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4 Actions Guaranteed To Improve Your Chances Of Success With A Virtual Assistant

Barnaby

Barnaby Lashbrooke

Founder and CEO of Time etc, author of The Hard Work Myth

5 minute read

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1. Upgrade your communication

Effective communication is vital to success with any business relationship but especially true when you’ll be delegating work to a remote assistant. There is a right and wrong way to do it and we’re here to help guide you. These are the communication do’s and don’ts when working with a virtual assistant.

Don’t rely solely on verbal communication

A phone conversation is great for maintaining a human touch but some elements may get lost during a verbal exchange, or misunderstood. When you do speak with your assistant on the phone, be sure to be clear and concise to avoid any confusion.

Do follow up with written communication

It's always a good idea to follow up with written communication after a meeting or phone call. This way, you can make sure that everyone is on the same page and that nothing was missed. You can either send an email or use a service like Uberconference which allows you to record calls and playback the recording later if needed.

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Don’t assume your virtual assistant understands your instructions

While what you would like done may seem clear to you, your assistant may not agree. Many times we fail to provide enough information or details when delegating tasks. It’s your responsibility to be specific about what you need.

Do be clear in your communication and explicit on what exactly you’d like accomplished

Virtual assistants are pretty amazing but they are not mind readers. You’ll save yourself time and money by clearly communicating the full scope of what you’d like your assistant to do rather than assuming they will naturally know.

Don’t make changes without letting the team know

Make sure your virtual assistant is clear on what his or her responsibilities are and what will be expected from them in the end. If something changes while they are working on a task and you need further work, let them know immediately.

Do give them the freedom to accomplish the task

Your job is to delegate the results needed. Your assistant is free to choose the process they will use to get to that result. Micromanaging won’t help you free up your plate. By trusting your assistant to accomplish the task the best way they see fit, you are communicating your confidence and trust in them.

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Don’t withhold information

Provide all the necessary information to complete a task at the beginning. It will save both of you time and prevent unnecessary work from being done. Names, locations, dates, and phone numbers are all things that should be provided immediately so there isn’t a delay in finishing a task.

Do make sure your virtual assistant has the full picture

Beyond providing necessary information on a single task, make sure your assistant is aware of how the pieces fit into the bigger picture within your business. They may be able to accomplish multiple tasks at once which will speed the process along for you.

2. Focus on delegating tasks that repeat

One of the easiest ways to get the maximum benefit from your virtual assistant is to delegate tasks that occur regularly and repeat often.

I've noticed that many inexperienced delegators work with their assistant on an ad-hoc or project-by-project basis—thinking up projects or tasks to be handed over and then delegating them to their assistant when the need arises.

Many people do this because it keeps things 'safe'—it feels much safer to delegate the occasional task than it does to truly let someone into your life to 'take over' many of the things you find yourself spending your time on time after time.

The truth is, however, that delegating tasks that repeat and eat your time on an ongoing basis is the most powerful way to benefit time and time again from your assistant—and the bedrock for any successful client <> assistant relationship.

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One-off projects disadvantages

  • Each and every project takes time, effort, and energy to delegate
  • It requires constantly having to think of projects and tasks to delegate
  • You'll need to keep on top of delegating otherwise the benefits are lost
  • You risk your virtual assistant becoming disengaged during quiet periods

Repeating tasks advantages

  • Invest the time needed to delegate a task just once, and you'll enjoy continued benefits forever
  • Save time automatically every day, week, or month with minimal effort needed
  • It provides your assistant with a consistent structure day-in and day-out
  • It reduces your need to think of more tasks, projects, or assignments to delegate

Repeating task examples you can delegate today:

  • Clearing spam and non-important emails from your inbox
  • Checking your voicemails
  • Sending newsletters
  • Writing content including blogs
  • Updating social media
  • Monthly expense reporting
  • Reconciling receipts
  • Chasing down outstanding invoices

3. Understand how to handle problems

Humans are complex by nature and it's absolutely normal for issues to crop up in any working relationship. It's crucial to understand and embrace this when you're delegating to a virtual assistant, so you can deal with any issues that come up.

We’d all love to hire someone and never have a single issue arise afterward. The truth is that problems arise, conflicts may occur, and your virtual assistant is indeed just human after all. We all make mistakes, but it’s how we deal with those mistakes that matters most.

Here’s some advice on dealing with problems and ways to prevent certain mistakes from ever occurring.

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Address problems and conflicts immediately

It’s always tempting to ignore a problem or conflict and hope it goes away on its own. That seldom happens and oftentimes just leads to a much bigger issue. If something has gone awry, bring it up as soon as you realize it.

Take advantage of the learning opportunity

Many times the problem or conflict arose because communication wasn’t clear or specific enough. Now that the situation has come to light, it’s a chance for you to make sure your instructions are delivered with clarity and for your virtual assistant to do a better job at asking questions regarding anything they find ambiguous or unclear.

Stay positive

When a problem arises work with your virtual assistant to discover where the issue came from and what they need from you to resolve it. The way you handle problems will affect the way your virtual assistant sees you and how comfortable they will feel communicating with you when they are struggling with a task. You are fostering a relationship here and you want it to be built upon trust.

Follow up

Once you’ve worked through a problem and have decided upon a solution, follow up with your virtual assistant to make sure things are going smoothly now. Recap your conversations and solutions in an email so they have something to refer back to when needed.

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4. Keep things going for the long-term

Once you’ve found a good virtual assistant, you’re going to want to keep them. That means building a long-term relationship with them and allowing them to feel as if they are truly part of your team—wherever they happen to be stationed. There’s nothing as frustrating as finally finding a great employee only to lose them to someone else.

Here are the keys to building a long-term relationship with your virtual assistant.

Keep them engaged

It’s easy for virtual employees to feel out of the loop or not connected to the beat of the organization. After all, it’s not like they can swing by your office if they have a question or exchange conversation over coffee in the break room. Keep them engaged and involved by checking in regularly. Establish a daily phone call, weekly Skype meeting, or even a team on Slack so they don’t ever feel as if they are missing out on vital information.

Recognize and reward

When an employee in the office does a great job you might announce it during a staff meeting or take them out to lunch. Virtual employees want to feel important too. Send a group email recognizing their contributions. If they really impressed you, shoot them a digital gift card to Starbucks. Make sure they feel appreciated even if you can’t physically pat them on the back.

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Get personal—don’t make it all business

Find out about their family, hobbies, and what they enjoy. Share the same about yourself. If you know they are a foodie, send over a cool recipe you think they might enjoy. Ask about their children’s sporting events or how they enjoyed their vacation. Establishing a human connection is vital for creating a lasting relationship.

Over-communicate

Virtual assistants can’t physically see how busy you are so unless you let them know ahead of time they might bombard you with 15 things that need your approval on Monday despite the fact you won’t be able to review them until Wednesday, for example. Let them know ahead of time when you won’t be available so they aren’t left twiddling their thumbs while they wait for you to catch up to where they are with work.

Respect their time

One of the reasons your virtual assistant likes what they do is because of the freedom that comes with their position. If you aren’t available 24/7 you shouldn’t expect your assistant to be. In order to establish a long-term relationship, you must establish ground rules early on. That means knowing when they are working and when they aren’t and respecting that.



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About the author

Barnaby
Barnaby Lashbrooke is the founder and CEO of Virtual Assistant service Time etc as well as the author of The Hard Work Myth, recently recommended by Sir Richard Branson. Barnaby is a Forbes Columnist on productivity and is also an accomplished entrepreneur, selling more than $35 million worth of services.

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