Intrapreneur TroublemakerIntrapreneurs are a troubled breed sitting halfway between entrepreneur and employee – disrupting the workplace whilst hamstrung by politics, silos, hidden agenda… intrapreneurship can be thankless.

If the organization doesn’t really advocate intrapreneurship, then the intrapreneur tends to go underground – the covert intrapreneur.

I admit, as an employee, I was a pain in the ass – I always wanted to know ‘why’ and ‘what if-?’ and I wasn’t really bothered about ‘how’ but always wanted to do things differently. At the time, I suspected I was troubled by an inability to focus and that I was always being distracted. In hindsight, I just needed a pathway to follow that would encourage the inquiring mind and also enable it to deliver something new.

Interestingly, the first time that I was given a free reign, I applied intrapreneurial thinking (asking ‘what if-?’, looking at established models in new ways, creation of competitor attack plans, working on giving key stakeholders what they want before the desired outcomes of our own business… and so on) and I drove revenue up by 1400%, raised profitability by a ridiculous amount and cultivated a new team spirit.

This was my first real experience of intrapreneurship ‘working’.

Want to know something? I loved it. It felt great.

I made my employer millions of pounds (I was rewarded financially) and I had fun. The breakdown came, really because I wasn’t being recognized by my bosses for the new ways of working, the new business, the new customers… I felt taken for granted and slowly resented it.

I encourage reflective thinking in my clients and so let’s flip this situation around. How did I think that my bosses felt?

  • They see a younger person (the owners were in their 60’s, I was in my 30’s) walk through the door and challenging their 10-year business model
  • I upset colleagues by challenging long-established processes and refusing to do them if they were duplicated elsewhere
  • Whilst there were no quality standards in place, there were ‘ways we do things round here’ – and I willfully ignored them
  • I argued in board meetings
  • I acted like I owned the place
  • I forced them to implement quality standards
  • I refused to do tasks that I felt were irrelevant to my targets

Basically, I displayed zero emotional intelligence (EQ), zero collaborative intelligence (CQ) and made life miserable for two people who wanted their company to be a lifestyle business rather than the next big thing.

And I wondered why I wasn’t being recognized for my efforts.

By failing to sanction intrapreneurship, leaders and managers simply push enterprising people underground – they live by such maxims as ‘keep it below the radar’, ‘don’t let the organization infect your ideas’, ‘better to beg forgiveness than seek permission’ – all wrong but if they have nowhere else to go, then guess what? It will happen anyway.

My advice to organization leaders is simple: create a sanctioned intrapreneurship environment. For the intrapreneur: don’t be covert, don’t hide from the trouble you are making – but if the employer won’t / can’t support and endorse your intrapreneurial adventures… QUIT!

Intrapreneurs SHOULD create trouble – conflict can be a positive factor in an organization as it creates new thinking and new ways of working – but the sensitivity of how these dynamics ebb and flow has to be high on the mind of this troublemaker. So if you ARE an intrapreneur… get working on your EQ and CQ.

If you lead an organization considering developing sanctioned intrapreneurship, then we should be talking.

Make Some Trouble