Ever played the game “Telephone”? 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 like to what the original sentence was.
The message keeps changing as more people play the game.
- the one giving the message speaks too quickly or too softly,
- the receiver wasn’t listening as well they thought,
- the receiver wasn’t paying that much attention,
- the receiver didn’t correctly recall what was said,
- the receiver didn’t recall everything that was said and misses key pieces of information.
This exercise shows why it’s best to gather information straight from the source.
But it also reveals flaws in the communication process. It shows how mistakes are made and messages can be completely misinterpreted.
I bet this has happened to you before. Like when you’re giving instruction or feedback to your Online Filipino Specialist. You think they got it but they do the opposite or seem to have no idea what you’re talking about?
Whose fault is it?
Like the telephone game, there’s not always a clear-cut answer. But regardless of whose fault it is, it is a serious problem. It can affect the work and strain relationships.
Finding out who to blame for the issues won’t solve the problem. Fixing those issues will.
Here are some common and easy fixes that you can do to ensure you and your OFS are on the same page.
Communicate Regularly: The Daily Email
If you’re ever read my blog posts or or listened to my interviews you know how important the daily email is. This is a must—for you and your OFS. It’s the best way to track your VA’s work and a great way to establish good, consistent communication.
One of the best ways to improve work communication in any organization is to communicate frequently. Because of the time difference it’s not reasonable to call them every day. That’s why the daily email is the perfect tool for regular contact.
In the daily email, your OFS reports on:
- the work they did for that day,
- the challenges they faced in doing that work, and
- brings up any questions they may have.
With the daily email, you’ll have the chance to respond to those questions and concerns. And how you respond says a lot about your communication skills. This will go a long way toward building a trusting relationship.
Any email platform will do, but we use Basecamp.
When we started out, we used Gmail because it was convenient. I had a much smaller team back then. So getting an email from them everyday won’t take me that much time to read. But now that I have over 40 employees, we use the check-in feature on Basecamp. It lets me read all their reports in one page.
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 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 OFS sends the daily email and that I respond to it.
Another communication tool you can use with your OFSs 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. It builds camaraderie and an effective way to keep track of tasks and be organized.
Make and Send Videos
Email is good for quick, simple messages. But when you want to say so much, like giving step-by-step instructions, nothing beats Jing.
I use Jing extensively to point out what I need my OFSs to do. Through screen capture and video, I can show (not just tell) them what changes to make on a webpage or an article, graphics or any other task I need.
Once I have that video or image, I can instantly share it with my OFS. It’s almost impossible to miscommunicate something using a screengrab. With an email you might forget important details. But with a video, you can show what you can’t explain in an email.
And I don’t just use it for feedback and giving instructions. I used Jing to create welcome videos after I hire a new OFS. It helps set the tone for the relationship. They see who I am as a person. This helps us connect and start the working relationship.
Communication is a two-way street. You shouldn’t be the only one giving instruction and feedback. Good communication also involves YOU asking your OFS for their input and suggestions. When your OFS voices their concerns, ask 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 OFS for their feedback, they feel valued. They feel important because you’re listening to their ideas. The more you request feedback, the more they’ll share. It creates a good dialogue that will help avoid a lot of problems in the future.
Simplify Your Messages
Keep your emails, videos and messages focused on one idea or subject.
Long emails jam-packed with information can be confusing. This is less likely to happen with Jing, but still make sure your videos aren’t too long or stray too far from the topic.
Understanding complicated messages is a lot like listening to two people talk at once. It’s almost impossible to focus and retain information.
I’m not saying you need to “dumb down” your emails or videos. Just make it more focused to make it easier for your OFS to get the information they need.
- Be specific
- Be direct
- Be positive
- If you have to give negative feedback, be tact
- Admit when you’re wrong
- Be brief
Apply these ideas and you’ll have a better relationship with your OFS in no time!
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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