Management Communication for Library Leaders | USC Library Science Degree Online
USC Marshall School of Business
University of Southern California

Effective Management Communication Skills for Library Leaders

Learn management communication skills to become an effective leader with USC's online MMLIS degree.


In the modern era, communication skills often set great leaders apart from average managers. The best leaders can communicate effectively in stressful situations, navigate the complexities of technological media, and use their words to motivate those around them.

While communication is a valuable skill, it doesn’t come easily to many leaders. Even the most experienced business professionals have weaknesses and blind spots when it comes to communicating. The USC Marshall School of Business offers the course “Management Communication for Leaders” (GSBA 502) specifically to help library professionals communicate, advocate, and persuade. The lessons learned in this class will give students the tools needed to succeed in high-level leadership.

A few fundamental themes of this class include:

  • Using communication to lead
  • Communicating to resolve conflict
  • Communicating in diverse work environments
  • Communicating with modern technology
  • The emotional and nonverbal nature of communication

What Are the Fundamental Principles Taught in This Class?

“Management Communication for Leaders” is a dynamic course that changes and adapts to the demands of the students. However, the course is organized around five key principles that will help students in the workplace. It helps students identify their strengths and weaknesses and improve their communication skills in a professional library environment.

1. Learning to Communicate More Effectively

Throughout history a few great leaders stand out due to their expert communication skills, however, today many managers find it challenging to talk to and motivate their employees.

According to Ragan Communications, Inc., 69 percent of managers dislike communicating with employees, and 37 percent dislike providing direct feedback or constructive criticism.

Communicating is an essential part of any leadership position. It doesn’t matter if leaders dislike it; they will have to communicate to manage their staff.

2. Personnel and Conflict Management Through Effective Communication

Many leaders struggle with communication because it risks conflict. Technology has changed how many people approach conflict, and situations can escalate in just a few short emails. It is important to communicate clearly both online and offline and understand how technology can help or hurt conflict resolution efforts.

Library professionals need the training to improve their conflict resolution skills, which will enable them to approach situations clearheadedly. The people who are able to act calmly and rationally are the most effective communicators.

3. Using Communication as a Tool for Collaboration

The modern leader builds bridges between teams and between employees to encourage collaboration and greater efficiency. Doing so successfully requires leaders to have clear insights about the organization and the ability to encourage people to work together.

Collaboration facilitation is increasingly in-demand in most offices, where many employees feel pressured to meet tight deadlines and do more with less. According to ClearCompany, 75 percent of employees rated collaboration as “very important” in the workplace. However, 39 percent of employees surveyed believed that their organizations didn’t collaborate enough.

Leaders who can build collaborative work environments will see their organizations thrive with new ideas and team-based goals.

4. Cross-Generational and Cross-Cultural Communication

The American workplace is becoming increasingly diverse, and libraries are no different. Leaders manage teams of employees and volunteers who come from different generational and cultural backgrounds. Understanding gaps between employees — even if the only difference is their ages — can help library management professionals resolve conflicts and build reliable collaboration structures.

5. Nonverbal Communication in Professional Settings

The words used when approaching a situation are only a part of the communication process. Psychology Today shared insights by Professors Albert Mehrabian and Susan R. Ferris, who formulated the “7-38-55 rule.” According to the “7-38-55 rule,” 93 percent of communication is nonverbal, with 38 percent of the information presented vocally and 55 percent presented visually.

Essentially, words tell only 7 percent of the story, while body language, tone, and facial expressions provide cues that help audiences determine how they should respond to the information.

This course gives students the power to use nonverbal communication so that their tone and body language support their message.

How Will These Skills Help Information-Related Careers?

Communication is not just for Fortune 500 companies and enterprising CEOs. Even small organizations with only a handful of employees need strong communicators to guide their vision. This includes professionals in information-related careers.

According to The Balance, communication is the top soft skill in information-based careers. The vast number of emails, meetings, and phone calls that are integral parts of the modern workplace has mandated strong communication skills.

However, there are secondary benefits to boosting communication skills in the library science industry. These range from small team-level benefits to substantial financial benefits for the organization.

Good Communication Can Reduce Employee Turnover

One part of a leader’s job is to ensure consistent and timely communication to their employees. The absence of that communications can lead to team members feeling unmotivated or frustrated which can cause some employees to look at other job prospects. It is no surprise that employee turnover is expensive and can result in increased cost for human resources to recruit, hire and train a new employee.

As TNW reported, the top three reasons employees quit their jobs (accounting for 62 percent of the responses) are communication-related. Those reasons being the absence of clear communication from management, poor communication as a company, and the absence of communication about change When in a leadership position good communication skills can be a vital resource to help improve employee happiness as well as lower your company’s bottom line.

Good Communication Can Win People Over

According to Forbes, “The ability to influence is an interpersonal skill that is often overlooked. This [skill] can directly affect individual and company performance, as organizations try to evolve and innovate to best meet the needs of their clients.”

Persuasion encompasses a variety of skills. Effective communicators use critical thinking, logical discussion, negotiation, and emotional pleas to change people’s minds. Developing these skills will improve library professionals’ persuasive abilities, which will make them more effective leaders.

Good Communication Can Help Emotional Intelligence

Communication isn’t a skill that can be taught only with a set of rules and guidelines. It is a soft art that professionals hone throughout their lives. In particular, it can be highly emotional.

Think of all the difficult conversations that people have during their careers. It is likely that managers have reprimanded an employee, counseled a person about difficult choices, or let someone go. Even giving someone good news, such as a promotion or job offer, is a highly emotional conversation.

The best communicators have high emotional intelligence (EQ) levels. EQ is the ability to understand how a person might react in a certain situation and how others might react to a certain behavior. The team at The Conover Company encourages people to connect with their emotions and understand how they feel rather than trying to disguise their emotions with professionalism.

Library professionals who understand the emotions of others can be better prepared to resolve conflicts and navigate difficult situations.

How Good Communication Can Help Organizations

Most people enter the library science field because they are passionate about the industry and the community. They want to share information and provide effective research tools to students, educators, and researchers. As long as libraries are havens for information and community engagement, they will require leaders who are able to guide the organizations and help the people who benefit most from these institutions. Communication skills can persuade employees to work harder, achieve growth objectives, and help the community.

Executives want to hire the best people for the job. They want clear communicators and emotionally intelligent employees.

Why Should Every Student Improve His or Her Communication Skills?

Even the most effective communicators still have room to grow when they take on leadership roles. Communication skills that sufficed in their old positions might not be enough for their new roles. Furthermore, employees who neglect communication training may not be promoted or receive other accolades if they are too shy or aggressive. “Management Communication for Leaders” teaches students to present their ideas in the best way possible so that their audiences care about what they say.

Forbes recently quoted Virgin CEO and entrepreneur Richard Branson, who spoke about the value of communication skills: “Communication is a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life.”

Branson isn’t alone with this opinion. Hiring managers across the country consistently point to communication as one of the main factors they consider when they evaluate employees.

In fact, according to Forbes, 65 percent of recruiters say that the written and verbal communication skills of applicants are more important than their college majors.

Recruiters find that it’s easier to train employees on hard skills, software systems, and company tools than communication skills and other soft skills. Though Branson was correct when he said that people can improve their communication skills, it requires time, practice, and dedication.

The goal of the USC Marshall School of Business is to help library professionals expand their skill sets so that they can advance their careers. Students learn in collaborative environments that allow them to share information and grow together. People who want to lead effectively start with effective communication. To learn more, visit the   Master of Management in Library and Information Science degree online program.



The Balance