Women seeking to become tomorrow’s corporate leaders must work today to improve their listening and communications skills. These skills, representing a “communications capability,” are developed by combining careful listening with good oral communication and writing skills.

First, really listen. You must be able to understand what people are truly saying (or possibly not saying). For example, I recently was asked to correct a service date for an employee who was retiring. Although the man presented factual reasons why the date needed to be changed, as well as how the mistake had occurred, I realized what he needed was more than a date correction. What I heard was the emotional reason: it was a matter of pride that he be recognized for the time he had been with the company. Practice good listening with customers, too; it shows care about their needs and is the first step to making sure your employees and company meet those needs.

Second, learn how to communicate your ideas. A good leader communicates clearly the vision and values of the company through words as well as actions. Communicate your commitment, and let each employee on your team know how important his or her role is to the success of your organization. Create a work environment that respects and appreciates every employee and you’ll develop stronger products, gain new customers, and strengthen long-term relationships.

Also encourage employees to communicate their ideas. They can help find ways to either serve the customer better or save the company money. Listen to the problems your employees face in executing the vision and make necessary adjustments. Successful leaders make sure that they hear diverse viewpoints. Good communication throughout the ranks fosters a unified understanding of corporate goals and a very high level of teamwork.