One of the oddities about remodelers is that we complain about a lack of good workers but skimp on training people to do the work we want. This is particularly true when promoting a current worker, such as moving a lead carpenter into a project manager role. Some make the transition flawlessly—others do not. The fault lies with us as managers, not with the workers, for failing to understand the differing skills required for those two jobs.

Less than 25% of the time, a good lead carpenter is a good project manager. I’ve found that the talents that enable a person to excel as a carpenter differ from those required in a project manager. And since people’s personalities are hard to change, if they don’t have certain qualities before you offer them the job, they aren’t going to pick them up later on.

The talents that enable a person to excel as a carpenter differ from those required in a project manager.

Therefore, when you’re looking to fill a job, select a person based on his or her character. What causes that person to jump out of bed each morning eager to work? How does that person think, make decisions, maintain relationships, and assume responsibility?

Recently, I asked several counterparts to rate on a four-point scale the qualities that they believe are important in a lead carpenter. The following all scored an average of 3.5 or above:

  • Competence: A desire to build expertise in, and ultimately master, a subject.
  • Strong ethics: The ability to discern right from wrong.
  • Responsibility: The personal taking on of a commitment.
  • Problem-solving talents: Particularly with regard to the physical challenges that come from working with wood.
  • Take-charge attitude: An ability to take charge at a jobsite.

I asked the same individuals to select the qualities they regarded as vital in a project manager. The five characteristics listed above made the list again, along with the following:

  • Be an achiever
  • A drive to be of service to others
  • Focus in setting and achieving goals
  • Discipline
  • Organization
  • Conceptual thinking
  • Business savvy

If you have a lead carpenter who’s good at his job but lacks these skills, you’re better off keeping that person in his current position. Make sure he’s happy, then go out and find someone who displays the right talents for project management. Putting the right person in the job is key to building a business that’s bigger than you alone.