Adopting the mindset that you are leading and managing your own business unit, even if you aren’t in a management or leadership role, is a key sign that you’re an intrapreneur. An intrapreneur is an entrepreneur turned inside out.
The intrapreneur functions within the constructs of the traditional organization, while the entrepreneur creates opportunities outside the organization. Many people who work for someone else don’t realize they are operating as intrapreneurs and that those skills are transferable to developing and creating their own ideas outside of the organization.
In this ever-changing world, it is increasingly important to embrace intrapreneurial skills to differentiate yourself and to help you succeed within and, if need be, outside the organization. This means being passionate about what you’re doing and owning the results as if this were your own business.
Being passionate can be difficult if you are overworked or doing a role that’s not your passion, or if you’re not being recognized for your contributions and results. A person operating as an intrapreneur will be proactive in their thinking and mindful of having a strategy in place to manage their career (that is, business). They will always have a plan to turn a situation around to one that better suits their needs. An intrapreneur is seen differently. Look around your organization. Can you spot the people operating as intrapreneurs?
It is easy to look at those in higher positions and assume they are the ones operating as intrapreneurs. While that may be true, there are others who have the same drive and are setting the stage for their intrapreneurial debut. The skills an intrapreneur possesses include being a visionary, being able to deliver, and being able to form key strategic relationships. They also have financial acumen, a willingness to take risks, and a reputation for excellence. These skills help them to stand out, and they are identified as future leaders (high-potential employees) who leave an indelible mark on the organization and on the lives of those who they come in contact with.
How to go about being an intrapreneur
Here are a few tips for the wannabe intrapreneur:
Attitude is everything. It’s easy to navigate your career by doing your job without drawing any attention to yourself and quickly lose your zest for the organization. This is of course dependent on your circumstances. You always have the choice to turn things around. An intrapreneur takes a pulse of the current status and knows what it will take to move from Point A to Point B. And they have the attitude to make things happen and go about the business of doing so.
Brushing up on your communication skills is vital. Being able to communicate across the masses and upward distinguishes the intrapreneur from the average employee. Get the necessary training to improve your verbal or written communication skills. This may mean bolstering your knowledge with lessons on YouTube, taking advantage of your internal training department, or even investing your own dollars in Toastmasters. Once you’ve done that, you can begin to take your show on the road. Embrace opportunities to share your knowledge in your organization. Be that sought-after leader.
Strategy and sponsorship are key tools in the intrapreneur’s toolbox. An intrapreneur must know how to create strategy. If you do not know how, find a mentor—someone that you admire in the organization—and seek out his or her help in building your strategic capabilities. Everyone should have a senior leader as their sponsor. This includes the intrapreneur. Building out key strategic relationships includes identifying the senior leaders who can help you achieve your goals. Once you identify the right leader, use your communication skills to build the relationship and secure your sponsor. If you struggle with the confidence to land a sponsor, leverage your allies or influencers to gain access to and support of a sponsor.
Still not convinced? Did you know there’s a group called The League of Intrapreneurs, which exists to support intrapreneurs? They refer to themselves as corporate change makers. If you’re itching for the opportunity to create change in your organization and believe you have the moxie to take it forward, then you are not alone. There are resources available internally and externally to help you along that journey. Be the intrapreneur you were destined to be.
To learn more about upcoming webinars, live workshops, and networking opportunities, please visit AMA’s Women’s Leadership Center.