A healthy and productive relationship with your Virtual Assistant can mean the difference between getting some so-so results or putting significant parts of your business on autopilot. Worse yet, an unhealthy relationship can be destructive and cause irreparable damage to your brand, operations and bottom line.
Let me show you how to build a healthy relationship with your Virtual Assistant.
The first step is to ensure that your Virtual Assistant is introduced to their role within your company in a comprehensive and considered way. This article will show you how to successfully on-board a Virtual Assistant into your business.
But after that, what comes next?
I have heard horror stories from my Virtual Staff over the years about how they have been treated by former clients. What I have heard is a primary motivation for creating VE People as I seek to develop sustainable and mutually beneficial engagements for my staff and my clients.
The golden rule is that you must treat your Virtual Assistant just as you would a staff member who works in the same physical office as you. Just because the engagement is virtual, does not mean that the name that appears on your screen does not belong to a human at the other end.
Always remember, you are dealing with a human.
Think about what motivates you, concerns you, what you aspire to achieve. Any person in your team will have their own motivations, fears and aspirations. Take the time to understand them. It will not only make it easier to develop incentives, it will also help you build a true connection with them. This is important.
A little help from the Time Doctor for minimizing your time consumption on time and work performance management of your team, there can be more space for you to focus on building a connection that enables commitment, increased productivity, longevity and increased innovation. That goes both ways, benefiting you and your Virtual Assistant.
When you have the connection, you need to maintain it and the importance of this is multiplied in the virtual world. Periods of non-contact can create problems even when there is nothing wrong. In the absence of good and positive communication, rumor, doubt and uncertainty creep in. Even in short periods.
Remember, virtual engagements often mask great distances, cultural divides and operating styles. On each end of that connection is usually a differing requirement on how people’s approaches, work and outputs (or requests) are validated. Without communication, this validation breaks down and as such, so does the fabric of your team.
I make a point of trying to communicate to all my direct reports each day. Even if it is a short message or a quick Skype chat. I have regular meetings scheduled each week to bring everyone together but I still try and get in touch with my reports each day. The other thing I ensure is that my team is talking. I do this in three ways:
- I encourage one or more of my all-rounders to get in touch with people in the team and keep the finger on the pulse
- When allocating tasks, I often assign to two people to encourage them to work together
- I issue gentle reminders of who needs to talk to who and why
Communication must flow between you and your Virtual Assistant. Even when times are tough, the communication must be consistent and transparent.
To continue building a healthy relationship with your Virtual Assistant, don’t be shy to share your vision. This adds context.
All my direct reports understand exactly where I am steering our company. They understand why they are working on a particular project and what the contribution they are making to the overall goal.
For staff who are performing specific tasks, each one gets provided just a little more context to ensure they understand a bit of the “why”. One of the critical errors I see many people make in virtual engagements is to treat their Virtual Assistant like a robot. This is the worst mistake you can make – treat people like a robot and you get robotic results (and that is not necessarily a good thing).
For example, you cannot get a more repetitive task than data mining. But under the surface of that task, there is still a level of intuition that you need to get a quality output.
This is standard way many people assign a task like this to their Virtual Assistant:
Please provide me a list of 500 small business owners (restaurants) in the area of Melbourne. I need it in two hours so get to work.
The output is guaranteed to be a copy and paste from an online directory and provides zero value for the person who receives it. Without additional context, the Virtual Assistant has no idea why they are even creating the list.
Here is how I allocate a task like this:
Hi VA, I am currently doing some research on the issues that small business owners, primarily restaurants, are encountering in the Melbourne CBD and need your help please. What I am trying to understand is how small businesses are performing reputation management on social media – after all, one bad review can really hurt their business can’t it? How you can help me is to identify restaurants (small businesses only) that have an active Facebook or Twitter page where there is consistent engagement. Don’t worry about the accounts that are stagnant or inactive. We are only interested in pages with engagement for now. Each page should at least have one review that is negative. If you can please use that criteria and capture the contact details for the restaurant, links to their social media profiles and also provide a short summary of the status of their pages, we can build a list of restaurants that might need help with their reputation management.
I have a great product in mind that I think we can launch and it will be great to get their inputs into this before we build anything. That’s why a quality list is important.
Please do two hours of data mining on this and come back and let me know what size list you think we can build and your opinion on if this is a viable activity for us to perform. If you have any questions or are not getting results, please ping me to discuss. Thanks!
Whilst it does take longer to assign tasks, the outcomes are just so much better. And that’s what’s most important.
This is the tip of the iceberg in terms of building a healthy relationship with your Virtual Assistant. Focusing on a great onboarding process, treating them as a person and not a robot, communicating frequently and openly and sharing your vision are all great places to start. Stay tuned for more tips on relationship building with your Virtual Assistant.