Last month we discussed the importance of having focus as leaders and how to avoid being in reaction mode — firefighting as we bounce from one challenge to the next while still attempting to pay attention to the things that will grow the business.

This month I want to share a few key things we see as mistakes when onboarding and training new leaders in contracting businesses. Many of us are back in full-speed-ahead growth mode now and, of course, we need to train people to help us continue to grow. Many of our clients are in the process of promoting or hiring new leaders to take over a second tier of leadership in their companies.


Leadership training mistakes

Adding new leaders and removing yourself from certain things in the day-to-day operation can be a very exciting time. It also can be a very challenging, if not frustrating, time as well. With all the coaching and training we do, three very apparent mistakes get made time and time again when contractors begin training their replacements as managers and leaders.

1. Don’t take things personally – stop whining.Many owners and top managers have the same tendency that most human beings have and can get drawn into being upset at team members they are training for a myriad of reasons. If a key person decides to leave the organization, we get mad at them and make them out to be a bad person instead of looking inside ourselves to see where we might have failed in training that person. Did we provide the tools he needed to be successful?

I tell my clients all the time to stop whining! You signed up for this when you made the conscious choice to become an owner or a top manager, so it’s time to start taking responsibility for everything that happens in the organization. Don’t take things personally. Remain objective to the feedback from a new leader and look for ways to overcome challenges together. You must seek to understand his perspective on things because he thinks differently than you do.

This can be a strength to the company, but good communication must be in place for it to be an asset. If you take it personally that the company’s new leaders aren’t performing the way you want or learning as fast as you’d like, you will not be able to communicate and train them effectively.

2. Not setting clear expectations.You’ve probably heard this one before. How can any leader know what to do if he doesn’t know what is specifically expected of him? Many of us came up from scratch and didn’t have a clue what we were doing when we suddenly became leaders.

For me, coming from operating in the truck by myself to creating one of the best leadership teams in the country has been nothing short of a tremendous challenge at times over the years as I learned and made mistakes. Since we just had to figure it out along the way, we sometimes expect others to do the same thing. This type of thinking isn’t fair to either party.

You must first get clear about exactly what you want from this new position or leader. Once you know what it looks like to you, ask clarifying questions to make sure new leaders understand what is expected. I’ll often ask my team, “Is there anything you need from me?” This automatically places their minds in a search for resources. If they don’t have clarity, you can find out through some clarifying questions.

When setting clear expectations for your team, make sure to remain outcome-focused. Stay away from managing the “how” they do things. This can quickly pull you into a place of micromanaging. You’ll never build or grow a team if you have to meddle in their business and have your hands in everything they are doing. It really blows my mind when I see micromanaging (which I see a lot).

If you’re hiring a manager or new leader to free yourself up to focus on different tasks and strategies for the business, why are you still trying to do his job? If you have clear expectations that are understood, the outcome and results will tell you if he is accomplishing the goal or not. Your role is to help him throughchallenges, not create more for him.

3. Promoting due to burnout and not following up.Many field supervisor roles and service management positions originate from owners being burned out on handling too many things. We must get clarity of what our perfect role in the organization will be, then work diligently with focus to replace ourselves in each position until we get to our desired position.

The key part of that sentence is “replace ourselves.” Many owners hire a new manager, possibly place a job description in his lap, and walk out the door with an unrealistic expectation that everything is going to be great from here on out. Wrong. You’ve got to invest the time in training, coaching and productive feedback to help this new leader find his way in his new position.

Let’s get clear about one thing. If you’re promoting someone or creating a new position because you don’t have enough time to do everything, I’ve got some bad news for you. It will take moreof your time when you first hire and begin training a new leader. You must remain connected with him as he makes decisions, makes mistakes and makes progress.

Mistakes will happen, and they are great learning opportunities if coached and trained from, but most owners jump back to mistake No. 1 and take it personally. They get mad about a mistake and communicate poorly with the new leader. Stop the insanity!

Put in the time, and make sure you have structured and unstructured time for coaching and feedback. Develop a personal relationship with your top leaders and create a safe environment for them to be able to speak with you about everything. Open up about yourself; share personal things and challenges with them so they see you as a real person and not just a boss. You’re not perfect, so stop trying to convince your team that you are. The more real you are with them, the more real they will be with you and you will get the information you need to help them continue to grow.

Titles don’t create leaders. Just because my banker’s business card says “vice president of operations” does not make him a good manager. It just means he has a fancy title on a nice business card. The same is true with us. You can give the title of service manager to your top technician. But if you don’t invest the time training, building a relationship and sharing open feedback regarding results and progress, you have done nothing more than ruin two positions. He is no longer a great top tech and he sure won’t be a great service manager.

Again, put in the time, invest in your own education and that of your new leaders and keep growing your organization, profits and freedom.