Rebecca (the client) forwarded an email to Abigail (the VA) from a customer who was asking for some special consideration in a program Rebecca was running. At the top of the email, Rebecca wrote: “What do you think?”
Abigail came to me about it because it concerned her that Rebecca was doing that level of question asking more and more often. It felt off to her— like Rebecca was trying to abdicate responsibility for many of the decisions about her business by asking Abigail’s thoughts, and then doing whatever Abigail shared in her response.
It’s a problem for VAs when clients abdicate or engage in behavior that makes it seem to be so. It can be uncomfortable for an assistant to feel like the client isn’t driving her own bus, and when abdication is happening, it places undue responsibility and, perhaps, some liability in the lap of someone who shouldn’t have it.
In talking with clients over the years, I’ve met more than a few who were trying to abdicate responsibility and decision making—as it turned out they loved doing the work they got into business to do and were completely out of their elements running businesses. Not liking that side of their work they were looking for knights on white horses, come to save them.
But others weren’t trying to abdicate at all. They were trying to get input from their VAs because they recognized that their VAs had entirely different perspectives and points of view from their sides of the relationships, and “What do you think?” or something similar was the way they asked for it.
I suggested that Abigail explore with Rebecca which it was—abdication or a request from a partner for a different perspective, and it turned out to be perspective.
As is usually the case, working through this has made them closer and their relationship stronger.
With a bit more help, Rebecca is now clearer with her language when she writes to Abigail, and Abigail feels far more comfortable with the dynamic and the conversations that ensue. She also better understands that Rebecca significantly values her input, but isn’t blindly taking her advice; instead, adding the information Abigail shares to her own and then making a decision.
Geezie—I love happy endings!