Resist the temptation to do it yourself. Learn to lead.

So how's it going so far?" I asked the newest supervisor at our company. For more than 10 years he has progressed from an apprentice, to a lead technician, to a supervisor.

"It's tough," he said. "I find the hardest part is resisting the temptation to just pick up the tools and do the work myself."

"I hear you," I told him. "It was difficult for me when I switched from working in the field to working in the office. After all, you know what, when and how to do what it takes to get the jobs done right and the first time," I replied. "Change is tough."

"Yeah, it sure is," he agreed. "It's just so much harder to stand there and watch while instructing others. But, I know that the time I'm spending training others now will help both them and me grow the company so we can all do more in the future."

And for anyone who has ever been "hands-on," this is the toughest discipline to learn. We feel we're the only ones who know how to do it right. But, if you want to grow your company, you have to move from doing the work to training others to do the work. It's the only way I know to leverage your skills. You need to continue to delegate more and more jobs that you've always felt only you can do.

Lead, Don't Lecture

And how you do this makes all the difference. Most of us think we've delegated an assignment because we've scribbled something on a piece of paper and handed it to someone. That's what I think of as the "Sink Or Swim" approach, and I'm really not fond of it. People can die from this approach (and if they survive, they won't be fond of you).

And if you think you've never done this, let me ask you one question: Does this sound familiar?

You give someone on your staff who you think is a jerk, a know-it-all or a screw-up a task to do. You scribble something on a sheet of paper. Instead of taking the time to discuss how you expect this person to do the job and by when, you just shove the work on them.

Maybe you'll ask sarcastically, "Any questions?" Naturally, there won't be any. Then, without spending the necessary time to explain what it is you want and by when, you send this person off to do the job.

You have just set them up to prove (once again) that they have the uncanny ability to let you down. And, sure enough, when you get around to checking on how things are going, they are either doing it the wrong way or they don't know how to proceed. Now you have to pitch in and save the day, of course. You'll moan to yourself and anyone else who'll listen about how it would have been easier to just do it yourself in the first place.

Sound familiar?

It doesn't have to be this way. Here, consider this:

Let's take someone you like and respect. You give this person a job or task and you provide them with the details about what you want, when you want it, and what they can count on from you to be successful. You'll spend a few extra minutes making sure they understand.

They'll probably be more inclined to ask questions or request more information since you've sent them the signal that it is OK to ask. You might ask them to tell you how they plan to do the work, and you'll assure them that you'll be by soon to make sure things are going well. You'll also let them know that if there are any problems they can contact you, and you'll tell them where you'll be.

Things go smoother this way, right?

Until a couple of years ago, I didn't know there was a better way to empower others. It was only when I went to a class and the teacher pointed out how we, as owners and managers, need to work on how we delegate tasks to others.

Begin with a sincere "Good morning!" and let everyone on your staff know that you appreciate their choosing to work with you. This attitude is not reserved for just the best performers who are the easiest employees to deal with, but to everyone.

That class made me aware that my attitude was actually preventing people from asking questions. People were not allowed to reveal to me (and to other management people) what they didn't know, or what they were unsure of. Things are different now, though. Today, people are allowed to ask questions and tell us they don't know something. They no longer feel uneasy about this.

Just Ask

We saw a turning point in our company when we adopted this new philosophy. The rules have changed. Now we say, "Whatever you don't know, you have the right to ask and we are obligated to answer you. Whatever you haven't been taught or shown, we are obligated to teach you. And once we show you, once you have demonstrated to us that you can do the task, then you sign off and it goes in a file."

By changing the rules, we no longer need to keep re-teaching the same things. If we've taught you, and you've demonstrated that you know, but you refuse to do it anyway, then it becomes a disciplinary issue. Fortunately, this is a rare occurrence.

The sarcasm and smirks of old have changed to praise and smiles. We have a better understanding of our roles in the training and working process.

I've heard this called the "Show me, Tell me" approach, and I think it works well. But, I prefer to think of it as the "First, I'll do it and you'll watch, then you'll do it and I'll watch, and then you'll do it alone and we'll talk about how it went" approach.

Having those extra steps in the process allows for individual growth and gives everyone an opportunity to do the tasks a little bit better in the future.

An agreed-upon, written set of guidelines for each of the most common tasks in your company will help. This leads to consistency in the way things get done.

And the guidelines are just that -- guidelines. They're not meant to be so rigid that there is no room for creative problem solving as unique situations arise. They're meant to allow people to understand in a more formal way what you expect from them. And I think you'll find that your training and delegating become faster, easier and more lasting.

Give it a try. I think you'll find yourself spending less time feeling like you're the only one who can do it. And I'll bet your staff will look forward to taking on more jobs and tasks.