By Austin Bauer – PCC, Performance Coach and Facilitator
Nobody knows your company quite like those on the front lines. Junior producers, account execs, senior planners – they have visibility on details upper management can never have. These people see firsthand where resources are mismanaged and opportunities are missed.
Despite this insider knowledge, many agencies don’t regularly collect, weigh, and invest in ideas directly from employees. Thus employees become frustrated with their lack of voice while owners are missing out on potential opportunities.
Intrapreneurship can help reverse this trend.
Intrapreneurship is when employees combine their firsthand knowledge of their company’s quirks with a clear understanding of its vision to develop innovative approaches that add value in the short and long term. Intrapreneurs develop, pitch, and implement forward-thinking ideas that benefit company leaders, clients, and other stakeholders. Their insider knowledge is what gives intrapreneurs an edge, and is why CEOs should be listening to them more.
This is not to say every idea that comes from within is worth pursuing. There must be a process to gather, evaluate, and decide on which ideas to follow through. But right now, as we speak, great ideas are falling through the cracks because a junior employee doesn’t know how to bring it up. Or when they do, they are coming across as entitled or naïve.
By having a process around idea gather, you give an outlet to a common feeling:
“I work on ‘X’ all day. I know ‘X’ better than anyone else around here. And I have some ideas I’d like to share for how some things could be done more effectively, to save us money and headache.”
The practice of letting people talk about this stuff can change your agency.
Five Traits of Intrapreneurs
To help spot potential intrapreneurs at your agency, I have narrowed down five key traits intrapreneurs share.
- Sense of Curiosity – I believe anyone has the capability to tap into something they are passionately curious about, something that will keep their energy up when things get hard or boring. When one finds those passion points, magic can happen. The problem is, most still haven’t found it, or have lost touch with it.
- Bias Toward Action – Intrapreneurs don’t wait to get started. If they see a way to get involved that seems interesting, they follow that instinct. If they run into the same problem again and again, they make a process to fix it – and then share that knowledge.
- Sense of Responsibility – Intrapreneurs are constantly looking for ways to serve the organization and the overall greater good (employees, society, etc). It is not about climbing a corporate ladder. It’s about delivering real value, and taking 100% responsibility for the quality and ultimate effects of the work, because integrity matters.
- Master Synthesizers – Intrapreneurs are highly self-aware. They see their place in the agency, and in the world. This lets them cross-polinnate ideas to and elevate all stakeholders by achieving Win/Win/Win/Win/Wins.
- Lifelong Learners – Intraprneurs are all about innovating processes, workflows, communication. And the same applies to themselves as people. Without continuous learning and improvement, there is no growth. Stagnation equals decay. Intrapreneurs stay sharp by always studying something new (work related or not)
Things to remember:
- One way to get useful information about your organization and increase employees’ sense of ownership is to hear and respond to ideas from all levels of your agency
- An intrapreneurial approach tends to draw out mutually beneficial strategic ideas from highly motivated employees. Consider it a feeder program for these employees to do even bigger and better things
- Curiosity leads to passion; passion leads to action; action leads to new discoveries and insights
What This Means For You
How to apply this depends on your company and goals. You may want to approach intrapreneurship through short sprints like hackathons. You may want to build in weekly innovation time.
Or you may bring in outside coaching and training to get specific with high performers and find new ways for your employees to contribute more value with more drive.
When employees have real ownership and a respected outlet for their suggestions, more problems get solved, the company’s capacity increases, employees become more engaged, new opportunities arise, and the work is more enjoyable for everyone.
Training Your Team To Be Intrapreneurs
For a three-part crash course on Intrapreneurship, check out my upcoming three-part Intrapreneur’s Toolkit webinar bundle:
- 9/26 – Paradigm Shift, where I introduce intrapreneurship and best practices
- 10/10 – Idea Machine, where I share strategies for any employee to uncover ideas that benefit their company and themselves
- 10/24 – Influence, where we cover how to get stakeholders on the bus
If you are serious about leveling up you game at work…
If you see untapped potential in your employees, and can’t wait to see them unleashed on the world….
If you believe the person best equipped to solve a problem is the person closest to it…