Good communication is essential in any relationship but when your team is virtual it is crucial. We all know that a team is only as good as its’ leader and your communication skills have a major impact on how effective a leader you are. Luckily, even if you’re not a born communicator you can begin to acquire these skills by following some fairly simple tactics.
Know Your Target Audience:
Different people require different types of engagement so adjust your style accordingly or choose a virtual assistant that fits your style.
It’s important to understand the people with whom you are communicating and speak their “language”. This not only facilitates good communication but it also reflects your empathy and understanding of the other parties and their situation.
Build Personal Rapport with Your VA:
Leaders will gain the confidence of their virtual assistant by building up a personal rapport. We all respond well to courtesy and humor if it is genuine. A feel-good message, if delivered constructively, can be an effective way to get a point across, especially if that point also contains an element of correction or reprimand.
And don’t forget to also listen to what your virtual assistant is saying. She is much more likely to absorb what you are saying if she also feels heard.
Keep The Message Simple and Direct:
A simple message without a lot of technical jargon will easily get your message across. Less is definitely more. Decide what points are important and stick to them. (Of course, if the points are technical then definitely include the jargon).
Conversely, if your virtual assistant uses terms you are not familiar with, ask for clarification.
Be An Effective Listener First:
According to Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, the golden rule of effective communication is to listen first.
Understanding the needs of your virtual assistant and listening to her with undivided attention will earn you a loyal team player. This not only helps in getting the job done faster but it makes it a much more rewarding experience for all involved.
Take responsibility for the message conveyed:
Don’t make the assumption that every person will hear you in the same way. It is your responsibility as a leader to ensure that your virtual assistant has clearly understood the message. We have all played enough “Telephone Game” to know what can happen if a vague message is passed down the line.
One way to make sure the message is well understood is to reiterate and follow up the original message in writing.
Or try this trick I learned in a college counseling course: Ask the person you’re speaking with to repeat the message as they understand it. You can ask “What did you take from that message” or “Can I answer any questions you have.”
There are several options for communicating tasks, assignments, and other matters to your virtual assistant. Which one (or ones) you chose to use depends largely on your preference and that of your virtual assistant.
E-Mail is a very effective mode of communication when working virtually. It allows you to quickly attach a file or link and send it to your virtual assistant.
Using the telephone to communicate with your virtual assistant is simple to do. Be considerate of your VA’s time and, if possible, schedule calls in advance.
Instant messenger is another possible communication method. This allows you to communicate in real-time. You type, she types, and before you know it, the questions you and she had are all answered and you can move on.
Texting is a communication tool that has become popular with many of my clients. It has the same advantages of instant messengers of “immediate communication” and most people have their cell phone close at hand. However, be respectful of the time of day you are texting!
Caution: It’s easy to get hooked into “chatting” with someone on IM or text but it can soak up a lot of time. IM should be used for quick questions and quick answers, and then back to your tasks. IM was not meant to take the place of the other methods for giving lengthy instructions or holding very involved conversations.
Project Management Software:
Project management software is an excellent tool for project planning, scheduling, and change management. It is also invaluable for collaboration and communication between virtual teams.
You enter all communication regarding a project or task so all team members will be notified of a new message and be able to respond. It also enables everyone to review previous messages in order to get clarity.
There are many different choices and you should consult your virtual team for their recommendations. My personal favorite is Asana.
We all want to maximize the success and productivity of our business. Bad communication resulting in mixed messages, crossed wires and hard feelings are, at best, counterproductive and can scuttle even the best-laid plans. It quite simply is a luxury which no business can afford.
Communicating effectively can have a profound impact on the growth of your business and is sure to help create a more dynamic and positive working environment.