8 Ways to Effectively Lead Entrepreneurial Employees
We're searching for top company cultures to be featured on our annual list. Think your company has what it takes? Apply Now »
A person doesn't have to own a business to be an entrepreneur. Many people with an entrepreneurial mind-set wait years to start their own companies. Others never start their own companies.
In the meantime, they work for you. Yet they’re still entrepreneurs at heart.
Remember people with an entrepreneurial mind-set are different from those with a more corporate outlook. So if you want to create an environment where entrepreneurs can operate at their very best, try to manage and lead them appropriately.
Here’s how to manage the entrepreneurs who work for (and with) you:
1. Keep rules and guidelines to a bare minimum.
When entrepreneurs find new ways to think, they discover new ways to act. And that means they will instinctively evaluate every rule and look for ways to improve it since rules are just problems to solve or challenges to overcome.
So keep the rules to a minimum. Not only will that help your resident entrepreneurs operate better. It will also allow them to do what they do best: innovate.
2. Allow them to challenge things.
People with an entrepreneurial mind-set never say, "Well, that's just the way it is."
Entrepreneurs never assume tomorrow should be like today. Perspectives can be shifted. Conventional wisdom isn’t wisdom; it’s old wisdom.
Believe it or not, even the moon can be moved.
When something huge stands in their way, entrepreneurs know there's a way around it. They just need to figure it out. That “something huge” might be you. So allow your employees to challenge you. When they do, they aren’t challenging your authority: They’re just seeking ways to do things even better.
3. Give them plenty of problems to solve.
Entrepreneurs constantly look for problems to solve whether they're little, big or technical -- or business or team related. Drop entrepreneurs into a static situation and they'll come up with problems to solve.
Just don’t try to take over. Say, “I’m wondering if…” and turn them loose.
I promise they’ll surprise you.
4. Eliminate the politics. Consistently celebrate success.
An entrepreneurs like to focus on creating cool things.
So make sure promotions result from merit and not political maneuvering. Ensure praise is deserved. Share as much information as possible and be sure decisions are transparent.
That shouldn’t be hard. Isn’t that the kind of company you want to run?
Politically motivated employees see success as a zero-sum game: There’s only so much to go around, so when someone else shines, they feel that diminishes the light from their star.
Entrepreneurs want to be recognized yet many of them don't see their accomplishments as precluding others from doing great things, too.
Related: 4 Ways to Diffuse a Toxic Workplace
5. Help them bring their ideas to fruition.
Maybe your entrepreneurial employees love to dream up their own ideas. Or perhaps they love to help others build out ideas. Either way, entrepreneurs want to make things happen: new, exciting, crazy, groundbreaking things.
Entrepreneurs don't want to manage what already exists; they want to create something new. And so do you.
So help them make it happen.
6. Allow them to structure their workday.
Don’t feel the need to micromanage. When entrepreneurs believe in the mission, they’ll do everything they can to solve that mission.
7. Allow them to fail. (They’ll be fine.)
Many people feel luck has a lot to do with success or failure: If they succeed, luck played a part; if they fail, the odds just didn't go their way.
For entrepreneurs, failure is OK. Failure is something to be fixed. Failure is just another problem to solve.
8. Provide a real sense of purpose.
Share your vision. Share your mission. Help employees feel that they aren’t just following but are actually on a journey with you to somewhere meaningful.
Entrepreneurs love to make the world better.
Show them how what they do will make the world better -- and then get out of their way.