Have you hired a virtual assistant in the past and ended up doing more work instead of less?
Or are you not hiring a virtual assistant because you are afraid it could end in chaos?
Believe me, I have been through this myself when I hired my first virtual staff members. I worked with virtual staff from Bulgaria, India, Pakistan, Philippines and the US and have learned many lessons along the way.
There are slightly different forces at work when you collaborate with people from abroad because you don’t have people sitting next to you.
I created a list of 6 resources to help you work more productively with your virtual staff.
Here are a few lessons I learned in the past 1.5 years in working with virtual staff members to make it a long-lasting and prosperous work relationship.
1. You Only Hire for Skills
If you hire somebody just for their skills and don’t pay attention to their attitude and your gut feeling, it’s likely to end in a disaster.
The reason is simple, skills can be learned, personality can not.
Sure, you want to hire people who know what they do. However, the difference in skills levels is so small between somebody who has experience in something for 2 years and somebody for 5 years that I’d rather hire somebody with 2 years experience and the perfect personality match than somebody with 5 years experience and only a mediocre personality match.
I hired the first few people solely because of their level of skill and it ended up being a disaster. We had communication issues, deadlines were not met, I had to constantly follow up to get the job done and I ended up working more after hiring somebody than working less.
About 1.5 years ago, I hired my current virtual assistant, who is basically my Operations Manager now. And to say the least, she is awesome. I don’t have to micromanage her, she gets things done the way I want and she comes up with great suggestions too.
All because I hired her mainly for her personality and not just for her skills.
2. You Hire for Tasks
I sometimes hear entrepreneurs tell me that they hired virtual staff for specific tasks. I have tried that myself and it did not really work that well.
When you hire people for tasks, you are still the bottleneck. You don’t hand over responsibility but merely a task that will take 4 hours to get done.
The issue with that is that you have to then delegate a new task which takes up a lot of your time and you end up spending more time on delegating and managing tasks than saving time.
When you hire people for roles, you delegate responsibility which includes accountability and a sense of ownership.
Now your virtual assistant is responsible to get all the tasks done that lie within that role and you don’t have to constantly look over her shoulder to make sure things are getting done.
Now you can check in once a week and see what your virtual assistant accomplished, what she needs help with and what her suggestions are.
3. You See People as Costs
It’s like with anything you pay money for. People who see things as cost are very unlikely to pay premium for something. People who see things as investments are likely to pay a higher price and get a higher Return on Investment.
I recently listened to an episode of 10xTalk with Dan Sullivan and Joe Polish where they talked about the cost mindset vs. the investment mindset and it struck me.
They suggested that if you expect high value from something, you have to see it as an investment and not a cost. And to show that sense of investment mentality, they suggested to offer 10% more than the price you are offered.
I took this to heart and when I hired my new Online Business Marketing Manager a few weeks ago, I sent her an offer with a 10% increase in the price that she mentioned in the interview.
I told her that I see this 10% increase as a raise in stakes for both me and for her, so that we both are fully committed.
I love this concept because it put me into a total investment mindset and forced me to re-consider my desired ROI on the projects we work on together.
4. You Communicate Fuzzy Outcomes
If you get on a taxi and the driver asks you “where do you want to go” and you say “Just take me home”, he will probably look at you with a confused look.
It’s the same with your virtual assistant. When he asks “what do you want project X to look like?” and you say “Just make it look great”, you will probably not get the outcome that you expected because there are no expectations communicated.
Here is a better example, you could say “I want the LinkedIn group to have 1000 people by the end of the year and they all have to be CEOs or entrepreneurs of startups or SME businesses”.
The clearer you are with your desired outcome, the better chances you have to actually get them. I created a list of 6 resources to help you work more productively with your virtual staff.
The best way to give your virtual assistant a clear idea about your desired outcomes is to show them examples of something similar that you like. It can be a logo, website, document, process, ebook cover, coaching page layout, etc.
We learn best through examples so use them to make sure you get what you expect.
5. You Micromanage
If you hire somebody from abroad, it can be challenging to resist the urge to micromanage.
To have a productive relationship with your virtual assistant, you have to be able to fully trust the person.
It helps a lot if you hire somebody for their personality like I mentioned in point number one. If you hire somebody who can think for themselves, is meeting deadlines and creative, there is no reason for you to micromanage them.
I personally have a call with my Operations Manager and Online Business Marketing Manager every week for 30 minutes.
If they need me any other time during the week, they email me to check the project management system and give feedback on something or make a decision.
That leads us to number six.
6. You Don’t Use Project Management Systems
I’m definitely not fan of email. I believe it’s a huge waste for entrepreneur’s time.
On the other hand, I’m a big fan of project management systems. I complied a list of my favorite tools to manage projects across teams to be highly productive with your virtual staff.
At any given time, I can check my PM system and see what people are working on, what is completed and where we are at. It’s beautiful.
Like with any system, it’s only as good as the person who sets it up. It’s important that everyone in the team follows the same framework of planning and managing projects so things don’t get chaotic.
7. You Don’t Let People Bring in Their Talents
Every single individual has strengths and weaknesses. Hopefully, the people you hire have a certain talent for what they do.
Additionally, you want to make sure people can bring in as much of their talents as possible. Let me give you an example.
When I first hired my virtual assistant about 1.5 years ago, I only gave her mundane work, only things that could follow an exact process and did not require any creativity.
About six months ago, I realized that there are still things I do that I’m definitely overpaid for. One of them was finding pictures for my blog posts and creating picture quotes out of them by using the most impactful statement in the blog post.
I believed that only I can do this since only I know what’s impactful and what pictures suit my taste.
Well, I realized that I could save another 2 hours per week if I would hand over the entire process of publishing my blog posts. This was a big enough carrot for me to give it a try and overcoming my control freak syndrome.
I had no idea what to expect so I just told her exactly what type of colors I wanted in the pictures, that the font has to be easily readable on the picture and that she should use her creative talent.
The end result is that she almost always finds the most impactful line in my blog posts and I feel the pictures look much better now since she selects them.
I now get to spend 2 hours more per week on things I love and I’m best at.
8. You Have No Documentation
Have you ever wondered what happens when your virtual assistant goes on vacation or is sick? Who is going to do her work? You? Somebody else? Nobody?
Imagine for a second your virtual assistant has an accident (let’s hope not!) and she can’t work for 4 weeks. She can’t even jump on the phone to go through everything she has been doing for you. All she can do is send you and email and say that she will be back in 4 weeks. Now what?
If nothing has been documented into processes, you are likely to freak out very quickly because little fires start to burn everywhere and you suddenly realize how many things your virtual assistant has actually been doing for you.
Now, it does not have to be an accident. It’s likely that people are not going to work for you for 40 years. What if she quits out of the blue?
Here’s where documenting everything comes into play. I can’t stress this enough.
For the first year of working with my virtual assistant, there was zero documentation of what she did. However, after somebody talked to me about the risk that comes with no documentation, I immediately reached out to my assistant and told her to document everything with every single detail in processes.
Since then, she has been doing that for everything she does. Whenever she takes on a new task, she documents it with screenshots, videos and text so that even somebody who has never done it before can get started right away.
9. You Only Communicate Via Email
A major challenge that comes with virtual staff is that they don’t sit next to you and can give you a quick update on what’s happening.
This makes it necessary to regularly check in and see what’s going on and if help is needed.
Now you may ask, “Can I not just do this via email?” and the answer is no. You don’t sense if something is going wrong in an email. You can’t have a real discussion via email.
I also believe regular calls are essential to build more trust and make that collaboration more successful.
Here are 3 questions I ask my staff members in every call.
1. What did you accomplish last week?
2. What do you need feedback on or what do I need to decide?
3. Do you have any suggestions?
Something else I found very important is to make sure your team members know what the big picture looks like. It makes it easier for them to make the right decisions without having to ask you all the time.
What I do in every call is to tell them what I accomplished last week and what I’m working on this week. I also tell them about the major goals for this quarter and year so they have a compass for where we are going.
10. You Don’t Recognize People
Last but not least, say “thank you” every once in a while.
In a world full of deadlines, stress, pressure, daily business, kids, spouse, projects and emails, we tend to forget to say “thank you” or “congratulations”. I see this as an opportunity because actually saying “thank you” is extremely valuable in today’s world.
If you realize that your virtual assistant has done something outstanding, even if it’s something small, recognize it. If you don’t see these things naturally, make it part of your process to find at least one thing per week you can give recognition for.
This also nurtures the work relationship and makes it more likely to be productive.
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