Future of Work

The Death of the Corporatepreneur: 3 Strategies for Reigniting Your Team

The years 2020 and 2021 will no doubt go down as some of the most historic years in recent memory.

COVID came and did everything but block out the sun. It shut down travel, shuttered businesses, divided families, overwhelmed hospitals, took so many precious lives, stifled food supplies, and interrupted the supply chain for so many industries. But there’s something else that happened during this traumatic phase. It’s something we don’t really talk about much about. We know from recent studies that more than 80% of employees are disengaged. Prior to the pandemic, it was estimated that 36% of leaders were engaged. Only 36%! For our purposes, let’s focus on a specific type of leader significantly impacted during the COVID-era.

COVID triggered the death of the corporatepreneur. 

What is a corporatepreneur? A corporatepreneur is someone who is showing up fully for your company. They serve as your internal entrepreneurs. What comes to mind when you think of an entrepreneur? They are often described as visionary, creative, flexible, risk-takers, passionate, and confident just to name a few. Companies thrive on the convictions of the entrepreneurs leading the project. They are the lifeline of the company.

Corporate entities are no different. Corporatepreneurs are a critical component of a healthy, thriving company and culture. They show up and they show out because they are excited. They are viscerally connected with the organization’s vision and they understand their role in it. They don’t have a need to go out and start their own business because their business is your business.  They are more than excited to lend their gifts and talents to your mission. 

Some companies were enjoying the benefits of in-house corporatepreneurs. Things seemed to be going great. Businesses were thriving. Then, along came COVID and everything changed. You see for the corporatepreneur to thrive, several elements must be present. They absolutely must understand your mission and not just understand it. They must fully buy-in. As we discuss in the Leadership Above the Grind Mentoring and Coaching Academy, it is crucial to create alignment between their why and the organizations. 

This is the first trigger of excitement. This gets the car started and ready for the joint venture to come. But that’s not all that is required. The corporatepreneur thrives in an environment of inclusion. They must feel that their unique talents, gifts, and voice are valued. Having a seat at the table is not enough. The fully access your corporatepreneur, they should partners sought out for the unique contributions they offer. You want to know what your corporatepreneur is thinking and why. And, fortunately, they are happy to tell you. 

A corporatepreneur might be seen as someone who’s not the ideal team player. Yet the mature organization understands that for a change to occur, some type of disruption must take place. The challenge is disruption is not always comfortable, so strong leadership is required to manage the resulting conflict. Your corporatepreneur is often the one that provides the spark for that disruption to occur. 

You see the corporatepreneur is not interested in business as usual. They have a strong desire to create and innovate. Yet, for you to have and retain that valued voice on your team, it requires an environment of trust. Without trust, the corporatepreneur is going to keep their ideas locked in a box and hidden away. They will not share it. Why? If your environment is one where they fear, ridicule, sabotage, lack of appreciation, or lack of follow-through, why would they share their precious resource and talent? They will likely resist exposing themselves in might feel like a winless battle.

The corporatepreneur also needs to be healthy. I realize at this point you may be thinking, of course they need to be healthy.  

Let me ask you honestly, how many leaders on your team right now are mentally, emotionally and physically healthy? This is just you and I talking. How many of your leaders take a break during the day to refresh themselves? How many go for a walk around the block? How many of your leaders are comfortable stopping in the middle of their day and taking a 15-minute growth and development break where they read a book or watch an educational session or video? How many of your leaders are so confident that the organization knows who they are and is committed to their overall well-being that when they clock out, they are actually finished for the day. They are not on an email all night. They’re not missing family time on the weekends for fear that they are a slacker and not a team player. You see a corporatepreneur does not thrive when they are not well, they cannot thrive if they are exhausted. So many organizations today fail to recognize this critical resource that is within their organization. They fail to realize that the corporatepreneur can be the lifeline they are seeking.

What can you do as a top executive in your company? You can begin by recognizing who your corporatepreneurs are. Not everyone is and that’s okay. Just as we need our corporatepreneur, we need others on the team too. We need others on the team who are committed to heads down doing the work, communicating the vision, and executing the vision.

All of us are important but the organization that will rebound the fastest is likely the one who identifies and unlocks their corporatepreneurs. It’s not as difficult as you might think. You can do this.

Who are they? Talk to them. Ask them what would re-energize them. What do they need to get back to feeling excited about coming in to work every single day? I know it’s a difficult question. But you must ask because until you do, you do not know exactly what the real challenge is. If your experience is anything like mine, you know, in the corporate setting we are well known for fixing problems that don’t exist or that do not get to the heart of the problem. That does not need to be you and your team. My passion is helping organizations shift from surviving to thriving. Here are three key steps to get you started.

Identify Your Corporatepreneur

Who are they? When you are aware and intentional, you can sense a different energy, level of creativity, and desire to engage on a deeper level. Schedule meetings with them. Here are some examples of how to navigate the conversation. Ask them how they are feeling. Probe beyond the standard corporate BS of oh, I’m fine. How are their families doing? What have the past two years been like for them? Do they have what they need? Do they feel safe? Ask them if they feel like they can express themselves freely and that their contribution is valued. Ask them once you have the information you need then it’s your job to take that ball and run. What can you do to help them get back to becoming that corporatepreneur that is a natural extension of who they are?

Assess Your Current Environment

Where is there an opportunity to make small changes that can lead to big wins? Do the current policies and practices align with today’s workplace needs? What are you doing because you have always done it, and it is time to revisit those practices?

Create a Growth Culture

This part cannot be overstated. Make it a priority, starting today, to invest in your leaders and your corporatepreneurs. If the only thoughts you have are the ones that are coming from your brain, they are likely to be the same thoughts over and over. When you combine the power of those thoughts with current research-based information and current technological standards, it opens doors previous not accessible. When leaders are exposed to new and refreshed concepts it raises awareness of self and others. This is where the magic begins. It is imperative that you invest in education for your leaders and your corporatepreneurs. Why not just educate the corporatepreneurs? After all, they are the lifeline of the organization, right? The reason is if you do not also educate the other leaders, then it’s like salmon swimming upstream. They would be swimming against the resistance of all of the other leaders who were still thinking the same old ways consistent with their current reality. Frankly, this would be exhausting. And once again, your corporatepreneurs that you just worked so hard to get reengaged and reenergized, will shut down. 

The good news is this is 2022 and if you’re looking for a way to restart the momentum of your organization and to be able to move past the trauma of the past couple of years, reignite your corporatepreneurs. They will happily join you in building a thriving tomorrow. 

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Written by Rhonda Y. Williams.

Have you read?

Best CEOs In the World Of 2022.
TOP Citizenship by Investment Programs, 2022.
Top Residence by Investment Programs, 2022.
Global Passport Ranking, 2022.
The World’s Richest People (Top 100 Billionaires, 2022).

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Rhonda Y. Williams
Rhonda Y. Williams is an author, coach, emotional intelligence strategist, and international speaker. Her past life includes executive roles such as Chief Nursing Officer & Hospital CEO. After a pair of dueling life crises, Rhonda decided to STOP THE MADNESS! Rhonda is on a mission to assist organizations and leaders in the pursuit of leadership excellence through mastery of self and unbridled enthusiasm for learning. She is the CEO of Dream Life Leadership Academy, LLC and the founder of Leadership Above the Grind Training and Development Academy. Rhonda is a 4x author and the host of The Coffee with Rhonda Show.


Rhonda Y. Williams is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow her on LinkedIn.