When I am speaking with people who use the services of a virtual assistance company, I often hear the same thing over and over again: “I have trouble letting go” or “I don’t want to relinquish control” or “What if they don’t do things the same way that I do them?

This blog post is written to give you permission to start the process of letting go by sharing with you some valuable ways that you can empower your virtual employees.  This post was inspired after reading an article on MSN’s Business on Main entitled, “Empower Your Employees.”  I highly recommend you check it out as the advice there is solid — even if you are looking at building a virtual team.

1. Provide Your Virtual Assistant with the End Result – Not the Process

Many people hire a team or a solo virtual assistant and then feel that they have to go through this daunting process of documenting everything in their business so that the VA does things in an identical fashion to how they do things.  In my opinion, this is why most people never get their delegation and outsourcing off the ground.  It just feels too overwhelming.

If you have taken the time needed to hire the right people, you should feel pretty confident in their abilities.  So, delegate out the end result and not the entire process.  By doing this, the virtual assistant can use their expertise, their tools and their experience to execute on the task in the most cost-effective and time-saving way.  By attempting to delegate out the process, you place the task into a pre-wrapped box, which the VA won’t unwrap — even if the wrapping job is terrible.

2. Give Your Virtual Assistant the Proper Weaponry

Feeling confident in your virtual team’s abilities is step one but the next step is to really give them the tools that they need in order to execute on the tasks you are assigning to them.  For example, it would be very difficult to create social media updates on your behalf if your VA didn’t have background, context or material to gather your “voice” from.  Provide them with ample tools and you’ll see a much more well-equipped team with the ability to problem solve as they move through your tasks.

3. Speak with Your Virtual Assistant Often via the Telephone

E-mail and project management tools are not enough.  When you are working with a virtual team, one of the primary feelings that is felt is a sense of the unknown.  You send an e-mail off into the black hole vortex that is the Internet and you are never sure if it got read, received or understood and you can’t just quickly ask a question.  

To combat this feeling of the unknown, schedule regular, recurring phone calls with your team.  During these calls, recap the items that are outstanding, talk about future and upcoming projects and allow your team to ask you clarifying questions on the work you are giving them.  You will find that the accountability and conversation will allow you to trust your team more and give away more tasks.

4. Set Some Ground Rules with Your Virtual Assistant

If you are really clear with your team about what you are willing to have them do and what you aren’t, there shouldn’t be any miscommunication on projects and responsibilities.  If you want your team to post updates to Twitter, for example, but not reply to any of the @ replies and DMs, make sure they know that when you have the social media management conversation.

It’s also a good idea to let your virtual assistant know when they can take initiative and when they can’t.  For example, a client of ours used to say, “If you need to implement a tool to make my business more efficient and the cost is less than $10/month or $50 total, go ahead.”  This way, there were ground rules set for our expenditures and we knew that if we needed to implement something to save them time and / or money, we could.

Trust, Arm & Let Go

These things will help you to feel more able to empower your team to make the right decisions for your company without you having to micro-manage every single piece of it.  This will free up your time to focus on the income generating tasks of your business and not on the minutia because really, that is the whole reason you started building a team, right?

Don’t forget to also check out that article on MSN’s Business on Mainand leave a comment with your #1 tip to empower your virtual team!