MSPmentor Blog

Six Steps to Get Employees Thinking Like Entrepreneurs

The Wall Street Journal’s Independent Street blog recently carried an item about getting employees to think like entrepreneurs. The keys are to:

  1. Organize them into small groups
  2. Share profits
  3. Embrace failure
  4. Reward ideas
  5. Promote risk takers
Those are all worthy ideas. But a fundamental piece is missing. Step Six: The top-down piece. Here's what I mean.

Steps 1 to 5 speak to the fact that employers tend to think “programs” when it comes to fostering an ownership mentality. The thinking goes: If we give incentives, share profits, write stories in the company newsletter about successful or unsuccessful ventures and make everyone a hero,  we’ll get ownership thinking.

Don't Forget Step 6

If owners want employees to think like them, they have to emotionally meet the employees where the employees are.  Workers will be more likely to think like owners if they have executive leaders who demonstrate compassion; who take workers’ feelings into consideration when making decisions; who express their feelings about people; who manage their own emotions well at work and project a strong but humanistic image. It is company leaders’ people skills that matter most to fostering ownership thinking.

The company I grew up in, where I worked from age 24 to 41, was such an organization for most of that time.  CMP Media sponsored frequent programs to foster entrepreneurial thinking.  They sent many employees to every conceivable training course to improve our business and sales skills. They even paid for me to go to Columbia for an MBA.

But what made the company remarkable was the husband and wife team who founded it  (Gerry and Lilo Leeds.) They had superb emotional intelligence skills. They could read the mood of the work force and respond quickly. They had values they brought to work every day (the very well-off CEO drove an old station wagon to work for years and years). They were always approachable. That doesn’t mean they weren’t tough when they had to be. They made lots of difficult business calls along the way.

As employees and managers, the idea of “What would Gerry and Lilo do?” was never far from our thoughts as we made decisions that affected the organization. We didn’t own the  company, but because of them, we acted as if we did.

MSPmentor contributing blogger Mitch York coaches executives who are evolving into entrepreneurs. He is a veteran of high-tech media and an entrepreneur himself. Find York — and his personal blog — at www.e2ecoaching.com.

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