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Apr 22, 2016

Communication Skills is The New Yoga

Most people who take up an activity like Yoga or meditation do not have ambitions to become a spiritual guru.  They merely do it to increase their sense of relaxation, well being and peace of mind. Some people like to learn martial arts or regularly play sports like tennis and golf purely for the physical fitness benefits, without ever becoming professional sports people. Others continually return to adult education to study courses simply to expand their minds and knowledge by fully engaging with a subject. Few will go on to become lecturers or educators themselves. For many of us these activities are apart of our lives and we do them on a regular basis because of the long term benefits.

However, when it comes to communication skills we often find people will only attend a course if they have been sent on one or they have a particular meeting or presentation they need to prepare for. I have actually met several people, including leaders, who have only ever attended one communication skills course in a twenty year career. It’s a fact that many people actually dread attending a communication or presentation skills course, but afterwards they nearly always extol the benefits of having done a day or two. But then that’s it. Very few people continue to develop their ability to communicate beyond attending a one-day course.

Training courses are a part of our professional lives. Every job will have a set of demands that must be met in order to fulfil a role effectively. These demands will include the length of time in which the tasks assigned must be completed, plus a combination of the following competencies:

1 Knowledge
2 Experience
3 Motivation
4 Problem solving capabilities
5 Skills

KEMPS for short. While people are recruited to fit a certain role, few are a perfect match. If an individual is in a role where their level of KEMPS do not meet the demands of the role and tasks they have been assigned, then obviously they will be less effective, efficient and productive. This is particularly problematic for people who are promoted to management or leadership positions.

In fact it can often be the case that an individual will be elevated to a management position simply based on their past performance. For example, a high performing sales person may find them selves promoted to regional sales manager. While they may have been good at selling, they may not have the experience, emotional maturity or cognitive complexity to take on a managerial role. The duration and logistics involved in performing the task of regional manager can differ vastly from being a transactional sales person.

The promoted person may or may not be invited to attend a management course prior to taking on the role. This could include anything from training in operational and technical skills to sales training, negotiation, influencing, line management and presentation. Of course skills can include a number of competencies, but one of the most important skills will be communication- applicable in almost any role.
At 4D we have discovered that the benefits of having regular communication skills training and coaching stretch way beyond simply being able to make a presentation or have a difficult conversation with a direct report, colleague or customer. However, most training is rarely integrated in a way that will lead to an efficient developmental curve. 

Communication skills training has traditionally been thought of as a ‘soft skill’. But not any more. Our experience and research has revealed that communication is increasingly becoming a hard skill and regular communication skills coaching and training can (and does) automatically raise competency levels. This is because an integrated communications programme involves the development and mastery of all 4 dimensions of human being.

• Physical skills - Increasing coordination and physiological coherence
• Emotional skills - Increasing ego maturity by raising EQ levels
• Intellectual skills - Increasing perspectives, cognitive complexity & creative, strategic thinking
• Intentional skills - Increasing existential intelligence by focussing on human values, motivation and drives

Research has shown that the our physical, emotional, cognitive and intentional dimensions are an interconnected system involving both conscious and unconscious, psychological and physiological processes. However, while interconnected, these dimensions are not always integrated and can develop at different rates. The most basic example is when a teenager matures physically and cognitively so as to seem like an adult and yet emotionally they are still childlike with little understanding of their deepest intentions and how to maintain focus.
In order for communication skills to become a developmental tool you will need to strive to communicate with others using your whole self. This means increasing your levels of self awareness and self management in all 4 dimensions.

A combination of attending regular training courses and coaching, plus the daily practice of communicating with others will eventually lead to communication skills mastery. The time it takes will be unique to you based on your personal abilities, desire for change and commitment to learning.  At the most basic level, simply by regularly reaching out to other people to share values, ideas, beliefs and experiences you will begin increasing your personal awareness, knowledge, experience, motivation and problem solving abilities. However, it's important to not just stick to the people you have to deal with for work or the usual suspects amongst your family and friends, but also seek to connect interpersonally with as many new people outside of your immediate circle as you can. This means making a habit of seeking to create, build and maintain new relationships.

By broadening how you communicate and who you communicate with the depth and span of your KEMPS will increase. And that's why developing your communication skills is the new yoga of personal and professional development.