By Dilip Boury, Director of Leader Services, Organisation Solutions
Many large enterprises want their leaders to show the same levels of drive, passion, and entrepreneurial spirit that start-ups seem to have in abundance. However, it’s not always easy to do this in large, complex organisations. Entrepreneurialism involves pushing boundaries and upsetting the power balance—but not so much that you find yourself out of a job!
So how do you strike the right balance? We spoke to Avi Avula, Director of Interconnect Solutions—Electronics & Imaging for DuPont. Since he took over three years ago, his global division has gone from flatlining to becoming the growth engine for the business. He shared his thoughts on being a successful “Intrapreneur.” We have summarised them into seven tips below.
1. Be Disruptive
Avi says being confident, bold, and even audacious helped him be successful. He says that being a change agent is central to his mindset so he will “always play at the boundary and not in the middle, sometimes even reshaping what is considered to be accepted practice.” He also advises retaining an outsider point of view because “fitting in means you are fully accepting the status quo and forgetting you are a change agent. You cannot comply with every norm and protocol if your role is to redefine some of these.”
2. Take risks
Avi says budding Intrapreneurs should seek out the difficult problems that nobody wants to tackle to give themselves the best chance to shine. He says,
“Go for the bigger win; most people play it safe today, and nobody remembers you for keeping it together and maintaining status quo. People will remember you and acknowledge you for the impact you are making”
3. Focus on solving your customers’ problems
Intrapreneurs succeed by fixing customers’ problems—not just by trying to sell them products. In his business, Avi has done this by repositioning the way they sell the components for superfast 5G internet devices.
He learned that for lots of new technologies, customers had to make small tweaks to many different components in order to make their devices work. This meant they were having parallel conversations with lots of different suppliers. To overcome this, Avi’s business helps adapt the components his customers require so they can buy complete solutions instead of individual components. The success of this approach helped him build support for adopting a customer-mindset in the business.
4. Build credibility and support internally
When Avi first took on his role, he took time to stabilise the business and understand the people dynamics before bringing in a new strategy; despite having to curb his natural eagerness to move faster. He also worked with an external consultancy to validate his plans and established a track record of success with smaller projects. He says that doing this has given him the confidence to push for increasingly ambitious goals.
5. Build a high-performing team
Avi believes that Intrapreneurs need a team that “really wants to win” and that you cannot have “people who always tell you why things can’t happen.” He explained that he used a strategy review process as a catalyst for career conversations with his leadership team. This allowed him to openly discuss how people’s roles needed to change and/or were no longer what the business needed. He says,
“This allowed me to create a very capable leadership team that runs with very little involvement from me; freeing me up take a much longer-term and more strategic view, rather than just focusing on the day-to-day”
6. Create a compelling narrative
To take an organisation in a new direction, you need to “change the narrative,” explains Avi. He did this in his business by thinking about the product portfolio in a new way. His business makes and sells a vast array of products and therefore, was competing on multiple fronts. Instead of competing head-to-head on every product, Avi decided they would combine or customise products in ways that no other supplier can.
“Rather than just selling hammers, nails, and screws, we started offering to fix problems. We created solutions that enabled people to fix their furniture.”
This has turned the breadth of his portfolio into an asset. It not only helps him sell, it also builds closer relationships with customers and it facilitates product development.
7. Reinforce strategic messages
Avi emphasises that intrapreneurs should take every opportunity to reiterate the messages that they want to stick. To reinforce a winning mentality in his business, he tells his team that he wants them to work closely together with a winning mindset—to be like a pit crew for a Formula One car. He uses the image of a pit crew throughout his communications and in awards. He even issued a pit crew desk calendar to every member of the business globally to re-energise people and keep them focused on winning.
He has also embedded messages about customer centricity and about working across silos into the business’ internal communications. To reinforce this, he gives people from different functions customer problems to solve that require them to collaborate, and he celebrates any win that shows they are on the right track.
One-part innovation, ten parts renovation
Avi’s story shows that for intrapreneurs, being disruptive is only one aspect of their success. Whilst entrepreneurs can build a new house, intrapreneurs must renovate the existing one. They need a vision of what the future can be but a healthy respect for what is there already; an ability to get people to change, rather than imposing change upon people; and, the commitment to follow through, so new ways of doing things are embedded.
If you or your business want to become more intrapreneurial, you can assess whether you have developed growth leader styles and strategies. Where you identify gaps, you can design challenges that offer people opportunities to develop and practice the capabilities they need. This way, you can develop the talent to be disruptive without it being rejected by the business.
Learn more about our Growth Leader Assessment.
Dilip Boury is Director of Leader Services at Organisation Solutions. He is an expert in Growth Leadership, Assessment, Talent Management and HR Analytics. He has extensive experience working with clients of all sizes and from all sectors both in EMEA, Asia Pacific and Japan. He has a background in Social Science, Occupational Psychology & Politics. He has previously held roles with IBM and Roffey Park Institute. Contact Dilip