How to Manage Your Virtual Assistant

Virtual AssistantSo, you’ve hired a new virtual assistant. You followed all the steps to find a good one and it all seems to be going well so far. How do you ensure that everything stays on track?

You need good communication

Good communication forms the basis of all relationships, both professional and personal. If you want your virtual assistant to emotionally invest in your business, make the effort to bond with them.

If your VA is Filipino this is especially important. Filipinos can be the most loyal employees in the world, but you need to foster an emotional connection with them.

Make it a practice to chat back and forth a bit, especially in the beginning. This is second nature if you’re working in the same office with someone but takes a bit more effort if they’re thousands of miles away. Get to know your VA as a person and let them get to know you as well.

If you don’t form a personal relationship, it’s all too easy to start seeing the VA as an app or a robot. This is the first step to disaster. Of course, your VA is a human being with all of humanity’s faults and foibles.

Sometimes they’ll get sick or feel confused, embarrassed or not up to the task. They’ll want to take time off for holidays and family issues. This will be true of anyone you hire, so if you like your VA do what you can to accommodate them.

In general, Filipinos are anxious to please. They’re excited about working with you and will do their best for you. With training, teaching, and regular constructive feedback you can earn their loyalty and highest efforts for your business.

Get in touch every day

get in touchIt’s a good idea to require your VA to send you an email every working day. Insist upon it. It will help maintain good communication and create a foundation of trust you can build on.

They should list the tasks completed and any questions or concerns they might have. You can also ask for suggestions on how to better complete jobs you’ve assigned to them. It shows that you respect them and value their input. This will help keep them engaged with their work.

When your VA sends you an email always reply as quickly as you can, even if it’s just a quick ‘Looks good! Thanks!’ It shows that you care about the job they’re doing. No one likes to feel that they’re working in a vacuum. If you care about the job your VA will also. (And if you don’t care, how can you expect your VA to?)

Email is probably the most reliable way to communicate, but you can also Skype or use a project management system such as Basecamp or Slack. You can also call their cell phone or landline, but long-distance charges can add up quickly.

Ask the right questions

When you’re explaining a task to your VA use plenty of detail. You can use a screen capture program to take videos of your desk top while you demonstrate tasks. Once you’ve explained you can ask questions like:

  • Does this make sense?
  • Do you think you’ll be able to do this now?
  • Do you have any suggestions for how this could be done better?

How to give feedback

No matter how clever and competent your VA, they will make mistakes, especially in the beginning. How you phrase your feedback can make a big difference in how it is received. It’s important to put the emphasis on the mistake, rather than the character of your VA.

If someone feels like you’re criticizing them as a person they’ll probably just become defensive. It will harm your relationship and probably won’t correct the problem either.

Good feedback follows a general pattern:

  • First, model accepting responsibility for a mistake.
  • “I’m sorry, I probably didn’t explain this clearly enough.”
  • Your staffer sees that making a mistake isn’t a big deal and it’s easy to admit it and move on.
  • Tell them you value their contributions and good qualities.
  • “I can see you worked hard on this. I really like …” (point out parts of the assignment you like and praise them).
  • Focus on the area that needs improvement and make your language specifically about that problem.
  • “I noticed that in this area you didn’t list specific examples. I’d like you to give three specific examples for each of the items on the list.”
  • Give constructive feedback, e.g. the solution to the problem. Don’t just say something vague like, “There’s something missing here.”
  • Once you’re both on the same page on what needs to be done to solve the problem, reiterate your appreciation for their work. You want them to leave the feedback session feeling motivated to do better, not ashamed or angry.

Managing a virtual assistant isn’t that different from managing any kind of staff member. You need to make a little extra effort in communication, since your VA is so far away. However, that extra effort is paid back in the savings and convenience a good VA will give your business.

If you have any questions about how to manage your virtual staff, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line. I’ve done it for years and will be happy to help you sort things out.

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