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.

Intrapreneurs Onboard

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.

reneewarren(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)

#TChat Road Trip: Going To The Next Level Together

There are many possible paths through life and career. Every so often, we’re presented with a decision: Take one path (maybe it’s a new job with an existing employer), or choose another route (maybe it’s an uncharted role at a new company with no clear business model or understanding where it is headed).

More than three years ago, I chose the second path — launching a talent-focused management consulting practice, creating #TChat as a TalentCulture community beacon, and embarking on a life at the crossroads of social media, knowledge sharing and collaboration. And what an incredibly interesting and rewarding journey it has been!

There have been too many high points to mention — the exhilaration of weekly Twitter chats; the roller-coaster dynamics involved with growing a professional online community; the great times Kevin W. Grossman and I have had connecting with many of you at live events — SHRM, HR Demo, Recruiting Trends, HRO Today, HR Tech, HR Evolution and so many others. It’s fun to push the technical limits with experimental “simulcast” chat/radio shows, and other new ways that connect our global community with the best minds and forums in the HR and social media realm.

Along the way, we’ve had the opportunity to meet hundreds of HR practitioners, business leaders and social influencers, both via #TChat and in person. I became a blogger – contributing to many niche blogging communities with whom I’ve been fortunate to forge strong social partnerships. These three years have opened my eyes and heart to new ideas and friendships that have enriched me more than I could have imagined.

Throughout this TalentCulture adventure, I’ve been guided by a vision of community, leadership, learning and innovation in HR. It’s the same today as it was the very first day — everyone is invited and everyone’s unique voice matters. Together, we’re exploring innovative topics – emotional intelligence; collaboration; evolving social and HR technology; the multi-generational workplace and the natural tensions that exist among Boomers, Gen X and Millennials; as well as the role that trust, influence and intent play in today’s most innovative organizations.

We had the courage to take this winding road, to live this social experiment, and we did it without a safety net of financial support. Like many bootstrapped ventures, we lived an online experiment, while sometimes risking our own security during past three years. We became, and are, the #1 and longest running Twitter Chat focused on “The World of Work” in the HR, Leadership, Innovation and Social Business niche. And I am proud of the way we navigated to that destination. This “organic” effort was the right approach. It gave us the freedom to stretch our limits, and really listen to our inner voices — even when others cautioned us that this endeavor was a huge time sink.

I’ve learned a lot during these past three years:

1) Patience.  It takes time to create a community that’s designed to be a metaphor for the social workplace. It takes take time to connect, share, and earn trust. Initiative is imperative — but when relationships are on the line, patience can be even more important.

2) Courage. We didn’t chase after easy money. We stayed with a bootstrapped, organic growth model — and it gave us the freedom to find our true voices and passion. We believed that the community would guide us, even when the road wasn’t clear. And the community has risen to the challenge.

3) Perseverance. It isn’t easy to work 10-20 hours a week or more without compensation. But we stuck to it. We kept showing up. That commitment has made it possible for us to arrive at this third anniversary of #TChat.

4) Engagement Through Trust. Since Day 1, everything we’ve done has focused on engaging with a larger community of HR practitioners, workplace visionaries and leaders. This is a big open tent, filled with people from a vast spectrum of expertise and interests. That’s what makes it such a vibrant, interesting place to be! What makes it possible? Mutual trust. It’s our foundation — and it’s the thing I value most. Above all, we are a community of trust.

5) Learning And Moving On. Through the years, I’ve discovered that growth means leaving some ideas behind. From time-to-time, we need to mix things up, as we continue our mission of serving this eclectic community of practitioners, partners and constant learners.

Change is in the air again, as we look ahead and consider new ways to serve our community’s mission.

This week, which marks #TChat’s third anniversary, presents us with another set of paths. We can continue the community as is, without funding. Or we can embrace a new model that involves careful monetization to fuel additional growth. The second path will give us the financial support we need to add new capabilities for better communication and interaction, integrate new channels for commentary and thought leadership, and create new opportunities to engage with and influence a broader “world of work” for the benefit of all. I’m excited by the challenges these choices present, and I’m eager to move TalentCulture to another level in its growth. But most of all, I’m humbled to lead such an extraordinary community at a time when the very nature of work, itself, is being reinvented.

For three years, we’ve been engaged in an experiment to understand how social innovation can transform work culture, evolve leadership practices, develop trust, and inspire continuous learning. Now, we’re ready to take our first steps toward the next horizon. We hope you’ll join us on that journey. The road ahead may not be entirely clear, but the path is wide, and there’s room for all.

The adventure continues!

Image Credit: Pixabay