What does it mean to be a “good boss”? Whether it's your first time managing and delegating to someone, or your 100th time, you can get more ROI, and have a better relationship with the person you're working with by following a few simple practices that we'll highlight in this article. There's plenty of bad bosses out there, we're going to focus on how to make you a good, or great boss!
You don’t want to end up like Michael Scott of “The Office” fame—the type of boss who buys his own “World’s Greatest Boss” mug without regard for how the people on his team feel.
We all like to think we deserve that mug. We like to think that once we have someone working for us, we’ll be the great boss we never had. But the statistics suggest otherwise:
- Three out of four employees report that their boss is the worst and most stressful part of their job.
- A study once noted that 58% of people—the majority!—trusted strangers more than they do their boss.
- 86% of companies don’t have the leadership they wish they did and think finding leadership should be one of their company’s most urgent needs.
- Most people would rather have a new boss over a pay raise.
If most people are not good bosses, then it only makes sense that you might have to put a little bit of effort into being the best boss to your virtual assistant you can be. Let’s look at some of the traits most good bosses, and great leaders, share—and how to incorporate these traits into your own virtual assistant hiring strategies:
The Qualities of a Good Boss
No two people are exactly alike, so it’s probably fair to say that most good bosses have more differences than similarities. But you might find that when you research what it means to be a good boss, there are plenty of themes that keep recurring:
1. The ability to listen.
Did you know that 88% of employees value the ability to listen to a boss?
We almost wonder who those other 12% are.
Listening is a nearly universal desirable trait in all of human communication. None of us like to think that when we talk to someone—least of all, our boss—that they’re just waiting for their turn to speak. We don’t like our emails to go unanswered or ignored.
Your virtual assistant will be the same way. Yes, they’ll be in the position of deferring to your judgment about what to do next. But if you hire a virtual assistant because of their specific skills—say, their ability to manage your calendar—then it only helps to listen when they have a suggestion for optimizing it.
This isn’t just something you’ll want to apply on the phone, either. Try to listen to your virtual assistant on the phone, on the webcam, in email, in Slack boards, and more. If you’re willing to listen, you’re a humble enough boss that you’ll make your virtual assistants feel valued. The result: they’ll engage more with what you want to do because they’ll feel invested in the process.
2. Providing positive feedback.
What is the ideal ratio of positive feedback to negative criticism in the workplace? Some exhaustive research looked at this exact problem, and the answer might not surprise you: the “Drill sergeant” approach doesn’t work in a place of business.
Instead, researchers found that business teams that tend to use a five-to-one ratio of positive feedback to negative feedback tend to be the highest-performing teams. It’s not a close race, either. Positive feedback works. Here’s how to utilize it with your own VA:
- Go beyond the compliment sandwich. The compliment sandwich is the idea that you lessen the negative impact of criticism by sandwiching it between two compliments. Yet even this is not as “positive” as the research suggests the ideal positive business environment should be. Go beyond the compliment sandwich and focus on rewarding good behaviors with positive feedback. You’ll create a more loyal team member and enjoy higher employee satisfaction.
- Divert focus away from weaknesses and toward strengths. As Harvard Business Review notes, one group that was studied was able to improve by 24% thanks to focusing on the positives. Said HBR: “Only positive feedback can motivate people to continue doing what they’re doing well, and do it with more vigor, determination, and creativity.”
- Create a culture of positivity. It’s one thing to be aware of the power of positive feedback. It’s another thing to take practical steps for creating a “culture” of positivity at your business. As Karlyn Borysenko noted at Forbes, she once had a VP of Sales who would bring a bag of Mardi Gras beads on his desk, which would be used to foster positive feedback. Anyone who wanted to give another team member positive reinforcement could come in the office, take some beads, and give them to another member of the office.
- Take time to appreciate. Did you know that research shows as many as 79% of people cite “lack of appreciation” as one of the top reasons they leave their job? This doesn’t mean that you have to go out of your way to thank your virtual assistant for every task completed. But it does mean that if you want to be a good boss, starting from a standpoint of appreciation is a good rule of thumb. Recognize good performance and good employees for what they're bringing to your team!
3. Thinking like an employee (or a virtual assistant)
Ever notice that some of the best bosses seem to come from the ranks themselves? If you’ve ever been a virtual assistant yourself, you might have a clear idea of what a virtual assistant needs. But if you’ve never been one, you can still adapt your leadership style by putting yourself in their shoes.
Think about what a virtual assistant needs. Positive feedback—the point above—is one. But other aspects, like clear and thorough communication, will prove invaluable when you think from the perspective of a VA. As ReadersDigest notes, that includes “competent job instruction, combined with providing your workers independence in doing their job.”
Other suggestions in this area:
- Avoid micromanaging -- many employees state that a boss who micromanages frequently erodes their confidence and desire to try to improve on tasks
- Consider work-life balance -- everyone has a life outside of work, even if it's your own business, your employees need time to recharge and don't have as much skin in the game as you do, so it's not fair to make them feel overwhelmed or overworked
A famous general once said that orders shouldn’t just be easy to understand; they should be impossible to misunderstand. And there’s a difference.
We don’t recommend that you treat your virtual assistant like a general ordering around troops. But when it comes to the necessity of clear communication, we can learn a lesson from the military: crystal-clear communication is the goal.
One way to ensure that your communication is clear is to work with domestic VAs. Virtual assistants who wake up in the same time zones will be able to take a morning to-do list and treat it as a morning to-do list. They’ll also have a far better grasp of what you want.
To enhance clarity, however, you also have to optimize your ability to communicate. Here are some tips for writing clearer emails:
- Install Grammarly and use it in your emails. This will help you cut down on those grammatical mistakes that cloud your entire message.
- If you have multiple steps, break them down into bullet points. Don’t be afraid to use the formatting options in your email software! It’s there for a reason.
- Cut, cut, cut. Many business writers make the mistake of assuming that more words must mean more specificity—and therefore more clarity. But clear writing will always win the day. You can use a site like Hemingway App to point out when your sentences are very difficult to read.
- Stick to a simple rule of thumb: one topic per paragraph. One topic sentence and follow-up details. If you start with a new topic, open a new paragraph.
5. Remembering feedback goes both ways
How do you get a virtual assistant to feel invested in something they’re doing? How do you make sure that they’re not just “checking the boxes,” but instead feel as though their skills are being put to good use?
Simple: remember that feedback goes both ways.
When Henry Ford introduced the assembly line in the early 20th century, it catapulted productivity and allowed Ford to raise the wages of his employees. Since each employee was more productive, it meant each employee was more valuable—and salaries rose to match that productivity.
But there was one problem with the arrangement: the assembly line was boring. Employees were no longer invested in the whole parts of their cars; they would simply repeat one action over and over again.
This is a recipe for productivity, but in the long-run, it can wear people down. That’s one reason Ford had to raise wages: he had to fight against the high turnover that resulted from this system.
Our point? No one likes to feel like a cog in the machine.
If you work with Delegated, for example, you can hire a virtual assistant who has specific skills that you need. For example, you might hire a social media VA to help with Instagram or Pinterest posts.
Is it a good idea to take someone with those kinds of skills and then “plant them on the assembly line”? No! You’d want to leverage their skills and experience by inviting them to provide feedback on your process.
If you allow your VA to take part in that process, you’ll help them feel a sense of investment over what they’re doing. They’ll have more confidence that what they’re doing is going to work. They’ll have that confidence if they’re allowed to provide you with the feedback to help make their job more effective.
You also want to incorporate a VA’s feedback because they might have ways of making themselves more useful. If they can make themselves more productive—for example, by offering ideas for tools they can use—you’ll get more out of your investment.
How to Be a Better Boss to Your Virtual Assistant
Knowing everything we’ve listed above, how should you approach your first virtual assistant hire? Let’s condense everything down into an easy-to-digest list.
- Step #1: Create your onboarding document. Here’s where your ability to write clearly and concisely will really come into play. You’ll want to create an onboarding document that explains your goals, the essential steps in your business processes, and any other logistics (such as relevant contact/login information for your accounts) that a VA will need to get started.
- Step #2: Ask for feedback. This will help ensure that the conversation is a two-way street. Ask for feedback on your onboarding document. Allow the VA to ask questions. Let them plug in holes. Ask them how they would improve it. How can they use their experience to improve your processes? Then incorporate that feedback into your onboarding document for future reference.
- Step #3: Begin the learning experience with a positive attitude. Remember how studies show that people best respond to positive feedback? This is where you’ll incorporate that. There’s going to be a learning curve, even if you have an expertly trained VA. Make sure you pay attention to what your VA is doing right so that you can encourage that as much as possible.
- Step #4: When the VA asks questions, listen. Throughout this process, it’s only natural that your VA is going to have questions. Try to pay attention to what they’re asking. Why are they asking it?
The rule of thumb for any boss: think like an employee. In this case, think like a virtual assistant. Would you enjoy working for you? If so, why? If not, what can you do to improve your abilities as a leader? Bringing some self-awareness to how you manage team members can often times show that you're working to be a better leader for the business and the people working on it. If you're looking for ideas of what you can delegate, to focus more on your commitment to being the best boss - check out this article here.