How to Encourage the Entrepreneur On Your Team

As you begin building your business, the people you hire will be pivotal in shaping its culture and maintaining its success. But impressive talent doesn’t always make for impressive results. So the question is: How do you build a strong team?

Organizations of all types understand the value of entrepreneurial thinking and are moving fast to ensure it is made a core competency. These include:

  • Startups in growth mode who need to keep their entrepreneurial innovative edge and culture to attract top talent.
  • Large companies with a more traditional business culture who are acquiring or creating smaller, nimble entrepreneurial entities to gain a competitive and innovative advantage and need to re-envision their workplace so it doesn’t stifle entrepreneurial talent. We’ve all heard the stories of organizations that make strategic acquisitions of entrepreneurial DNA only to suffer “talent tissue rejection” – where the newly acquired talent assets that a company paid highly for start beating it out the door.
  • And finally, I would argue that due to the influx of millennials in the workforce it’s even more paramount for organizations of all types and sizes to create workplace environments that nurture the free-thinker and their entrepreneurial spirit.

The entrepreneur in your workplace

The need is pronounced, but the care and feeding of the entrepreneur in the workplace is highly nuanced. Where do organizations start? To begin, they need to understand the characteristics of entrepreneurial teams and what motivates them. Forget about traditional incentive plans; when dealing with entrepreneurial types, “challenge” trumps traditional notions of compensation and rewards.

In fact, you could say challenge is the currency of the entrepreneur. If the work environment isn’t challenging enough, they are likely to leave. Know what the entrepreneur works for (and what they live for): The vision, the dream, the challenge – it’s their oxygen. To fully engage, entrepreneurs must buy into the vision. After this, it’s important to create an ecosystem that clears away the physical, mental and political constraints that are seen as impediments by the entrepreneur.

When creating entrepreneurial teams, larger organizations may need to rethink placing talent in the constraints of the traditional hierarchical organization. These teams may be more effective when they are free to look at projects holistically: to craft a vision and define how problems will be solved. Remove as much process, structure, and bureaucracy as is feasible, as they prefer working without walls, and that includes traditional job description boundaries.

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This “unwalling” of the organization – a decoupling from cubes and campuses enabled by technology — has also been eagerly adopted by millennials. They are expected to comprise 75% of the workforce by 2020, and their ideas of how and where work gets done is vastly different than previous generations; according to the accounting firm Ernst & Young, millennials highly value flexible work arrangements.

This has given rise to the so-called gig economy with individuals following the mantra of, “I will take my skills and knowledge where I choose to and work for the entity I choose on the projects I choose.” It is estimated that a full 50% of the U.S. workforce is expected to be freelancers by 2020. This has significant implications for teamwork and the notion of the organization itself. For example, how will companies manage a workforce that is a hybrid of a number of different types of worker – ranging from the 9-to-5 full time employee to the freelance producer? How will these changes impact data and information security?

Overall organizations must recognize this new fluidity of the organization necessitates a shift from employee retention to worker engagement. To this end, efforts to institutionalize knowledge to ensure virtual worldwide talent pools can effortlessly engage and collaborate are key. A technology tune-up to ensure the right platforms are in place to unite workers, information and execution can go a long way to plumbing the organization for success.

Juanita Lott is the founder and former chair and CEO of Bridgestream Software, an enterprise software company that was sold to Oracle in 2007. Bridgestream provided role-based provisioning and access management software, streamlining compliance-related tasks and enabling the integration between security policy and business process controls. Gartner recognized Bridgestream as one of the ‘cool vendors in security and privacy’, and Burton Group recognized Ms. Lott as ‘a pioneer’ in role based access management solutions.
Ms. Lott has extensive operational expertise in global companies, particularly those undergoing rapid growth. She served as EVP and CHRO of Epicor Software where she focused on talent, leadership development, organizational and globalization strategies for this privately held ERP software business.

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