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5 Vital Communication Skills Every SPED Director Needs to Master Today

sped director shaking hands at table

Importance of Workplace Communication

When you think of the tools that a SPED Director needs, “communication” may not immediately strike you as a high priority. However, you will find that the wisest and most effective SPED Directors have mastered these vital interpersonal skills.

SPED Directors, tasked with managing Special Education Departments, lead with clear communication, the capacity to listen and ask insightful questions to get to the heart of every matter, and the confidence to negotiate difficult conversations with their teachers, therapists, and administrators.

Yet, despite communication’s centrality to the manager’s role, ranked twice as important as managerial skills, the picture isn’t very encouraging. According to statistics, 57% of employees report not being given clear directions and 69% of managers are not comfortable communicating with the employees in general.

Benefits of Effective Management Communication

1. Improving Team Morale

Unfortunately, chaos can ensue when it isn’t clearly communicated what’s going on or who is in charge. And this confusion can undermine morale, particularly if the staff’s perception is that they aren’t being given clear direction or constructive feedback.

Often, low morale leads to poor quality work, increased absenteeism, and higher turnover, underlining the necessity for the SPED Director to possess effective communication skills.

The SPED Director’s clear communication will drive the success of the entire Special Education Department. By articulating both purpose and direction, teachers and therapists will understand exactly what is expected of them, which will result in less confusion and more action.

2. Increase Productivity

More purposeful action leads to more productivity. When SPED Directors set specific goals, issue clear directives, and define key work parameters, teachers and therapists understand what’s expected from them, what to strive for, and are emboldened and energized in their efforts.

Whatever strategic communication tool is selected to relay information, be it in-person meetings, phone, conference calls, video-conferencing, or emailing, the objective is the same — to be as succinct and clear as possible. This allows teachers and therapists to manage their time more effectively, while reducing the potential for error.

3. Problem Solving

No SPED Director wants to encounter conflict within the department. Unfortunately, it is unavoidable — even when there is underlying harmony. Effective communication expedites the ability to identify potential areas of conflict early on, as well as ensures that the concern is resolved with minimal disruption.

And when problems need a more comprehensive solution, effective communication becomes an invaluable tool. Teachers and therapists who struggle with their work naturally look to managers for guidance to solve their problems. When SPED Directors have highly refined communication skills, their staff will feel satisfied more often.

5 Critical Communication Skills for SPED Directors

1. Grasping Different Communication Styles

Everyone communicates differently. It is important for SPED Directors to learn about different communication styles. This will help them to both identify their own style and the styles of those they manage.

2. Striving for Clarity

At the heart of good communication is getting the message across clearly. While everyone attempts to communicate clearly, it can be a very elusive skill to perfect. Nonetheless, the importance of clarity cannot be overstated. It reduces the frustration of both the speaker and listener that can often result from perceptions and judgment.

Keep in mind that humans in general are not skilled in being great listeners. Our brains are very active, there are myriad distractions, and unfortunately, we have lower attention spans than goldfish. And this has been proven through science.

Microsoft reported in a 2015 study that people generally lose concentration after eight seconds, while goldfish can focus for nine seconds. Since the message needs to cut through lots of noise to be heard, clarity is not negotiable.

3. Accurate Questioning Skills

Sometimes uncovering a problem’s true essence depends upon asking the right questions. The SPED Director who knows how to ask those questions can quickly gain the information needed for a therapist to progress with a client with whom there is an impasse, saving the therapist a lot of time, frustration, and wasted effort.

4. Listening Actively

For many people, “listening” means waiting our turn to speak. Some of us are mentally writing our to-do lists while someone is talking to us. But this is not really listening. Active listening is a skill that most people need to learn. And just like accurate questioning, active listening can accelerate productivity and make everyone’s day more pleasant.

The ability to listen actively to teachers and therapists is the mark of a good SPED Director. If the SPED Director is talking all the time, it’s impossible to tune in to others. And if it becomes apparent that the SPED Director isn’t tuned in, the staff isn’t going to feel heard and will thus become turned off.

For communication to be effective, the SPED Director needs to learn what’s working well, what’s not, and most importantly, how things can be improved. That involves listening—and listening some more.

Listening doesn’t only mean silence. It can also involve asking broad, probing, open-ended questions, which help the listener to direct the conversation in any way he/she chooses to. Akin to this is creating an environment where teachers and therapists feel comfortable sharing their input.

5. Repeat, repeat, repeat

One common communication mistake many people make is adopting a “check-off-the-box” mentality. They see communication as a singular event and say things like, “I sent out an email” or “I already communicated that.”

Research shows that many people need to hear a message multiple times before they absorb it. Building trust and credibility requires communicating a message consistently, possibly in different ways. When teachers and therapists hear the same message repeated, it is more likely that they will take notice, believe it, and act on it.

A Secret to your Success

Well-honed communication skills are critical to every SPED Director’s success. Without them, as a SPED Director, you will lack the credibility to effectively lead your teachers and therapists, and struggle to inspire them to reach their potential.

And while becoming an excellent communicator is multi-faceted and requires dedication and work, the rewards will far exceed the effort and promise to transform not only your professional life but your personal life along with it.

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