Let’s be honest. A lot of people are unhappy at their jobs. They feel unfulfilled, unappreciated, stifled and just plain bored. And their performance reflects it.
Many of us have been there at some point in our work lives: crummy boss, lame culture (think logo mugs and posters riddled with “upbeat” clichés), and defeated colleagues who could pass for zombies in a pinch. Everybody loses in a situation like this: the organization limps along, and incredible amounts of employee potential are wasted.
But there are ways to banish zombieland and turn your company into a hive of happy employees bringing their best self to work everyday. The key is to unleash people’s inner intrapreneurship. This is the part of us that bubbles with ideas to improve (or create new) products, services, processes, and policies within the company we work for. Entrepreneurs, of course, create their own companies. The successful ones burn with passion, drive, and vision. Intrapreneurs bring that same energy to their current workplaces. With amazing results.
Here are 5 steps to creating a Workplace that buzzes with energy, creativity, passion, and happy intrapreneurs:
1) Get The Message Out. Leaders must start by stating it, plainly and simply: “We honor, welcome, even crave, your ideas, your creativity, your talents, your passions. Look around the company. If you have any ideas for improvement, or even whole new products or processes, let us know. The door is always open.” Find a thousand ways large and small to reinforce their intrapreneurial mindset. Solicit ideas – from everyone in the organization (sometimes amazing innovations come from unexpected places) – using social media, contests, recognition, etc.
2) Put Tools In Place To Turn Ideas Into Action. It’s no good to get lots of maybe-great ideas, and then just have them sit there. It’s all about action. You must have a mechanism in place (and this means allocating resources) that allows your intrapreneurs to model, prototype and test their ideas. Otherwise, your credibility is damaged and, more importantly, you’ll never know if the idea is good, great, or not viable. Never ever belittle or dismiss an idea out of hand. Give it a respectful hearing even if you feel it’s not viable.
3) Be Honest About The Challenges. Let everyone know where you need help, or where there is room for improvement. When that part-time assistant hears that there’s a bottleneck in inter-organizational communication (and that you welcome ideas for solving it), she may well go home, brew up a pot of coffee, and, using her front-line experience, come up with a brilliant idea for breaking the bottleneck. So stoke the fires of intrapreneurship by asking for help, framing your challenges as fascinating puzzles that ignite the imagination.
4) Offer Education And Career Enrichment. The more engaged in work and in life your people are, the more their intrapreneurial impulses will be encouraged and nurtured. When we engage in activities and learning that feed our passions, we bring that passion to work with us. So pay for courses, classes, and activities that spark curiosity, build confidence, and may well lead to ideas and innovations that will boost performance and profits.
5) Think Happy. I know, that sounds like one of the clichés I mocked earlier, but hear me out. I’m not talking about mindless happiness, smiley emoticons (it’s really time for those things to go the way of the Edsel), and forced cheer. I’m talking about the bone-deep sense of satisfaction that we all get when we’re working on projects that engage our talents, heart and soul. I’m talking about earned happiness. If you want to see what it looks like, check out any successful entrepreneur. Every single person in your organization should know that kind of happiness is within reach. When you see people who can’t wait to get to work in the morning, you’ll know you’ve created intrapreneurs who will radiate a highly contagious fulfillment and happiness. It’s a beautiful thing.
Talent is a terrible thing to waste. Most companies are using only a fraction of their employees’ potential. Intrapreneurship is all about unlocking and unleashing those vast reservoirs of talent in service of your organization. It won’t happen overnight, but if you get started today you’ll see an almost immediate boost in morale and energy. And before too long, one of your intrapreneurs may come up with an innovation that will transform your company. This is exciting stuff. Let’s get going.
A version of this post was first published on Forbes 08/25/2013