As business leaders strive for increased competitiveness, creating an entrepreneurial culture has become an important advantage. In the current business environment, the term “entrepreneurial” has come to mean more than just the business acumen required to turn an idea into an enterprise.
Today, “entrepreneurial” describes a skill-set and mind-set characterized by innovation, creativity, calculated risk-taking and an empowered staff. The term applies to individuals, teams and entire organizational cultures. An entrepreneurial culture is what many companies hope for. Certainly, in the fast-moving and competitive technology industry, an entrepreneurial culture is what most organizations should strive for. How do you foster this culture and make it thrive?
An organizational culture does not grow on its own. It must be nurtured. An organization’s culture must be deliberately cultivated through concerted action, including modeling, structure, constant communication and positive reinforcement.
Leading an Entrepreneurial Culture
Like most business solutions, the starting point is leadership.
People take their cue from their leaders. Their values, priorities and actions are guided by what their superiors model. It sounds simple, but it’s true. The senior executives set the tone for what the company should be doing, what the organizational values should be, and how people should act. From a business leader’s perspective, that’s the starting point of driving an entrepreneurial culture – embrace it and model it. Talk about it, reward and encourage it.
Remember that effective leadership is a delicate balance. An over-authoritarian workplace discourages people from using their own initiative and stifles traits that enhance innovation and productivity. An overly democratic environment lacks focus to keep the company moving toward its goals. Successful companies ensure their executive teams constantly demonstrate their value for innovation, productivity, and the open flow of ideas.
Create an Environment of Empowerment
A big part of driving an entrepreneurial culture is creating the environment where people can act like entrepreneurs. We’re not saying empower people. We’re saying foster the environment where people empower themselves. To act entrepreneurially, people must feel empowered to take the lead and create positive change.
Think about what an entrepreneur does – strategically analyzes market trends, identifies opportunities, calculates risks, makes decisions, and inspires others to follow. That’s the goal – to create the environment when your staff will do this in their day-to-day activities. To make this happen, follow these key points:
- Learn each individual’s strengths, then play to them
- Give power to those people who have demonstrated they are ready for more responsibility
- Give people discretion of their own decisions and resources
- Provide opportunities for training and education to help people grow
- Don’t second guess people
- Reward people for tackling problems and advancing the company’s interests
Communicate, communicate, communicate. It’s a fundamental function of leadership. However, many leaders get so bogged down in the day-to-day tasks that they forget to tell people where they are going. Constantly remind your people about the vision and direction.
When it comes to communication, people want to feel like they are getting the important information. They also want to hear that their concerns and ideas are being heard. Create an open environment by:
- Sharing information freely
- Making sure information flows up and down
- Encouraging people to openly ask questions about how to make things better
These communication practices are also key to creating an empowering environment.
Value the Entrepreneurial Approach
Communicate with your people about the values – those guiding principles that support every decision the company makes. Let them know that an entrepreneurial approach is valued, encouraged and rewarded. Remember that a company’s values don’t need to be complicated or even original. The important point is that they are sincere.
Fostering an entrepreneurial culture requires continuous effort. Make sure your entrepreneurial vision is part of your senior management discussions. It should also be a topic for managers’ performance discussions with their teams. Again, the entrepreneurial culture must be cultivated. It is the result of a concerted effort by the company to drive innovation, productivity and success.