THE BLOG
09/18/2013 12:57 pm ET Updated Nov 18, 2013

Are You Staying on Your Side of the Line?

I love starting things, but not finishing them. Like a lot of entrepreneurs, I get excited about ideas, and once I have an idea, I just want it to become real as quickly as possible. The details of how that happens don't really interest me and aren't what I'm best at. Even highly detail-oriented entrepreneurs do better when they stick to their role in the organization: being a source of innovation and direction.

If you imagine all the activities that take place in your business, we could divide them into two piles: On one side are all the things you do best; on the other are the things your team members do best. Between these, there's a line -- and you can use this line to multiply your business's results while making it a more enjoyable and rewarding outlet for your abilities.

Satisfaction vs. stress.

One of the great freedoms of being an entrepreneur is having the opportunity to focus on your particular talents and wisdom -- and, not coincidentally, this is also how you contribute the most value to your business.

For me, this means coaching workshops, speaking to new groups of people, and developing products based on what I've learned. I find these activities tremendously satisfying and rewarding, whereas execution and implementation are frustrating and stressful for me. Those things are on the other side of the line, so I don't go there anymore.

Where's "the line"?

The first challenge for a lot of entrepreneurs is finding that line. They have no criteria for deciding what they should and shouldn't get involved in. They keep reaching back into things they've given away, and that makes it okay for the team to keep engaging them in their work.

Maybe you feel tempted to help them out, or you don't trust them to produce the result you want. So you keep stepping over the line onto their side, which burns up time you could be spending producing results and interferes with your team's growth.

The solution, of course, is to stay on your side of the line. But in order to do that, you'll need to feel confident about what's happening over on the other side. So here's how to achieve that confident capability:

1. Figure out where the line is. Where do you draw the line? The most workable, enjoyable boundary is around your Unique Ability -- your individual combination of talent, skill, and potential for growth. When you're operating in your Unique Ability, you achieve things with a joy and ease that others simply marvel at.

Even better, no two people's Unique Ability is the same, which means that someone out there -- maybe someone already on your team -- will be elated to take on the tasks that you're incompetent at and hate doing. Give them the opportunity to use and develop their talent, and you also eliminate the number-one cause of "messes" in a business: avoidance of obligations you dislike or aren't really committed to. (An accountant is one of the first hires many entrepreneurs in my workshops make; a personal assistant is a close second.)

2. Communicate your thinking. Be really clear about the result you want. This isn't a "drive-by delegation," but an opportunity to fully explain the purpose of this task and what it will look like when it's done -- and done well.

I have project managers for all my projects, and I meet with them at the start of every new job to share my vision, my intentions, and the criteria I'll be measuring the project's success by. Then, I listen to make sure they get it. When I feel confident that they do, I step back and let them assemble the plan, people, and resources to get it done.

How much communication do you need or want during the project? That's good to establish at the outset too. For some projects, I want to see work in progress to make sure it fits with what I had in mind. Yet, if we've done something similar before, I'm happy to let my team run with it, and we can make refinements when they come up with a first draft.

You can help if it means contributing part of your Unique Ability. But if you feel your team should be able to do the job by themselves, communicate that too.

3. Show them how, then get out of the way. My goal is to help my clients develop a fully Self-Managing Company. To achieve this, you need a team you trust -- people who are exceptionally good at what they do and can respond creatively and decisively to any situation. Your team members can only become those people if you give them the permission and authority to deal with things, and if you treat mistakes as opportunities to learn and refine the process.

At a certain point, for your team members to grow, you simply have to not be there. This, incidentally, also gives you back time to be productive on your side of the line and to enjoy a balanced, rewarding personal life.

A win for both sides.

It takes time to figure out where the line is, how to stay on your side of it, and how to communicate this idea to the people you work with. When you do, though, you gain an enormous sense of satisfaction and relief -- knowing you have the freedom to use your Unique Ability in your business to invent and capture new opportunities and that your team will follow through to maximize the value of what you're creating.

As you expand your ability to create the positive changes you want to see, you grow, your team members grow, your business grows, and your clientele grows. It's a win for everyone.