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Lead Your Team Strategy

The Secret to Creating a Culture of Intrapreneurship

The Secret to Creating a Culture of Intrapreneurship
Credit: Micolas/Shutterstock

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 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 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 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."

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.

Be transparent. Trusting your employees with important company information and including them in companywide 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.

Reward proactive behavior. Leaders and managers shouldn't be controlling 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, etc., on their own. 

Fix problems as they arise. When an issue occurs in a startup setting, entrepreneurs must take responsibility and address it right away. If they don't, the problem 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.
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."

Additional reporting by Nicole Fallon Taylor. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

Marci Martin

With an Associate's Degree in Business Management and nearly twenty years in senior management positions, Marci brings a real life perspective to her articles about business and leadership. She began freelancing in 2012 and became a contributing writer for Purch in 2015.