[Editor's note: Consultant Al Levi helps HVAC and plumbing contractors run their businesses with "less stress and more success." Here, Levi shares with readers ofThe NEWSsome of the questions he gets and the answers he provides. This column is meant to serve as a resource only. Please check with your own trusted business advisers, including your own attorney, to make certain that the advice here complies with all relevant laws, customs, and regulations in your area.]

Learning to Delegate

Dear Al,
I'm growing my company each year. That's the good news. However, I find I need to keep adding new people every time I grow. The bad news is that I find myself working harder and longer managing my ever-increasing staff.

I thought my workload would get easier if I could just have more people, but I found out I have to spend my days running around helping everyone else do their job. No one seems to want to take responsibility for anything, and when I want to delegate a project, I end up disappointed with the results. Normally, I have to stop what I'm doing and come to the rescue. If I have to do their work as well as mine, what's the benefit of growing and having more people?

Am I expecting too much?

- The Rescuer

Dear Rescuer,
I suspect that you haven't learned how to properly delegate work. And that's why the people you hire aren't anxious to take on new responsibilities. They really want to help but are afraid you won't be satisfied or you'll be disappointed in them. No one wants to fail.

The first thing you need to accept to minimize making your support staff feel they may be letting you down is to lose the "rescuer" mentality. Subconsciously, you may relish the role of riding in to the rescue because it makes you feel important. And if you need this fix, it'll undermine your ability to leverage the talents of your staff and their ability to help you. This is true no matter how talented the people are that you hire.

Understand that no one was born your clone and they aren't mind readers. Accept this and find ways to make your team members more effective and successful, and they'll want to do more.

The key to delegating correctly is good communication. And good communication means they know what you want to have happen, what objective measurement you will use to determine whether they were successful or not, what reward they will get for a job well done, what consequence there is for not succeeding, what tools they'll have to accomplish the task, and when you want it done.

Another part of good communication for delegating is to set up frequent short meetings that help ensure a project is on track to be successful. For example, you have delegated a project that must be completed a certain way and be done within a month. Suppose you don't have any meetings till a month later when the project is due. There are only two possible outcomes. They will have either done everything the way you wanted and in the time you need it completed. Or, they will have wasted a month's time and a bunch of your resources doing work that you won't like, and they'll miss the deadline.

That's why a meeting every week would be a smart way to help provide the necessary direction and help give everyone the greatest chance for a successful outcome.

- Al Levi

How to Handle ‘It's Not My Job'

Dear Al,
Whenever I ask anyone on my staff to do just one more thing than they are already doing, they get angry. Their attitude is "It's not my job," "It's not what I was hired to do," or "It's not part of my job description." Or, "I want more money."

As a business owner, I need people willing to take on more as the business demands. I need people willing to learn multiple jobs so I have the maximum amount of coverage.

Changing demands in the business world requires our flexibility, but the employees resist even the simplest change.

Also, there always seems to be more paperwork and new government regulations to adhere to. Is it any wonder I need my employees to do more? Am I wrong to expect them to do more and to cross-train as the business requires it?

- One More Thing

Dear One More Thing,
The resistance to change is very powerful. People are not robots, and as humans, we rarely embrace change unless we understand what's in it for us.

Whenever you ask people to do one more thing than they are currently doing, they feel you're taking advantage of them. They take it personally. You see it as merely needing them to be more flexible and cooperative.

Here's what I suggest. Get rid of one of the obstacles to change. The idea of a bulleted list that passes for a job description needs to go. As an employee, if I agree to a bulleted job description and you add one more thing to that list, I'm being put upon.

What should take the place of a bulleted job description? I recommend the creation of a detailed manual for each and every job position at your company. It contains all the tasks that given job position must do.

Then, make it clear that their job description from now on is to know and master all the tasks and procedures in their manual. Also, let them know the manual is a living document that is always changing. Anytime the manual changes so has their job description. Develop a culture of change.

Once you've created manuals for each job position, you have a valuable tool to speed your cross-training and a way to make training more effective than ever. All the person needs to do is read the manual and they'll be trained following the written procedures on how you want the work done.

- Al Levi

Al Levi of Appleseed Business specializes in private workshops, on-site assessments, customized operating manuals, and staff training programs for contractors. Levi delivers the benefit of the experience he gained from years of operating a large family-run HVAC and plumbing business. For more information, visit www.appleseedbusiness.com. Levi's column runs regularly in the online Extra Edition section of The NEWS. To send him your own question, which if selected will run anonymously, send an e-mail to info@appleseedbusiness.com or fax him at 212-202-6275.

Publication date: 03/20/2006