How to Empower the New Corporate Entrepreneur

In the world of movers and shakers you may find that you have individuals on your team that make things happen. They meet deadlines, come up with new ideas, take the lead on projects and initiatives, and always strive to go above and beyond. In business we identify these individuals as star performers and in human resources we call them high potentials ( aka hi-po’s).

These talented employees are also known as corporate entrepreneurs. Ryan May describes these individuals as employees who, generate ” new ideas and opportunities within large or established businesses, directly leading to the improvement of organizational profitability and an enhancement of competitive position or the strategic renewal of an existing business” (2013).

With managers being asked to consistently prove their value to the organization while thinking inside ,outside , and all around the box, what leader couldn’t use a corporate entrepreneur on their team. What I find when facilitating leadership workshops is that leaders have an idea of what and who they want in their departments but aren’t always sure how to keep from burning out their hi-po’s or retain them from exciting opportunities such as stepping out on their own. Most leaders hope that these individuals don’t get swooped up by the next company promising the same or more opportunities at a higher salary, and pray that employees are too scared to risk starting their own business’s. So wake up and stop holding on by a thread. Instead, be that empowering leader that I know you are and take the appropriate steps to build an environment for these individuals to flourish and grow. And who knows you may even attract more to join your flock.

1. Get to know what your team is passionate about and start building projects around it.

The daily grind of tasks and responsibilities may become boring to your innovative team. Take a moment to get to know what excites your corporate entrepreneurs and provide a platform ( or even better challenge them to identify opportunities) where their passions can be leveraged to catapult your team to accomplish extraordinary things. This may do more wonders than you can imagine. Don’t believe… schedule a 1:1 meeting with your employee and provide this opportunity and watch how excited they become with the opportunity.

2. Encourage employees to see boundless opportunities to accomplish remarkable things.

Being that corporate entrepreneurs are always thinking along these lines, there may be times when they feel stagnant. Encourage team players by reassuring them that you as a manager are aware of this and want them to find opportunities that stir their true passion while adding value to their work on your team.

3. Reward them for their innovation and willingness to take vision into an executed plan.

Being a dreamer is one thing but having the ability to take a concept and mold it into reality is another. For those who can do this, they should be rewarded. This will be the deposit in their emotional piggy bank that will keep them engaged and ready to do more. 

4. Change your culture within your department so people are able to take risks.

If you say you want people to come with ideas but yet you shoot down every idea presented  you will have a team that will  no longer present ideas. Same thing goes for those who need to be innovative and think outside of the box. If you create an environment where risks are seen as potential failure, no one will feel comfortable taking risks. Which will result in an un-innovative team. This environment suffocates corporate entrepreneurs and ultimately leaves them running for the hills

5. Share your story with others.

If you see valuable outcomes from your corporate entrepreneurs, share the story with stakeholders. This will help drive innovation throughout the organization but remember use the language that appeals to your audience. If you are speaking to executives, then talk about the amount of money these talented individuals are saving or generating.

Overall when you take the time to appreciate these valuable individuals,  you will recognize a team of employees who are excited about adding value to their work. Keep in mind, every employee is not a corporate entrepreneur only a small sub set of people on your team. Recognize those who are and create a platform for them to generate great work. Send me flowers later!