Intrapreneurs and Tenacity

Participants compete in the 1977 Little 500
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Mark Suster wrote a great post that you need to check out on the number one trait separating entrepreneurs he funds from the ones he doesn’t: Tenacity.

I would argue that the same trait is needed if you want to get anything done in a large organization as an intrapreneur. As Mark points out for entrepreneurs, for the most part, people will look down on your ideas, your projects, your work. Inside a big company, they will only want to help you once you are able to earn their trust. And the only real way to earn trust in a large organization is by continually delivering results.

Whatever It Takes

Delivering results, more often than not, means doing whatever it takes to get things done and that requires tenacity.

Whatever it takes always means figuring out what needs to be done and doing it. It may also mean coming in early or staying late. Or working through lunch. Or reaching out to, and establishing a relationship with, the person that doesn’t get along with anybody.

Whatever it takes is usually not easy.

That’s where tenacity comes into play. You need to be tenacious to keep going when other people stop. That being said, tenacious does not mean steamrolling. Mark talks about a fine line for entrepreneurs, and the same holds true for intrapreneurs. Being tenacious is not a license to be uncool. You have to know exactly where you can push, and exactly how far you can push to make sure that things keep moving forward.

If you don’t push hard enough, you never accomplish anything. If you push too hard, you turn people off and they will sabotage any future efforts you lay on the table.

A Simple Trick Toward Finding that Line

One thing I’ve picked up on is to never accept no as a final answer, but a chance to be curious. Look at the word no as an opportunity to understand the individual’s requirements further. Unless they’re being completely unreasonable, and you’re never allowed to assume that until it’s been validated on three separate occasions, there is always a reason why they’re saying no. No doesn’t always mean no. It may just mean, I can’t help you. And there are reasons for that. You need to understand those reasons so that you can solve them until the answer becomes yes.

When you ask questions to uncover this reason for the no, you have a higher probability of being able to solve the problem so that you may get what you want. The elusive green light.

Call it consensus building, call it whatever, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used this easy to apply approach to turn a negative situation into an outcome I desired. In a previous job, I went through four rounds of no before successfully changing a document template that made my life incredibly easier and ended up getting lauded by senior leadership on its way toward becoming an office standard. I’ve also used this technique to successfully attend conferences, pitch ideas and sell things to people.

It all comes down to tenacity, which is a skill you can learn and practice if you’re open to it. He who dares wins.