(excerpt from Chapter 4 of Becoming an Online Business Manager)
Coaching Approach Tactic #1: Assume everyone is doing their very best, especially when they don’t seem like it.
This means that even though the Virtual Assistant crashed and burned, there is a story behind it. Not even just that their dog is ill, or they’re overworked, either. Very often it can mean that (1) expectations of the project weren’t clear in the beginning (2) they did not realize they were welcome to ask “stupid” questions (3) prior experience on projects for this business had deadlines that were flexible or even (4) their self-esteem is low for unrelated reasons and they aren’t good at setting personal boundaries or saying no.
Coaching Approach Tactic #2: Set up a business culture that requires over-communication, always. And that the only real mistake that can occur is the failure to communicate early.
In an online business situation, the majority of unknown “gotcha’s” will be prevented with the application of this one coaching approach tactic. I’ve been known to get very adamant when emphasizing this one, along the lines of:
“You can’t get it wrong UNLESS you don’t tell me you’re getting it wrong.” Translation? The only real mistake is a failure to communicate. You can call me up in the middle of the night and tell me things are doing horribly, and really, I will be much more okay with it than not knowing until it’s too late.
Coaching Approach Tactic #3: Be serenely confident in the fact that until you successfully go through a conflict or sensitive negotiation with someone, you don’t know the true nature of the relationship.
I am of the conviction that until you have to go through a tough or even just touchy something with someone, you aren’t really friends. Perhaps because Tina and I only ever work with clients we respect as much as our friends, we apply this to our business relationships too.
As an OBM who’s in it for the long haul, and wants to really reach the pinnacle of success available, be open and willing to embrace conflict. Take feedback as a vitamin and strengthen your internal self each time. Use the other coaching approach tactics here to anchor your conflict in productive conversation. Remember that to the degree you can be serene through a conflict, the more you are learning and the less likely you’ll have to go through this same conflict again, in another form.
How does this apply in our scenario? In mentoring OBMs over the years, we’ve come to recognize that managing conflict is one of the most difficult things an OBM does. Your goal is to be able to transcend the fear of initiating quickly, the conversations that need to happen with the errant VA and also of presenting the ugly problem to your client.