Speaking and listening skills are critical for managers, but solid writing skills also are important because so much managerial communication still ends up on paper.
Proposals, project discussions, suggested ideas, and decisions will appear in writing at some point in the process. And when managers and executives analyze issues, document what happens, and make the business case for their strategy, they put it in writing.
James O’Rourke, a graduate school professor at Notre Dame and the author of the textbook Management Communication, says writing is a “career sifter” for managers. If you demonstrate that you cannot express your ideas clearly on paper, “you’re not likely to last. Stories of bad writers who’ve been shown the door early in their careers are legion,” he says.
Managers need to write well because they write and edit their own messages, unlike in the past when they had more opportunity to hand it to an administrative assistant. They also need to be good writers because, like nuclear fuel, written documents have a long afterlife. The permanence of writing allows people to refer back to documents, which is helpful, but a written message also can bring unforeseen consequences because it lingers, for everyone to see.