If I were to ask, “How do you manage an employee?“, most people would have similar generic ideas. You would probably hear things like: quality engagement, good pay, be fair, measure their progress, etc. Depending on how detailed of a list we wanted, it could get quite lengthy. Even employees have a pretty solid idea of how they should be managed.

If we’re all in agreement on this, why does it seem like pulling a bad tooth from a rabid dog sometimes? Of course there are some employees who have a crap attitude, but you can’t arbitrarily paint every difficulty as a bad attitude. That’s way too easy and pretty much a cop out for a lazy manager. If it feels like I just kicked you in the shin, sorry but you needed to hear it. So what makes this so difficult?

There are a number of reasons possible, depending on your organizational culture, level of employee engagement and quality of leadership. One thing that can’t go unnoticed, and usually does, is when someone who has an entrepreneurial bent but they’re being treated and managed like an employee. Conversely, and much less common, is an entrepreneurial culture within an organization that expects employees to act more like entrepreneurs.

Because it is more common, let’s focus on entrepreneurs being treated like employees. Having an entrepreneurial spirit doesn’t mean someone is going to be the ubiquitous free-spirit who starts their own business. The desire to be an entrepreneur isn’t an on-off switch; it is definitely a continuum and people fall on various places on this sliding scale. If you are treating someone who has an entrepreneurial inclination as an employee, chances are quite high that they leave work every day feeling like they’re in handcuffs most of the time, professionally speaking.

When the entrepreneurial spirit is crushed (inadvertently or not), a few things happen:

  1. They feel under valued
  2. Your organization loses their creativity and innovative ideas
  3. Your turnover increases
  4. Your leadership development suffers
  5. Your culture and vision can seem like more hype than substance

There are more negative things that can happen when an entrepreneurial spirit is crushed, or at a minimum held captive in some capacity. These 5 things are just a sampling of how your organization can be negatively impacted. So what’s the alternative? The argument I typically hear is, “We don’t want to give some people certain options and not give the same to others. It doesn’t seem fair.” So, by all means…be fair by handcuffing some of the more creative people in your organization! Doesn’t make much sense, does it?

The reality is, the people who are employees won’t have much of an interest in the entrepreneurial opportunities if you structure them correctly. The entrepreneurs will huddle around these opportunities like a feeding frenzy. If you’re smart, you’ll incorporate these things into your leadership development program.

It could be something as simple as giving them the opportunity to sit in on meetings for product/service development. Invite them to give their ideas. Ask them to make a business case for their ideas. The employees who are just trying to suck up will lose interest when they are asked to act and think like an entrepreneur. This is not to say that employees should be viewed as 2nd rate talent. You just need to understand what expectations you should have for certain people. All people should be given ample opportunity to achieve their absolute potential, so don’t misread this post.

The point is to not force employees to work and act like entrepreneurs and don’t try and manage entrepreneurs like you do employees. If you are truly leading them, you should be paying attention to these things. These aren’t the only 2 archetypes at work within an organization, but it is a high-level distinction that should definitely be on your radar. Managing from an understanding this distinction can have a monumental impact on your level of engagement and satisfaction.

What are some things you think can be affected by not understanding this distinction?

 

  • I agree and many reasons listed here are why I left my last position… especially the comment about “culture and vision seem more like hype than substance.” That one is key.

  • Thanks for your comment, Chris. I appreciate you sharing your experience.

  • Marie Haggberg

    It’s true that often, creative, forward-thinking “employees” head out the door after a year, because they feel stifled at being unable to suggest company direction or innovation (this being the province of “management”). I expect many businesses suffer from these lost opportunities.

    Thanks for a good post.

  • I think many companies would be amazed by the percentage of their turnover that would attribute their departure to something along these lines. Thanks for contributing Marie!

  • I have just seen a client hire an employee into an entrepreneurial role and wonder why it failed. Stress caused for everyone involved.

  • It’s amazing how often this actually happens, yet organizations remain blind to it. It’s as if the CV ticks all the boxes, then they MUST be a good candidate. Not true. Thanks for sharing your personal experience Karen!

  • This is an outstanding article and pretty much captures the story line of my career as a marketer. Funny, I am plowing down a road to own my own business as we speak PRECISELY for all the reasons you listed in the article.

    I have passed it on to many and plan to really keep the dialogue going on this. GREAT stuff. and thanks for your post.

  • Glad this post spoke to where you are in your professional life Denise. Thanks for sharing it with others and your contribution is very much appreciated!