In this episode Barbara and Matt cover a question that they are both asked all too often…”How often should I talk to my VA?” And if you yourself are asking this very question, then the answer is ‘start communicating more’.
This episode is full of insights into not only how often you should communicate with your VA, but also the ways in which you can communicate effectively.
Some of the areas covered include:
- Common barriers to communication, including geographical location and time zones
- The importance of establishing communication protocols and meeting rhythms
- Constantly evaluating your communication style and frequency to ensure it is working for you and your VA/ team
- There is no such thing as ‘over communicating’
Let us know in the comments below what your key take out has been from this episode or why not join the continuing conversation over in the Virtual Success Facebook Group.
In this episode:
01:24 – How often should I talk to my VA?
01:52 – Barriers to communication
04:03 – Establishing communication protocols
05:43 – Setting a meeting rhythm
09:22 – Matt’s ‘Bat Signal’
12:35 – Re-evaluate your communication style and frequency on an ongoing basis
15:23 – There is no such thing as ‘over communicating’
17:28 – Wrapping things up
Resources mentioned in this show:
Barbara: Hey everyone, welcome to another episode of the Virtual Success Show where I am joined by my co-host Matt Malouf. Hey Matt, how are you?
Matt: Hi, I am well Barb, and yourself?
Barbara: I’m good, thank you. Good, thank you. Enjoying all these shows always and learning all the time from everything we talk about on the shows.
Matt: Absolutely, absolutely. And I must say also I’m also I’m loving the warmer weather we’re having here in Sydney at the moment.
Barbara: Yeah, that helps. Winter has finished.
Matt: It has.
Barbara: We are now into summer. For those in the northern hemisphere you’re heading into your winter now, we don’t envy you. So look guys, today’s show we’ve been getting a lot of questions actually, which is great, from a couple listeners and some of our clients that actually listen to the show about stuff that they’d really like us to address on the show. So, today one of the biggest questions that I get asked and Matt gets asked a lot is how often should I talk to my VA?
How often should I talk to my VA?
Now, it sounds like a simple question but like I said, we get this one a lot and people actually are quite confused about it and even when they figure out how often should I talk to my VA, how should I do it, and how should I make it effective?
So, Matt, I know with your coaching and in your Stop Doing book and in all the stuff that you teach you’ve got this concept of a meeting rhythm, which I thought would be really good for us to delve into today to address this question.
Barriers to communication
Matt: Absolutely, and just as a preface before we get into meeting rhythm. I think one of the most important things with communicating with your virtual teams, your virtual assistant, etc., is to try and act as if it’s no different than if they were sitting next to you in the office. Now, you want to be mindful of that because it’s not that you want to be picking up Skype and the like every five seconds to ask a question. But I think too often we have this separation in this, they’re over there and I’m over here, maybe I’ll just message them rather than talking to them etc. We create these barriers of communication, and I think it’s really really important to have rules around communication. And for me, this is whether you’re in an office working with people or in a remote kind of environment. It’s knowing when to communicate and in what form to communicate, I think, is critically important.
Barbara: You know what struck me as you were saying that, I don’t know but people who have…and you would know the answer to this because it’s probably more of the clients that you would talk to. Clients of yours that have physical offices with other team members that are beside them, would they ever ask you the question: how often should I talk to my employees?
Matt: No they wouldn’t, but what they find is that often their teams are coming to them constantly.
Barbara: Yeah, so it’s the opposite problem.
Matt: It’s the opposite problem, yeah. And it’s knowing then when to get them to write a question down, or when is the appropriate time to come. Whereas, what I find when working with remote teams is that it is often the opposite. So, there is more written communication as opposed to jumping on a Skype call and quickly conversing with another person.
Barbara: Yeah. That’s interesting. So it is actually a problem on both sides, but it’s actually what we are going to talk about today on this podcast is the solution to both problems, funnily enough, but we are obviously addressing it in terms of virtual teams right now.
Establishing communication protocols
Matt: Exactly. So, I think the first thing to establish with this is some communication protocols. And what I mean by that is when is it appropriate to have written communication, when is it appropriate to have verbal communication, when is it appropriate to maybe create a little video to communicate, also. Because what I find with virtual teams is that too often it falls into either Skype or Slack messenger conversations, or if you don’t have those two tools, a lot of people engage in these email to and fros.
Barbara: Oh, yeah.
Matt: And the challenge with email is that email or written communication, for that matter, is always read in somebody elses voice and tone. So, if I was to write to Barbara, Barbara is reading Matt’s communication, but in her voice and tone and vice versa coming back. And this is often where misinterpretations or miscommunications occur. Keeping in mind that often your virtual teams, English is their second language.
Barbara: You know what is funny. I was thinking you’re also reading it in your voice and tone and also in the mood that you are having on that day. So, how often have we read something slightly wrong, because we might have been having a tough day or a negative day ourselves, and you read something with a difference belief or different tone based on your own mood.
Barbara: So it can happen, yeah.
Setting a meeting rhythm
Matt: When we talk about meeting rhythm, you want to think of meetings as the pulse of the business. So it is a combination of whether it is daily, weekly, and/or monthly, type meetings. I think depending on the roles and the size of your team, a daily huddle can be very very powerful. Where you can get a small group, you wouldn’t want any more than eight to ten, on a daily huddle type of meeting. And really what you are asking is three key questions which is: Did you achieve what you set out to achieve yesterday? Yes or no. What’s your main focus for today? And do you need help or are you stuck? And it’s a really quick meeting, and what it does is it brings number one, the team together, and number two, it enables you to understand where everyone is focused for the day, and number three, it encourages collaboration and supporting one another. And on that third question is where am I stuck or where do I need help. So, a daily huddle is one form of communication rhythm on how often you should talk to your VA.
Barbara: Actually, on that Matt, I actually took that advice, probably about six months ago now, I think you mentioned something on this daily huddle thing and we were talking about it. And I have to say that it has been an absolute game changer in my business. It solved a lot of communication problems that we had. It solved a lot of mistakes that were happening, that were nobody’s faults, really, it was that we weren’t coming together as a team. Now, just for anyone listening, just for my own experience, what happened with this was: I started it out in exactly the format that you’re talking about here, and it was a huddle in that way, but we quickly actually realise that that wasn’t totally effective for what we were talking about because the problems that we would suffer in The Virtual Hub in my business are what we call the pipelines. So, matching up the supply and demand of clients needing X, Y and Z VA’s with these skills and actually matching everything up. So, we just modified it a bit, and it works really well. It’s still a fifteen minute meeting. There are six or seven people on the meeting and each one of us has to update the other on where the pipeline is at on their side and where the challenges are and it just has solved a lot of problems for us and we have a lot less road blocks actually. Things get moved forward much faster.
Matt: Absolutely, absolutely, and I guess that’s a really good point I think you’ve got to take the theory of this and adapt it to your business and your situation. Secondly is, you can do a daily huddle with as little as two people.
Matt: It can be really quick and really really simple. I think as far as how often should you communicate with your VA, it really comes down to their role. So Vanessa, who is my personal assistant that resides in the Philippines, we communicate daily. Because in her role, and in how she supports me, that’s what’s necessary and we do that, I’d say the majority of the time, verbally by Skype because it’s quicker, it’s easier, we can make sure that the understanding of everything is there and it works for us.
Matt’s ‘Bat Signal’
Now when I say the majority of the time, given the nature of what I do, often I can be on the road and I could be presenting for six, seven, eight, ten hours, so on those days Vanessa will send me a daily report and I’ll know what’s going on there, but if something is urgent, we have what I call the Bat Signal, where Vanessa will text me and in my break I will quickly jump on Skype and have a conversation with her. There’s some rules around using the Bat Signal. She’s really got to ask how important is it that it gets done then and there. Again there’s only a few things that happen there, but it enables her to feel supported and to know that she’s not bothering me.
Barbara: I was going to say that because I have said to a lot of my teams members, for X, Y and Z, you can bother me. Like it doesn’t matter what I’m doing, I want you to bother me for certain types of situations they’re never to feel like they can’t bother me. Because people, particularly in the Philippines, will feel, oh you’re busy, I didn’t want to bother you, unless you actually give the parameters around which that is expected.
Matt: Absolutely, absolutely. And from there, I think you just need to work out, again, the appropriate communication with them in certain roles. I know one of our other teams, with The Fortune Institute, Samantha and her role, we have a formal meeting once a week, because that’s what supports that role and then if we need to converse in between, we set it up and do that. But what we find is because Sam is our Event Coordinator, as we are coming into an event, our communication frequency increases. Straight after an event it sort of drops off, and so, it’s getting clarity around people’s roles and responsibilities and what you need from them, and what they need from you, and making that happen.
I think the last time I have to say on this topic is, don’t be too rigid with it, because we have good parameters and rhythms etc. but all in all, you’re dealing with people. If someone needs you, and this is what you were just saying Barb, we have the same, if you need me or whoever it is in our company, just call them. What we do, is we just have a really little simple, where we will ping somebody beforehand and just go: are you free? You know what I mean? Because sometimes you could be in the middle of doing something, and someone just calls. Again, it’s emulating if someone was sitting next to me in the office, I wouldn’t just walk up to them and start talking to them.
Barbara: Yeah, you would say: have you got a second? Yeah.
Matt: So, we extend that same courtesy in a virtual environment also.
Re-evaluate your communication style and frequency on an ongoing basis
Barbara: Look I love that you brought up the rigidity thing, because as you were talking, I was thinking, in my experience and sometimes clients or VA’s might say “we do the meeting and it’s not really working” and I think well, in the beginning of a relationship with a virtual assistant or virtual team, I still think having, in the very, very beginning, having a ten minute daily huddle with that person, particularly if it is just you and a VA, is so powerful and then over time you’ll find that you might go to twice a week together. But if you’re finding that in between the communication is elevating again or the mistakes are elevating, then go back to the ten-minute huddle every day. Go right back to that, and then see where eventually you will discover an easy rhythm together that works really well.
And another thing that I brought in as well, so I have the ten-minute daily huddle, and there are some days where we think, well, there isn’t much to really talk about today, but we still do it. It is a non-negotiable. And for me as the leader of the business, I make sure that it doesn’t matter what is happening in my day. Ninety percent of the time I will be on that huddle, because I have made the commitment to the team that I’m going to be there and I’ve put it at the time that I know is going work for me every day. That’s not going to be possible for everyone listening to this, but for me it is.
But the other thing I introduced is the thirty minute, once a week, full team huddle. Now this is quite an interesting one because we’ve got about fifteen people on that call, and it’s thirty minutes and everybody has three minutes of the floor, pretty much. So, there’s a bit of chitchat and what I find about that meeting, sometimes were updating each other on stuff that we’ve already kind of updated some of us on, but it brings the whole team together, and there’s always people on that call that haven’t yet heard the bit that somebody else is working on. And it serves two purposes for me. It works really well to create culture within the team and bring people together, and number two, it makes it very apparent if somebody isn’t at the level the rest of team are at, and they feel it deeply, and that is if somebody isn’t pulling their weight or isn’t doing what they say they are doing, it becomes very apparent on that call. And it kind of creates a bit of friendly competition, that people are like ‘ah they’re doing very well, I should up my game’. So it serves a bit of a KPI purpose as well.
Matt: Absolutely, absolutely. And I love that, I love how what you were just talking about then, each person gets time on the floor, because I think too often in meetings, the same people can be talking all the time.
Barbara: All the time, yeah.
Matt: Whereas this provides an equal opportunity for everybody, and you know, those who aren’t as confident, overtime become more confident.
Barbara: Yeah they do, yeah.
There is no such thing as ‘over communicating’
Matt: And that’s really really good. I think the long and short of it here is particularly with virtual teams, over communicate. I think too often where I see it breaking down is there is this under communication, there’s not enough communication, there’s too much written communication and not enough just jumping on and having quick verbal chats or meetings and the like, and in actual fact it makes life so much easier. So, my advice in this is, if you’re asking how often should I talk to my VA? Then, the answer is probably more than you currently are.
Barbara: Yes, absolutely. Look, if I could leave the listeners with one more tip from me, I was just thinking, I have a rule, and some people would think this is overkill, but again, it has worked really well for us in removing problems. We have a little rule that even when we have a meeting and we discuss something, because we use Asana so heavily, so that person still has to go in and comment on the task, because there are other people that may not have been in that meeting that need to be aware. So, it’ll be something like: as discussed, X, Y and Z. And it also shows me that that person has fully understood. There’s no holes or confusion around what was said on the call, and there’s no ‘Do you not remember I told you that on the call’. Now, that’s just in the nature of our business that we have to have that kind of level of communication, I guess, and rhythm and oversight for me, it won’t work for everyone, but I do find it solves a lot of problems for us.
Matt: Yeah, and for those listeners that aren’t aware of Asana. Asana is a project management tool, which in many instances is the glue between you and your virtual teams.
Barbara: And it’s free for most people. We are still on the free one. Hope Asana is not listening. Probably should go to the paid one now.
Wrapping things up
Yeah so guys, how often should I talk to my VA? As I said, it’s a question we get all the time, Matt gets it all the time, so it is something that is out there and as Matt said, if you’re actually asking that question, then start to communicate more. Particularly just do it, and do it more effectively for a while and you will get your own rhythm. You will discover what works for you and your team.
Matt: Absolutely. Well, Barb and to those listeners, thank you once again for an amazing show. Please, we would love to hear your comments, or feedback, or thoughts on this show, and would love your review also to be able to start spreading the word of Virtual Success out to many, many more listeners out there. Until next time, Barb you have a wonderful week, and we will chat soon.
Barbara: Yeah great, thanks!