Dream with me for a minute. Imagine a company where every employee, on any given day, knows he or she can have a voice, suggest ideas, and shape the future of the company.
It's not only a dream, it's a reality for many of the companies found in Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For every year. The secret to their reality is found in their culture; more specifically, the shared values lived out daily by employees and leaders that drive their culture.
If you company is looking for the same, start with defining what your version of a high-performing culture looks like. While talent, skills and intelligence are important, an entrepreneurial spirit is usually found exhibited within these work cultures, releasing immense discretionary effort to get more done. Specifically:
The entrepreneurial spirit of going beyond expectations.
Daniel Goleman, the foremost expert on emotional intelligence, says you should look for people who are driven to achieve beyond expectations--their own and everyone else's. The first sign is a passion for the work itself. Such people, says Goleman, "seek out creative challenges, love to learn, and take great pride in a job well done. They also display an unflagging energy to do things better. They are also eager to explore new approaches to their work."
The entrepreneurial spirit of curiosity.
Albert Einstein famously said, "I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious." Harvard Business Review reports that people with a higher "curiosity quotient" (CQ) are more inquisitive and generate more original ideas, and this "thinking style" leads to higher levels of knowledge acquisition over time. CQ, the author states, "is the ultimate tool to produce simple solutions for complex problems." Now imagine a corporate culture of curious, innovative and risk-taking entrepreneurs working for you? Are you getting the picture?
The entrepreneurial spirit of humor.
Sense of humor, it turns out, is likely to help your employees think more broadly and creatively. In one notable study, psychologist Mark Beeman and colleagues had college students solve puzzles after watching a clip of Robin Williams doing standup. Twenty percent more puzzles were solved by sudden insight from students who had watched comedy compared to students who watched scary or boring videos beforehand. One cannot deny the effects of laughter. It releases endorphins into the body--a chemical 10 times more powerful than morphine--with the same exhilarating effect as an intense workout at the gym.
The entrepreneurial spirit of going against the grain.
People who have an opposing point-of-view (in a "we," not "I" sense, of course) have to be considered as critical team-players to make teams think more diverse. They are people that push against the status quo by doing, thinking, and behaving in unconventional ways, at the speed of innovation. They are what many refer to as "contrarians." You want to infect your whole company with people that try to tread a new or different path.
The entrepreneurial spirit of divergent thinking.
Ever had a moment while taking a hot shower where something brilliant came to you in a flash of insight? Scientists call it divergent thinking, and if one possesses it, it could be a game changer for increasing ingenuity and productivity. The premise behind divergent thinking is this: Those who can seamlessly access the brain's right temporal lobe are able to generate multiple related ideas for a given topic or problem by exploring many possible solutions. In other words, their spontaneity for coming up with solutions to problems is extremely valuable. These creative wizards have the uncanny ability to come up with free-flowing ideas and problem-solving insights in a short amount of time, as opposed to their convergent-thinking counterparts who solve single problems in a systematic and linear fashion..
The entrepreneurial spirit of overcoming your fear.
Sure, who doesn't want confident and fearless employees who will step up during crunch time? This trait may just be the most important to keep that entrepreneurial spirit flowing unobtrusively. Darren Hardy, publisher of Success magazine and author of the best-seller, The Entrepreneur Roller Coaster, says fear is the biggest obstacle to success. While he is writing to entrepreneurs, you can apply this to safeguard the entrepreneurial spirit within your own company. Hardy says people with the aptitude of overcoming fear realize that life will go on when they make mistakes or experience rejection -- they are resilient. It's bouncing back by starting with a clean slate after each failure, and avoiding attaching a bad experience of the past to your current reality. When it happens, you quickly call it a lie, and declare that it has no power over you. In fact, if you're interested in unpacking this further, Hardy shares six profound ways you can overcome fear by "hacking your system." It's worth a read.
Bringing It Home
Do you see the potential for such employees driving this kind of culture? But here's the thing: These entrepreneurial-minded work cultures always begin with leaders setting the foundation to make it happen. And making it happen doesn't come from a to-do list. It's not a "system" you implement. There's no cookie-cutter HR "program" involved. It's a mindset every leader must have to declare from his or her heart, "I'm going to foster the environment for the entrepreneurial spirit to flow in our company through caring and trustworthy relationships." And, by example, others catch on, and it spreads. Welcome to your new culture.