All posts by - james

8 Tips To Help You Become A Successful Intrapreneur

Prob-Solution

Last week, I defined intrapreneurs as employees who think and act like entrepreneurs, but inside a company. We do our best to actively contribute to achieving the goals of the company. This week, I’m going to cover some ways to think more like an intrapreneur and how to be successful at it.

Ask questions
To clarify, you need to ask the right questions. What problem can you solve? How can you help your team? Your department? The company? Can you implement a new tool to make your deliverables better? Also, it’s important to ask what types of things your customers want or need.

Actively look for products, services, or processes you can improve.
There’s usually a way to improve a product or service. If you can make it cost less than what is currently being offered, then you can help the company increase revenue.

You can also come up with variations on current products or services that can be sold as innovative, new features and upgrades. The same is true about processes. Modifying and streamlining a process can also save a company money.

Look for ways to improve quality
Who doesn’t like to get great quality for their money? Improving quality without adding cost, or keeping costs low, can be a competitive advantage. You can always improve quality. Usually, it is just a matter of the actual cost of doing it.

Get uncomfortable and think outside the box
In fact, just imagine there is no box or limit to your ideas. Step out on the edge and find that crazy, edgy idea. Give them the unexpected. You can create something that’s useful as well as inspirational.

Just make sure you think your ideas all the way through. Write them down, create an action plan, and fine-tune the idea to make sure you have something that’s workable.

The best things in life are discovered when we step outside of our comfort zones.

Get feedback about ideas before presenting them
Find friends or coworkers who can help you discover flaws in your solution before it’s proposed. Many times they’ll ask the challenging questions management or even customers will ask. So, feedback is key.

With that said, it’s important to keep ideas away from potential “enemies” as long as you can. Great ideas that will make you shine more, will also make someone else shine less.

Present your idea through a strong plan
Make sure you have a plan to implement your idea, one that includes steps, costs, etc. A plan will also help you to track your progress. This is a crucial point to succeeding as an intrapreneur.

Get support from a key player, especially an upper level manager
Nothing will help your cause more than a manager who believes in you and is willing to support and sponsor your idea. It also helps if your idea will help that senior manager with something he or she needs.

Don’t get disheartened at rejection
Keep going. Modify your current idea or create a new one. One of the things that will stand out the most, especially to leadership, is your tenacity and the fact that you don’t give up.

So there you have it. Eight tips to guide you as an intrapreneur.

What other tips can you add to this list? What advice do you have that can help budding intrapreneurs?

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Are You An Intrapreneur?

AA_Man_in Group2

I’ve always been the type of person who feels the need to push the boundaries of innovation, especially when it comes to using technology to enhance whatever role I happen to be in at that particular time.

This is one reason I tend to get bored quickly with whatever position I’ve occupied a company, whether it was technical writing or instructional design. These are great fields in which to have a career, and they do allow for a degree of creativity, especially instructional design. However, that’s not enough for me.

I’ve come to realize that I have more of an intrapreneurial spirit.

What is an intrapreneur?
Investopedia.com defines it as “an inside entrepreneur, or an entrepreneur within a large firm, who uses entrepreneurial skills without incurring the risks associated with those activities.” Entrepreneurs create and lead new businesses, intrapreneurs create and lead new innovations, products, services, etc. inside a company.

This is so me! I love being assigned to special tasks or projects and develop them as if I was an entrepreneur. This is one of the reasons I’m embracing my new role leading research and development in the ed-tech company for which I work.

So What Does This Mean?
I get to use the company’s resources and capabilities to research and develop tools, and technological advances, then help turn them into a profitable solutions for the company. How cool is that? I feel as though I was made for this role!

Many times being an intrapreneur will provide you with greater job satisfaction. Think about it, you’re not only able to maximize the use of your creativity, but it generally means taking on the role of a leader. This allows you to actually make a meaningful impact in the company as well as build your credibility as an industry expert.

Is This An Option For You?
Being an intrapreneur could be the best option for you if you’re the type of person who continually feels the need to do something different. It’s a role that lets you embrace your passion for whatever it is that you want to do. For me, that’s education technology. For you it could be library science or marketing.

I get to use my natural curiosity and communications skills to satisfy my urge to do something different and control my own career. Plus, I can do it without worrying about making a huge career change.

Companies Need Intrapreneurs
We take the initiative and use our entrepreneurial spirit to help build the company’s competitive solutions through innovation and our out-of-the-box thinking.

This makes us some of the company’s most valuable employees, which can only improve our job security and hopefully improve our earnings potential.

What about you?
Are you bored or unsatisfied in your current role, but still like the company you’re working for? Do you feel there’s an opportunity for you to be an Intrapreneur within your company?

I’d love to read what you think about intrapreneurship.

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4 Tips For Improving Your Personal Brand at Work

Image courtesy of iStockphoto.com

Image courtesy of iStockphoto.com

Have you ever worked with people who just didn’t give a damn about their personal brand and how they’re perceived at work? I mean they really think it’s OK to do things like hangout on Facebook all day, surf the Internet, or work on their personal pet projects. I once worked with a guy who did things just like this.

He would show up late to work, take naps in conference rooms, surf the Internet all day, making a ton of Facebook posts during work hours, and even work on personal research projects, sometimes all day. He argued that he wasn’t given enough work or responsibility to keep him busy throughout he day. He refused to reflect a positive personal brand and just did his own thing. When he was eventually fired, he actually had the nerve to feel as though he’s been wronged. Do you hear that big CLANG sound? Yeah, that’s the sound of his brass cojones smashing together.

Branding isn’t just a term that applies to marketing, it applies to employees just as much as it applies to a company. In fact, one could argue that by maintaining high standards in our personal brand, we can help increase the overall brand reputation of the company. Just ask Jeff Bezos and Tony Hsieh, the CEOs of Amazon and Zappos respectively. Both of their brands were built on excellent customer service.

OK, so here are four things you can do to reflect a positive, personal brand at work:

  1. Take responsibility for your actions, and above all else hold yourself accountable for your day-to-day performance. You never know when someone is using you as the measuring stick for their behavior, work ethic, or performance.
  2. Be authentic. As workplaces evolve from communication silos into more transparent enterprises, it’s essential that you communicate the real you in a way that makes your brand shine. People will know when you’re being fake.
  3. Be careful who you associate yourself with. In many companies there are naysayers and “lifers” who’ve just given up and settled in their positions. They’re usually the pessimists who rarely have anything positive to say. Do you really want to be associated with that person? Or how about the people who constantly goof off and rush to complete tasks at the least minute? Associate yourself with positive influences and even become one yourself. As companies evolve from being silos, negative influencers will eventually be weeded out.
  4. Be in Intrapreneur, someone who constantly seeks new opportunities to help your team or the company as a whole. Write proposals for new processes, software that will help your job, or even new business. Just make sure that the things you propose will help the company save money or improve efficiency.

We reflect our personal brands from the moment we search for a job. Our resumes and LinkedIn profiles are visual representations of our personal brand, as are recommendations and personnel evaluations. Good or poor performance can not only affect our brand at the company we currently with, but when we apply for other jobs, or even freelance gigs. I mean who recommends a poor brand, especially if it’s something they’ve tried and it left a bad taste in their mouth? So, take the time to invest in your personal brand; be the example of what your fellow employees want to aspire to, and the type of employee companies want to have lead their brand.

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Benefits of a Workplace Community

 Workplace Community, Community Social

Let’s face it, the command and control structure for running companies is dead! It just doesn’t work in the social, transparent, always connected world in which we live. Workplace communities are slowly replacing the more traditional, stodgy corporate information delivery methods, mainly because they don’t focus on delivery so much as sharing.

Kick starting a workplace community in your company could enable a more free-flowing dialog across a range of diverse groups, leading to significant leaps in innovation as well as communication. A programmer or trainer may read a blog post by a marketing manager, leading to a new product idea or an innovative design. A sales rep could read a market research white paper posted by a product manager and come up with a new market for one of your solutions. Forget information silos and think information communities.

These ideas can turn into conversations that can lead to more ideas. Communities that use social-based tool sets can capture these ideas and push them forward through community collaboration.

“The Social Era is about connecting things, people, and ideas. Networks of connected people with shared interests and goals create ways that produce returns for any company that serves their needs.” – Nilofer Merchant, 11 Rules for Creating Value in the #SocialEra.

The Internet and social networks have changed the way we interact with each other. Modern workplaces consist of a new level of engagement and knowledge sharing that is transforming the way companies operate. The social web has grown into a medium through which individuals have become empowered by the collective knowledge of the organization. We are connecting in ways we have never done before, and it all starts with workplace communities.

Workplace Communities

Workplace Communities help solve these key workplace-related challenges:

  • Employee development, performance, and growth
  • Productivity and efficiency
  • Innovation

Employee Development, Performance, and Growth

Less-skilled workers can connect with their more experienced colleagues through social networking features like the “Ask a Question” feature in LinkedIn. Having accesses to the expertise or skillset of coworkers and colleagues enables employees to actively participate in conversations about the content they are researching, enhancing its value and eventually allowing them to become content producers themselves.

The social aspect of sharing content not only opens up more social networking and mentoring opportunities, it provides opportunities for the employees to contribute. This can improve productivity and it can also ensure that learning and knowledge become a regular part of day-to-day operations.

Productivity and Efficiency

Workplace Communities strengthen existing relationships and enable exposure to second and third tier connections like we see in tools like LinkedIn and Twitter. These types of connections can greatly enhance the flow of information between groups with different interests. They help foster innovation via fresh perspectives, new ideas, and increased diversity.

“When you step into an intersection of fields, disciplines, or cultures, you can combine existing concepts into a large number of extraordinary ideas.” – Frans Johansson, The Medici Effect: What You Can Learn From Elephants and Epidemics.

Developing teams that are cross-cultural, cross-functional, and cross-generational is key to creating diversity in workplace communities. In his book, The Wisdom of Crowds, James Surowiecki states “greater diversity in decision-making leads to more accurate answers when pursuing solutions to complex or poorly-defined challenges.” Workplace communities provide a solid foundation on which to build a diverse knowledge base within the company.

Innovation

Innovation is one of the key areas where we can differentiate ourselves from our competition. Just as companies like Apple, Google, and Microsoft drive the technology industry through innovation; workplace communities can increase the quality and amount of innovation within a company. They help to solve work-related challenges, using a variety of workplace solutions.

“Innovation comes from ad hoc meetings of six people called by someone who thinks he has figured out the coolest new thing ever and who wants to know what other people think of his idea.” – Steve Jobs

Social Solutions

Social solutions enable employees to connect with each other and with the information they need.

  • Wikis – Employees can share their expertise provide a repository of knowledge that can improve performance and help new hires to hit the ground running.
  • Blogs – Employees can follow the blogs of internal experts and leaders, helping them to feel more involved to the overall vision of the company.
  • Discussion forums – Employees can share multiple perspectives on specific topics, and connect through our ideas and personal relationships.
  • Shared file repository – Like wikis, shared repositories are a way to help new hires access the knowledge and experience in order to hit the ground running while being more productive.
  • Video and Audio sharing – As with wikis, blogs, and shared files, video and audio repositories can be a way to help new hires hit the ground running while being more productive. They are also more aligned with how we (as a society) currently consume online media and information.
  • Learning modules – Learning has quickly become a natural part of our web experience through things like online college classes, watching professional webinars, or online research.
  • Social networking – Employees can connect socially and professionally all while providing a safety net for new hires, and mentoring opportunities for more experienced employees.
  • Social solutions provide a workplace community with a range of options that can lead to more opportunities for growth and development.

Workplace communities allow employees across the company to share their knowledge as well as key information. They enable an open dialog across across the company that cannot only increase innovation but also help boost the bottom line.

What do you think? Are workplace communities necessary in today’s organizations? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section.

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The Effectiveness of Quiet Leadership

quiet-leadership

Lao Tzu once said that “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”

I firmly believe that effective leaders shouldn’t focus on themselves, or how well they can tell their team members what to do. I believe it’s best to find ways to help your team to think more critically and constructively. As leaders, we need to help our team members to think in such a way that we are almost invisible.

Higher-Quality Thinking
Most of the time we are trying to help our teams solve problems. The best way to do this is to change the way they think. I’ve touched on this before when I discussed performance and implementing cultural change in the workplace. In fact, one could say that changing the way people think is one of the greatest challenges to improving performance and getting people to solve problems. In order to do this, we have to inspire a higher-quality of thinking in our teams.

Higher-quality thinking improves the overall thinking of others around you as well as your team. It literally improves the way your team’s brains process information, and if you can do this, you don’t have to tell them what to do, they will know. Just look at how many organizations pay employees to think and analyze data and situations. Don’t tell your team members how to solve a task, ask them how they think they should solve it. Force them to think critically and possibly develop multiple solutions to a problem, then stand back and watch them solve it. Improving the way your team thinks can be one of the best and quickest ways in which they can improve their performance and benefit the organization as a whole.

Introverted vs. Extroverted Leadership
The more traditional approach to leadership has been to be bold and assertive, to be a dominant figure who provides commanding direction. However, in my experience, I’ve seen that this approach can stifle employees who are outspoken, independent, and who would otherwise take initiative. On the other hand, I’ve seen that quiet, more introverted leaders tend to be more successful with today’s workers by allowing them to step up and grow within an organization.

Psychology today states that as much as half of the population are introverts, in spite of the the popular view that charismatic extroverts are the ones who prevail in business. I think that this has a lot to do with misconceptions such as introverts are shy, anxious, and afraid of taking charge. However, Jennifer B. Kahnweiler Pd.D., author of The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength, states that introverts are merely more reserved and process information internally. They focus on deeper meanings and connections, and only share personal information with a select few people.

Bringing it All Together
Organizations are becoming increasingly filled with intelligent employees from a wide-range of backgrounds. Employees who bring a unique set of skills and knowledge to the teams on which they work. Add to this the fact that organizations continue to adopt a self-managing approach to their team structures, which in turn, encourages more independent workers.

Many employees today don’t accept passive roles in their organizations. They want to take action and be a part of the overall vision. They do not want to be repressed by a command and control system that forces them into a hive mentality. They work better with quiet, introverted leaders who know how to encourage high-quality, critical thinking skills; leaders that step out of their employees way and allow them to shine.

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Why Organizations Should Use Social Media

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I’m an avid supporter of  organizations using social media. Organizations should use social media to create a place for open internal communication and knowledge sharing, as well as customer engagement.

First, let me just say that it’s important to link any social media effort with your organization’s overall business objectives; it’s crucial for leadership to plan out how social media will fit in with the overall vision and goals of the organization. As leaders, we have to push social efforts not only to positively change organizational behavior and how employees interact with each other, but also to change how they interact and collaborate with customers.

Social media allows organizations to:

  • Clearly state the company’s vision and provide more transparent leadership
  • Enable employees to feel as if they are a part of the the overall vision and organizational plan by creating a sense of empowerment
  • Create a more transparent environment of collaboration and innovation through knowledge sharing
  • Engage their employees and customers more effectively, whether it’s through promotions or customer support
  • Improve internal processes and decision making which often times relies on effective and clear communication

We live in a time of connected employees and consumerism, where the employee and consumer voices are more powerful than ever. They are expressing themselves through active communities in and outside of the office. This is why it’s crucial the organizational leadership take the time to engage employees and customers in order to build trust, and it should never be used as a way to simply broadcast a commanding and controlling message. Social media provides and excellent opportunity for leadership to bridge employee and customer expectations with their objectives.

It’s important that organizations adopt social media because it has become a natural part of our everyday lives, not to mention part of the ebb and flow of effective companies. Social media can positively motivate employees as well as promote dynamic forms of peer and customer connections through increased engagement. It isn’t just a trend or a passing fad, it has become a part of who we are.

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3 Ways Evernote Enhances Productivity

evertnote_logo
Evernote is one of the most important productivity tools in my arsenal, which makes it an essential part of my everyday management and organizational process. Basically, Evernote is a tool for storing, organizing, and accessing content across all of your computers and mobile devices.

I use it to capture ideas and information as notes, audio clips, photos, PDFs, Microsoft Office documents, and web clippings that I place into notebooks and even stacks of notebooks. It offers a an efficient way to organize your projects, daily tasks, research, blog posts, you name it. OK, so how can Evernote enhance your productivity?

  • Keep track of your tasks, objectives, and overall goalsNo matter what you do for a living, you have to set goals as well as objectives to you help you achieve those goals. Evernote allows you to quickly map out your goals and objectives as well as the tasks you need to accomplish both. You can easily keep track of everyday tasks and to-do lists in order to keep track of what you’ve completed and which tasks still need attending to.
  • Quickly record ideas on the goIf you’re like me, some of your best ideas come when you’re in the car, out at the store, or pretty much anywhere that’s not in front of a computer. No matter where you are, you can use Evernote’s mobile app to record audio notes and take photos of objects or napkin notes so you don’t forget any of those great ideas. Your notes will automatically sync with your Evernote account and be available on any of your other devices.
  • Clip inspirational web pages and contentEvernote’s Web Clipper makes researching on the web a much more productive experience. The clipper is a plug-in for your browser. As you browse the web, you simply click the Evernote Web Clipper button to capture to the entire page or sections of it.
So there you go, a few ways Evernote can help enhance your productivity and make your life, work or personal, that much easier to manage.

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Performance Evaluation Feedback: A 360-Degree Approach

One of the things that really get’s under my skin is not getting good feedback. Whether it’s a project, a presentation, or a performance evaluation. Which is why I’m adamant about providing good feedback to anyone I manage. If fact, informative and positive feedback is key to ensuring a highly effective performance evaluation. One of the most interesting feedback approaches I’ve seen is multisource feedback through the 360-Degree Approach

The 360-Degree Approach

In a 360-Degree feedback program, anyone in an employee’s circle, their 360 degree range, can be a performance evaluator. This includes peers and other team members, subordinates, managers, and even the employee being evaluated. The idea is that this 360-degree group can provide a better overall picture of an employees performance than just one person. OK, so here are some best practices for the 360-degree approach:
  • The 360-degree approach should be used for individual employee development. By focusing the attention on the individual performer, you are more likely to get that person to open up to the program and the feedback itself
  • It should be integrated with other types of activities. Make sure to follow up the performance evaluation with coaching or additional training, and even setting clear goals. The intent is to improve performance and help your employees continue to develop.
  • Make sure the feedback is in line with the overall direction and strategy of the organization. For example, if you are a service oriented company, make sure the employee development plan includes improving and building upon service-related tasks.
  • In a 360-degree feedback program it’s important that the manager (evaluator) is in complete control of the process. This includes training everyone involved in the process, planning out the improvement activities, etc.
  • It’s imperative that senior management behave as role models. If employees see you taking this process seriously and taking the appropriate actions regarding the 360-degree plan, then it stands to reason they will take the program more seriously as a result. This is an important note for those learning to lead as new managers.
  • If you plan to use coaches to help employees improve their performance, make sure those coaches are well trained themselves. It will go a long way to making sure those coaches can help create action plans and help employees understand the results so their performance evaluations.
  • It’s important to measure the overall effectiveness of the evaluation process and make the necessary modifications where they are needed.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Ok, as with any approach to performance evaluations, there are advantages and disadvantages. So let’s lay them out.
Aside form what is listed above, the key argument for a 360-degree approach is that since the evaluation doesn’t hinge on only one point of view, the impression is that the evaluation is not only fair, but more credible. Also, this approach could be a good way to improve performance evaluations overall. With that said, there are some valid arguments against this approach.
Peers may not want to hurt their fellow team member’s careers, and therefore might not provide an evaluation that accurately reflects the employee’s performance. For example, they might give higher marks than were deserved. Another disadvantage is that everyone involved in the process has to be in a position to frequently observe the employee’s performance. Differences in observation frequency can result in different opinions and therefore major differences in the results.
Informative and positive feedback is one of the keys to ensuring a highly effective performance evaluation. The 360-Degree approach allows peers and other team members, subordinates, managers to get in on the evaluation process and help each other grow as one cohesive team rather than just a group of individuals. Even if you don’t choose to use the 360-degree approach, you should definitely provide accurate and effective feedback in your performance evaluations and make sure you set a plan and goals for your employees to improve their performance.

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How to Improve Your Performance Evaluations

The performance evaluation is one of the toughest challenges most managers and leaders have to face, not to mention the fact that developing an effective performance evaluation system isn’t an easy task. However, the following suggestions will not only help you develop a more effective system for evaluating your team members, but they will provide you with a way to positively impact behavior and possibly cultural change within the entire company.

  • Get your team members involved in the evaluation process. If they are a part of the process, it will go a long way to ensuring they are satisfied with the overall evaluation system.
  • Set specific performance goals that you want your employees to achieve rather than general ones. Avoid being vague about your expectations. It’s crucial for your team members to have a clear vision of what they need to do to succeed.
  • Clearly communicate the results of the evaluation with your team members, and discuss how you came to your conclusions. It’s important that your evaluation provides room for discussion or a question and answer session that leaves your team members feeling satisfied that they have all they need to move forward.
  • Make sure to focus on the positive aspects of your team member’s performance, not just the areas that need improvement. It’s essential that you actively recognize and reinforce the good points in an employee’s performance
  • Performance evaluation is an ongoing process. In order for annual evaluations to be effective, it’s important to implement smaller evaluations during the year in order to reinforce positive behavior, and provide your team members with ways to improve.
  • Train lower-level managers and team leads on the performance evaluation process, and make sure they are measured on how effectively they handle this task in your evaluations of them.
Effective performance evaluations are not only good for team members, but they can be a great way to positively influence the behavior and cultural change within a company. They help to reinforce good behavior, while attempting to eliminate negative behavior that can be harmful to the company as a whole.

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10 Ways to Influence and Implement Cultural Change At Work

There’s always been a big question mark regarding whether or not a workplace culture can effectively be changed, and how to go about it. With that said, there are some steps you, as a leader, can take to help lay the groundwork for cultural change in your organization.

5 Things to Understand About Cultural Change
  1. You cannot accurately diagnose, manage, or nail down exactly what needs to change an organization’s culture; this is mainly because it’s difficult to even define what it is in this first place.
  2. Effective cultural change requires a huge commitment of resources and a leader who has high degree of influence and a significant amount of power.
  3. Intentionally trying to change an entire organization’s culture simply isn’t practical. It takes a specific set of skills and a significant amount of dedication just to understand an organization’s culture, and then there’s amount of time needed to change it.
  4. Employees will almost always resist cultural change. We’re creatures of habit who, for the most part, like stability and continuity. After all, they help us through the tough times in life and at work. Attempting to change that, takes us out of our comfort zone.
  5. Managers who want to implement cultural change often times face an up hill battle to say the least; but if they are brave and patient enough, they’ll be able to slowly change an organization’s culture.
5 Ways Managers Can Initiate Change
  1. If you can change a person’s behavior, it’s very likely you will change their beliefs and values. However, this approach alone will not change an organizations culture.
  2. Changing behavior is a great first step, but you also have to show your employees the value in behaving differently. You need to justify the changes you want to make.
  3. Use effective communication as a motivational tool to support the new behavior. These can come in the form of memos, practices and procedures, anecdotes, etc.
  4. Make sure to socialize new employees and make sure they are a good fit for the new culture you’re trying to implement.
  5. On the flip side of that coin, consider removing current employees who refuse to adopt the new culture. With that said, you should definitely take the time to weigh the overall pros and cons of removing employees, especially if they’re talented.
By understanding more about cultural change, as well as the pros and cons that come with it, the better prepared you will be to lay the necessary groundwork to initiate the changes you want to see in your organization.

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