When you leave the job site, does the work slow down? Probably. So what do you do when it's time for you to permanently make that move?

A roofing company owner I work with is in the process of switching from running his crew to running his business. He confided recently that he was having trouble estimating labor. "I know how many squares my crew can lay in an hour. But that's with me on the job. As soon as I get off the roof, they're suddenly doing half as much. Now I keep underestimating labor time."

So why not designate a foreman? He'd tried, he told me, but with disappointing results. "I ask a guy technical questions, and he gives me good answers. Technically, he's capable. But as soon as I leave the job, problems come up that slow down the work."

And as with any crew, the owner encountered the issue of seniority versus ability. Some employees expected to be "led" by the crew member who had been with the company the longest. But more recent hires with better skills objected.

That attitude is surprisingly common. I first learned how highly valued seniority is when I had to put together a job assignment board for a client company. I listed the employees alphabetically, figuring that was logical. But the owner took one look and said, "Oh, that will never work. The boys will be offended." In that company, I learned to my astonishment, every employee list in any document had to be arranged by date of hire, with the latest hire last.

When faced with that mindset, one option is just to pick your best leader -- regardless of how long he or she has been with you, or how skilled -- and provide that person with skill and supervisory training.

But it might work better to look outside the company for your supervisor. Any lead person who comes from within your existing crew, unless he also happens to have been with the company longest, may face huge resistance from the rest of the crew if they perceive that he has been unjustifiably endowed with more power, authority, or money. Better to outline your own plans to move from field to office ahead of time, and explain that you're going to hire someone to replace you in the field.

Make sure the crew understands that this person's job is not just to keep the job running smoothly, but to be responsible for paperwork and communication with the office (and perhaps the homeowner). Stressing the difference between the functions your crew members handle so well and the duties of this new position may ease your crew's acceptance of a new addition to the group.