One of the greatest lessons in life is to listen with the intent to understand what is being said, instead of just listening to respond. The best way to listen is with your mouth shut. If you’re talking, you’re not listening! Think about it, the word listen and the word silent are spelled with the same letters! In order to be a good listener, we first need to learn how to be silent.
While you’re listening, pay attention to how what you hear affects you, not what you think about it, but how you are personally affected.
Before you respond
When it’s time to respond, consider your intention before you speak. Whose needs are you meeting? Are you trying to look smart or to be appreciated? Or is your intention genuinely to support the other person and to share your sense of connection?
We have all had those moments, when you walk away from a conversation then realise you cannot remember what the person said, wanted you to understand or wanted you to do!
How do we stop thinking while listening? If you want to be an outstanding listener, it’s difficult to do that while you’re constantly thinking about the next response.
Communication is something so simple yet so difficult to achieve. There might be times where you share your issues with someone but you felt that they do not understand you. Worst still, they reply whatever they feel. That happens because they are purely hearing your issues rather than listening to them. That is one of the issues these days. Listen to them, give them your full attention and when you listen you will know what to reply.
If nature gave us ears, it was not just so that we could hear but so that we can also learn to listen. We listen with autopilot on and with habits we have acquired where we do not want others to convince us of things we supposedly already know. We often limit our ability to listen to that which selectively confirms our beliefs.
Here are tips that you can apply to become more active in listening:
Tune out distractions.
STOP, LOOK, and LISTEN!
We need to train ourselves to do this when we listen!
STOP whatever you are doing and pay attention to the details.
LOOK at the person in the eye, watch for non-verbal communication. Slow down and be fully present in the moment.
LISTEN It can be tempting to think about how you are going to reply while the person is speaking, but listening is not just waiting for your turn to speak.
Do not interrupt or derail the person when they are speaking. Be respectful, let them finish their thoughts.
Take an interest in what the person is saying.
Don’t jump from “hear” to “respond” without ensuring you fully understand the situation or issue.
First reflect on what has been said, and then answer.
Wait for a response, don’t feel that you have to fill the space.
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. – DR. STEPHEN R. COVEY
What to Expect When Working with a Virtual Assistant
A Virtual Assistant (VA) is a person who works remotely – she can sit in an office down the street or across the world. Working with a VA is very different from having an employee sitting in your office. Most Virtual Assistants work for more than one person, splitting their day up between their different clients. Virtual Assistants can assist with anything from general admin, marketing, diary management to virtually anything. The concept of working with a VA is a relatively new idea and so there are things that people are not always aware of.
Communication is key
Communication in this working relationship is key, use emails, WhatsApp, voice notes or weekly meetings. Be mindful that the Virtual Assistant is not in your office and is unable to come into your office and speak to you face to face, should the need arise. When giving instructions to your VA, be sure to provide all the resources that might be needed for the task at hand, together with all the relevant timelines and goals that you as an employer will expect. There should always be an open line of communication.
Work out the process
Working with a Virtual Assistant takes time to perfect. It is suggestible that especially in the beginning, all the assignments that are given to your Virtual Assistant are reviewed and that constructive feedback is given to the VA. This process will allow her to grow in her position and for her to ensure that over time she consistently provides what you are looking for. Never under estimate the power of a few kind words or praise for a job well done. It will do wonders for her self-esteem and will make your VA strive harder to ensure her work exceeds your expectations.
Stay in touch
It is the client’s responsibility to ensure that your VA knows what is expected of her. Regular communication to make sure she is coping and on point, will eliminate unwanted surprises. Having said this, there is no need to micromanage her. This could lead to serious problems down the line and could very well disrupt the relationship between the client and the Virtual Assistant and blur the boundaries as to what exactly is expected of her.
Remember the human touch
Remember that your Virtual Assistant is a person, who also has feelings and emotions. Given that that many clients have never had a face to face meeting with their VA, they forget that she too is a person. When problems arise as they normally do, it is easy get upset and vent their frustrations at their faceless Virtual Assistant.
All in a day’s work
Having a well-balanced working relationship between client and Virtual Assistant is one of the best things a client can do for his business. By the general day to day tasks been taken over by someone else, the client is left free to focus on growing his business without the everyday mundane tasks to contend with.
Public holiday, who cares? We can rest….. But every single woman in South Africa needs to care. We need to understand why this is such an important month in the history of our country. Women’s Month in August is a tribute to the more than 20 000 women who marched to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956 in protest against the extension of Pass Laws to women. The Government of South Africa declared August as women’s month and 9 August is celebrated annually as Women’sDay. Women were somewhat regarded as inferior to their male counterparts then. Fast forward 63 years, and women are seen as equal and paid and treated as such.
Women in power in South Africa making a change
Growing up I always imagined being someone that can make a real change, not only to my immediate family but also to people around me. Especially during August I have seen articles about women doing just that. It all started with a heart, to be understanding and empathetic towards others. And let`s face it, women are good at seeing the need of others. Salute ladies, and let us go on this journey of getting to know my top four inspirational women:
Saray is an award-winning mountaineer, a Mandela libraries ambassador, a social entrepreneur, a mother of two boys and also an executive for one of the distinguished financial institutions in South Africa. Over time she has demonstrated her commitment to making a difference in her environment through mountaineering. Through her climbing with a purpose initiative, Saray has organized and been part of the following initiatives:
Climbing Kilimanjaro with a purpose (self-funded climb) which built an outdoor gym for Kids Havenworth R200,000 and also converted a room into a library.
Climbing Everest in 2014 raised funds forThe Lunch Box Fund to feed over 60,000 children.
Climbing Everst in 2015 raised funds for The Mandela Library Projects and built a library for Isiziba Primary School in Thembisa, Johannesburg.
Climbing Everest in 2018 raised funds of over R800,000for The Mandela Library Projects and built four libraries across South Africa. She continues to campaign for more libraries as she takes steps towards the seven highest peaks on the seven continents around the world.
Following her victory at the 2009 World Championships, it was announced that she had been subjected to sex testing. She was withdrawn from international competition until 6 July 2010 when the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) cleared her to return to competition. In 2010, the British magazine New Statesman included her in a list of “50 People That Matter 2010”.”
Semenya is not allowed to participate in this year’s World Championships in Doha, as her testosterone levels need to be reduced as ruled by the IAAF. Luckily the South African Cabinet fully supports Semenya as she appeals and fights for her fundamental human rights. Like all other athletes, she is entitled to compete without being obliged to alter her body by any medical means. And following Semenya`s very public career over the last nine years, I am sure she will still be fighting for many years to come.
# Tracey Chambers and Tracey Gillmore, educating and clothing the underprivileged
These two women realized they can make a difference in the lives of women, and people in general, by letting their empathy grow into a business. They started the ClothingBank of South Africa, by clothing and educating people. In their own words: “We believe that becoming a self-employed business owner is something everyone can do, irrespective of their education levels and resources, as long as they are self-motivated and well supported (mentally and emotionally). We have developed a holistic eco-system, which successfully engages families living in poverty to chart a path out of poverty. Our projects have been changing lives for the last eight years.” Visit their website for more information: https://theclothingbank.org.za/
How can I make a difference
Following these wonderful women did make me feel unmotivated for a second, before I was left amazed. I wanted to be them, and here I am 37 years old, not summiting mountains, un-athletic and unentrepreneurial. I voiced this to my friend and very small business partner (who is really unprivileged, sleeping on someone’s kitchen floor, cleaning houses for a living). She said that you should never think something is unimportant to the person next to you. We can always, as women, have an empathetic heart and ear to our sisters. Sometimes, without even realizing it, by listening you can show love and affection. For too many years, sisters in South Africa were not heard, until they gathered, mobilized and moved. And because they did, my heroes are out in the open, voicing their concerns and making changes without needing to stand back.
Secondly, we should remember to never quite. Even if we feel we do not have the capacity or mental ability to do something, just keep going. All of the women mentioned above must have felt deflated and wanting to quite somewhere down the line, but they pushed through and always educated and kept training in their areas of specialities.
In bringing it together I thought it would be best to share this poem by Maya Angelou:
Setting boundaries and rules whilst maintaining good work ethic as a Virtual Assistant
As a Virtual Assistant we are sometimes so hungry to get that next client and maintain the best working relationships with the ones we have that we sometimes forget that the key to success is actually to set some boundaries. Setting boundaries and laying down some ground rules with your clients need not be a daunting, scary thing, in fact if anything it should be a relief to you and could even show your client a whole other side of your personality which they may love. Assertive and confident professional remote worker – THAT’S YOU!
Now although it may be a necessity to set these boundaries to avoid things like burnout and less than average work being handed over to clients, you need to be able to do it in a proper manner and without coming across as bitchy and condescending. You also want to make the rules clear from the get-go, so things like what hours you are available to one specific client, what your actual working hours are and so forth need to be discussed right in the beginning to avoid any awkwardness further down the line.
Below I will discuss a few tips for setting up rules and structure within your business which will ensure your success and success for your client.
Boundaries for you and me
Your phone – Now although you have a phone and the general idea of a phone is to take calls you do not want clients calling you all hours of the day and night and weekends expecting answers. So you need to be clear that, if you do not have a phone purely for business, that you tell your client you are available for calls between hours x and y and thereafter there will be no response to calls or messages.
Set working hours – Most VA’s have more than one client and therefore would want to have specific times scheduled in order to provide the best most focused work to each individual client. This can be tweaked according to the workload of course as sometimes one client has nothing for you to do on a specific day, but another may have a mountain of tasks which are all urgent, you can then use your discretion, but setting some sort of guideline around this with your client is very important.
Treat your business like a business – All business’s have hours where they open and then the same for when they close, you as a virtual assistant are essentially running a business and should do the same. Business’s have rules and regulations, therefore so should you. A virtual assistant is not an employee and therefore does not have to adhere to the management from a client.
Having a task list – A task list is also great as you and the client can set up the tasks together that are needed for any particular day, if the client then tries to deviate from this you can respond by saying that because the list has being drawn up in a specific way you have planned accordingly and unfortunately any extra’s would have to wait for the following day. If you are unsure of what the priority task is it is always best to communicate and find out, this is also a good way of setting the rules that priority tasks are completed first but whatever falls outside of the normal working hours will be added to the following day.
At the end of the day we all want to be able to deliver top-notch service as a VA and we want to have as many clients as possible and keep everyone happy – but happiness comes from being honest and upfront about things. You never want to find yourself a few months down the line, when you realise you cannot handle the workload, telling a client you need to set boundaries, it will probably not end very well.
Be assertive, have a clear idea of what you can and cannot do in any one day and then have that chat with those clients and you will flourish.
“Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don’t recognise them.”Ann Landers
What is Social Media?
Social media is the collective of online communications channels dedicated to community-based input, interaction, content-sharing and collaboration.
Forms of Social Media
There are many forms of social media, amongst these are: –
Websites and applications dedicated to forums
Typical examples of social networking platforms that may be easier for the “man on the street” to identify: –
To name but a few, find below a typical conversation prism. It is quite enticing to know how far ones reach actually goes when posting on social media.
Business Applications of Social Media
Social media, today, is a fundamental part of life online. Social Media is used to market products and services, to promote brands and most important of all to connect to individuals and business with whom you can set the stage for new business.
How do you increase social media traffic?
This is a phrase that MANY people ask! Let’s focus on the “HOW”!
The bottom line is, social media traffic happens or shall we say increases when you engage and build relationships on each and every network.
Every social media network is different, however to increase your social media engagement on these platforms, there are some hard and fast rules that one should follow.
Inspire your audience with visuals
A fundamental concept in social media engagement “first impressions last”.
The first impression that you portray in your post or engagement is what lasts in most people’s minds. The age old saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover”, is not always true. Visuals assist people or potential clients with making decisions.
The best visuals on social media include: –
Vibrant colours and well-designed layouts
Visuals telling stories
Visuals showing products or services in a new light
Consistently on point and well-planned
ALWAYS be where your audience is!
Identify Social Media Influencers and Engage with Them
The term used is “influencer marketing”. When one engages with various social media influencers, one is creating the ideal opportunity to attract more followers, in other words, MORE traffic to your business website, platform etc.
Understand that Social Media is for SHARING, not selling!
Although, the majority of potential clients begin their journey on social media by making a purchase. Most clients do not visit social media networks with the intention of shopping.
The primary intention for social media marketing is to build relationships. People are more inclined to check out your post or share your story, news, blog etc if they feel that your post is directed at building a relationship with them.
Clients want to feel as if they are important and that their own needs are being met.
The above ideas are to name but a few. Get out there and ENGAGE with your followers make them feel as though they are your number 1 visitor!