I remember my first “real” job, right out of college, like it was yesterday. I was thrown into a multinational firm as a technical writer and expected to learn on the fly, which I did. I taught myself about technology, content management systems and user guides. The most important thing I learned, however, doesn’t show up on my resume or in a list of skills. I learned the art of clear communication, and what mastering it can accomplish.
Fast forward, two years later. I began to manage a boutique real estate firm as their top administrator. In an office fraught with politics, I had to learn how to navigate through it all successfully, keep my head down and do my job. Since clear, actionable communication is essential in professional correspondence, when an executive is unable to clearly state his or her needs, it becomes very difficult for the support team to tend to them. Informative instructions are key. It was as if I was fighting a war against poor communication. I was determined to win by “managing up”, and win I did.
After any war is fought, there are lessons to be learned. I have compiled my Top 10 Tips for Successful Executive-VA Communication – here goes:
How to write clear and informative instructions to your VA
1. Read the instructions out loud, to yourself, before pressing send. Listen. Are you clearly stating your needs?
2. Be direct – don’t dance around the subject; just state your objective.
3. If you are sending more than one request in an email (not suggested), break it down with bullets or numbers to increase clarity.
4. List priorities – even if you’re a math-o-phobe, just list them from 1 to 10.
5. Make sure that there is a verb in your instruction. No verb = No task.
6. Stay positive – instruct with positive, actionable verbs like “do”, “file”, “research”, “update” – rather than giving instructions in the negative “don’t forget to”.
7. Include links whenever you can – this can save your VA some serious time, thus saving you money.
8. Be consistent – if you’re calling the project supercalifragilisticexpialidocious in the first email, make sure you call it supercalifragilisticexpialidocious in any following communication.
9. Confirm that your VA has all the information needed to complete the task.
10. Last but definitely not least, provide a deadline! By when do you need the task completed?
Here’s a bonus tip: When your VA knocks it out of the park, compliment a job well done! Just like the importance of communicating when there are snags or challenges, it’s equally critical to let somebody know they’ve done well.
Submitted by Devora