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So you’ve decided to outsource your office tasks rather than hire in-house employees. Good choice! So whether you’ve hired an individual Virtual Assistant, or a full service team like Daybreak, your biggest challenge is going to be communication.

I was once complaining to an older friend, an upper level manager at IBM, about how it just seemed that if I asked someone to do a job or complete a certain task, the outcome was generally not what I expected. Although I was discussing my employees, I realized it also applied to family interactions. As I was whining about it, he said something that really woke me up. He said:

“In my experience every time I’ve been disappointed by someone not completing a task appropriately, I’ve almost always been able to track it down to my communication skills. After all, if I said it, that should be enough, right? I learned through experience that I was wrong!”

Well, that got me thinking about my own communication skills. Heck, I know what I mean, so once they hear it, they should also! Well, as we know that’s not necessarily the case. The fact is that a LOT of communication occurs non-verbally, as well as in the interactions that involve feedback and affirmation.

Why bring up this story of my past?

Because however good (or not) your communication skills are, they’ll need to be even better when dealing with remote staff. The impact of passive communication that occurs in the office setting relays a LOT of information. Since passive communication (facial expressions, casual conversations, etc) aren’t really feasible in the remote setting, you’ll need to OVER-COMMUNICATE to make certain your goals are clear and understood.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

1) You’re in charge. This is your business so you set the parameters and give the permissions. Your Virtual Assistant or Office Manager is like your Quarterback and you’re the Coach. Giving them the details of your plans and strategies will help to assure that the team functions to capacity. This means providing them with as much written data as possible regarding the policies, procedures, or protocols that you will want them to follow. For instance:

  • What lines of communication should be followed?
  • How should they interact with any other consultants or on-site staff?
  • Be very clear how you want certain projects handled, including time-frames, benchmarks, outcome expectations and the like.

How much independent decision making do you want him/her to do on your behalf? (This obviously only comes as your level of trust builds with time).

2) Treat your Virtual Assistant or Office Manager as a valuable member of your company. You want your virtual team to emulate the culture of your company. Providing your virtual staff with the same information about your company’s vision and ambitions that you would with an in-house staff goes a long way towards creating a team that best represents you and your company.

3) Keep your Virtual Assistant/Office Manager in the loop. Your team is going to want to please you, so it’s important to share any correspondence or other communications that might impact their interventions on your behalf.

4) Be careful how you use email. As I’m sure we are all aware by now, it’s very easy to be misunderstood when sending information via email. Many times a phone call is far more efficient and valuable than an email thread.

5) Treat your Virtual Assistant/Office Manager as a partner in your operation. As you gain trust in their abilities, you might consider allowing them to become a trusted adviser.

  • Although obviously not an expert in your field, your Consultant and team often see your operation from a different perspective than you do. This additional insight could prove to be valuable as you make decisions.
  • Generally, your Consultant may not volunteer this information, so ask for it. In many cases, our experience has shown it to be worth the asking! If you give permission, they may also provide constructive criticism as well as positive suggestions.

6) Finally, stay engaged! The best outsourcing relationships are those that have frequent open and honest communication.

Even though you may be very busy with a hectic schedule and looming deadlines, always make some time for your off-site team, the same way you would for a key in-house manager. It will be time well spent.

If you think it’s time to look into outsourcing your office support, I’d be happy to have a conversation with you, whether in person (over coffee) or by phone (also with coffee!!).