When choosing a partner in life, you rely on that "chemistry" or "connection" you have with the other person. You have to more than “like” each other to develop anything deeper. Relationships require a lot of hard work by each individual and between both as partners. It's more than connection as you move forwards. It's completing each other's sentences; it's complimenting what's lacking from each to make whole. It's harmony. It's magic. It's HARD WORK.
RELATIONSHIPS! A fulfilled one can make you feel happy and content because knowing you chose well is an achievement in itself. It most of the time gives you that feeling of achieving something great and are needing nothing more but growth and success. You're on the right path, so to speak. A relationship that is not working will give you exactly the opposite. I am the farthest from the "romantic" person we all are used to. In fact, some people call me a cynic but I play well if I may say so myself. So what am I doing talking about "relationships"? Well, I am talking about work relationships because in love or not, romantic relationships and work relationships are more alike than most realize.
Like other industries, the working relationship between a Virtual Assistant and the Client requires hard work. More, in fact, as it’s done virtually. It's not just what the VA know, what skills the VA has, what attitude the VA has when it comes to giving "assistance" or fulfilling the role and more importantly, it's not just "communication", it’s more the "COMPREHENSION" and getting it right.
In most scenarios, the Virtual Assistants know what is expected of them. To "assist", "deliver", "meet expectations", "exceed expectations", "perform and do it really well", "make life easier for all", "take on responsibilities even if it wasn't what they signed up for". I can go on and on but in a nutshell, a VA should "DELIVER AND DELIVER EVERYTHING AND MORE IN THE BEST POSSIBLE WAY". These are all made clear and stated on job descriptions, we know that and we deliver.
But that's the VA's side of the story. How about you as the clients?
Like every great fairytale with a happy ever after ending, this relationship starts with, “Once upon a time, there was this client who found himself overwhelmed with work that he decided to seek help.” And like all great things made possible by careful planning and hard work, there are some basic steps a client can take to make it a happily ever after for both him and the assistant.
THE FIRST STEP is accepting you need assistance. You must be doing something right if you find yourself not being able to take on all responsibilities. This means, your business is growing. Responsibilities are growing. You need help.
THE SECOND STEP is asking yourself what exactly do you see your assistant doing for you? A well-defined role to start with is the right path. The role the VA will play from the start may change or may grow but there has to be a clear initial role. What do you need help with at this time?
THE THIRD STEP is to have the system to take on a Virtual Assistant. Your Assistant will be working online, there has to be software or system to accommodate that process and procedures to follow to be able to work well together virtually.
THE FOURTH STEP? This may not be easy because we're talking personality. What type of person do you see yourself enjoying working with?
- SKILLS are great to consider but these may be developed.
- KNOWLEDGE is also good to have but people can learn if given the chance and may end up great if taught right.
- EXPERIENCE? Well, not all experienced people in your industry can perform well. What if from experience, it isn't something that they have the passion for but are taking on the same role because it's within their "comfort zone"? Would you like to work with people who are burnt out? Experience is a plus but it shouldn't be a priority.
- Think ATTITUDE! Keep in mind that you also started out as not knowing anything, not having the skill set needed and with no experience
THE FIFTH STEP is the interview. When it comes to romantic relationships, you don't ask for his Social Security number or list of assets, correct? You spend time getting to know the person by dating, talking, and giving it time. Know if you have that chemistry. If you connect. If you click.
- Interviewing applicants is an art. Put in mind that there's such thing as "the right question" but there is no right answer. Just the best answers the applicant has at that moment. The key to interviewing is getting information about the applicant you deem important that the
applicant didn’t want to disclose but did anyway without realizing it because you asked the right question. When you draft your questions out, ask yourself what you want to know that isn't on his resume. Get to know the person by listening to what the person is saying during the interview, not what the person carefully and artfully typed on his CV/resume. Find who you strongly connected with from the conversation and from the info received.
THE SIXTH STEP is HIRING the Assistant. Choose wisely. Was there a connection? Were you able to understand each other? Did you enjoy meeting, talking to, and learning about this person? Does this person check most if not all of the boxes on your list of must-haves when you were considering what you want or need from an assistant?
THE SEVENTH STEP? This requires everything you've got and more than the time you can give. You work to MAKE IT WORK.
- In romantic relationships, most will not work because when things get rough, it's human nature to be defensive. Without asking yourself what you did wrong and doing something about it first, you immediately look for the other person’s shortcomings, look for ways to blame everything on your partner and worse, "Expect your partner to CHANGE". While you're doing this, the other party may be doing the exact same thing. Comprehension comes much later and only then will "empathy" show itself and by then, it's too late for some to fix it. If this is how you intend to make it work between you and your VA, your work relationship is doomed to fail.
As an experienced Virtual Assistant, a trainer of VAs, and an experienced manager, I will give you some of the basics that I have used in my professional life when it comes to actually making it work with an assistant.
GET TO KNOW YOURSELF AND THEN MAKE IT KNOWN!
WHO ARE YOU?
How do others see you? How do you see yourself? This will tell you if you are projecting the real you because this is key to making the relationship work. There should never be misunderstanding you, what you want and how you want assisted. Understand yourself as the Boss. Before hiring an assistant, you catered to your own needs. You assisted yourself. So who knows best on how to assist you but you? As the assistant, how did you manage yourself as your own Boss?
HOW DO YOU THINK?
How does your mind work? How do you make decisions? If your assistant knows this, when put in a situation to make decisions for you, your assistant will do so like you.
WHAT DO YOU WANT?
Your assistant should be attuned to your goals and make his everyday goal parallel to yours and be able to support your end goals.
WHAT ARE YOUR PREFERENCES?
You want your assistant to be able to take the initiative, work proactively and not be too dependent on you if it has to do with your preferences. Let your assistant know you well enough.
WHAT ARE YOUR PRIORITIES?
What calls are important enough to disturb you for? What should be canceled in place of another because it should be prioritized when it comes to managing your calendars? What emails should be answered immediately?
WHAT ARE MOST IMPORTANT TO YOU?
It's crucial that your assistant knows what you hold important. This will help your assistant manage everything for you. Your assistant will know to prioritize which project to work on from the list of projects you have on your plate even without asking. He will know where his time and effort should be when helping you especially when you're working on timeframes and you have difficulty managing your work hours.
WHO ARE IMPORTANT TO YOU?
As your assistant, he should know who is in that circle. Who would you give precious time up for even with your busy schedule? Your assistant is your gateway. Who is to be let in even busy, who can wait on line?
IS YOUR ASSISTANT READY TO BE YOU?
Not that you want your assistant to take over your business but is your assistant ready to function, think and be like or better than the "assistant" that you were when you were your own assistant? Is he ready to step in when required?
Why these questions? Because these are some of the very important questions your Virtual Assistant needs answers to especially during transition. Give your assistant detailed information! Let the VA know you to effectively help you! Empower them by presenting yourself to them in the most honest way possible!
GET TO KNOW YOUR VIRTUAL ASSISTANT AND THEN TRAIN YOURSELF FOR TRANSITION
Yes! It's not just the VA who needs training with it comes to working your systems, procedures, and business as a whole. You are now the Boss so a transition period is needed.
- You need to be trained on how to "work" with your assistant.
- Train yourself to understand your assistant's needs.
- Train yourself to adjust and commit to the new process.
- Train yourself to be present.
- Train yourself to realize limitations.
- Train yourself to be a partner.
- Train yourself to give not just get.
- Train yourself to be understood.
- Train yourself to listen.
- Train yourself to be the person you as the boss wants to work with.
To be an effective Boss is to be your assistant’s “ASSISTANT”. Here are some of the ways to get there:
- SPEAK BUT LISTEN AND REALLY HEAR.
- BE UNDERSTOOD AND UNDERSTAND.
- BE PROVIDED BUT BE READY TO PROVIDE.
- TRAIN AND BE TRAINED.
- TEACH BUT LEARN.
- EMPOWER TO BE EMPOWERED.
- BE MANAGED TO MANAGE.
- FOLLOW TO LEAD.
- TRUST TO BE TRUSTED.
- BE PRESENT TO BE GIVEN THE PRESENCE.
- MEET EXPECTATIONS TO BE GIVEN MORE THAN WHAT YOU EXPECTED.
- BE TRANSPARENT TO GET HONESTY.
- ASSIST TO BE ASSISTED.
It’s a give and take. If your VA feels you’re fully invested in making it work, you’ll get more than exceptional service. You’ll have the loyalty, trust and more than your expected return of investment from your VA.
QUESTIONS YOU SHOULD BE ASKING YOURSELF
You have to have the correct mindset as the Boss to make it work with your Virtual Assistant.
- Are my expectations doable? Possible maybe? How about probable? Achievable? If the answer to all these is "YES", was it made clear to my assistant how I want it to play out?
- So I communicated with my assistant, was I understood?
- Are we on the same page on everything important?
- Am I giving my assistant the chance to make it work with me? -Am I listening enough? -Have I ever asked my assistant the important question, “How can I assist, assist me?"
- AM I READY TO BE MY ASSISTANT’S “ASSISTANT?”
Why all these questions, you may ask? Because any self-respecting assistant cannot give or exceed the assistance expected of him/her if the Boss leaves the assistant blind.
If you haven't realized it yet, the key here is knowing that your Assistant may be the best and can be exceptional but your Assistant can’t read your mind!
FINALLY, MY QUESTION FOR YOU IS THIS:
When you hired, were you setting your Virtual Assistant up to fail or did you plan on working hard in doing everything right for the work relationship to succeed?
All great relationships need to be nurtured by both. It needs time to develop into something great. So "EXPLORE" and work hard to make it work by giving it time and nurturing it.
This assistant was your choice. There has to be something you liked and looked forward to exploring when you chose him. Don't give up easily just because you have other choices because if you replace as that seems to be the easy way out and make the same mistakes during the transition anyway, you’re not just back to square one, it is doomed like the first one. Again, your choice. Give yourself and your VA time to get it right and prove if only to yourself that you made the right choice.
Put in the hard work and do everything right before giving up.WHAT IF HE REALLY IS THE ONE? WOULDN'T YOU WANT TO KNOW?
About the author: Bernadette Canero holds a Bachelor's degree in Industrial Engineering. She is one of the founders and owners of Summit VA Solutions. Ms Canero is Summit VA Solutions' Vice President and Chief Operating Officer and Virtual Assistant Trainer.