April 30. 2012 9:00AM

Freedom to thrive - Empower your entrepreneurial employees

Innovation

By Jo Gorissen

  
It is safe to say that most business organizations were launched by one or more people with a strong entrepreneurial spirit. The word “entrepreneur” is borrowed from the French, and describes a person who is willing to take risks, who makes money through his or her own initiative and creative problem-solving skills. The entrepreneur is ready to take full responsibility for the outcome of the opportunities he explores.

Other characteristics of the entrepreneur are management skills, team building abilities, leadership, innovation, strong negotiating skills, consensus-forming abilities and lack of an acceptance of the status quo. Typically they are extroverted.

If you gave birth to your own business, you probably embody many or all of these traits yourself. And as you grew your business, you probably brought some really excellent team members into your firm. It often happens though, that these new hires are not entrepreneurial by nature. Or if they are, they often leave you to start their own business. "I want to be my own boss," they'll say. Or, "Here everyone pooh-poohed my ideas, said I was too edgy." "Just want to do my own thing."

When you look again at the traits of an entrepreneur, it is clear that those are just the traits you would like to have sprinkled throughout your organization. It makes sense to keep those entrepreneurs working for the growth of your business, if you can.

I've asked quite a few folks with that entrepreneurial spirit, people who left a business to launch their own, this question. "If I'd been your boss, the owner of that firm you left, what would it have taken to keep you there?"

The answers are nearly the same across the board: "I would need much more freedom than I had there. I need freedom to follow some of my hunches, to create new products, new services, and new systems. I need to be free from some of the routines within the job, and some of the protocols. I need financial support to follow through on some innovative ideas I have. I need to be empowered to make some of the decisions involved and build my team. I am always willing to be accountable and to keep communication channels open, but I want that freedom—and I want to be rewarded when my ideas work."

People who are entrepreneurial usually will say that ideas come into their heads like popcorn. They admit not all of them will actually work. Colleagues can help sort them out.

When an employee does stay, and is given the freedom to act like an entrepreneur within a large company, it is usually a win-win. These associates within a firm are called "intrepreneurs."

Obviously, you don't want an entire firm of intrepreneurs. That could lead to chaos and new goals every week. You also need those steady people that help keep you on course, that maintain enough of the status quo to remind you of your mission when you need it. You need diversity and mutual respect among the various types of talents in the organization. (Sometimes it takes a bit of training to achieve this. It's worth it because if the intrepreneurs keep running into closed minds, they'll leave.)

Intrepreneurs more than not earn their keep in the areas of business development, R&D, customer relations, and celebration of milestones within your organization. Associates in other departments (those steady, more practical types) can brainstorm with the intrepreneurs when they need innovative ideas, or when they are stuck with a problem that defies solution. Mutual respect is essential when diverse types in your firm come together to achieve common goals.

If you create a fertile atmosphere for the intrepreneurs in your organization, they will drive new projects and explore unexpected directions. Sounds like the lively dose of enthusiasm we all need.



Jo Gorissen is a certified transition coach and a former Milwaukee area resident. Her web site is www.coachingconbrio.com and she can be reached at (414) 305-3459.



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