Effective managers must have communication skills that enable them to communicate well in a variety of contexts, so they can listen and communicate well to different kinds of people on different levels, inside and outside an organization.
Most people do not think of listening as a communication skill, but it is, and for managers even more than others. The good manager knows how to listen, to employees who report to him or her, to peers in other departments, and to those at a higher level in the organization. Without listening, the manager is missing out on the ideas of others, the attitudes of others, and the information others have to offer. The manager also needs to be a skillful listener in the external environment, listening to, for example, general members of the public, customers, suppliers, and competitors. Listening does not mean simply standing there and thinking about one is going to say next. Listening is an active skill, and the manager must actually take in what is being said and demonstrate this by restating what is said and maintaining body language that shows an openness to what is being said. People are quite aware of whether or not they are actually being listened to. Those who are not listened to are less likely to want to communicate further, which cuts a manager off from valuable information.
The most important skill a good manager needs is what we call "code-switching." This means adjusting one's speech and sometimes even one's body language to one's audience. A manager must talk to a variety of different people, often from all walks of life. You do not talk to your grandmother, for example, the way you talk to your friends. You use different vocabulary, you probably adjust some of your sentence patterns, and you may even talk more quickly or slower for one or the other. This is code-switching. People who cannot make this adjustment are not good communicators. The manager is going to speak differently to his or her boss than to the people who are below. The manager is going to speak differently to a reporter or a peer than to a customer. A good manager is able to evaluate the audience and make the adjustments necessary to communicate on the proper level for that audience. If you have ever had a teacher who used big words in a lecture and did not stop to explain a one of them, you have encountered someone who is a poor communicator. The best kind of manager is interested in getting a message across, not showing off his or her knowledge!
If you want to be an effective manager, first, you will listen well, and second, you will adjust to your audience. The good manager learns from listening and gets across the message with code-switching.