Responsible EmployeeEver realize that the more responsible your team leader becomes, the more isolated you may feel as an attorney? What, they don’t need me anymore?

During our Team Empowerment call yesterday, we were discussing the concept of an intrapreneur.  Intrapreneurs are team members who may not own part of a business legally or financially, but they interact with it like a business owner.  They’ve moved past employee mentality to have big-picture conversations such as ROI, capacity and profit margins.  (Stay tuned for future posts exploring how to transition to being an intrapreneur.)

Sometimes moving into that place of intrapreneurship – an exciting place of empowerment and leadership – can also be a lonely time.  Often such a team member will end up not feeling like a “fit” with either side.  The team begins to see this person as “the boss,” and slowly the conversations and inclusion in team things begins to change.  The key person isn’t “one of the team” any longer.  The team doesn’t lose its respect and admiration for this person,  but the status of “peer” is gone. The attorney starts to feel less needed by the key player, who is requesting fewer “gotta minutes” and is instead just moving gunk and making stuff happen. And while this isn’t a bad thing for someone who is moving forward, it can leave the team member feeling alone and unsure where to go for peer-to-peer collaboration and support.

Entrepreneurs experience this all the time.  Steve Jobs told the truth when he said entrepreneurs must be willing to be misunderstood for long periods of time.  We are learning more and more that this applies to intrapreneurs as well.  As a new kind of employee, they don’t have a ton of resources to turn to for guidance or leadership.  They don’t qualify for many of the business owner organizations and don’t really fit in with most of the employee groups.

When you realize you have a great team member transitioning into an intrapreneur, it’s crucial that you support this growth so the person doesn’t slip backwards.  This is uncharted territory, and a path and plan will lend stability.  Here are some suggestions:

1.  Have set, weekly meetings with the person to check in on goals, challenges and big-picture issues.  Staying connected and allowing access to you is essential to keeping your intrapreneur  in the bigger picture.

2.  Be specific with measurable goals.  We all need to know where we are winning and where we are missing the mark.  We can only do that with measurement.  Build in time to review the measurements and discuss how to keep winning and how to improve on the ones being missed.  Be clear that missing a mark doesn’t mean the employee screwed up or is doing a bad job.  You are simply measuring and adjusting and correcting to achieve success.  For example, if a measurement of success is to have 30 people in each monthly workshop you do, and your intrapreneur is responsible for this occurring, you may find when you review the numbers that you need to change your advertising method because one newspaper you advertise in is not returning any results.  This doesn’t mean the team member messed up.  In fact, measuring, tracking and adjusting based on this information is how to attain success.  And it leaves the team member much more in control and a part of the solution than just feeling like a failure with no idea what to do about it.

3.  Find a forum for the person to participate with like-minded team members who are also up to big things.  Most successful entrepreneurs have coaching programs, organizations, etc., where you go to hang with colleagues, for the education and training you receive and for the sharing of ideas and inspiration you get from your peers.  Provide the same resource and  watch your intrapreneur  flourish.  Simply letting them know they aren’t alone and providing them a community of like-minded intrapreneurs is a gift of priceless value that will have a tremendous ROI.

To learn more about hiring and keeping great employees, join our free webinar Essentials to Hiring and Keeping Great Employees on February 19th at 4ET.  Click here to register.