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The following article was written by Coleman Patterson and appeared in the Business section of the Abilene Reporter-News.

Communication one of three key components of management skills, July 7, 2006, 2D.

Organizational research has identified three important classes of management skills.  Technical skills, or job-specific skills, are of great importance for the success of low-level managers who have to guide and direct first-line workers on task-related issues.  Conceptual skills, or the abilities to see a bigger picture of the organization and how it fits into and interacts with its environment, are very important for high-level managers.  Middle-level managers, who work to solve problems with low- and high-level managers, need an almost equal balance of technical skills and conceptual skills.

Communication and interpersonal skills are the third set of management skills identified by researchers.  These skills are highly and equally important across all levels of management.  This is because collective work and organization requires that people communicate and work with each other to perform and to define goals, plans, responsibilities, and methods of work. 

The ability to clearly communicate ideas and concepts to others is the foundation of social groups and societies.  The ways and messages that people communicate help define their cultures.  Communication allows people to transfer information stored in their minds to the minds of others.  We do this through spoken and written language and through non-verbal methods.  Body language, gestures, and the inflection and tones of our voices further allow us to communicate with others.

From an interpersonal perspective, the communication process involves encoding, transmitting, and decoding messages.  Encoding is the process of putting a message from our mind into a form that can be sent to another person.  Transmission is the process of sending messages and decoding is the process of interpreting messages.  As you read and make sense of the words in this column, you are participating in the communication process.  You are decoding a message that has been encoded into written form and transmitted through the newspaper.

Organizational leaders and managers communicate with others in a variety of ways.  Managers can send messages to individuals and groups through face-to-face interaction, group meetings, telephone, electronic formats, and letters and memos.  Selecting an appropriate channel for transmission is dependent on a variety of factors—including time, purpose, cost, and confidentiality.  It also requires that both the sender and receiver use the channel of transmission.  Selecting an inappropriate channel can harm the effectiveness of the communication.

Communication effectiveness also depends on proper encoding and decoding.  When a message is encoded in a way that it cannot be accurately decoded, message transfer will be corrupted.  A message encoded in a certain language will not be properly decoded by a receiver who is unfamiliar with that language.  Decoding errors occur when receivers incorrectly interpret transmitted messages.  A message can only be properly communicated when the encoding, transmission, and decoding parts of the communication process are correctly performed. 

Effective communication is a critical and complex process.  It is required at all levels within organizations—where communication is often two-way and ongoing.  Encoding, transmission, and decoding accuracy must be continually assessed to ensure effective communication.

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© 2006, 2007, 2008  Coleman Patterson, All Rights Reserved