Should you as a manager encourage entrepreneurial thinking in your employees? Yes! Will it not encourage them to leave and find their destiny outside of the company? Possibly. Do I want to risk that as an employer? Absolutely!
Why? Because you create an atmosphere in your team that encourages innovation, new ways of thinking, and taking charge of the projects, tasks, and challenges and that is good. Now how does a manager go about this?
Hand over responsibility
By handing over responsibility for results, a manager shifts how employees see themselves and their part in achieving results. They move from merely working on a task to making sure the desired result is achieved. They will go far and beyond to make sure the projects achieve the desired outcome, and that there are no glitches, they will test it, study it, and deliver the best result. That does not mean that what is delivered is not checked by anyone else. It just means you could theoretically skip the checking because the result will be perfect as soon as an employee takes ownership of delivering the correct thing.
The shift from delivering hours to delivering results
Listening to the classic song ‘Working 9 to 5’ by Dolly Parton points to the problem. The normal focus in our working environment is on the time spent at the office. That needs to change if the aim is a more entrepreneurial way of thinking.
Instead of focusing on the hours a person needs to work daily, we need to focus on the tasks that need to be done. A shift from purely delivering hours to what is produced in those hours is the key. In a perfect world of entrepreneurs, we would know what it takes to deliver a certain result, be it a task, a project, or an object. In most cases, a best-educated guess or guesstimate is good enough.
Take a carpenter working on building a table for a client. He will make some calculations based on past experiences and then tell you when the table will be ready for pickup and what it will cost. He will not tell you that he will start working on it tomorrow and see how long it takes and expect you to pay for each hour. No, he delivers a result, he uses hours to get there but the main focus is still the table created out of scratch.
Now try shifting this example into an office. Try to estimate how long something will take to finish with the right quality, which will be your result. If somebody finishes faster than planned with equal quality, great. In general, you will ask people to deliver results, say different tables to stick with the example, and each result comes with a guesstimated time. A person working say 30 hours a week will be able to fulfill a certain amount of tasks. If they do it faster, they can go home and still get paid their usual weekly salary. No need to stay in the office to fulfill the 30 hours. They delivered the results instead of hours.
The Entrepreneurial Tool in development by The Cecily Group aims to help achieve this. Out of past experiences or based on good estimates, tasks will be taxed a certain time it takes to finish them. At the same time, unique abilities present in the team will be considered to match a task to the right person. That assures that tasks are handled by the best, most efficient, and most motivated employee. Then an employee will receive tasks that cover about 80% of the time they normally work – we all still have contracts based on a certain amount of weekly hours. 20% are left for creativity and innovation opportunities. This can be 80% of the weekly hours, monthly hours, quarterly hours, or annual hours. This will make the following possible: respecting deadlines (if they are present) but choosing when to finish what. Want to work at night? Go ahead. Want to work more this week to have some time off next week? Sure. Employees are being paid the same each month and it will work as long as the workload is well calculated and allows for shifts in daily/weekly/monthly hours.
Be a partner, not a colleague
The shift towards results is also influenced by how people work together. Be a real team, working for the same bigger picture and the shift from colleague to partner will happen naturally. Understand what the person next to you does, and what their contribution to the goals and targets are and you will become partners, adding your skills, and unique abilities to achieve the common goal together.
Not every contribution is seen. Especially staff functions such as HR or financial departments are very necessary but often result in indirect costs and indirect work. It is much easier to regard visual work such as produced goods as contributors to the success of a company than invisible, behind-the-scenes work.
By raising awareness for each contribution, a manager will enable employees to see and understand the value of each employee’s part. There should be no more ‘but I did all the work, I deserve the resulting bonuses.’ It should shift to ‘we did it together, everyone contributes equally, and hooray to us!’.
When emphasizing teamwork, it would be a shame to pay out individual bonuses and not reinforce teamwork by paying out a team-specific bonus. Imagine a system where a bonus will be paid if all projects across the company are achieved by the end of the year. Such a bonus could be calculated as an X percent of the annual salary. This percentage based on an annual salary will then automatically
take care of differences in working hours, etc. If all runs well, there is no need to do anything extra to achieve a bonus, but employees can lose a bonus if project results are not achieved together. The emphasis is on togetherness. The better-known way to view bonuses is that you earn a bonus individually related to your targets, the focus being on ‘individual’ and ‘targets’.
Allow failure which encourages risk-taking
Encouraging entrepreneurial thinking also means encouraging risk-taking. What often prevents people from taking risks, is the fear of failure. If a manager can create an atmosphere where it is evident that failing at something is not regarded as a problem, they encourage more boldness and outside-of-the-box thinking. If a risky action does not work, employees get up, dust themselves off and try again in a slightly different way. And voilà, one day you have innovations happening left and right of you.
Manifest active and energy-driven actions in others by example
Managers looking to enlighten entrepreneurial thinking in their employees need to exhibit the same in themselves. They need to be outside-of-the-box thinkers themselves to showcase that it can be done. This does not mean their employees need to copy the way they do it. It means a manager with an entrepreneurial mindset will showcase what can be done, leading by example. Active and energetic managers will pull others into their circle and infest them with the entrepreneurial bug.
Foster tasks that take unique abilities into consideration
Not every task on an employee’s desk will spark entrepreneurial thinking. But if a company or the manager can detect the unique abilities of each employee, they can foresee tasks that cater to these abilities, raising interest, motivation, and energy levels. If it is possible to foster tasks that consider unique abilities, entrepreneurial thinking can rise from it. Think about it: working on a task that you love doing and are good at will inspire you, and it can also trigger new ideas related to them. Can I do it better? Can we use this for something else as well? Could we sell it to another customer?
Entrepreneurs are usually very open, vocal people who are great at networking. They need to be to get contacts, hear about upcoming or new ideas, and find out what is hip now or shortly. They need to be to have a new product available for those who crave it. When encouraging other people to shift towards the entrepreneurial mindset, they need to encourage networking as well.
Pull people out of their comfort zone
Entrepreneurs can be introverts, but most tend to be outgoing, and ready to conquer the world. What entrepreneurially inclined managers have in common is the ability to pull people out of their comfort zone. They use their personality and experience to achieve this. Often, they rely on their personal people skills to judge who can be pulled and who cannot, but sometimes they consider the results of personality checks as well. Whatever they base their judgment on, they rely on it and decide where to pull. And when they pull, they pull people out of their comfort zones. What does this do? It forces employees into tasks they would not have considered fitting for themselves, but they might be surprised! Not every attempt to do this is a success but the ones that are, are very rewarding. Both for the manager and as well as the employee. The manager will get new results, the employee will experience joy out of a new talent they were not even aware of. They will be elevated, and they will be baffled at the things they did not know they could do.
Some companies also allow for a so-called discretionary budget to work with. This budget can be used for smaller expenditures that are needed to fix something that does not work within the project. The idea is that an employee is in charge and can decide what is needed to make a project work on a smaller scale. If more budget is needed, then the project owner needs to be contacted but small fixes can be done without that step.
Encourage creativity and innovation
Just as making sure failures are allowed, encouraging creativity and innovation will also foster entrepreneurial thinking. Working will then not be about simply ticking things off a to-do list but instead about creating new ways of finishing the tasks, new tasks that could be done, and in what way. If creativity is wanted, it only needs one little creative seed to make a great creative idea. Imagine the boost in motivation employees will feel when an idea they have had for a while is not only taken up but becomes reality. It will ignite more creative sparks and who knows what that will result in!
Now wouldn’t you want to work in such an environment? I hope this gave managers out there a few ideas of how to encourage entrepreneurial thinking and why this is a fantastic thing!