3 Habits of The Highly Effective Intrapreneur

Entrepreneurs are weird.

We think different and act differently from “normal” people. For many entrepreneurs, starting a business is the best way to leverage your weirdness—but what if your weirdness could be the key to success on someone else's payroll?

That’s the question that inspired Gifford Pinchot to coin the term “intrapreneur” in 1978, which The American Heritage Dictionary added to the dictionary in 1992 with this definition:

A person who takes direct responsibility for turning an idea into a profitable finished product through assertive risk-taking and innovation.

Traditionally, employees don’t take direct responsibility for a finished product, that job belongs to the entrepreneur.

Similarly, entrepreneurs are the risk-takers and innovators, not the people on the payroll—but Gifford was right, the most effective employees flip that on its head and become intrapreneurs.

Know Thy Season

Sometimes, I need to hear the same lesson more than once to really learn it. That’s probably why I ended up hearing Eric Friedensohn give the same talk on two different stages one month apart (at Craft & Commerce and then FlynnCon).

Eric’s thesis was that in any entrepreneur’s life, there are seasons. You need to recognize them and act according to the season that you’re in.

You’re going to have seasons like spring, where everything is growing and fresh and full of life and that’s the time to double down on your business. Summer is just around the corner, too.

You’re also going to have seasons like winter, where everything is cold and hard and you want it to end but you need to wait out the winter before spring begins.

Two years ago was a tough season for me personally. It was a deep, dark winter, which meant it was a hard time to be a new entrepreneur (I’d been self-employed for barely a year).

My wife was about to give birth to our second son, but we were still trying to figure out how to parent our one-year-old and she was facing down PTSD from a traumatic birth experience the first time, along with serious postpartum depression that had gone undiagnosed for a year.

At the same time, my dad had been diagnosed with cancer (Mantle Cell Lymphoma) and was just a few months into his treatment. He was weak, unable to work, and my family needed me.

My business was paying the bills, but I was in a constant battle between the needs of my family and the needs of my business. At the time, one-third of my revenue came from consulting services where I felt the need to be on call every day.

Just when that winter began to feel unbearable, and I wasn’t sure how long I could keep it up, a hint of Spring’s thaw began to appear.

Michael Hyatt and his daughter Megan asked me to lunch and offered me the opportunity to run Platform University full-time as Brand Director & Dean. They had no idea what was going on in my personal life, but the timing was perfect and I took the job.

Shortly afterward, we had a breakthrough in my dad’s treatment and he is in great health today. Rachel went to counseling and the birth of our second son was beautiful redemptive. She's doing great, and we are now expecting baby #3!

I haven’t promoted a product on this blog in more than two years, but I’ve made $36,720.22 in passive affiliate income while working a full-time job.

That’s my story, and you have your own, but the point is that we all go through difficult seasons. You may find yourself, now or later, on the payroll of someone else’s company—but that doesn’t mean you need to stop thinking like an entrepreneur.

3 Habits of The Highly Effective Intrapreneur

Relearning how to be an effective employee after self-employment gave me a new perspective, and helped me identify the few simple habits that could set me apart as an effective intrapreneur.

I’m sure it helped that I’ve been serving on Michael Hyatt’s leadership team alongside several inspirational leaders who exhibit these behaviors, but you should be able to take these habits with you into any healthy work environment and become a highly effective intrapreneur yourself:

1. Own the Outcome

The defining difference between employees and entrepreneurs is historically whether they are responsible for input or output. As an employee, you clock your hours, put in your “work”, and naturally expect to get paid—not so for the entrepreneur.

As an entrepreneur, it doesn’t make much difference whether you work 8 hours or 80, you get paid when you get results. When you take that same mindset into the workforce and prioritize results, you have an advantage over any input-focused employee, and your effectiveness as an intrapreneur will shine through.

Michael Hyatt knows this and has systematically built this philosophy into his company—from “Total Ownership” as a core value to bonus plans tied to company profit, creating intrapreneurs who behave like owners in the workplace.

Appropriately, last month’s Leaderbooks selection was Peter Drucker’s The Effective Executive, where he articulates the same lesson in this way:

The man who focuses on efforts and who stresses his downward authority is a subordinate no matter how exalted his title and rank. But the man who focuses on contribution and who takes responsibility for results, no matter how junior, is in the most literal sense of the phrase, “top management.” He holds himself accountable for the performance of the whole.

2. Work Smarter, Not Harder

As a direct result of a focus on results (output over input), it’s crucial to get clear on where you drive results in your role as an intrapreneur.

Among your responsibilities, are there any in particular that you feel leverage your strengths better than others? What task comes easily to you, that doesn’t to other people? What work makes a difference in the results of your department and the company at large?

Michael Hyatt wrote the book on achieving more by doing less, so it’s no surprise that his company is permeated by conversations around narrowing your focus to your “Desire Zone” where you are passionate about the work you do and proficient at driving results.

I’ve been running Platform University as an independent business unit for two years now, with a minimal team. “Work smarter, not harder” has become a mantra I remind myself and my team weekly because it’s the difference between “knuckling down” to check off tasks and getting the right work done to achieve results.

3. Advocate for Innovation

Every entrepreneur I’ve met is driven by a sense of dissatisfaction with the way things are because they see the possibilities of the way the world could be.

Embrace that. This is what makes your perspective valuable, even if it does mean you’ll never be satisfied with the “status quo”.

Whatever your job description, keep alert to opportunities across the company to become more efficient or effective through innovation.

Recently, this has meant that my occasional offers to brainstorm a solution have turned into a formal process of optimization consulting that I offer internally to departments and leaders.

I’ve become internally influential and appreciated by adding value, from personal productivity systems to completely rethinking customer support (which Michael & Megan highlighted on their podcast).

Don’t lose your entrepreneur’s eye—but this habit does come with a disclaimer, that you may need to temper your enthusiasm with the awareness that you are not the owner. Part of effective intrapreneurship is the knowledge that this is not your company at the end of the day.

These 3 simple habits have helped me become a highly effective intrapreneur in this season of my life, and they’ve also helped me prepare for whatever entrepreneur opportunities the future holds. I encourage you to consciously practice these habit too:

  1. Own the Outcome
  2. Work Smarter, Not Harder
  3. Advocate for Innovation

Question: How will you apply these habits to the work that you do?

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