Companies that thrive amid constant change share a common trait: Their leaders encourage employees to think more like entrepreneurs than traditional workers.
However, getting employees to think like entrepreneurs doesn’t require setting up a startup inside an organization. Rather, leaders must inspire employees to think for themselves, creating a culture where people want to play a role in making a profound impact with the work they do. This “entrepreneurial thinking” means people expand their role as well as take ownership of their projects.
The Roots Of Entrepreneurial Thinking
Entrepreneurs have long been admired for their vision and ability to engage teams of people to innovate new business models and strategies. Entrepreneurs think differently than others. Just look at how Elon Musk has pioneered a new form of transportation, and how Steve Jobs revolutionized the meaning of mobile. Entrepreneurs tend to be optimistic about a new future, and that optimism leads to innovation.
Here are four principals of entrepreneurial thinking for leaders to embody and encourage.
1. Add Value
Entrepreneurs understand that they won’t get paid until they first create value. This is integral to their projects, and it won’t materialize unless their clients and customers are served. When your team members strive to create value in everything they do, you see it in how they approach problem-solving. Entrepreneurial thinking is grounded in creating value for the consumer.
2. Take Ownership
Going past written responsibilities allows each person to push beyond the feeling of “good enough” in his or her work. Great leaders inspire people to feel a sense of ownership with their work, which leads people beyond their confined role, providing deeper meaning for them and the company when the goal is accomplished.
Entrepreneurial thinking happens consistently when leaders delegate the end goal and let the employees determine the tasks. Employees who take total ownership for their own success and security end up being the ones who drive company growth. In fact, 88% of CEOs surveyed by Gallop shared that employees taking ownership is important or very important for company growth.
Great leaders also don’t place blame if things don’t work out. Great leaders know it’s a team sport.
3. Share Your Wild Ideas
Employees who are hesitant to verbalize their ideas will struggle to contribute to the company. People who think like entrepreneurs exhibit the courage to share their crazy ideas under almost any circumstance because they don’t know another way.
I recently wrote about the notion of ideas in my weekly column for Inc. Magazine. People need the space to share ideas when it’s best for them–no matter when, even when it’s on the weekend (although this isn't about encouraging employees to work seven days a week).
4. Be Resilient
Today’s pace of work requires flexibility. Change is constant. Disruption is inevitable. Innovation is expected. When you demonstrate the power of resilience amid challenges, you are able to endure the pain of failure. Entrepreneurial thinkers thrive in these situations because the ability to roll with the punches is part of their DNA.
Employees who can weather the storm of work’s disappointments also can be a huge factor in company growth. Failing fast becomes part of the process, and new paths are defined by the people that keep going on, no matter the obstacle.
Leaders who empower their people to think like entrepreneurs reap the benefits long term. The ones who strive to put structure around creative people will struggle in the new era of work.