Keynote Speaker Michael Levin on Leadership: Creating an Entrepreneurial Workplace™: The Safety Net

May 24, 2018

As I’ve mentioned in prior blogs, “Creating an Entrepreneurial Workplace™” is about creating ownership throughout an organization.  It’s getting those closest to the situation to be dramatically involved in taking on key initiatives and resolving problems.  It flips the typical autocratic workplace and significantly improves company’s culture, communication and processes while also enhancing employee motivation and retention.

There are several difficult challenges to creating this workplace.  One of those is giving an employee a reason why to be entrepreneurial.  Isn’t it far safer for an employee to simply do what they’re told?  That way, if things go wrong, they can just blame their boss.  And, they don’t put their job security at risk.

Your goal, as a Manager and Leader, is to create a safety net for your team.  Let me illustrate with a story.  I was doing a joint speaking engagement with a senior member of the National Speakers Association.  She told me she appreciated and admired that I speak without a net.

I asked her what she meant by that.  She said, first you deliver your own material leaving yourself vulnerable to whether your audience likes it or not.  Secondly, she said that I don’t use PowerPoint (I use none or very little) so I’m not deferring to what’s on the screen.  Third, I don’t like a podium and want to be out there talking with my audience.  I leave myself exposed without protection.

I appreciated what she said and related it back to the businesses I’ve started.  Some I’ve started with a net.  I had a salaried position while I launched my business.  Other times I’ve started businesses where I had my house and savings on the line.  I started them without a net.  Clearly the first way was much more comfortable.

Your people want the net.  If you want them to be entrepreneurial they need to know their safety and security is not at risk.  They need to be fully comfortable to know that if they make a decision and things go wrong, they are safe.  They own the decision and need to fix things.  But in no way does it put their job at risk.

The keys to helping your employees feel safe are:

  • Helping them understand the benefits of being empowered and taking more ownership
  • Providing parameters so they know what they can and can’t do
  • Offering sponsorship, mentorship and guidance to help them feel comfortable

Also, it’s a learning experience.  It’s a chance for them to grow.  It’s not a performance issue.  If you want your people to be innovative, take greater ownership, and be entrepreneurial, they need to have room to both succeed and fail.