One of the biggest mistakes I have made with VA’s has to do with maintaining a good working rhythm. We would start out with a good working relationship; tasks assigned, projects completed, etc. I would get involved with other projects, then find out a week or two later that my VA had made little or no progress on the tasks I had assigned.
This would lead me to overtasking my VA in an effort to get up to date on our work, the VA would stop communicating, more work was left undone, and then I would finally have to terminate the VA.
After this sequence had occurred a couple of times; I gave some thought to the VA’s perspective. He had been hired, then given a list of tasks (without deadlines), and left to work on them unsupervised. 99% of employees in this position will do the minimum required. When I finally checked in and dumped a new project on them, they would look at all the uncompleted work (which still needed to be done), plus the new project, and decide it was better to seek employment elsewhere.
It was hard for me to grasp this because I had spent many years as a field service engineer for advanced radar systems on US Navy ships. My job consisted of sitting around the office, doing nothing, until a service call came in. Then it was balls-to-the-wall work until the job was done. For me, it was a great job that perfectly suited my temperament. For others, it was much too stressful. Many of my colleagues suffered from burn-out, but I thrived.
I abhorred the 9-to-5 mentality that insisted that workers come in to the office, even when there was no work to be done. My vision of hell is sitting in a cubicle, sorting paperclips, because we must keep busy.
That’s why I’m an entrepreneur.
However, 99% of the world’s workers want that kind of job. Once I realized this, it was apparent that I needed to have a way to keep my workers busy every day. That’s when I created the Daily Task List and the Daily Report.
I still fall into the trap of assigning tasks in bunches (as creativity strikes), but now my VA’s are already in the habit of working at my tasks every day, so the additional projects are not a shock.
So, to sum up the lesson; don’t hire a VA unless you have a list of tasks for her to accomplish each day. If you need specific tasks completed, but don’t have enough work for a full-time VA, I recommend the Odesk option. We will discuss that in a future post.