Confident Leader

Entrepreneurs: 5 key tips to foster a better culture for intrapreneurs

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In today’s digitalised and fast-paced world, entrepreneurs are looking at new ways of gaining a competitive edge and driving business growth. But they can’t achieve this alone. Although entrepreneurs are autonomous and resourceful by nature, they still require a support network to bring their inventions and innovations to life. Entrepreneurs, the most powerful support network is right in front of your eyes: your employees.

As entrepreneurs and leaders, we each know that our employees play a significant role in bringing our visions to life. Most entrepreneurs think of a top-down approach to business growth, where you alone brainstorm and instigate change across your organisation, designating roles and responsibilities to your employees accordingly. Yet to drive your business into exciting new territory, a refreshed approach is needed – one that’s grounded in collaboration, communication and strong relationships.

That’s where intrapreneurs come in. An intrapreneur is an innovator and change maker who takes initiative and drives positive transformation across your organisation. They do this by drawing upon the resources provided by their leader (you!) and supportive internal culture. While an entrepreneur takes a lone leap of faith to launch a business venture, an intrapreneur leverages the existing structures of their organisation to propel the venture forward.

To leverage the benefits of intrapreneurship in your enterprise, you need to foster a supportive and inspiring culture for employees. Here are five key ways you can achieve this.

1. Build strong relationships

Strong relationships are the foundation for critical thinking and positive change.

No matter how high the stakes, relationships and trust between leaders and employees should never be compromised. Build a culture of collaboration, communication and transparency, where every team member feels respected, valued and heard. This will provide the sense of security and safety intrapreneurs need to thrive and overcome obstacles – including failure. Reassure intrapreneurs that failure is a natural part of the learning process.

2. Provide a safe and nurturing environment  

A safe and nurturing business culture is one that encourages employees to speak up about their ideas and achievements, share their opinions and feelings with others, be assertive and take initiative. Ensure that employees feel empowered to offer ideas without facing judgement or criticism. In a comfortable and supportive environment, intrapreneurs will feel more motivated and inspired to voice original ideas and create change.

3. Encourage others to take initiative

Encourage employees to challenge themselves with confidence and purpose. Reassure budding intrapreneurs that they don’t have to put everything on the line – that they are taking risks in a safe environment, with the support and encouragement of their colleagues. When equipped with the right leadership, tools and internal culture, even the most cautious employees can develop intrapreneurial skills. These skills are not purely technical, but also interpersonal. Qualities like Emotional Intelligence (EI), presentation, communication, articulation and empathy are key.

 4. Listen, don’t criticise

Try not to criticise or dismiss the ideas of others, even if you disagree with their creative vision. Instead, be patient, listen, and provide constructive feedback. As an established entrepreneur and leader, you are ideally positioned to mentor and guide intrapreneurs on a journey of discovery, while staying aligned to your business strategy. Apply your own “soft skills”, such as empathy, understanding and encouragement, to help employees shape their ideas into tangible and sustainable projects.

5. Let others shine!

Celebrate the successes of others, no matter how small. Even the most minute contribution or input from an employee can pave the way for large-scale and lasting transformation. It’s crucial that you nurture the creative flair of others – even if they see things differently to you. By doing this, you will build strong foundations for your business to grow and evolve in new and inspiring ways. Throughout the execution process, stay committed to the goals of both your business strategy and the individual intrapreneur.

It’s our duty as entrepreneurs to inspire others to take measured risks, show initiative and display key “soft skills”, such as critical thinking. We need to create a sense of entrepreneurial spirit from within and harness the talent we have to drive forward with innovation and success.

About Gemma Manning

Gemma Manning is a serial entrepreneur and strategic marketing professional. She is the Founder and Managing Director of Manning and Co, a corporate marketing consultancy based in Sydney, and Gemstar Technology, a launching pad for Australian tech startups in South-East Asia, via Singapore as a gateway.

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