Think back to the moment that you received your most recent professional job offer. How did you feel? After months — possibly years — of searching for the perfect new opportunity, I’m sure you were elated. I know I certainly was. It can be exhausting, if not frustrating and depressing at times to figure out what you want to do next, not to mention which company you want to do it with. And sometimes we become so excited about beginning a new role that we suddenly shift from the proactive ownership mindset that we used to find the job, to a more passive one in which we expect our new manager to become the new director of our professional growth. But in reality, we’re just as responsible for driving our own growth in a new role as we were in our previous one. In other words, you can change the scenery but the situation remains the same; you own your professional growth and career trajectory. And you will throughout your career. Which begs the question, how can companies be more proactive in helping their employees own their professional growth and career trajectory? And why is it important that companies do so?
Last week I shared my thoughts on how an entrepreneurial mindset serves as a vehicle for professional growth and career development by amplifying self-directed learning with feedback from others. And before jumping into why and how companies should nurture their employees in this regard, here’s a refresher on what an entrepreneurial mindset is:
“An entrepreneurial mindset is a way of thinking that enables you to overcome challenges, be decisive, and accept responsibility for your outcomes. It is a constant need to improve your skills, learn from your mistakes, and take continuous action on your ideas. Anyone willing to do the work can develop an entrepreneurial mindset.”
WHY should companies help their employees develop an entrepreneurial mindset?
Employees must invest in their learning and development in order to maximize their performance. No amount of pressure or incentives from an employer will ever produce as good an output as an employee intrinsically motivated to do their best. And employees are far more likely to be intrinsically motivated when they’re engaged by the work they’re doing, the people they’re doing it with, and the organization they’re doing it for. They also need to be invested in how their work is being done — in terms of seeing the value of standard processes, collaboration methods, and technologies. Therefore, in order to achieve maximum success commercially, while providing great work environments for employees, companies must nurture employee engagement and performance. And the first step in doing so is to help employees develop an entrepreneurial mindset. In other words, companies need to empower employees to get behind the wheel as drivers of their own learning and development (i.e., their professional input) in service of their performance (i.e., their professional output). Which in turn drives their professional growth and career trajectory.
HOW can companies help their employees develop an entrepreneurial mindset?
The concept of developing an entrepreneurial mindset sounds simple in theory but like most things, it requires ongoing effort in practice. In order to truly develop an entrepreneurial mindset, employees require opportunities to apply this way of thinking in their daily work. Think of it as a muscle that needs regular exercise at increasing intensities in order to build up its strength. In order to create opportunities for employees to apply this way of thinking in their daily work, companies must prioritize relational work and self-directed learning as the foundation of their company culture. But before companies can build this type of cultural foundation, they need to satisfy three employee needs: comfort, connection, and co-creation.
1. Employees have a need for COMFORT
Professional relationships are built on the same principles as personal relationships — albeit to different degrees. First and foremost, we need to feel comfortable working and interacting with colleagues. This requires a minimum level of warmth and openness from others in order to begin building relationships with them. And that’s key because relationships are the means through which we collaborate on shared objectives, and support each other in our self-directed learning journeys. Both of which directly impact our performance. And when relationships are nurtured through mutual empathy and support, it creates a dynamic of psychological safety in which we’re comfortable sharing our professional ideas, opinions, struggles, and fears. And that in turn, is the basis for us to develop an entrepreneurial mindset through relational work and self-directed learning.
Key takeaway: Companies must approach everything they do with the intention of making employees feel comfortable as an initial first step in helping them develop an entrepreneurial mindset. Because psychological safety is a prerequisite for relational work and self-directed learning. Companies should think of their employees as trees for which the company must provide a bed of rich soil as a first necessity in supporting their growth (see the image below for reference).
2. Employees have a need for CONNECTION
Employees can’t be fully engaged in their roles unless they understand the connection between a company’s “big picture” (i.e., strategic objectives) and where their specific contributions add value in that regard. They also need to be connected with themselves in terms of self-monitoring their levels of pleasure, purpose, and pride in the work that they perform. And as mentioned earlier, they need to be invested in thework they’re doing, the people they’re doing it with, as well as the ways in which they’re doing it.
Key takeaway: Companies must approach everything they do with the intention of helping employees connect with the company’s larger story by helping them understand how their roles serve as characters contributing to its success. By contextualizing where they fit into the mix, companies create a starting point for employees to begin the relational work and self-directed learning necessary to develop an entrepreneurial mindset. Companies should think of the necessity of connecting employees with these elements as the intertwined trunk of a tree needed to support growth to the fullest extent (see the image below for reference).
3. Employees have a need for CO-CREATION
Mutual trust and respect are a powerful launchpad for collaborative problem solving, development, and innovation. And whether employees are building a product, service, or experience together, they must embrace collaboration as an opportunity for co-creation. Through co-creation, employees are able to build relationships with colleagues beyond a transactional nature. As well as use shared objectives to frame self-directed learning.
Key takeaway: Companies must approach everything they do with the intention of helping employees co-create opportunities to enhance their learning and performance. And in order to do so, companies must emphasize the need for collaboration as a prerequisite for relational work and self-directed learning. Companies should think of the necessity to provide employees with opportunities for co-creation as the greenery flourishing from the tops of the tree trunks (see the image above for reference).
When companies satisfy employee needs for comfort, connection, and co-creation, a cultural foundation that prioritizes relational work and self-directed learning can be built. Which ultimately, creates a playground for employees to develop an entrepreneurial mindset. And the more they develop this type of growth mindset, the more confident they’ll be in owning their professional growth and career trajectory. Which ultimately maximizes employee engagement and performance. Therefore, companies must invest more in nurturing their employees in order to maximize commercial success, while providing great environments for work.
Next week, I’ll delve into more on this topic.