4 Habits for Strong Communication & Effective Remote Collaboration

Editor's note: This article is one of a series designed to be At Your Service as we all learn to connect with one another even while we're remote. Because together we are not alone.

From Hack the Crisis to the Scottish brewer using his facility to manufacture and distribute hand sanitizer, right now, humans are doing what we do best: adapting. Everyone’s coming together around a single idea — finding creative ways to connect and do business without actually making physical contact. 

Pivoting work effectively as your teams begin to recalibrate from home may be challenging at first, but your team will be as effective as your foundation, so lay it well and try to have a little fun while you’re at it.

To master effective dialogue at a distance, get your team’s buy-in on implementing these highly effective communication practices.

  1. Listening deeply to not only what is being said (or typed)  literally, but also to follow the intent of the meaning. Focus on inquiry by:

    • Paraphrasing: I’m hearing you say <use your own words to reflect>

    • Asking for clarification: Can you provide an example?

  2. Evoke people’s genuine voice by encouraging your peers to reveal what is true for them and for yourself:

    • Invite participation: What do others think? Or who else has an idea?

    • Provide support: We have not heard from Katherine yet, I wonder what she has to say?

  3. Hold space so others can fully express themselves. This is  a way to truly respect and value other people’s views as legitimate. To respect others is to listen for the coherence in the other person’s insights.

    • Validate others: I think there is merit in Kathy’s idea.

    • Be vulnerable: I admit I do not know, I wonder what happens when...

  4. Let go of certainties. These are rigid, non-negotiables that limit dialogue. You needn’t suppress what you think nor advocate your opinion with single-minded conviction, conversely:

    • Look for trade-offs: What are pros and cons of this approach?

    • Validate your hypothesis: How can we design an experiment to learn more?

Adapt Your Leadership Habits to Thrive in Tough Times

Leadership teams are looked upon as the invincibles, and while the rest of the organization may count on your invulnerability, the path to becoming a true team starts with your curiosity to become more than the sum of the individuals you represent. Open up! 

Developing habits to listen, to let go of uncertainties, to hold space, and to invoke true voices of others are learnable skills, habits that can be developed by leadership teams to face the next wave of uncertainties around the corner. We need our leaders, senior managers, and strategists to wonder and learn together with the rest of the organization as our world shape-shifts at an incredibly blinding pace. Our organizational leaders must brave this change with humanity and humility. Will you step up?

Build a Habit Around Collaboration, and Not Just for Those You Manage

Leadership teams need to become highly collaborative, not just working groups. Strong communication habits help you tap into dynamic systems, personal and organizational, that accumate compounded benefits for your team over time. (Read: Harvard Business Review The Discipline of Teams). In NYTimes bestsellers The Power of Habit (Charles Duhig) and Atomic Habits (James Clear), the authors emphasize the compounded gains that thoughtful communication and other positive habits can create for organizations and persons. 

If you’re on an agile team already, you have practiced your daily Scrums, and have a rhythm with your sprint planning, reviews, and retrospectives. Through regular practice of the Scrum framework, effective teams become agile enough to adapt on a daily basis to changes in their environment while also maintaining focus on their goals. These good habits foster autonomy within the team, as each person practices making informed decisions and taking empowered actions at the local level. These teams might have more practice than others in demonstrating trust in each other’s decisions and capabilities. 

Here’s a tip for not-yet-agile teams: Schedule 15 minutes to connect each morning to coordinate and identify opportunities to collaborate around removing obstacles. Make an agreement that everyone who can do so attends via video for your remote meetings.  

Check out Dhaval’s recorded webinar on Systems Thinking for Transformative Change (1 hour).

If you're interested in increasing your agility, find a live online training that fits your schedule.


Author Bio

Dhaval Panchal is an experienced Scrum Alliance Certified Enterprise Coach® (CEC), Certified Scrum Trainer® (CST), Certified Agile Leadership-Educator (CAL-E), and Organization Design consultant. He is founder of Evolve Agility, a Texas-based coaching and training consultancy. He is actively involved in the agile community in Houston and has led large-scale agile transformations for companies in oil and gas, banking, insurance, gaming, and medical industries. He has more than 17 years of agile implementation, coaching, and transformation experience.


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