I realized this morning that something I’ve mentioned many times but not really ‘splained is the importance of giving your VA context for everything you do and want her to do for you. Context is a specific path to getting remarkable results from your virtual assistant.

I know, because I’m a business owner, too, that sometimes time seems to dictate a need to just say what you want and hope that your VA will just do it. You don’t want a lot of questions, you don’t want to discuss it. You just want it done. But if you stop and consider that for a sec, that’s not really what you want. You want that…and more. You want the outcome you think will come as a result of her having done what you asked her to do. The problem? You haven’t given her that context.

As an example, let’s say you tell your VA that you want her to set you up with an account on a certain appointment scheduling tool and you need her to create a 15-min and a 30-min appointment type. And you give her some content to add to the emails that the system sends someone whose made an appointment. On the surface, it seems plenty of info to give so she can get the job done.

But it doesn’t tell her why you want it, or what you hope that having a scheduling tool will ultimately do for you.

For the best outcomes, context beats content every single time.

And so, she can certainly create what you’ve asked, but she can never go further than that because she simply doesn’t have enough info; enough context for the request. And having it set up just as you asked may give you the outcomes you hoped for, or not. And if not, you’ll need to do it again. Ouch.

If, on the other hand, you give her the context for the request, she might know a better tool to do what you need. Or she might be able to suggest a better way to use the content you’ve created for the follow-ups to appointment makers. Or it might spark more questions from her that would go even deeper into what you want and result in a suggestion you never even considered. She’ll get it done, but with a little more info and input, your outcome may be so much better.

The big point I’m making is that it’s beyond smart to give her more than she needs to push buttons and make something work so that she can bring all of herself to the work, not just her surface-level skills. That’s where you’ll get the greatest value. You’ll ultimately get the thing you wanted, but you’ll likely get the best version of it that’s possible, instead of the down-and-dirty-but-not-be-the-best-for-you version.

The cool thing, too, is that the more context you give her, the more she learns about you, who you are, what you value, and how you think, and over time, that creates a little internal database inside her about you. The more you say now, the less you’ll have to say over time because she’ll already know. You’ll say you want X, and she’ll know that you really mean that you want X plus a bit of Y. Or, she’ll at least suspect it and be able to ask you specifically if you need some Y. That’s how long-term relationships roll.

And while this is critical to do in a relationship with someone you work with, it may be even more critical to do it with VAs you’re interviewing—before you choose someone. Why? Because without context, a VA can only give you an idea of the surface level of her skills. With it, she should say a whole lot more, giving you better intel on whether she’s the one for you.

As an example, let’s say that you have heard that Infusionsoft is the way to go for your email marketing, and you’re considering making that move from MailChimp. Naturally, you’d want to know about your potential VA’s experience with working in Infusionsoft.  If you ask just about that (“What’s your experience working in Infusionsoft?”), you’ll likely get a very different answer than if you were to say, “I’m considering a move from MailChimp to Infusionsoft because I hear it’s the best, but mostly because I’m on track to triple my revenue in the next year and I want my systems to be able to easily handle that, and help us, not hinder us. What’s your experience with Infusionsoft, and would you agree with my thinking?” The latter will get you so much more that you can use to base your decision on. The former will only let you know about hard-skill levels, which is like a 30,000-foot view of what you need to know. The latter will give you that, certainly, plus her best thinking, her dot-connecting, her questioning skills,  and give you the 2,000-foot view of what you need to know, which is certainly preferable and far more helpful in your decision making when choosing a VA to work with.

Trust me on this: you don’t want someone who only wants to do what you say, but someone who wants to be sure that doing what you say is the smartest move for your business, and who isn’t afraid to use her smarts to help you be sure that what you’re asking her to do fits the bill.

Now, you may be thinking that, once in the relationship, your VA should be smart enough to pull the context out of you, rather than your needing to think to share it. Fair enough. But know that your VA isn’t a mind reader, and it’s likely that her crystal ball is often a bit cloudy, so you can’t assume that she’ll do it, any more than she will assume that’s what you want her to do.

If you’re not the kind of person who can easily and naturally think to share it, then request that your VA ask you for it. Task her with it. Make it a de facto part of your relationship. And when she does it, bless her for her digging, even when you don’t think you have the time for more than slinging basic info in her direction, and even when doing it means that whatever you wanted her to do happens a little more slowly. Ultimately, she’ll help make you, and your business, far better by understanding the “why” and not just the “what” of the request.