My tough love approach (heavy on the love) focuses on bringing order to chaos, and creating solid (and straightforward) strategic plans. I take surveys for fun, never met a process I didn’t like, and am a big believer in personal growth as a keystone to business growth.
Adding a VA to your team can be like having someone hand you a life preserver after you’ve been treading water for hours.
You’re filled nose-to-toes with confidence that your savior has arrived. That the days of drowning in the day-to-day tasks are over and you can finally get back to dry land (aka working in your zone of genius).
If due diligence has been satisfied you’ve:
And now you can be sure that the person handing you that life preserver is a trained lifeguard who’s been around the block; not some well-intentioned stranger who’s likely to get themselves pulled under with you.
Or can you?
Sometimes, despite your hard work and diligence, a well-intentioned stranger arrives on the scene first and you find your savior might not be as equipped to lead the way as you might have hoped.
Don’t worry, all is not lost! You might just need to help them paddle you ashore a bit.
Here are a few red flags to watch for after you've brought your VA on board and how you can address them before you go under.
Let’s be realistic here; things happen. Sometimes people are late, sometimes a due date needs to be shifted, and sometimes tasks are delayed. It happens to the best of us.
What we’re talking about here is a pattern of behavior that happens consistently. If someone is always late to meetings, or if they consistently ask for extensions, it’s time to take a step back and assess the situation.
First, determine how you might be contributing to the issue.
Then talk to your VA about it. Let them know what you’ve observed and the effect it is having on your business.
If you’ve determined there’s room for improvement on your end say so. Then lay out your expectations for them and ask how they can ensure to meet them in the future.
Allow your VA the opportunity to act on your discussion and improve.
If the issues continue you might consider moving them to less time-sensitive tasks if you really enjoy working with them; otherwise, you may want to consider looking for a new VA.
First, determine how you might be contributing to the issue.
After you’ve done some honest soul searching on how your own actions may be contributing to the issue, have a chat with your VA.
Explain what the overall objective is and how you traditionally like things done (and why) but also solicit feedback from them. They often may have a better, more efficient way to achieve the same result.
Be sure to ask for solutions, not excuses. Let them know that blame is not useful or necessary and that ideas around solutions are always appreciated. Then, lead by example. You can’t expect your team to be solutions-focused if you spend all your time finger-wagging and passing the buck.
However, if your VA is not achieving the results you desire and is resistant to feedback and change, you have a whole ‘nother issue on your hands, friend!
If this is the case, simply lay it out for them. Show them how their inability to take direction is resulting in work not being completed correctly and what effect that has on you/your business. Then kindly let them know what you need them to do in order to continue your working relationship.
One more thing: Be sure to give feedback in a direct but positive and constructive way. This is important to growing a great working relationship while ensuring communication is clear.
Okay, maybe it doesn’t look quite like that. ????
But it is less like a peaceful night in the country and more like that one solitary cricket in your house chirping up a storm when you’re trying to sleep. In other words, your VA is not:
And it’s a problem. Not just annoying. It’s actually preventing you from achieving your goal. In this case, having a smooth-running business where you know what’s happening without having to do it all yourself or chase people down for updates.
The first thing you want to do is see how you might be contributing to the problem (sound familiar?).
This is typically an easy one to fix. Usually, you just need to have a simple conversation.
Letting them know what kind of updates you’d like to receive (and how often), as well as what timeframe you expect to receive responses to communication is typically all you need to do.
However, your request for updates needs to be reasonable.
If you are expecting an email every day detailing what was done you might be out of luck. It’s time-consuming and unnecessary; simply make sure you’re using a Project Management tool like Teamwork Projects or Asana as they will provide you with that info automatically.
If the issue persists they’re likely not the best fit. You need someone who’s responsive and on the ball.
I don’t know. Can you tell me what it looks like? I’m just not sure I understood the question. Can you give me an example? I just want to make sure we’re on the same page – do you mind going over it again?
Ya. Like that. But worse.
Every little decision. Every google-able fact; winds up in your inbox as a question.
You know the drill by now. First, see where you might be contributing to the issue. (I’m all about self-awareness and growth opportunities!)
This one is often (but not always) one of two things. Communication from the top (you) down (them) is more of a trickle and many details are lacking resulting in the need for more questions. Or, the VA lacks confidence and is afraid of taking on responsibility or making a mistake. They’d rather bombard you with questions to cover their own butt than risk being responsible for a less-than-stellar decision.
Both issues can be fixed so long as each person is willing to acknowledge the need for change.
To fix the first potential issue, try delegating outcomes instead of tasks and make sure you let your VA know how much autonomy you’d like them to have.
For instance, for someone managing your emails who understands your business goals and refund policy you might say, “I want my audience to feel supported and attended to so messages should be responded to within 24 business hours. I trust your judgment so things like refund requests and access issues, etc. can be handled by you.”
This gives them the outcome of “clients who feel supported” and the autonomy of “you deal with refunds. I don’t need to be involved.”
To fix the second potential issue may take some patience and time. It can be hard to overcome confidence issues.
Often letting them know that you want them to take on more responsibility, giving them permission to act on their best judgment for the good of the company, and acknowledging that mistakes happen and that it’s how they are dealt with that matters, typically helps lift them out of their protective cocoon… but it might take a few attempts.
Also, being upfront and clear that you really need someone in the role who can make decisions and solve problems without needing to ask you about it can help them decide if they are that person.
I get it. You’re super busy. Too busy and important to read an entire blog post. Even if it might help fix your relationship with your VA and, in turn, save you the money, time and hassle involved in finding a replacement.
That’s fine. Here’s the super light version to help you address any situation.
If things don’t improve, you may need to end the relationship. Reach out and let them know things aren’t working out and give them notice that you’d like to end your working relationship with them.
Pro Tip: Check your contract and make sure you give them the notice required in the agreement.
If things are ending amicably you may have them stay on until you find a replacement.
When hiring your replacement don’t be shy about why things didn’t work out with your current VA. They need to know from the outset what your needs, expectations, and quirks are so they can ensure they are the right fit for you (and vice versa).
Remember: hire slow, fire fast, and trust your gut.
Ever hired a VA (or anyone) that did not work out for you? What was the one moment where you knew they weren’t the right fit for you? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments!
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