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According to research amongst recruiters at top international MBA schools, good communication skills outrank other core business competencies (or consistently turn up in the top three) as a desirable attribute.

This is not surprising. When you graduate from a top institution, it is presumed that you have the requisite technical expertise and know-how to hit the ground running. The differentiating factor (apart from a positive attitude and personal energy) comes down to good communication skills.

At every step of your career, good communication skills are important; they become even more so if we hope to rise up in the ranks. Obviously, just ‘speaking’ is not the only element of communication. So what are the other components? Let’s take a look.

For a start, our ability to listen and understand is a good reminder that ‘communication’ means the flow of information should not be one way. Organisations place a premium on ‘employee engagement’ as a measure of how effectively they manage this process, and so, as leaders, the listening part becomes exceedingly important.

Communicating or presenting to small teams is very different from addressing larger gatherings due to the ability to engage more closely with the former. However, both require you to be inclusive with all those present, keeping eye contact and appropriate body language in mind. Use audio-visual aids where you can and be sure to test them beforehand.

Four key elements that outstandingly successful communicators use to great effect are: substance, style, content and delivery. Work to develop each as you progress in your career by seeking out exceptional communicators and then learning from them. With easy availability of speeches on YouTube, there really is no excuse for not being able to improve your own performance. Seek feedback and rework the flaws.

Don’t forget, the most important part of communicating is that the right messages should get across and be understood.

Oh yes, good luck!

– Leon Menezes
The writer is General Manager, HR, at a multinational company.

First published in the Careers Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on September 2, 2012.