I had a speech teacher in college who opened my eyes to two things. First, the most important element of any relationship is communication and second, when you speak with someone don’t be afraid to ask, “What do you mean?” and she should be asking you too. Everyone comes to the conversation with their own filters; e. g. cultural, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual. Over the years I have witnessed the truth of his teaching but nowhere more than in the virtual business world.
Working virtually adds a whole new set of challenges because you don’t, after all, have the benefit of body language and sometimes you don’t even have voice tone and inflection. Often we rely on email and Instant Messaging (IM) to relay complex information in a very informal manner. Gone are the days of the inter-office memo and formal business letters on company letterhead. Weekly staff meetings that seemed such a waste of time; were so inefficient and downright boring have gone the way of the dinosaur. Now we just shoot an email or pop an IM. It’s all good, isn’t it?
We take for granted that the person on the other end of our email or IM is going to “hear” what we have to say because we used an emoticon. If you know the person on the other end of your communications well, especially if you have spent a large amount of time actually face-to-face then maybe this is true. However, if you have never met and you are just growing your relationship then you don’t know each others nuances and you don’t always interpret each others words they way they were intended.
Working with my own clients and Virtual Assistants I have seen these issues time and again, sometimes dealt with successfully and sometimes not. The one single element that makes or breaks a Client/VA team is communication. If the communication is based upon building the relationship to realize a vision it has great potential to be very successful. If the communication is more “transaction based” then the emphasis is less on the relationship and more on getting the immediate job done and moving on to the next thing.
Determining if communication is clear is a two-way relationship and takes some effort. I am certain you will find the rewards well worth it!