For most of my working life, I could never understand when my colleagues would expect the company (the nebulous spirit we all refer to when we use that term) to make their lives easier or give them meaning and happiness.

It took me a while to discover, after some entrepreneurial training, that what I was experiencing was cognitive dissonance between an employee and an entrepreneurial mindset.

An employee mindset says: “the company should…” An entrepreneur mindset says: “I will…” An employee mindset says: “that’s not my job…” An entrepreneur mindset says: “I haven’t done that before, but I’ll try…”

Can the spirit of entrepreneurship be alive and active in employees within an organisation? If you’ve one of those people that see more more opportunities than problems, then you might just be an intrapreneur.

An intrapreneur is someone within a company that takes risks in an effort to solve a given problem. There are many reasons why intrapreneurs are a golden find for managers. Not only is there less complaining from employees with an entrepreneurial mindset, but these individuals often take on more responsibility than their peers.

They can be trusted with tasks and bring their full energy and commitment to their roles. They have an uncanny ability to see what’s not working and what needs to be done to fix it.

Here’s five signs that you’re an intrapreneurial employee:

1. You’re not counting on your company to be your retirement plan: This one might seem weird just off the bat but intrapreneurs are devoid of the somewhat codependent relationship that some employees have when they rely on their organisations as their retirement plan.

People can easily become trapped in a way of thinking that seeks to preserve rather than explore new avenues. Change becomes risky – and they will become defensive to any alternative to “this is the way we do this’…

2. You catch yourself thinking: “if this was my business, I would…”: How we love to keep doing what we do because it’s what we do, without continually asking; “is this working” and “how can we do this better”?

There are always ways to improve the systems and processes of any team – and in fact, in order to stay competitive, this needs to be ongoing. Intrapreneurs will be able to see the ‘obvious’ methods of removing duplication or time wasters.

3. You see opportunities instead of obstacles: Intrapreneurs see the rewards of taking a risk in trying something new, while others may focus on the potential pitfalls. Instead of fixating on what could go wrong, you’d rather think about what might happen if things work out.

It takes courage to swim upstream but fortunately outliers are used to being outsiders and not expect nominations for popularity contests.

4. You have to remind yourself to stop taking on new things: Um yes. In the words of John Maxwell (which I have taped to my wall at the office): “It’s just too hard for an initiator to not make things happen.”

Because intrapreneurs are able to juggle multiple projects at the same time, our big picture bias can get us into trouble. A wise friend recently counselled: “You get excited about what can result from this idea but you don’t immediately think about every small step that will need to be implemented to get there.”

It’s true. It’s easy to become overwhelmed when you try to be the visionary and the doer-of-all-things. Invite people in. See who shows up. Let them help. You don’t have to do everything yourself.

Golden rule: Never let the pressure of what you have to do overshadow the pleasure of what you get to do.

5. You feel passionate about people and projects: Passion is underrated in organisations. A paycheck cannot buy passion. Intrapreneurs have found a way to bring their intrinsic motivation to their roles.

They don’t rely on their work to define them but they bring definition to their work. These employees are driven by a sense of purpose and meaning that transcends the work day. Whatever that looks like for you, you’ve found a way to enjoy what you’ve chosen to do.

If you’ve taken the time to read this post all the way to the end, chances are that you are able to resonate with some (if not all) these warning signs of your intrapreneurship. You company needs you to be bold and brave. Don’t be afraid to speak up. There are problems that only you can help solve.

Get to work!


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