Project Management

3 Interpersonal Communication Tools You Need for Every Remote Team

Mass Bay Chapter

Johanna Rothman works with companies to improve how they manage their product development. She is the author of Manage Your Project Portfolio: Increase Your Capacity and Finish More Projects, 2nd edition, Agile and Lean Program Management: Scaling Collaboration Across the Organization as well as several other books including the newest: Create Your Successful Agile Project: Collaborate, Measure, Estimate, Deliver. See her blogs and more of her writing at

Although we often think of tools or templates when we think about communication tools, we need interpersonal “tools” even more often. When we don’t use our interpersonal tools enough, we create problems in the team.

We can reduce misinterpretations and increase engagement with these three interpersonal “tools” that we all have access to. I find these tools help me be more human—and help the other people be more human with me:

  • Assume good intention
  • Extend empathy
  • Maintain a sense of humor

Interpersonal Tool 1: Assume Good Intention
In my experience, assuming good intention challenges most of us—especially when we feel pressure. Let’s look at an example.

Dan, a scrum master, wasn’t sure what was going on with his team. He always turned on his video for meetings—but he was the only one in the entire team. Everyone worked out of their houses. Most people worked from their kitchen tables or their living room couches. He had an office in his home, with a door.

Aside from not using video, people muted their audio as a matter of course. Dan understood—there were plenty of cats, dogs and small children running around. However, people didn’t always respond when other people expected them to do so.

Some team members were angry about not receiving “prompt” replies to their emails…

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One man can be a crucial ingredient on a team, but one man cannot make a team.

- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar