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Turn Your High-Potential Pool into Enterprise Entrepreneurs

By Bruce Watt, Ph.D.

Bruce Watt, Ph.D.“We need to transform quickly to capitalise on the changes and opportunities in the digital age.” I hear this frequently whether it is coming from multinational companies in ICT, banking and finance or many other industries.

However, in the context of these stark paradigm shifts in business is the central question of “do we have the quality and quantity of leaders that can execute this rapid transformation?” Of course the answer is universally “no” and with this discovery, most companies are actively accelerating internal leader development and concurrently recruiting externally to close the gap.

Turn Your High-Potential Pool into Enterprise EntrepreneursThe digital transformation that many companies are competing to execute highlights the well-known adage for leaders of “what got you here won’t get you where you need to go tomorrow.” As a direct result, I’m also seeing an increasing trend in the number of companies who are identifying and developing high potential leaders who can be disruptive, mobilise change with velocity and be extremely client-centric.

For example, many companies we are working with that need to transform rapidly are utilising high potential leadership programs as a key lever to achieve transformation—but they have taken it one step further to making these leaders change drivers, or as we call them "Enterprise entrepreneurs."

So what makes an Enterprise entrepreneur? The individuals identified for these programs are developed with the mandate to disrupt the status quo and purposefully and visibly create alignment with a rapidly changing digital market. Their development is focused on enabling the leader to influence and network across the organisation, have a global mind-set, be proactive and bold, take ownership for positive disruption, push the barriers, bring ideas to reality, make things happen and learn fast.

However, all companies need Enterprise entrepreneurs to enable disruption, transformative change and expedite the business paradigm shift in a way that does not destroy value in the current core business or contravene the core values and culture of the organisation.

From theory to practice

There has been a spike in the organisations looking for leaders who have the potential to be disruptors to the status quo. Those leaders need to be developed in order to harness those leadership skills. One client I’ve been working with achieves a level of precision and focus in the development of the Enterprise entrepreneur cohort by using diagnostics to gain insights into the behaviours, motivations, experiences and personality dispositions. The results serve as a launching point for accelerated development and also to risk manage the unintended consequences of the disruptive mandate given to them. For example, individuals who are actively initiating positive disruption in an organisation are going to inevitably find resistance and have to cope with stress and mitigate their own risk of derailment.

When we looked at the data for the entire Enterprise entrepreneur group, there were some common gaps that need to be addressed. Organisational transformation is disproportionately affected by the quality of conversations. These Enterprise entrepreneurs generally need to improve their ability to manage change resistance, expand their repertoire of influencing skills (e.g., expressing vision, analogies, metaphors) and develop open questioning and empathy skills that lead others to appreciate a perspective without feeling pushed. I find that successful Enterprise entrepreneur programs endeavour to accurately anticipate the risks and challenges that individuals will confront so they can be specifically prepared and supported. In this context an Enterprise entrepreneur individual might be implementing a new business model and targeting their development on their empathy and open questioning skills specifically in the context of helping mobilise people though change resistance. These insights also drove the approach for developing these leaders. These individuals are selected by characteristics such as their results and performance drive, ability to synthesise complexity and ambiguity and entrepreneurial business savvy. However, they need to develop the so-called “soft skills” of the conversation that are really the catalyst to mobilise change quickly and realise transformation.

Infusing the entrepreneur into your enterprise

So, what if you were to create an Enterprise entrepreneur model in your organisation?

Our experience with and understanding of the Enterprise entrepreneur profile is still evolving, and like all leadership profiles the specific characteristics (i.e., skills, knowledge, experience and personality) are linked to particular business contexts (e.g., opening a new market versus product innovation).

So far, we have learned that leaders need to be armed with some "softer skills" associated with influencing and change leadership in addition to more expected skills such as business savvy and entrepreneurship. While you may not have an Enterprise entrepreneur program right now, you could have people who have the potential to be Enterprise entrepreneurs in your organisation with the right development and focus.

Learn more about diagnostics that develop those Enterprise entrepreneurs.

Bruce Watt, Ph.D. is vice president for DDI Europe and is passionate about supporting his DDI team in their quest for building stronger multi-national organisations through better leadership. Since 2014 Bruce has been living in London with the added benefit of being closer to his favourite football and water polo clubs. Unfortunately surfing isn’t as convenient as it was in Australia - but if you ever want to know where the best waves in the UK are, then Bruce is the man to contact at

Posted: 02 Nov, 2016,
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