Five tips to bring out your team’s intrapreneurial spirit

20 September 2023

Alan Manly

Alan Manly OAM is the CEO of Universal Business School Sydney (UBSS) and author of The Unlikely Entrepreneur. For more, click here.

Intrapreneurs are given freedom and support to create new products, services, and systems, and who do not have to follow the business’s usual routines or protocols. Alan Manly provides five tips on how to bring out your team’s intrapreneurial spirit.

Everyone has heard of famous entrepreneurs, such as Gates of Microsoft, Musk of Tesla and of course, Zuckerburg of Meta. But what about intrapreneurs?

An entrepreneur is defined as a person who organises and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk. While an intrapreneur is an employee of a business or corporation who is given freedom and financial support to create new products, services, and systems, and who doesn’t have to follow the usual routines or protocols of that business.

Here are five tips on how to bring out your team’s intrapreneurial spirit.

Step 1: Appoint an entrepreneur or intrapreneur to lead the team

The leader will need to be either entrepreneurial or a successful intrapreneur. If they are not and the edict has been sent to develop an intrapreneurial team, hire someone who has proven experience. Perhaps the success will also be heavily based on the characteristics of the chosen intrapreneur.

Step 2: Understand the risks

If the leader is an entrepreneur and seeks others to contribute as intrapreneurs, a massive challenge will present itself. Delegation of authority is hard enough for an entrepreneur, but a whole new frontier is opened up when delegating authority to act in a manner that could cost a lot of money and damage the reputation of the company.

This situation will require a heroic amount of confidence in the appointed intrapreneur. So, its best that the leader knows and appreciates the full scope of the risks being taken early in the process.

Step 3: Reward risk-takers

Whilst the professional risk is shared and the leader will be canned if the project fails, it is the intrapreneur who will also be investing their reputation and emotional energy.

Consider paying a reward upfront to the person who is putting their name and reputation on the line for an unproven project. A project-based pay rise will be a statement of support and demonstrate that there is a risk and a corresponding reward in being an intrapreneur. Remember, pay peanuts and you’ll get monkeys!

Step 4: Lock in the whole team

Intrapreneurial projects will most likely succeed if they are sold to the whole organisation from day one. A broad outline of the goals of the project should be developed in a way that no secrets are revealed, but in a way that declares that change is coming.

This is a great way to gain support for the project and flush out opponents early in the development cycle. Remember, critics may be right, so it’s well worth drawing them into the broader conversation. Accept all inputs and work through the discussion. Better now than later.

Jumping out of the dark and telling everyone that sometime in the future — products, processes or procedures — will be better than anything currently in use, risks creating resentment in defence of the known. There has to be some sizzle in the sell. Building the company to compete with the competition is often a true and tried statement.

Step 5: Set KPIs

Know what the project is. The devil is in the detail. Therefore, detailed Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are needed to give confidence that the project is well thought out and a real opportunity to improve the company or business, and also to enhance the intrapreneur’s reputation and career.

This is the really hard part. Whipping up enthusiasm for a goal is always possible. Selling the understanding that there are time and financial restraints is always a less exciting part of the journey.

Business is war

“The general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace, whose only thought is to protect his country and do good service for his sovereign, is the jewel of the kingdom.” — Sun Tzu

The entrepreneur in business is like a military general in a war. Substitute country for company/business and sovereign for shareholders/stakeholders. That is the end game.

Alan Manly OAM is the CEO of Universal Business School Sydney (UBSS) and author of The Unlikely Entrepreneur. For more, click here.

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