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Two Common HVAC Manager Mistakes

Dec. 12, 2017
Give plenty of thought to decision to promote employees to management and leadership positions.

In your contracting business, who leads your employees? Do you have someone who directs your team? Do you have managers who make sure everyone does the work required?

If you have any kind of manager, foreman, team leader, or supervisor in charge of other employees, then you might be making two critical mistakes. Unfortunately, these can be very costly mistakes that could ultimately hurt your business.

Who Gets Promoted To That Position?

Before we get to the actual mistakes, the first thing we need to address is: who gets promoted to that management position?

Although it might vary from one contracting business to the next, the people who get a promotion into that management position are often those who have proven themselves in your company—the hard workers who show up every day, and have done so longer than anyone else.

It makes sense to reward these employees. Their hard work, loyalty, and longevity with your company deserve some kind of reward. And, for many people, a path upwards from the truck to the office and into higher levels of management is the typical career path.

But is it the right career path? That’s where the two big mistakes come in.

Mistake #1. Rewarding Employees With A Management Position

Many of the best tradespeople got into the trades because they love problem-solving and working with their hands. When their sleeves are rolled up and they are wrestling an HVAC system into place, or when they step back from a hot day in the sun and see a beautiful finished deck they’ve just built with their hands, that’s an internal reward that confirms in their minds why they got into the trade in the first place.

These people shine at their very best in these hands-on situations. And then they are rewarded with a promotion out of their best “zone” of expertise into a totally different job that is not hands-on and is not physical or problem-solving in the same way.

Sure, some people view it as a reward, but many don’t. They want to be rewarded, just don’t take them out of their wheelhouse.

For these people, better rewards might include bigger bonuses, higher spiffs, commissions, cross-training, more time off, more opportunities to train others, or a group of on-site subordinates that can help them do great work.

Consider creating two paths of career growth in your contracting business: one path into management for those who want to challenge themselves in an position that requires more people skills and fewer hands-on skills, and one path where they ascend a ladder of skill proficiency and financial incentive, while continuing to practice the trade they love to do so.

Mistake #2. Putting Managers In Place Instead Of Leaders

The second mistake that contracting businesses make is putting managers in place instead of leaders. Promotions to management are used to reward people for hard work and loyalty but the qualities that make someone a hard worker and a loyal worker in a trade are not necessarily the same skills that make someone excellent at leading others.

In fact, even our words like “manager” set the bar too low and put the focus on maintaining the status quo and preserving the way things have always been done.

There’s a difference between a manager and a leader, and if you want to grow your contracting business then you need to stop providing promotions into management as a reward for hard work and instead provide promotions into a leadership position only for those who are proven leaders and capable of inspiring those around them.

This is a mindset shift and an organizational shift that can sometimes be challenging for contacting businesses that have operated a certain way for so long. However, the result of making this shift means: you’ll put the exact right people in place to lead who are qualified to lead, and you’ll start seeing greater productivity out of the people they lead.

Revisit your promotion policy and consider whether you present promotions as “managers” or “leaders,” and consider whether you’ve promoted great people out of great positions in the past simply because you wanted to reward them. Shift to a different model by identifying leadership qualifications and looking for those qualifications as a filter to choose the best person for the job.

It’s easy to use promotions as a reward. And there’s nothing wrong with it because you want to reward your best people. However, the problems arise when you promote people who don’t want to become managers (but that’s their only career path) or when you promote people to manage when you really need leaders.

Stop making these two mistakes in your business and you’ll discover significant growth as you finally start putting the right people in the right places.

Mike Agugliaro is the “Business Warrior” and founder of CEO Warrior, a business consulting, training and mentoring firm, providing tested and proven methods to defeat the roadblocks that prevent small to mid-sized businesses from achieving their ultimate success. He has played a key role in building and selling Gold Medal Service, New Jersey’s largest and most respected home service company. For more information about CEO Warrior, visit