by Steve Adubato, PhD

Many organizations struggle with creating a culture in which employees feel a greater sense of "ownership" in outcomes.

So how do we, as leaders, motivate our people to feel they have more "skin in the game" and become more entrepreneurial?

After looking at a series of case studies that focused on companies of all sizes and shapes, some "best practices" became apparent:

--Hire people who exhibit a high level of energy, passion and enthusiasm. That increases the odds they will be more responsive to the challenge of being entrepreneurial. There’s no guarantee this will happen, but too often organizations hire the wrong people who look good on paper but don’t have that special something — wanting to go beyond the job requirements to take more risks and responsibilities. It’s important to find people who will step up when challenges arise, and who want to understand the organizational mission and how they can contribute to it. These special people are hard to find, but when you do, the payoff is huge.

--Once you’ve hired someone, it is critical that everyone involved in leadership be engaged with the new team member, including the CEO. Too often we want employees to be more entrepreneurial, but we don’t train them as to what this will mean to them directly. One of the keys to creating this special culture is to invest early in your people and not assume that just because they are talented, they will go the extra yard for the organization.

--Create tangible opportunities to succeed and/or fail. Many of the most entrepreneurial companies created spinoffs or subsidiaries that their most talented people lead. One of these companies is Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor, Mich., which created nine businesses over 30 years and went from $5 million in annual sales to over $50 million during that time. One of the keys to their success was to not only allow their people to identify new business lines, but to let those same people step up and run those businesses. Some of the businesses succeeded wildly, while others didn’t. But the key was to create the opportunity for those with the most entrepreneurial spirit to show their stuff after they had been given the necessary training.

--Create tangible rewards and recognize your best people when they do step up. For example, Zingerman’s rewarded their entrepreneurial people with a share of the profits, which in turn caused them to feel a greater sense of ownership. However, if your organization is not in a position to create a subsidiary or spin-off company, you can still publicly recognize and acknowledge these special people, which will motivate them to continue their solid performance.

--It’s not enough to be entrepreneurial yourself. In order to create a truly entrepreneurial culture, you have to identify others who have the potential to show this same spirit. Being a rainmaker and bringing in revenue for the company is great, but coaching and mentoring others on how it is done is crucial to creating an environment that fosters and promotes such behavior.

The only way to achieve an organization of many who feel invested is to give them the skills and tools to be part of a larger sales effort, even if they are not specifically assigned to the sales team. This only happens in organizations where key leaders are consistently identifying those with the potential to grow.