Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Soft skills -- Communication skills (or BLOT)

For today’s post, a big thanks to one of my readers who suggested I follow the BLOT (Bottom Line On Top) principle on this topic since ‘communication skills’ is so widely viewed as the paramount skill required of all people who are in leadership roles. And I agree; so with that some of you may be asking ‘so what gives?!’

Communication skills in and of themselves are subjective to the environment, and thus generally not a personal characteristic on that basis. If you take any individual and change their environment that person may do equally as well communicating with those they interact with, or they could do better, or they could do worse. It’s the same person, only their environment and the audience has changed. Likewise, you could take a poll at any public speaking event and find people that span the bell curve regarding their perception of the speaker and their topic. Let’s use TEDx as an example. I generally look forward to hearing about the latest speech available on-line because I thoroughly enjoy most of them. You may feel the same way but TEDx, some other speeches, or disagree with me entirely. Now in any of these examples if you had a negative perception of the speaker’s communicative skills and mine was positive the speaker’s skills are not lessened just because your perception is more negative than mine; or vice-versa for that matter.

Saying that, some of you may say “yes, but if they were a truly great speaker then everyone would think they were wonderful.” And again I would agree with you, and I would offer that rising to the level of Gandhi, Churchill, Lincoln, Mandela, and others may be desirable and yet unattainable for the vast majority of us. Does that mean the rest of us are then poor communicators? Of course not, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Across my career I can come up with multiple examples of people who perceived my communication skills as abhorrent, average or exceptional. It’s like a bell curve like anything else in life. If everyone you meet tells you you’re an exceptional communicator then you’re either a very unique individual on par with the examples above. Either that or they are blowing smoke up your tailpipe because they perceive value in doing so because of your status or position relative to theirs in whatever situation that discourse took place.

Okay, time to wrap this up. Possessing cultural awareness, being perceived as an honest person with a high standard of moral integrity, having a vision you want to share, and being self-aware are all factors that play into how any of us are perceived  regarding our individual communication skills. And that, my friends, is why I have listed ‘communication skills in 5th place out of 5.

Oh yes, and those on-line discussions that started all of this? I’ve posted the links to a couple of them below.

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