitement and emphasis during crucial parts of your presentation? Facial Expression – our facial expression is essential to speaking in public, yet often we spend so much time worrying about our voice we forget about our face!! Remember to smile and make eye contact with those in your audience. It helps to build a connection with those on the receiving end of your message. Practice Speaking in Pubic – costs $0 - ask your manager, church, community group, or family and friends if you can lead a section of a meeting, church event, community gathering, or family event. Nothing helps you conquer nerves more than practice. Practice makes perfect; it’s a saying for a reason. Skill Gap – Brevity Read Smart Brevity – The Power of Saying More with Less – costs $17 – head to to read the brevity wisdom of Axios co-founders Jim VandeHei, Mike Allen and Roy Schwartz, one of the top-selling books on the subject. Say less, convey more in ways that resonate with your audience. Practice Focused Writing with the Index Card Exercise – costs $10.99 – this is one of my all-time favorite development exercises for helping people get to the heart of the matter quickly, but it’s also one of the most difficult. Head to and pick up a pack of 6x4 index cards; you’ll need lots to practice, so stock up. After you’ve got your index cards, head online or to your favorite magazine and find an article to read; I suggest starting with something that’s two to three pages maximum. Then read the article and try to write a summary that articulates the critical messages from within and fits it onto the front and back of a 4x6 index card. Sounds easy? Think again; it’s challenging but effective at helping you cut out excess words and information that isn’t important to the key messages, so keep repeating this exercise until distilling key information comes effortlessly to you. Practice Your Preparation Skills – costs $0 – sounds simple, right? It can be if you put the time in. Being prepared is hands down one of the best ways to say less when speaking in meetings and presentations. By closely reviewing meeting agendas in advance, for example, you can get your thoughts written down in bullet form to avoid rambling while trying to offer your contributions to the discussion. The same technique works for presenting; write down on index cards or memorize as a next-level goal the key points you want to emphasize during each part of your presentation and stick to the bullets, nothing more, nothing less. This technique stops you from rambling on, losing more of your audience every step of the way.

Skill Gap – Level-Five Listening Practice Removing Distractions – costs $0 – get in the habit of removing all distractions when conversing with others or participating in meetings. Close your computer, turn your phone on silent and put it away, close any files, books, etc., that may be in front of you, and give all your attention to those speaking to you. You’ll be surprised at how much more you take in, and additionally, the people you’re listening to will notice your attentiveness, which helps them open up and share more. Practice Your Facial and Body Expressions – costs $0 – now that you’ve removed all distractions and are paying close attention to what the other person is saying to you, remember to make eye contact and offer a smile or a nod of the head to encourage them along. These small actions greatly show someone that we are listening and going with them on their journey. Practice Not Interrupting – costs $0 – nothing says “I’m not listening to you” more than interrupting while someone is talking; level-five listeners never do this. When you think of something, as sometimes happens, that you wish to contribute or add to the discussion, simply write it down on a notepad in front of you and put it out of your mind until the other person has finished speaking. You may find that it’s no longer relevant after they finish, or they already answered the question or addressed the thought themselves.

Read The Five Levels of Listening – costs $0 – head to and sign up for a free 30-day membership to slide share; you can cancel anytime and download this terrific read from Dr. Elliott Rosenbaum on the Five Levels of Listening. Join me next week for more inexpensive self-development tactics that can help you overcome some of the most common promotability gaps related to your soft skills.

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