22. October 2012
I get this question in various forms when working with clients and colleagues who are hiring their teams to support their businesses. And even when I hire for my business I struggle with this question – is there a “perfect” assistant out there? Can I find the perfect person who is affordable and affable and available?
Let’s demystify what most entrepreneurs mean by “perfect” and how that actually translates to working with your team.
Most people are looking for the ideal person who will completes every task just as you would, cares about the business as much as you do, is available 24/7, delivers every project on time, pleasant to work with, cheap, has unlimited skills, a wide ranging network of equally perfect people and anticipates every need before being asked. And while you may be able to develop this team over time, it’s naive and foolish to think you can create this in a week or even a month.
I’m not good at sugar coating the truth so let’s just be honest with each other:
There are no perfect VAs because there are no perfect people. (And that includes you.)
As we strive for excellency, we must remember that there is a lot of room for mistakes because we’re human. We get things wrong. We try and fail and try again. But setting up the expectation of perfection will only leave you disappointed. Most of the things you want in your perfect team are learned skills and must be communicated.
The perfect VA might write an email just like you would after months or years of learning your style. The ideal assistant may be able to anticipate you want a full day of rest after a week of business travel but only if you tell your assistant that is your preference. And sometimes our expectations are way out of line with reality.
Just a week after the New York Times article on life/work balance was released my own assistant was absent for several days. This was unusual and when we touched base again on Monday I discovered she’d experienced a death in the family and had been unable to email me with updated availability. 24/7 instant access is fine if you’re working with robots but people need to eat, take care of families, rest and serve other clients.
The most important aspect of knowing if your VA is the right person is their ability to grow and learn.
Does it mean that we love mistakes? No, but it does change how we view them to take problems as a growth opportunity. When you understand there are no perfect VAs then you are more willing to invest the time in training and clearly communicating what you need from your team. But is the VA able to learn? Understanding that there are several types of errors can help you determine if your VA is capable of learning such as:
error of omission – when a task hasn’t been completed then there are two things I look at first. Consider how clearly you asked for the task and the deadline given. If you didn’t give a deadline then it’s your error. Second, if you didn’t get confirmation that the deadline were feasible then address that communication breakdown first and reassess how many hours are hired or distributed throughout the week.
error of addition - when something has been done you didn’t ask for. Sometimes this is great, especially when you team begins to anticipate your needs. But if they’ve sent emails on your behalf or even scheduled meetings you don’t want to attend it can be a problem. Start by clarifying the scope of work, hours needed and job responsibilities.
simple mistakes – this is probably the most common problem when something hasn’t been done exactly the way we want. For the first few months of a new VA relationship I keep a very close eye on how things are done, stepping in to make adjustments frequently. Systems are created and refined, updated to reflect directions that were ambiguous or incomplete. It’s only if those instructions continue to be misinterpreted or ignored do I consider changing the relationship.
Communication is easy to overlook.
It’s easy to get caught up in the flow of business, talking about projects and tasks and then hang up the phone without clarity on what’s happening next. Clearly assigning tasks with deadlines and resources will not only help you relax, knowing that tasks are being taken care of, but give your team clarity to move forward.
And at times we make mistakes, assigning someone who is otherwise very capable to a task outside of their capabilities or giving too much too quickly. Because I hire primarily for the learning and growth ability, carefully looking to find the right person who is teachable, if the tasks are not working out I’ll shift things around first before starting over with a new person and clean slate.
Developing relationships with your team takes time and patience, unless you hire mind readers and miracle workers then it’s up to you to give clear direction and expectations, follow up on tasks and provide feedback and build the long term relationship that will serve your business for years to come.
If you haven’t yet hired a team you can get my free video training on this page and get started with 5 Days to Find Fabulous Help for Your Online Business including a video on what to do if your team screws up!Continue reading...
27. September 2012
Instead of my regular post today I decided to share yesterday’s newsletter instead because I got such an amazing response. Each week I share fresh content, action steps designed to help you implement systems in your business.
This has probably been one of the hardest newsletters to write for you, in part because I’ve spent so much time this week off work with my family.
On September 22nd my cousin died in his sleep and our family is still in shock. Justin was just 26 and leaves behind a 2 year old daughter and we’re staying pretty close as a family to share memories, talk, cry and grieve.
In today’s articles I want to share some examples of how my business has changed and supported me during this difficult time, to hopefully inspire you in your business.
Three and a half years ago I was working a corporate job when my Grandma passed away from Alzheimer’s Disease. It was quite rough for me, her caregiver, but dealing with a difficult employer made it worse.
I needed time off to be with the family and my Grandpa as well as complete the service folder and slideshow. Not to mention the actual funeral. Instead of understanding, my employer refused to let me take my vacation time (which was illegal) and expected me to come to work the afternoon after the funeral.
You may think that the solution was starting my business…
Two years ago when my Grandpa passed away I was in a much different business model serving just two clients exclusively. Their businesses took up a lot of my time and I once again ran into trouble when needing time off.
I gave so much of my time to these clients that I actually felt guilty that I took the day off for the funeral service (and it was a Saturday!).
And while I hate that once again we’re dealing with a death in the family, I am so grateful that things are so different in my business.
I’ll give some specific examples below but I’ll just say that because I have systems in my business that work for me, I don’t need to exhaust myself putting in overtime just so I can attend a funeral. I don’t feel guilty about the time I spent with my cousin’s daughter or helping prepare for his service. I am so thankful for the support I have in my business which allows me this flexibility.
Most of all I am grateful that even taking this time off to be with my family, my business keeps going and serving all of you. That the resources and systems I’ve spent hours setting up are continuing to work this week and next and the one after that.
I hope that your own business is set up in a way that enables you to have the freedom you want and need. If you need support continue reading below for 3 Action Steps you can implement today which will give you more flexibility and freedom.
I love these three systems because they don’t just work in an emergency – they serve my business every day!
System #1 Scheduling Calls
With new clients coming on weekly, existing client calls, networking with colleagues and managing a lot of content and teaching time, my calendar is pretty full and it can be hard to find time to talk with everyone!
So I fully transferred control of my calendar to my talented VA knowing that scheduling calls was not only a huge time suck but really difficult when rescheduling came up. Not having to dread 10 conversations about why I needed to cancel in order to attend a funeral was additionally helpful.
Action Step: Continue to watch, or re-watch, the 5 days to Finding Fabulous Help video series and write down how an assistant can manage your calendar and scheduling. It will change your business!
System #2 Regular Marketing
Monday I sat down to reply to new subscribers (something I do regularly because I honestly appreciate when someone opts in to learn more about systems!) and realized that I had lots of “action” in my marketing despite not being focused on it. Regular postings like my Facebook Tips, twitter and guest posts all went out automatically.
Once you build up the momentum, like pumping your legs on a swing, if you stop for a little bit the momentum will continue to carry you for awhile.
Action Step: Add one time block on your calendar right now to create tweets or pre-schedule a blog post for the week ahead. Getting a little ahead like this is a great practice.
System #3 Sales
Although I’ve had a big change in my life there are so many clients and leads who still need support in their businesses this week. By having Sales Systems in place I can easily send out proposals, contracts and invoices to my new clients in much less time.
While this helps me to keep the business going, much more importantly it allows my clients to get support uninterrupted.
Action Step: If you don’t yet have a template proposal and contract create one today. You can re-save an older one and take out the client specific information. This will save you so much time!
20. September 2012
Last week I enjoyed some downtime in Ft. Lauderdale after an amazing conference – it was so relaxing to watch the sunrise from the beach:
In this video I share a little about my vacation time in Florida and my secret weapon to relaxing when I’m away from my business.
If you didn’t take time off this summer then maybe it’s time to look for support so you can enjoy a break! Check out my free video series 5 Days to Finding Fabulous Help for Your Online Business by filling in the boxes on this page!
If you missed the New York Times article you can read it here: Straightening Out the Life Work BalanceContinue reading...
27. August 2012
Y’all know that I’m a systems gal and one of the things that really tests my application of systems in my own life and business is going out of town. Because it’s really easy to have everything running smoothly when you have an entire office at your disposal but on the road it’s much harder.
So today I want to share how you can prepare for you next conference both physically and mentally.
For me this is the paramount question because once I know that the “things” are ready I can fully focus on engagement. I start with a specific packing list, whether for vacation, a conference, a workshop, wherever this trip is taking me. It’s pretty simple to start, just write down all the things you think you’ll need at this conference and when you get home review the list and add or subtract items.
A physical packing list will help you ensure you don’t show up without business cards, your cell phone charger or no dress shoes but just as important is making sure you show up ready.
Let’s face it, a conference is a germophobe’s nightmare. Lots of people from all around the country crammed into one space sharing the same creamer and bathrooms. The last thing you want is to be stuck in a hotel room sick or in such a daze that you don’t engage with the conference teaching or networking opportunities.
In the weeks before the conference focus on self care. Wash your hands thoroughly (especially when traveling), take your vitamins and eat well, exercise in the days leading up to an event and stay hydrated with lots of water. It’s temping to pile on the stress before leaving for an event, thinking that you have to prove something or complete all open projects. But staying up to all hours of the night using coffee to stay awake while you push to finish another project will leave you drained and exhausted when it’s conference time.
Rest plays a huge part in both your physical and mental preparedness so make sure you’re sleeping well and taking time to adjust to a new time zone if you’re traveling far.
While most people appreciate the physical prep for an event or conference, most will neglect the emotional and mental preparation. It’s easy to do because the external is what we show to the world but the internal work, that’s what will transform our lives and businesses.
It’s easy to say “I’m going to get 3 new clients” or “I’ll pass out 1,000 business cards!” when it comes to setting goals but it’s also very tempting to get overly enthusiastic and then discouraged when reality happens. Instead of making expectations of yourself or the event, set intentions. Here’s the difference:
Expectation: I’m going to get 3 new clients this weekend who’ll pay me $10,000 each and then refer me to 5 new clients!
Intention: I will remain present and engaged with the people I meet to discover if they’re my ideal client and if I’m their ideal coach.
Expectation: I’ll have a huge breakthrough and cry at the microphone and get sudden clarity on my business vision.
Intention: By taking in the content, staying open to the wisdom of other attendees and engaging in the work I will discover new clarity.
I prefer intentions because it looks inward, what will I do, instead of focusing outward with expectations.
Once you set your goals, the hard part begins. There are typically so many distractions between the travel, sponsors, the content, meals, friends, colleagues, networking, partying, hotels and more that it’s easy to let an event go past without engaging in the actual work.
So here are a few additional tips on staying present and accounting for your focus during an event.
It’s okay to break the rules and not do every assignment if you’re exhausted and need rest. Or go to lunch with friends who know your business instead of strangers who can’t remember your name. It’s okay to network in the hot tub or spend the evening watching television alone. The conference coordinators are giving their suggestions that will work for most people so reflect on what you need in the moment and accept if it derives from the advice given.
If you’re at an event where you know few people set a small goal to meet 5-10 new people each day to share something you’re learning. By focusing on what the event is teaching you, you’ll have relevant and fresh topics of conversation.
However, if you’re attending a conference surrounded by familiar friends and colleagues be sure to guard your energy. Instead of checking in with everyone to find out what they’re learning, what support they need, if they’re filling out their workbooks, give all your attention to your business and personal development. Remember that you’re not attending as conference support, you’ve paid and traveled for your own edification.
It’s okay to let people know that you can’t coach them, or support them throughout a multi-day event because you’re focusing on your own transformation and education because the purpose of such attention and focus is so you can become a better professional and that ensures long term support for your clients.
Finally, a mix of strategic planning and mental preparation in this final tip: Set aside at least one entire day when you return to sort through your notes, reach out to new contacts and reflect on what you’ll be implementing in your business from the conference. It’s very easy to jump right back into your day to day business but setting this time aside will help you solidify the intention to grow during the event. You’ll be looking for the things you want to explore in detail or implement so star or highlight them so when you review they’ll stand out to you.Continue reading...
6. August 2012
If you’ve been watching the Olympics from London this summer you probably know the story of Russian gymnast Ksenia Afanasyeva who fell on her face during her floor routine. During the difficult routine you could hear the thud when this strong competitor hit the floor which is not cushioned to enable falls.
What impressed me the most was that Ksenia as a competitor had trained and practiced and perfected the routine to the best of her ability. But when the time came and she misstepped, Ksenia picked herself back up and continued on. There wasn’t any time to wallow or whine or be concerned with how the judges were perceiving such a fall. She simply got right back to work.
Which leads me to the question, are you and your business rebounding from missteps?
We all like to think that we cannot fail, but as the Olympics prove every few years, the best in the world still fall, trip or miss on occasion. What matters when we do misstep is how we keep on going. Preparation is key, of course, but even the best concerts have sound issues and the best cameras sometimes fail.
I’d go so far as to say that we, as a culture, like to see people trip on occasion. It’s part of the reason gossip magazines are so popular – we love to see how the mighty have fallen and know that the lives of the rich and famous are not so perfect after all. How you react, on a scale of grace under pressure to John McEnroe, will reveal more about your character than a perfect performance.
It’s tempting to wallow, especially when the frustration is so great you’d just like to acknowledge that this sucks. But if you have fallen down and stay down it becomes increasingly difficult to get perspective on the finish line. Which is why when an athlete falls but picks right back up and keeps on with a smile the crowd cheers. Because we all know how hard it is to keep going. You’ll never reach the finish line if you sit down and cry – even when that’s all you want to do.
Here are some tips to help you get back up:
Keep your perspective by remembering that your teleclass, event, launch, video, presentation, or other business opportunity is not as big as the Olympics. Millions of people are not watching you and there is not a panel of judges noting every movement in your body. Sure the stakes are high but they’re not insurmountable. You can do this.
Build it into your story. No one likes a liar or someone who pretends to be perfect despite evidence to the contrary. So share your success and failures and use it to grow your credibility having ‘been there and survived that.’
Focus on getting back up, not the fall. If there’s anything people like more than the fall it’s the story of redemption. It may be easy to think that everyone in the world is thinking of your fall, but take a lesson from the Olympians and let them see your dedication and strong finish. While you make a commitment to always put your best foot forward, take the missteps into your story and grow along the way.
As the Olympics come to a close what has been your favorite story of a stumble or success?Continue reading...
2. August 2012
Video challenge for you this week!
Your turn to share in the comments (or link to a video!) what are your credentials and experiences?Continue reading...