We’re grateful that we get to partner with some amazing leaders around the country who are accomplishing tremendous things in their work. Today, we’ve invited one of those amazing leaders, Lee S. Irwin, to share her secrets to avoid breakdowns with your virtual assistant.
I started with my eaHELP virtual executive assistant (VEA) in January of 2015, and have yet to make a better or more influential choice for my business. However, like in all relationships, we both have to put in some effort to grow and deepen the partnership.
She was excellent from Day One, and sometimes I even feel as though she can sense what I’m feeling and thinking. Other times, the ball gets dropped. Luckily, my VEA and I are passionate about discussing these situations and determining how to prevent them.
Maybe someday, she’ll share with you the lessons she’s learned along the way. But for now I’ll reveal some of the ways I’ve learned to “help her help me” and boost the relationship sky-high!
These tips are particularly useful for entrepreneurs, business operators and others who currently count on the expertise of VEAs; these are also instructive for those weighing whether or not to engage with such virtual aid.
Connect the Dots
Give your VEA as much backstory as possible. If a project is super close to your heart, don’t give it the same approach as a casual side gig. Telling your VEA about your hopes, your process and your concerns will help get her in “your corner” so she can fight the good fight alongside you.
My VEA and I have quarterly vision-based planning meetings, and even spend at least 15 minutes each week talking about our personal lives! Knowing more about each other’s challenges and wins makes a huge difference as we navigate the week. I recently returned from a personal retreat inspired to make major changes in my business. My VEA was a great sounding board as I sifted through possibilities. Because she knew “the real me” already, she was able help me zero in on ideas that resonated deeply with my heart.
Correct the Course
If a project isn’t going the way you’d hoped, say something as soon as possible. While your VEA should have as much freedom as possible to accomplish tasks in his own way, it’s vital to be on the same page about the outcome. If there’s been a misunderstanding or miscommunication, fix it while it’s small. You both will benefit from the clarity.
Last fall, my team’s fingers were worn to nubs trying to get my newest program off the ground. We couldn’t get our heads above water long enough to holler “Help!” Unfortunately, most of the problems were self-inflicted due to miscommunication. We thought we were on the same page, but we really were all just hanging on to a runaway train (with communication as the caboose)! The project launched, but it was a stressful time for everyone. My poor VEA was eager to have a conversation about some of the ways we could prevent errors the next time.
Involve Them Immediately
Even if a new direction or project is just bubbling in your brain, everyone benefits when your executive assistant knows is informed. Your VEA should be treated as a team member, and your staff should be fully aware of how he or she is vital to your success. Include your VEA in the planning process, not just task management. Their suggestions and involvement will elevate your project to rockstar status!
This summer, my VEA and I are tackling a new venture – but this time we’ve done it together. Her insights and suggestions weren’t always what I wanted to hear, but the whole process was remarkably positive, smooth and peaceful. My VEA brought to light several areas of my brand that would need to be adjusted with the new venture – areas that I wouldn’t have remembered until my poor audience was thoroughly confused! We were able to head off problems before they ever surfaced, because we laid the foundations together.
Get Face Time
Communication is so much more than an email. Nobody wants to sit through one more meeting, but spending even 20 minutes a week meeting face-to-face with your VEA can make a world of difference to your ROI. Tone of voice, gestures and real teambuilding happen when folks get together. Even if you and your VEA have a fantastic communication loop, don’t skip this one!
The longer I go without actually talking to my VEA, the more distant I feel from her. Even if I have concerns or am unsure about the status of a project, one meeting with her is all it takes to assure me that she’s on-task and has my back. When I’m away for a long trip, we try to meet as soon as possible after I return. It’s never a waste of time to connect and share any “downloads” I had while I was gone.
Close the Loop
If plans change – which is almost always inevitable – keep your VEA in the know. Add her to the email chain, or shoot a text to clue him in on new developments. They’ll appreciate the head’s up, and you’ll appreciate their proactive input. This is especially helpful for those off-duty times like weekends and evenings. Including your VEA as a part of the conversation will prevent the totally-not-fun Monday surprises.
When I’m handing off a client to my VEA for scheduling, I like to add a line to my emails that goes something like this: “I’ve CC’d my executive assistant in this email so that she’ll be able to give you her full attention.” I find this effective because it includes the entire email chain for my VEA to browse if she has questions, and it clearly communicates to the client my trust in and esteem for my VEA.
Lee S. Irwin is passionate about helping women business owners tap into their power to live in abundance and make a difference in the world. Serving through customized 1-1 coaching, retreats and supportive group programs, she has run a thriving business since 2001. She loves to hike with her husband, watercolor and get immersed in a book while nibbling organic dark chocolate. She can be found at leesirwin.com or on Facebook in her new community of Spiritual Women Entrepreneurs.