One of the things that worries business owners as they begin to work with VPs is how to handle mistakes when they are made. When employees are in the office with you, you can talk to them immediately and directly. It’s natural to worry about how you will make that same connection with someone who might be thousands of miles away—in our case, a fourteen- hour plane flight away.
That is why we recommend that everyone craft a Virtual Playbook. You will be amazed at how efficiently you can achieve your outcomes when you have a play-by-play, documented process for dealing with training and what to do when something goes wrong. It takes all the guesswork out of the employer-employee relationship. How do you do that? How do you make sure that your virtual professionals have all the tools they need to be successful in this blended model?
The answer is beautifully simple: You document your systems. Within your scale framework, when a virtual professional makes a mistake, there must be a process for determining why. As an entrepreneur, you might tend to be upset when someone makes a mistake. You might think, “How could my virtual professional make such a needless mistake? This isn’t working. You made a bad experience occur for my client, and I can’t believe you did that.” The tendency of an entrepreneur is to blame the employee because we believe we would have done things differently.
The first question you should ask yourself is “Do I have a written process in my standard operating procedures on how to do this task (or confront this issue)?” The standard operating procedures (SOP) should be sufficiently complete to guide your VP through everything to be touched within the business, even if it is as trivial as how to answer the phone, where to store documents, or what to put in an email signature. Then, when someone comes on board, that new employee has a reference point for everything about the job.
The second question you should ask yourself is “Did I conduct formal training on how to do that?” You can’t simply give someone a written procedure and say, “Here you go. Good luck.” You must help the person understand why the procedure is to be done and then further clarify by answering any questions that arise.
If you answer yes to both those questions, you can go back through that documentation with the employee and show how you covered that scenario in the training process. This gives the employee the opportunity to say, “Gosh, you are right. I do remember that in the training. It’s my mistake, and it won’t happen again.” Tell your employee, “Great, I’m so glad that we are clear about this. Thank you for your commitment that it won’t happen again.”
With all your documentation in place, you can put the onus on the employee to realize the mistake, and by asking yourself the right questions, you avoid making unpleasant and counterproductive assumptions, like “They should have known that.” Plus, you enable a future where that mistake won’t happen again and again and again.