Intrapreneurial Spirit: Cultural Alchemy
Written by Renée Warren, CEO, Onboardly
Perfection is hard to define — especially when it comes to finding the right talent for your company. I know this all too well. Running a small communications agency in Canada would seem like an easy next step, after my success as a freelance consultant. But finding the right people to join me and believe in my vision was a tough sell.
Striking Intrapreneurial Gold
I needed to recruit intelligent, resourceful, self-motivated individuals — people who could easily see the big picture and ‘read the play.’ People who didn’t need an employee manual, hand-holding or a perfect office environment to be creative.
So, I hired a few ambitious young people and was surprised at what happened next. They actually helped define the company culture. It blew my mind.
At the time, I wasn’t seeking help to clarify our “why,” or establish our organizational culture. I figured those things would come in time. Little did I know, in recruiting these mavericks, not only would my job get easier, but a unique culture would also emerge.
I learned that these individuals aren’t just hard working employees. They actually are all intrapreneurs — professionals who build businesses from the inside out. And that has made all the difference.
How did this intrapreneurial crew help create the perfect culture for our growing agency? I’ve identified 5 essential contributions:
1) A Sense of Ownership
Intrapraneurs tend to have a better understanding of the big picture, and their ideas often reach beyond their day-to-day tasks. Our team members are strong believers in the work they do and they embrace responsibility for the results they achieve. They believe they are integral to the organization’s success — they’re not merely working in a position for a paycheck. This passion and attachment only grows stronger with time.
As living, breathing examples of the company culture, the team attracts others to our sphere. They set out to make sure that our culture is heavily entwined with day-to-day operations, and their ambitious attitude becomes contagious. It’s a deciding factor for customers, partners and additional employees, when committing to our organization.
2) Things You Can’t Teach
Intrapreneurs have a way of transforming an organization beyond expectations “because they are self‐motivated free thinkers, masters at navigating around bureaucratic and political inertia,” explains Vijay Govindarajan in a Harvard Business Review post.
Sure, some of these skills can be learned. However, the way this magical mixture comes together is often the product of innate characteristics, rather than the result of training. Members of this special breed either use company culture as a means to excel in a role, or they commit to crafting a culture that will elevate the organization as a whole.
Sounds too good to be true? There is some bad news: It’s often hard to identify this aptitude in a typical job interview. Intrapreneurial aptitude actually can take time — months, or even years — to surface. But if you have a knack for identifying human potential, you’ll be able to recruit ambitious, creative, self-directed individuals who are intrapreneurs at the core.
3) Always Adding Value
Some people go to work to make money, while others go to serve a purpose. Money is important to make ends meet, but it’s not the only reason why people stay with a company and love their careers. When someone is genuinely invested in their work, they will go to great lengths to contribute their best effort. They will work harder and longer to produce the results they seek.
More often than not, this “extra effort” comes from those with an intrapreneurial mindset — from people who refuse to stop until the job is done well. They are exemplary at shaping and contributing to cultures that create business value. Their work is not only self-fulfilling, but something that supports performance across the entire team.
4) Leaders Without the Title
Intrapreneurs are clearly leaders in their own right. They will proactively seek ways to cut costs and increase revenues, even beyond a CEO’s expectations. Regardless of the significance associated with change, an intrapreneur takes on the responsibility as though they own the company — and they make decisions, accordingly.
Perhaps more importantly, these people are visionaries who are willing to challenge the status quo. They “have a dream, and overcome obstacles to achieving it by selling the dream to others” (Hisrich, Peters, and Shepherd, 2010.) Their support of the company often is on par with upper management’s level of commitment.
5) Follow the Magic
No doubt, you already have natural intrapreneurs within the walls of your company. You may know and work side-by-side with some already. But you may not recognize others yet. Surprisingly, these “hidden gems” are not always your classic top talent. However, they are unique. And when you uncover them, if you encourage and nurture them, magic can happen.
How so? Intrapreneurs have a way of making complex processes into something more simple. They see the light at the end of a tunnel that others would abandon. They can think creatively inside and out of the box. They aren’t afraid of taking risks, and they are tenacious problem solvers. Magic? I’d say so.
Letting Your Inner Entrepreneurs Shine
Don’t ignore the signs of an intrapreneur. When you spot them, help them understand that you’re aware of their potential, and then support them throughout their journey. That “go” signal and encouragement from you may be just the thing to kick-start their mission — or keep them on course. Remember, these individuals may not “look” like the typical “CEO” candidate, but can (and will) create magic for you and the company.
It has happened for me. I know it can happen for others. Find the gold in your ranks and let it shine. Give them freedom to make choices and see things through to the next level. If your experience is anything like mine, you’ll never regret it.
Are intrapreneurs actively driving your organizational culture? How do you support them? And how are they contributing to your organization’s success?
Learn More: “Business In Your Business” Conference
For more insight about how to foster intrapreneurship in your organization, check out the “Business In Your Business” International Intrapreneurship Conference in Barcelona, Spain, December 12-13, 2013. Experienced intrapreneurs and inspiring experts will share how the process works for them and explain how you can implement it, too. BONUS DISCOUNT: Get 10% off on your attendance fee — enter the code “TalentCulture“ when you register online.
(About the Author: Renée Warren is the CEO of Onboardly, a company that works with early stage startups to help them with customer acquisition and to gain visibility. She has worked with companies such as Udemy, Manpacks, and Beaucoo, helping them create an online presence that consistently gets their products in front of thousands of potential customers. Often referred to as a ‘geek in stilettos,’ Renée is passionate about creating a life that allows her to be the world’s best mom and build a company that continues to create value for its customers through inbound marketing.)
(Image Credit: Dan Brown on Flickr)