The most important skill in business


I studied journalism and political science at the University of Washington, with the assumption that I would be a reporter for a living. Long story short, things didn’t exactly work that way.

Now that I’m firmly on a marketing and business career path, I often think about whether I would have or should have treated my undergraduate education differently, had I known where destiny would ultimately lead me. Should I have gone to business school? Received an economics degree? A stint in banking perhaps?

Maybe. But probably not.

The more I do this, the more I become convinced that communication skills are the most important skill in business. It’s the skill that can be the hardest to learn and master, and can be hardest for many of us to get good at.

But our ability to effectively communicate with one another, especially in a business setting, sets the stage and clears obstacles to achieving our goals. It defines how others perceive us, how well they understand us, how customers understand our products, and how badly prospects need our products.

Some of that communication is written, some verbal, some visual. But whether we’re talking about an email, or a PowerPoint deck, or a video, or a quick hallway conversation, effective & efficient communication can make or break our success.

Those are skills that journalism schools teach every day. Journalism students learn how to effectively tell a long, complicated story in a single sentence. Even a single headline (less than a sentence).

They learn that less is more, and that words and images have the power to start and end wars, mobilize large groups of people to take action, and turn a simple product into a phenomenon.

To be successful in business requires a large toolbox of skills, no doubt. But the ability to communicate, in the end, may trump them all.