Ever play the game where one person whispers a long sentence in someone’s ear, and that person repeats the same thing to the next person and so on down the line? Once the last person hears the message, he or she will tell the entire group what it was. Often, what the last person heard was nothing close to what the original sentence was.
The more people playing the game, the better chance the message will change—and the more it will change—as it goes from one person to another. Why does this happen? There can be many reasons: the message-giver speaks too quickly or too softly; the receiver doesn’t listen well or wasn’t paying attention; or the receiver simply doesn’t recall what was said or misses key pieces of information. Either way, this exercise shows that it’s best to gather information straight from the source rather from a second- third- or fourth-party. It also shows us that an intended message can be completely misinterpreted by another party.
The game is often played to illustrate how easily rumors or gossip can spread. It also reveals flaws in the communication process—both in speaking and listening.
Do you ever feel like this happens in your business? Are there times when you think you’re giving perfect instruction or feedback to your VA, but they do the opposite or seem to have no idea what you’re talking about? Of course, the most of your communication will be done via email, but it doesn’t matter; it’s still communication.
Whose fault is the misunderstanding? How does the disconnect occur? Like the whisper game, there’s not always a clear-cut answer; if could be your fault and the fault of your VA. But regardless of what the issues are and who are what is causing the miscommunication, it can be a significant problem in your business. It can hinder production and strain relationships. Don’t worry, though, there are some simple things to you can do to ensure you and your VA are on the same page.
Communicate Regularly: The Daily Email
Anyone who has ever read my blog posts or who has ever read or listened to my trainings knows how much I emphasize the daily email. This is must—for you and your VA. Not only is this the primary way you track your VA’s work, but it’s a great way to establish good, consistent communication.
One of the best ways to improve manager–employee communication in any organization is to communicate frequently. Because it’s not possible to talk to your VA face to face or even reasonable to call them every day, the daily email is perfect for making this frequent contact. In the daily email, your VA reports on work they did the previous day, discusses what challenges they faced in doing that work, and brings up any questions they may have. Now you have the chance to respond to those questions and concerns. How you respond will say a lot about your communication skills and will go a long way toward building a trusting relationship.
Like any skill, the more you practice it, the better you become. If I want to improve my putting on the golf course, I get and out and practice regularly. If I want to be a better father, I spend more time with my kids. And if I want to be more proficient in communication with my Filipino workers, I make sure my VA sends the daily email and that I respond to it.
Use Jing or Other Similar Tools
Email is good for quick, simple messages, but when you want to more effectively and clearly convey step-by-step instructions, nothing beats Jing.
I use Jing extensively to point out what I need my VAs to do. Through screen capture and video, I can show (not just tell) them what changes to make on a webpage or with an article, graphics or any other task I need competed.
With Jing you can capture whatever is on your screen as a video or image and instantly share it with your VA. It’s almost impossible to miscommunicate something using this reliable method. Using Jing to communicate also helps you to be more thorough and avoid misleading or confusing the other person. Often with email you might forget important details or ramble on about something without making sense. Creating videos with Jing solves this problem.
Using Jing is especially important with new VAs. For example, I create a welcoming video after hiring a VA so they can hear my voice and feel more comfortable with me. This helps connect the two of you \ and starts your working relationship off on a good foot.
Another excellent communication tool you can use with your VAs is Slack. This instant messaging service lets team members chat back and forth in real time. You can give assignments, offer feedback and even drag and drop files into the conversation thread. Several people at once can use it. I find that my VAs love talking to one another on Slack. Not only is it an effective way to keep track of tasks and be organized, but it builds camaraderie.
Communication is a two-way street. It should never be just you giving instruction and never asking for ideas. The most effective communication involves asking for input and suggestions. When your VA voices concerns, ask what them what they think could be done to solve the problem. You can even bring up issues yourself and invite them to share their thoughts.
When you ask your VA for their feedback, they feel valued, important and that you’ll listen to their ideas. The more you request feedback, the more they’ll give and the more dialogue you’ll have together.
Feedback can be solicited and given through email, Jing or whatever messages system or tool you prefer.
Simplify Your Messages
This can be a challenge, but if you’re having trouble communicating with your VA, try keeping your emails and messages to one idea and one subject. If you have to give more complex instruction, make it as easy to understand as possible. Sometimes long emails jam-packed with thoughts, assignments and questions can do little more than confuse the reader. This is less likely to happen with Jing, but be careful to not make your videos too long or cumbersome.
It would be similar to trying to listen to two people talk at once. That’s no easy task; it’s almost impossible to focus on the conversations (or even one of them) and understand what is being said. I’m not saying you need to “dumb down” your emails or videos to a child-like level. Just make sure they’re not difficult to understand or pull out the essential information.
If your VA consistently has a trouble with your emails and messages, they’ll become frustrating and possibly even be unable to finish tasks. Filipinos won’t always ask for clarification; they become easily embarrassed and think you’ll be upset at them. So it’s important for you to make your communication as crystal clear as possible.
- Be specific
- Be direct
- Be positive
- If you have to give negative feedback, do so tactfully
- Admit when you’re wrong
- Be brief
- Tailor your message to the recipient—all people process things differently and have varying levels of understanding
Working with Filipino VAs has many advantages for your business, but there are also obvious challenges. One of these is that the vast majority of your communication will be done by email, which for some people can be more difficult than having a face-to-face conversation or chatting on the phone. Many of the same principles apply, however, to speaking to a person and sending them emails. Apply these ideas into your work, and you’ll be sure to improve communication and production in your business.
About John Jonas
John helps business owners learn to outsourcing to the Philippines and replace themselves with virtual assistants.
He founded and owns OnlineJobs.ph.
He currently employs 14 amazing Filipino workers full-time and loves every one of them. He lives in Utah, has a wonderful wife, 4 amazing kids, and golfs 4-5 times/week.
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