Which people are most valuable to your workplace? Of course, every person on your team is important. But all successful organizations have at least one person who everyone knows as a difference maker.
When things go wrong, this is the person you turn to for advice, insight, and solutions. When results matter the most, they are in the trenches lifting the team up to new standards of performance. They are the one’s developing processes and training junior team members on how to succeed.
They are the proactive convergence of innate leadership and technical competency.
They are constantly thinking ahead to the future, helping your leadership team in building a better vision for the business. They can see emerging opportunities, even if they lack the financial or networking capacity to leverage them. Does this sound like anyone you know? If the answer is yes, you’re working with an “intrapreneur.”
What is an Intrapreneur?
An intrapreneur is an individual who works within the confines of an established business or domain to innovate, leverage new resources, develop new products, improve quality of performance, and advance the discipline they are focused on.
Unlike the classic definition of an entrepreneur, they assume little to no financial risk. You will find them, however, investing everything they have emotionally, intellectually personally into the success of both your business and their own occupational competency. They are often your highest performers. If you don’t currently have any on your team, it is probably negatively affecting your success.
The great news is, intrapreneurship can be a learned skill. In fact, it should be the goal of every team to create an environment where these types of team members are cultivated. First, let’s look a little closer at your team’s composition.
Team Members Versus Employees
Here at Living Every Minute, we define these two groups very differently. Team members are all in. They are enthusiastically committed to their daily work, they support their team, and they are willing to go above and beyond to make the business successful.
Conversely, employees are adequate for those tasks that are defined in their scope of work, rarely contribute outside of that, and only when they can rationalize the personal benefit. Their primary driver for being with your company is to earn their paycheck, but they are not inspired by what your business endeavors to do.
In that context, it is easy to see why your team’s success largely depends on how many “employees” you have versus how many “team members” you employ. But even team members have their limitations.
Understanding why a person wants to work with and for you is sometimes more important than their competency, degree, or certification.
Why Teams Fall Apart
Many businesses employ the following model when they service a team member’s professional journey:
RECRUIT – ONBOARD – DEVELOP – RETAIN – OFFBOARD
At a glance, this model seems fine enough. In reality, it’s a roadmap full of dead ends that places a glass ceiling on everyone’s bottom line. Consider, in the organizations we see all around us, how much energy is put into the front three stages versus the last two.
This is because once a team member has made it to the end of stage three, employers will often take for granted that the team member is “all in” or even worse fail to continue leveraging team member potential. The latter reason is the root cause of why team members regress or leave.
Over 70% of people leave their jobs because of a lack of progression.
This is where your intrapreneurs are so important. And why developing a culture that creates them is an absolute gamechanger. Let’s modify our outdated model from earlier to one that makes more sense:
RECRUIT – DEVELOP – LEVERAGE – EMPOWER – TRANSITION
This model feels a lot different. What good is spending time and energy on your team’s onboarding if you are going to put them on autopilot until they become dissatisfied with their progression? We’re not saying gut your hiring process, but the time you spend recruiting and hiring should be paralleled on the back end of the employment cycle in a systemic, scalable and sustainable way. This is particularly true for businesses that lack the financial capacity to create monetary rewards for team performance.
The truth is most team members crave the validation that comes with increased responsibility and role development more than they do financial reward.
This is because, the intrapreneurs we want on our team don’t require positional authority to lead the processes and teams around them. They lead up and down the chain of command by action and example.
Sure, some will outgrow their positions, but by actively engaging as a mentor with your budding intrapreneurs, you will identify other places on your team where they can continue to develop. And if they completely outgrow your business, you more than likely will find an even more lucrative opportunity awaits as you. Look for ways these intrapreneurs can partner with you as they make the jump from intra to entrepreneurship. Operational partnerships, profit sharing, and new business ventures are great ways to continue reaping the benefits of the time you have invested in these people.
How to Identify and Grow Your Intrapreneurs
1. Professional Development. Work with your team members to create weekly, monthly, and annual goals for their technical and professional development. Make sure the goals are relevant to their growth and to the success of your business. Follow up regularly and ask them to share their progress and what they have learned.
2. After Action Review. Conduct regular reviews of projects and processes within their domain. Ask them what is working, what could work better and task them to develop and implement improvement plans. Use language that underscores “their” ownership of “our” business. Celebrate the lessons they learn from failure as much as you do their successes. Delegate, but do not abdicate. This means you guide them as they learn to attack and resolve problems.
3. Assign Mentoring Tasks. Identify a co-worker that could benefit from the shared knowledge and guidance your intrapreneur can provide. Task your new mentor to meet regularly with this team member and follow up with them on their progress. This approach is so important, because it is your best bet to eliminating the single point of failure syndrome that always seems to follow high performers.
4. Ask Open Ended Questions. Be mindful of the way you ask for answers. Your team, especially your intrapreneurs, will likely be corralling underdeveloped ideas that are the best solutions to problems you never thought of. The more significant your leadership role, the less likely they are to bring them up. Creating an environment of exploration and innovation is pivotal to converting great team members into true intrapreneurs.
If this sounds like a lot of work, you may be over thinking it. These processes can integrate with your daily interactions. In fact, when it comes across in a less formal manner, your team members may value it more.
Your focus on perpetuating a winning system and creating inherent team member retention is commendable, but it falls flat if you aren’t really investing in them. That’s because the best businesses know that when it comes to team development, business is personal. Your team is your most important responsibility.
If You Are Currently an Employee or Team Member
If you are an employee or team member and you’ve read this far, congratulations. You want more. There’s a team out there that needs you. It’s up to you to decide whether the team you are working with does something that invigorates you.
If you aren’t excited about going to work, ask yourself, “why” and “is this a temporary feeling or have I peaked with the team I am on?”
If you are in the wrong job, quit. Seriously.
Life’s too short to be on the wrong bus with the wrong people.
However, if you want more but don’t know where to start, take a second look at the 4-step process we laid out above. This is your guide too. Leadership isn’t a one-way street. Take this list, go to your immediate supervisor, and set up a time where you can lay out a roadmap to make these things happen together.
Start today. You may be surprised how quickly you see results.
Living Every Minute,
CEO, Dr Tim International