How to Stop Pissing Off Your Virtual Assistant

I’ll come right out and say it. No one likes a micromanager.

The entire reason you hire an assistant is to create a better work/life balance for yourself. You hired an assistant so that you wouldn’t have to look at email, manage your calendar, or decide if you have time for drinks with friends. Once you have an assistant, you should be able to let them have the reins (after training for a few weeks, of course), and they should feel comfortable running with it -- and asking questions if there are any.

On behalf of all assistants, let me say this:

If you don’t trust us to do the job we were hired to do, we will fail at helping you.

Here are some examples:

  • I’ve had clients that require me to BCC them on every outgoing email I send, only to ask me to go through their clogged inbox because of the volume of email.

  • A client asked me to manage their schedule, but consistently rescheduled their appointments without telling me, and without updating the calendar. So when I confirmed, the attendee my client was meeting got confused, and my client looked unprepared.

  • A client wants you to grocery shop but never gives you a list of what to shop for. (This is called “dead-stopping a task” and is one of the things I’ll be coaching entrepreneurs on in an upcoming Coaching Call.)

  • When you email your VA in 5+ email threads the details for ONE task? Yeah, that can get frustrating.

Autonomy is what will make or break the relationship you have with your assistant. When you allow us to do our job, it makes the whole thing easier. This doesn’t mean you have to stay silent. It doesn’t mean you can’t ask questions. It also doesn’t mean that you can’t re-train, or check in. What it does mean? If you have a trust issue with your VA, you need to work it out with them… or hire someone you actually trust.

Good things to set in place to build trust with your assistant:

  • Have regular weekly/Daily/Bi-Weekly check in calls. Talk to your assistant regularly over the phone. This seems old-school in 2017, where we have a billion messaging apps -- but it’s important. Voice creates a connection that sometimes can unlock tasks you forgot you needed to delegate. Have them set it up on your calendar.

  • Start with small tasks that work up to big ones. I wouldn’t expect a brand new assistant to my team to be able to book me a flight if they didn’t have the information they needed. (Full legal name, airline frequent flier mile numbers, a credit card, etc.) Give your assistant small tasks (proofreading, email filing, etc) to work up the trust and relationship, if you feel that you need to work on trust.

  • Give parameters. For example, if you’re needing to book a flight for the first time, tell the assistant what your parameters are. A good way to say this would be:
    • “I’d like to spend no more than $700 each leg of the flight. Please do overnights/redeyes only. JFK to LAX. United is preferred. First class, so I can have a reclining seat. My UnitedPlus number is XXXXXXXX. I need to be in Los Angeles at a meeting at 10am, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. Please have me there in time. Returning two days later - as long as I’m back in NYC by 8pm that’s okay. Return to JFK please.”
    • After this gets booked the first time, your assistant will make notes on your preferences and note any new information they didn’t collect at the beginning of your work together. (This is why we do an intake call for new clients, to grab all of this information from the beginning!) The next time you need to book a flight, you won’t have to cover as much ground -- the assistant will already have a lot of those details noted.
  • Get to know your VA. They’re a person too. They have wants, needs, desires, and preferences, just like you do. Yes, they are there to serve you… but you’ll need to have a relationship which takes two people. Know their hours, their cell number (don’t abuse it), their boundaries, and what they like to be called. Do you know their favorite flower? If you wanted to send a thank you gift, would you know their address? These are good things to have off-hand. Ask your VA to make a client file with their own info so that you can surprise them. They’ll do it happily, I bet you. (Point them to this post!)

When you trust your team, amazing things happen. Work fluidity increases. The business grows. Revenue expands at an almost alarming rate. You get to watch your brand expand, flourish, and you get to see amazing results. Need examples?

  • Just this last week, we announced that we are launching Coaching Calls, where I get to get on a group video call with entrepreneurs. (Get in here!) Heather, my right-hand woman and our Director of Happiness, asked me if I wanted a hair appointment set up so that I can look fab for the call. Initiative. YES.

  • Shaina, our Graphic Designer and Branding Maven manages the CMVA instagram. She plans it from scratch every single week, and grabs captions from content that we’ve posted, or authors them herself, with help from our Content Editor, Amy. I trust them implicitly -- enough that I never have to proof instagram posts before they go up. I’m always happy with them, because my team does their work -- and they do it well. They’re talented and I trust them.

  • Vanessa, an Executive Assistant on our team, needed to book an exterminator for a client. She had all of the information she needed and remembered the client wanted organic pest control -- so she took it upon herself to find the best pest control option that had the most organic pesticides, and then asked if they’d go outside of their normal service area for our client, who has special needs. Amazing initiative. I didn’t have to do anything other than hire great people and show them the ropes.

As a seasoned Virtual Assistant, I will speak for all of us when I say that not trusting us makes our job a million times harder. When you hold the ropes too tightly? Yikes.

We’re here to serve you, but we can’t do that when we have no space to move, serve, navigate, or steer. Ask your VA if there’s anything they’re struggling with, how you could make the process easier, and what extra information they need from you.

What will you do to help your VA help YOU?