We all have that friend who can get away with anything because of their charisma or charm. Ultimately, the outcome of these natural relational characteristics is effective communication skills. This is a crucial quality shared by every successful consultant and business leader.
If you have the opportunity to learn from or interact with senior managers at consulting firms, you’ll realize that they walk around with some level of professional swagger. The best senior consultants will know how to instantly make you feel warm, welcome, and motivated to succeed. They are also articulate and effective in getting their intended point across.
Why are Communication Skills So Important?
Good communication skills are especially important in the consulting industry because the executives that consultants interact with expect effective communication skills. Everyone has a limited attention span and tight schedules, so being able to communicate well is vital for efficiency’s sake. Internally, because so many consultants are competing for top performer status, being able to influence colleagues as you move up the ladder is essential.
Additionally, getting the right data and analysis in a project is only half the battle. Getting your colleagues, managers, partners, and clients to buy-in is what will push a project forward and ultimately lead to implementation and future projects.
The Different Types of Communication Skills
So what exactly are effective communication skills? Are there different types of communication skills? You’d be surprised at how many separate skills work simultaneously together to arrive at effective communication. Out of the many that listed below, you should be able to identify a few that innately align with your strengths. For the ones that don’t play to your strengths, you can aim to practice and improve upon them.
- Cohesion and clarity
- Emotional intelligence
- Open mindedness
- Tone of voice
- Asking good questions
Almost all of these are relevant for on the job success in consulting. However, if you’re at the beginning of your communication journey, focus on improving your Cohesion and Clarity, Persuasion, and Storytelling skills. These will take you far in consulting, as well as in any corporate setting.
How to Improve Communication Skills
Knowing the skills you need to improve is only half the battle. But how do you improve and become a more effective communicator? Even those of you who think you are as suave and smooth as James Bond can do a few things to improve your communication skills. While we spend days in our corporate training sessions drilling practicing these skills, here are our top 5 tips you can start using today.
1. Practice, Practice, Practice
Our first tip is the most obvious one – practice as much as you can. But don’t just practice in front of a mirror (though that can be helpful). Instead, look to improve your skills during actual conversations. This could include participating in more team projects, taking on leadership positions, or trying out new communication methods at the dinner table.
2. Ask for Honest Feedback
As you are practicing and interacting with people, ask them directly for feedback. It is often hard to know if you are communicating effectively when you are your own evaluator. Even when things seem to be going well, they may actually be going poorly. The opposite of course is true as well.
3. Know Your Audience
You wouldn’t talk to your friend just as you would your boss, right? We hope not! In order to automatically be a better communicator, take the time to understand who you’re talking to. Figure out your audience’s likes and dislikes, pain points, tendencies, and desires. What do they need (or want) to get out of the conversation?
4. Pay Attention to Your Nonverbal Gestures
Communication is more than just words. Your body gestures, facial expressions, and other nonverbal cues are just as important as what you say. Did you know that according to the Harvard Business Review, 76% of your perception is determined by your body language? For instance, stand up straight and maintain eye contact to convey confidence. Pay attention to these little nonverbal things – we promise others will notice!
5. Close the Loop
Remember, communication is more than just giving information. You can be giving a keynote at a large conference, but if nobody is listening, you are not effectively communicating. How can you tell if someone “got” what you were trying to communicate? After you are finished speaking, asking the audience to “close the loop”. Examples of this effective communication skill are be questions like, “So what did you hear me say?“. Or, “Do you have any questions about what I said?“. Or still, “What are the action points you’re taking away from this conversation?” Closing the loop is an effective way to confirm that your intended point was actually understood, and it sets up post-conversation action steps.
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What is the Best Way to Communicate in an Interview?
The case interview is the key method consulting firms use to identify future rockstar consultants. It should come as no surprise that interviewers are actively evaluating a candidate’s interpersonal and business communication skills.
Besides our aforementioned tips – which all apply in consulting interviews – the most important thing to keep in mind is to be structured. Whether in the behavioral interview or case interview, consultants are looking to see that you have a logical thought process. Excellent structure will help you communicate your thoughts in a MECE manner – covering everything important, but only saying it once.
Effective communication skills are essential for any consultant looking to make Partner, or for anyone looking to become a business leader. Furthermore, applying these learnings to your consulting interview will not only help you become a better interviewer, but on the job as well.
Identifying key effective communication skills and taking intentional steps to improve in those areas is the only way to improve. So go forth and practice those effective communication skills!