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Lead Your Team Strategy

The Secret to Creating a Culture of Intrapreneurship

image for Micolas/Shutterstock
Micolas/Shutterstock
  • Intrapreneurs are motivated and proactively work to find solutions to problems. 
  • An intrapreneurshipallows an employee to act like an entrepreneur within the construct of a company. 
  • There are some key ways to foster intrapreneurship within your company. 

Leadership gurus always encourage managers to empower their employees to take ownership of their responsibilities and give them the freedom and support to succeed. There's a word for that: intrapreneurship.

Intrapreneurship is when there is a system at a company that allows employees to be entrepreneurs within the bounds of their company. These individuals are motivated and proactive in the pursuit of innovation, and they know that any failure does not affect them personally because the company takes the hit for the loss.

Intrapreneurship is important to your company because it allows employees to use their skills to benefit the company, as well as themselves. It gives them the freedom to grow within the company and to be innovative for the company's gain. Intrapreneurship fosters an environment of independence and autonomy within a company while searching for the best solution to a problem. 

"Intrapreneurship is when employees have an entrepreneurial spirit internally," said Phil Shawe, co-founder and co-CEO of business language services firm TransPerfect. "It's as if [each member of your] staff is running his or her own business. They can do it on their own or within [their department]. It's all about having a good system in place."

Intrapreneurs have the same spirit and drive that entrepreneurs have, but instead of starting their own company, they put it to use for their employer by looking for problems to solve and new markets to enter, and using their own initiative to create the solution and run with it. The major difference between the two is that the organization is the one who wins or loses, depending on the individual's success, while the individual gets the experience of entrepreneurship without taking on personal risk.

"Intrapreneurs are key drivers of growth in companies large and small," Chirag Kulkarni, CEO of C&M Group, said in an interview with Inc. "If you are looking for individuals with corporate experience for your startup, intrapreneurs are the ones to hire because they understand corporate upheavals but will still be driven and motivated to work towards growing your company."

The difference between an entrepreneur and an intrapreneur is that an entrepreneur is the leader of the company, and an intrapreneur is an employee of another company and is not in charge. In other words, entrepreneurs usually start and run their own business, whereas intrapreneurs work for someone else.

There are three types of intrapreneurs: creators, doers and implementers. Companies and teams benefit from having at least one of each type. The creator is the innovator, or the one who comes up with all of the ideas. The doer focuses on the tasks that need to be done. The implementer makes sure everything is completed. 

Creators are always looking for a better way to do things. They thrive on change and can usually see the big picture. They like to work with less structure and do not focus on the details. They tend to get bored easily and want to move on quickly. They come up with ideas fast, but they do not really want to do anything with them.

Doers take the ideas and run with them. They want to achieve results and love focusing on the task at hand. They have a clear picture of the grand scale, but they can drill down to the details. They take responsibility and are effective communicators, and they do not bother themselves with structure and protocol. They just want to get the job done. 

Implementers execute the plan and make everything happen. They know how to get things done. They focus on the goal and are great negotiators, and they work well under pressure. They take the lead and motivate others as they go, and they do not let anything stop them from achieving their results. 

A company culture that promotes internal entrepreneurial thinking starts with a leader who exemplifies it. Shawe offered four tips for fostering intrapreneurship in your workplace.

  1. Be transparent. Trusting your employees with important company information and including them in company-wide decisions can make them feel like they're more involved in day-to-day business processes, regardless of their individual roles. Shawe suggested getting your staff's feedback on the information you distribute as well.

  2. Reward proactive behavior. Leaders and managers shouldn't control every detail of what their employees do. Instead, they should be more hands-off and reward individuals who take charge and find ways to improve sales, efficiency or the product on their own. 

  3. Fix problems as they arise. When an issue occurs in a startup setting, entrepreneurs must take responsibility and address the problem right away. If they don't, it could escalate and cause the business to fail. Instill this sense of urgency in your employees, and teach them to fix all problems, large or small, as they arise.  

  4. Encourage healthy competition. Like entrepreneurs, intrapreneurial employees should have a healthy sense of competition with one another to do the best job they can and get results. But as a leader, it's your job to make sure they remember that their success is intertwined.

"At the end of the day, you're all one team," Shawe told Business News Daily. "Make people understand and feel that they're part of something larger."

Business News Daily Editor

Business News Daily was founded in 2010 as a resource for small business owners at all stages of their entrepreneurial journey. Our site is focused exclusively on giving small business advice, tutorials and insider insights. Business News Daily is owned by Business.com.