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Effective Listening and Presenting: Essential Skills for a Manager

In: Business and Management

Submitted By deegurl
Words 4228
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1 Introduction 1
2 Listening 2
2.1 Listening as a Communication Skill 2
2.2 Why are Managers Inherently Poor Listeners? 2
2.3 Key Factors to Effective Listening 3
3 Presenting 7
3.1 Presentation as a Communication Skill 7
3.2 Why are Effective Presentation Skills Important? 8
3.3 Key Factors to Effective Presenting 9
4 Action Plan for the Next Three Months 13
5 Conclusion 15
6 List of References 16


Communication is at the heart of everything done by a manager. Thus, effective communication is considered as a major challenge and a responsibility. A majority of a manager’s day is spent on communicating with the subordinates. As stated by Daft, Kendrick, and Vershinina (2010), “Managers spend at least 80% of every working day in direct communication with others. In other words, 48 minutes of every hour is spent in meetings, on the telephone, communicating online or talking informally while working around. The other 20% of a typical manager's time is spent doing desk work”.

The need for effective communication has been further increased due to the turbulent nature of the today’s business environment. Therefore, having effective communication skills is arguably one of the vital attributes that a manger has to possess, throughout planning, organizing, leading, directing and controlling processes. Basically, the manager should act as a communication champion.

The concept of communication can be defined as a two-way process of transmission and reception of information, ideas and opinions from one individual to another, and from a social group to another. Communication can occur in different forms such as the spoken words, articulation, body language, and written forms such as letters, emails and reports. However, the main purpose of effective communication is to make the receiver understand what is in the mind of the sender.

Two of the most crucial requirements that a manager should acquire for effective communication, are effective listening and presentation skills. Therefore, this essay aims to comprehensively describe the key factors required, towards mastering effective listening and presentation skills, in order to become a successful manager.


1 Listening as a Communication Skill

Listening plays a significant role in the process of communication. It is considered as the most frequently used skill in communication. This was proved by a survey carried out in a top blue chip company in India, on how its members spent their time communicating. According to the survey, 63% of their time was spent by listening to one another, reading 4%, writing 11% and speaking 22% of their time. (Raman and Singh, 2006)

Raman and Singh (2006) further define listening as the art of hearing and understanding what someone is saying. When the communication process is concerned, communication cannot be taken place until and unless the message is heard and retained thoroughly by the receivers. (Hayes, 2002) It is also vital to receive the message in a positive manner in order to achieve effective communication.

Listening means more than just hearing what somebody has said. It also involves interpreting what has been heard, and searching for a full and accurate understanding of the meaning of the other’s message. (Hayes, 2002) In other words, listening implies decoding and interpreting the message correctly. It involves attending to both verbal and non-verbal messages.

2 Why are Managers Inherently Poor Listeners?

Based on a number of studies, a majority of the managers are considered as poor and inefficient listeners. Poor listening skills tend to undermine a person’s ability to communicate with others. In a professional context, it may lead to damaging misunderstandings.

Raman and Singh (2006) describe the following three reasons as to why most managers are poor listeners. ▪ Unavailability of training on listening skills Formal training is available for many of the major communication skills such as writing, reading and speaking. However, it is difficult to find training on listen skills, even though it is used most frequently. ▪ Thought speed is higher than the speaking speed It is said that people tend to think faster than they speak. When people listen to an average speaker, only 25% of their mental capacity is used to listen to the speaker. The rest of the 75% is left to utilize and the mind is given ample room to wander. Thus, it is important to make an effort to listen carefully and concentrate more on the listening act.

▪ People are inefficient listeners

Throughout the years, this fact has been proved by a number of researches. It has been identified that the average listener tends to comprehend and retain only 25% of what is being heard.

Therefore, for a manager to become successful, it is vital to master the skill of effective listening rather than just having the ability to listen.

3 Key Factors to Effective Listening

Peter Drucker once said that ‘the most important thing in communication is hearing what isn't said’. In order to hear what isn’t said, it requires a conscious mind, along with deliberate efforts. Effective listening occurs when one party truly understands what the other party communicates, in terms of meaning, attitudes and feelings.

Effective listening promotes organizational relationships, encourages product delivery, product innovation, and lead towards improving organizational and employee level performances. Furthermore, it helps organizations to successfully deal with the diversity of its employees and customers.

Given below are some of the key factors to effective listening, which should be mastered by managers.

▪ Decide the goals of the conversation

It is essential to define the purpose of the conversation in advance and make choices solely based upon the purpose.

According to Raman and Singh (2006) business purposes for a conversation are as follows:

o To exchange information – In conversations, a person may talk about what someone needs or is offering. Similarly, the other party of the conversion may be trying to understand the same. Therefore, part of the exchange of information is often about whether either party accurately understood what he/she heard.

o To build working relationships – It is said that people who know and respect each other, who also have good experience working together, tend to often work together more effectively.

o To feel good – Occasionally, people engage in conversations with the intention of making themselves feel valued and respected. These conversations tend to be thoroughly enjoyable and productive. o To make someone else feel good – In the same manner, conversations tend to occur with the intention of making the other party feel valued and respected.

▪ Self-awareness of the listener’s options Having known the purpose, the listener should deliberately choose whether to talk or listen, to focus, to clarify what he/she wants to say or to listen attentively. (Raman and Singh, 2006) An effective listener will easily to make a decision at any given time on whether to talk, or let the other party talk.

▪ When to speak and when to listen

Following are the rules to be considered when deciding whether to talk or listen:

o Never assume you should talk more – It is not always acceptable to think that the conversational goals will be best served, if the manager talks more. In leadership, customer relationship building, negotiating and in every vital business function, skillful listening is considered more valuable than talking. (Raman and Singh, 2006)

o You can ask – In case of uncertainty, it is acceptable to ask from the other party whether they prefer to talk or listen.

o Make an effort to share the floor – A non-leading question can be directed to the other party, if it feels like one party has been talking more than necessary. o When the conversation lags, refocus – When a conversation tend to lag without reaching its goal, one party can simply ask the other party regarding what else they want to talk about, or propose to talk more about the relevant topic.

▪ Attentive listening

Raman and Singh (2006) define attentive listening as thinking and acting in ways that connect the listener with the speaker. For an instance, one party should not assert their position at every opening in a conversation, and should refrain from multi tasking. Instead, regular recaps and positive body language will improve attentive listening.

In addition, Acker (1992) describes key factors for effective listening in the following manner.

▪ Understand the complexities of listening Listening is considered as a complex activity which requires an active response instead of a passive one. There are no such things as uninteresting subjects for active listeners. They will always try to find ways to relate the message to themselves or their work environment.

▪ Prepare to listen According to Acker (1992), preparation for listening consists of three phases namely, long-term, mid-term, and short-term. Short-term preparation is defined as an immediate readiness to listen. The listener should prepare the mental attitude for listening and avoid talking while listening. Mid-term preparation for listening requires conducting necessary background study before the listening begins. Long term preparation involves practicing listening to difficult material and building vocabulary. Nevertheless, expanding one’s listening ability is considered as an ongoing task which lasts for a lifetime.

▪ Resist distractions An average listener’s attention tends to drift more often due to the differences in the speed of thinking and hearing. In such instances, it is advisable to make eye contact with the speaker, focus on the message and ask questions for clarifications.

▪ Recognize your own biases In order to listen effectively, the listener should identify what his/her biases are and ensure that they do not interfere with the message.

▪ Be patient The listener should always wait until the speaker finishes and should make sure that he/she correctly understands what the speaker meant. The listener should resist the temptation to interrupt or anticipate what others will say. This is considered as a vital skill to be mastered by managers especially in conflict handling.

▪ Keep an open mind Acker (1992) states that an effective listener should have the ability to not feel threatened or insulted or to resist messages which are in contradiction with his/her personal beliefs, attitudes and values. This is mostly applicable when the speaker expresses high levels of emotion such as anger or despair. In such scenarios, the listener should be able to control his/her emotions without being overwhelmed by the emotional content of the message.

▪ Acknowledge the Speaker It is considered as a motivational factor for the speaker, when listeners show that they are actively listening through facial expressions or by nodding their heads.

▪ Show empathy Expression of empathy tends to encourage others to communicate their own view point openly and honestly. It helps to understand the speaker’s point of view, without being tied up by personal emotions.

▪ Delay judgment An effective listener tends to delay making judgments about the conversation by listening critically. It is advisable to thoroughly question the communicator, until the doubts are clarified. (Acker, 1992)

▪ Utilize spare thinking time As mentioned earlier, an average listener thinks four times faster than the communicator speaks. In order to gain advantage from the excess thinking time, an effective listener will utilize the spare time to think on what is being said. This is considered as another significant skill that a manager should master.


1 Presentation as a Communication Skill

Hayes (2002) describes a presentation as a means of communication which can be adapted to various speaking situations, such as talking to a group, addressing a meeting or briefing a team. The main purposes of conducting a presentation are to give information, to persuade the audience to act and to build goodwill. A good presenter should be equipped with a presentation which has a good subject matter that matches with its objective. It should best fit the audience, and should be well organized.

Presentations are considered as an effective communication tool in the modern management world. It is a vital part of a manager’s job role to present necessary information for the required parties. This could be for the top level management, peers, customers etc.

A survey conducted on top level and middle level management revealed that the ability to communicate ideas effectively in front of an audience, was ranked as the top most critical skill for managers who wanted to progress in their careers. (Malone, 1997) Thus, it is crucial for a manager to develop effective presentation skills.

However, fear of public speaking is considered as major problem faced by many in managerial positions. Osborne (1991) highlights this fear is normal, where almost all professional performers and entertainers experience it. The best way to reduce some of these initial fears is by adequate preparation, which will also lay the groundwork for making an effective presentation.

2 Why are Effective Presentation Skills Important?

Due to rapid advancements in technology and speed of communication, new methods in making effective presentations emerge daily. However, human behaviour is considered as the most critical factor which affects the effectiveness of a presentation. Jeary and Rohm (2006) highlight the following three factors regarding human behavior.

• Each person has an internal motor that drives them.

• Each person has an internal compass that draws them either towards tasks or people.

• Knowing one’s particular type of personality helps to deal with own behavior, as well as others in a more effective manner.

Hayes (2002) describes few scenarios to emphasis the importance of effective presentation skills.

Table 3.1: Consequences of Ineffective Presentation Skills

|Scenario |Consequences of ineffective presentation skills |
|A customer invites a supplier to come and talk to some of |The manager from the supplying company will lose the potential customers |
|his colleagues about a new product. |due to poor presentation skills and there by fail to win the order as well.|
|A Human Resource Manager gets invited to address the |The Human Resource Manager may not be able to convince the Management |
|Management Committee Meeting regarding the new performance |Committee and win their support for the performance appraisal scheme, which|
|appraisal scheme. |will ultimately make it difficult to implement. |
|A Project Manager is required to report on the progress to |A disorganized presentation would not signify the actual progress of the |
|the Project Review Committee. |project. Thus, the Project Review Committee will end up having a negative |
| |impression regarding the project. |

Source: (Hayes, 2002)

3 Key Factors to Effective Presenting

An effective presenter should be able to impress and convince the audience through successful delivery of the presentation. Simultaneously, the presenter should feel comfortable and confident. This will greatly influence the audience’s perception on the presenter and the message. Furthermore, presenter’s gestures, postures, grammar, accent and visual appearance will also have an impact on the audience.

In order to conduct a presentation in an effective manner, it is necessary to present evidence for the audience. These factors are termed as the 6 Ps of presentation, which are essential to deliver an effective presentation.

1. Planning

2. Purpose

3. Political sensitivity

4. Personal commitment

5. Personal communication skills (ability to persuade)

6. Polish

The Association of Business Executives (2008) further elaborates the 6 P’s of presentation in the following manner:

▪ Planning

Planning in advance allows the presenter to take control of the presentation. Furthermore, being well prepared for a presentation affects the level of confidence of the presenter, and on how the audience perceives the presenter and the message. The Association of Business Executives (2008) mentions that presenters who apparently "think on their feet" and engage in social interaction with their audience, usually do so as a result of careful and detailed planning.

Given below is a brief description on the main elements of planning a presentation.

• Background Information

- The presenter should know the location, the date and time, the duration, the running order, venue and the position from which the presentation will be delivered (on a stage, a meeting room etc.).

- What technical equipment will be available (projector, microphone, etc.)?

- Who will be coordinating the presentation? Does the presenter require additional assistance? - Who are the audience? What is their role, status, their level of knowledge on the subject matter, and what is expected from the presenter in this context?

• Personal Preparation

- Is there a particular dress code?

- Is the presenter physically prepared with relevant data?

- Does the presenter need to rehearse in the chosen location to be more comfortable with the surroundings?

- Is there a way to get to know the audience in advance?

• The Presentation Itself

- Does the argument follow a logical sequence?

- Is the language clear enough and appropriate for the audience?

- Has the presenter researched all the data/information thoroughly?

- Has the presenter timed the length of the presentation?

- Will the presentation be lively and varied or delivered in a dull monotone?

- Will the presenter make reference to the audience (ask and allow questions)?

- Has the presenter considered all the potential implications or perceptions that there may be regarding the material? - Are any visual aids produced easily visible and relevant?

▪ Purpose

The purpose of a presentation should be identified during the planning stage. The purpose tends to vary from presentation to presentation based on the type of the audience. However, in many instances, presentations are a medium for objectives or ideas to be revealed, discussed and communicated. (The Association of Business Executives, 2008)

Hayes (2002) describes different types of presentations and their purposes in the following manner:

Table 3.2: Types of Presentations and Purposes

|Type of Presentation |Purpose |
|Product Launch |Communicate to external markets; generate sales. |
|To colleagues |Share ideas/proposals; establish team hierarchy. |
|Type of Presentation |Purpose |
|To senior managers |Generate support for an idea/proposal; test market an idea; establish |
| |presenter as the expert. |
|‘Pitch’ to potential clients |Communicate corporate ethos and attitudes to external market with the |
| |objective of making future sales. |
|Job Interview |Illustrate empathy and understanding of corporate objectives. |
|Exhibition stand |Raise awareness; communicate to external market; generate sales. |

Source: (Hayes, 2002)

▪ Political Sensitivity

Political sensitivity is considered important, mainly because the presenter needs to be aware of the unwelcome consequences of the content of the presentation. Some topics tend to be high in political sensitivity such as nuclear waste, cultural problems etc. In other instances, there could be internal politics such as reallocating workload from one department to another.

▪ Personal Commitment

Personal commitment of the presenter has a significant impact on the effectiveness of a presentation. If the presenter has no interest in planning, writing and presenting of the material, then the presentation is bound to be a major failure. However, Hayes (2002) states that having too much of commitment to the subject matter may also lead towards inability to see the pitfalls. This will cause the presentation to look overzealous. Therefore, the presenter's commitment should be focused on relevant preparation and professional delivery.

▪ Personal Communication Skills (ability to persuade)

When conducting a presentation, it is important to establish a rapport with the audience and fellow presenters. The presenter’s physical appearance, body language and style of the presentation should contribute towards what is being communicated. Given below are few guidelines on how to build rapport with the audience.

- Wear smart and clean clothes (Be comfortably dressed)

- Try to control nervousness

- Look directly at the audience without looking at the notes, floor or ceiling

- Use the space available for the presenter (This will help the audience to stay attentive.)

▪ Polish

The Association of Business Executives (2008) mentions that being polished is usually a result of practice, rehearsal and experience. Thus, it is considered as the most difficult factor to achieve out of the 6 P’s. A truly polished presenter can attain professionalism with friendliness. When delivering the same information for different audiences, the presentation approach should vary. In addition, it is important to avoid clumsy phrasing, jargon or rambling.

In addition to the 6 P’s mentioned above, few other key factors for effective presenting can be described as follows:

▪ Practice ( Clarity – Confidence – Passion )

The presenter’s ultimate objective is to effectively deliver the presentation with clarity, confidence and passion. Practicing is the secret to successfully achieving this objective. The presenter can use various methods, such as voice or video recording the presentation during the practice sessions. This will assist in reviewing what needs to be improved and how the audience would feel about the presentation.

▪ Evaluation of Feedback

Evaluation of the feedback helps the presenter to learn from the mistakes made and rectify them. The presenter should be able to analyze what worked regarding the presentation, what didn’t and why. A thorough evaluation will help the presenter to identify strengths and weaknesses and further improve presentation skills.


With the intension of sharpening effective listening and presentation skills, the following action plans will be carried out within the next three months.

▪ Action Plan for developing Listening Skills

|Task |Resources |Barriers to Success |Evidence of Success |
|Conduct a skills audit on |Online Listening Skills Audit |Lengthy questionnaires may result in a loss of|Completed skills audit |
|listening skills |(Skills@Library – University |interest in answering or produce inaccurate |An understanding of the current stance |
| |of Leeds) |responses. |(Good Listener / Average Listener / Poor |
| | |Internet connectivity issues |Listener) |
|Do a listening comprehension |Online English Listening |Mistakes made due to time constraints |Completed online listening test and |
|test |Comprehension Test |Difficulty in understanding different accents |final result |
| |( |(British, American) | |
|Practice active listening |Colleagues |External distractions |Accurate restatement of what is being |
| |Friends |Issues related to vocabulary |said in the conversation |
| |Family |Limited attention span | |
|Prepare Meeting Minutes at the|Notepad/ Laptop |Long and aimless meetings |Accurate meeting minutes of each meeting |
|end of each meeting |Audio Recorder |Difficulty in capturing all the decisions and | |
| | |action items | |
|Read literature on effective |Effective Listening Skills by |Difficulty in finding spare time |Knowledge gained with regards to |
|listening skills |Dennis Kratz and Abby Kratz |Internet connectivity issues |techniques on how to improve listening |
| |(e-Book) |External distractions |skills |
| |Listening : The Forgotten |Issues related to vocabulary | |
| |Skill by Madelyn Burley-Allen | | |
| |(e-Book) | | |

▪ Action Plan for developing Presentation Skills

|Task |Resources |Barriers to Success |Evidence of Success |
|Conduct a skills audit on |Online Presentation Skills |Lengthy questionnaires may result in a loss of|Completed skills audit |
|presentation skills. |Audit (Skills@Library – |interest in answering or produce inaccurate |An understanding of the current stance |
| |University of Leeds) |responses. |(Good Presenter / Average Presenter / |
| | |Low internet connectivity speed |Poor Presenter) |
|Practice presentations in |Friends |Difficulty in choosing a time convenient for |Feedback provided by the audience with |
|front of an audience |Family |the majority |regards to areas of improvement |
| | |External distractions | |
| | |Lack of professionalism due to familiar | |
| | |surroundings | |
|Join the Orators Club at work |Facilitator |Difficulty in finding time to attend the |Successful completion of the session |
| |Colleagues |sessions |Conquered fear of public speaking |
| | | |Knowledge and experience gained |
|Participate in effective |Facilitator |Lack of presentation skills training seminars |Knowledge gained with regards to |
|presentation skills training |Seminar handouts |Difficulty in finding time to attend the |effective presentation techniques |
|seminar | |seminars | |
|Conduct pre-sales |Visual Aids | |Winning the sales deal |
|presentations for potential |Clients | | |
|clients |Colleagues | | |


Effective communication is an important element of success for every organization. An organization whose employees communicate effectively, experiences fewer of the misunderstandings that lead towards conflicts. Managers rely on effective communication to build strong internal partnerships, while developing a sound customer base. Poorly communicated ideas, even when fundamentally sound, often fail to interest their intended targets.

Listening is one of the most important aspects of effective communication. Successful listening means not just understanding the words or the information being communicated, but also understanding how the speaker feels about what they’re communicating. Effective listening promotes organizational relationships, encourages product delivery, product innovation, and lead towards improving organizational and employee level performances. On the contrary, poor listening skills tend to lead to damaging misunderstandings.

Presentations are considered as an effective communication tool in the modern management world. An effective presenter should be able to impress and convince the audience through successful delivery of the presentation. A presentation becomes successful as a result of better planning and preparation. Continuous practicing also acts as key element for effective presentation. The audience’s perception on the presenter and the message is greatly influenced by the presenter’s level of confidence. Furthermore, presenter’s gestures, postures, grammar, accent and visual appearance will also have an impact on the audience. Managers with poor presentation skills tend to create negative impressions, foster misunderstandings and may ultimately miss out on business opportunities.

Therefore, effective listening and effective presentation skills are considered as two of the most crucial communication skills that a manager should master in order to become a successful.


Acker, D. D. (1992). Skill in Communication: A Vital Element in Effective Listening, Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Daft, R.L., Kendrick, M. & Vershinina, N. (2010). Management, New Delhi: Cengage Learning Business Press.

Hayes, J. (2002). Interpersonal Skills at Work, New York: Psychology Press.

Jeary, T. & Rohm, R. A. (2006). Presenting With Style, Atlanta: Personality Insigts, Inc.

Kline, J. A. (2008). Listening Effectively, Alabama: Air University Press.

Malone, S.A. (1997). Mind Skills for Managers, Surrey: Gower Publishing Ltd.

Osborne, J. W. (1991). Talking your Way to the Top: The Executive’s Guide to Public Speaking, Kuala Lampur: Golden Books Centre.

Raman, M. & Singh, P. (2006). Business Communication, New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

The Association of Business Executives. (2008). Management in Action. Retrieved from http://

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