How To Encourage An Entrepreneurial Spirit At Work

What does Joe from accounting have in common with Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, or Beyonce? He might not have the dance moves down and he’s probably never seriously considered moving to Mars, but maybe he shares these leaders’ entrepreneurial spirit.

Take note next time an employee advocates implementing new software or starts questioning the current budget breakdown. Embracing change, taking initiative, and risking failure are all signs of an entrepreneurial spirit—and encouraging that mindset in your employees can result in huge benefits for your company.

Traditionally, we think of innovation coming from the top down. It’s the CEO who has the vision, right? Conversely, startups are commonly associated with a company-wide culture of entrepreneurial energy—a smaller organization means employees have more contact with the founders and so a kind of creative contagion takes place. But leaders at larger organizations can also inspire an entrepreneurial spirit in those they manage or supervise.

When every employee feels empowered to experiment with approaches, offer new ideas, and question the status quo, better ideas are borne—and productivity and profits margins naturally increase. So whether your focus is on creating a strong workplace culture or you have your eye trained on the bottom line, fostering an entrepreneurial spirit in your employees just makes good business sense. Here’s how to do it:

Hire Carefully

When it comes to growing your company, you’re looking for entrepreneurial spirit—not entrepreneurs. Hire the latter and, before you know it, you’ll be back to reviewing resumes. But if you choose your questions carefully, you can discern whether a potential employee’s passion can be harnessed for your company’s benefit, or if it will forever be directed towards his own projects. Consider asking what concerns a candidate has regarding your company. The answer will reveal how committed he is to making your business better, as well as how willing he might be to offer feedback that challenges the status quo—a sure sign of an entrepreneurial spirit.

Empower Employees To Take Risks

That means creating an environment where it’s safe to fail. Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why, offers the example of an aerial trapeze artist: provide a net and your performer will attempt new, ever more challenging feats. To foster an entrepreneurial spirit in the workplace, you need to ensure a similar net is in place. Never reject an idea out of the gate—instead, thoughtfully discuss it. Even if the suggestion is eventually turned down, your employee will understand why and be more likely to provide additional feedback in the future.

Trust Employees To Rise To The Challenge

When a suggestion makes sense, ensure the initiating employee is involved in the follow-through. People feel a natural sense of ownership over their ideas and co-opting them will only result in a future reluctance to share. Connect your employee with the necessary resources to realize her suggestion and watch her entrepreneurial spirit take root.

Publicly Recognize Employees – Sometimes

Not everyone craves credit. It’s important to offer quieter employees a more suitable platform to share their ideas—maybe even anonymously. Consider leaving a suggestion box in a quiet corner of the office. While you’ll still want to acknowledge these contributions regularly, an anxious employee can take heart knowing his name will not be attached to any idea he offers. In time (and if you follow step two on this list!) quieter employees may become more comfortable letting their entrepreneurial spirit show.

Practice Transparency

Michael Kerr, president of Humour at Work, says it best: “If employees are being asked to think like owners, then they need the same level of information that owners receive.” An open and honest dialogue is key to letting an entrepreneurial spirit shine through. Hold nothing back, and your employees won’t either.

In Conclusion

For employees with an entrepreneurial spirit, work is more than just their nine-to-five. It’s something that provides real purpose, provided their contributions are supported and appreciated. By encouraging innovation in your own organization, you’ll keep these employees where you want them—on your team, and not the competition’s. In return, you’ll see higher productivity and profits—and more importantly, you’ll get to come to work every day with people as inspired, passionate, and creative as you are.


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