All intrapreneurs share some common traits. Some people find they come naturally; others need to work to develop them. Whichever is the case for you, all these traits can be developed and improved in some way.
In this series of articles, we’re taking a look at the eight characteristics that are strong in intrapreneurs. We’ll also look into how you can start developing these abilities yourself.
This article is all about becoming more action-oriented. Let’s get started.
What Does it Mean to be Action-Oriented?
In the workplace, the dictionary definition of being action-oriented is being “willing or likely to take practical action to deal with a problem or situation”. We’d explain it further as having a firm bias towards taking considered and thoughtful action that, importantly, is not premature.
Let’s take a moment to reflect on some of the key words in that statement: Considered and thoughtful… and yet not premature.
It’s a tricky balance to strike. Being action-oriented does not mean that you should always take a decision quickly. On the contrary, being action-oriented all comes down to good decision making.
If you don’t have the information you need to make a decision, you shouldn’t guess or make a decision with your gut.
For example, if you receive an email from a customer asking about your product, it is better to answer with “I need to get back to you on this”, rather than procrastinating or answering with an instinctive, possibly incorrect reply.
When you answer with a holding message, you’re still taking action. You’re still moving things forward. But in the background, it buys you time to do a bit of research and provide an accurate answer.
How Being Action-Oriented is Related to Intrapreneurship
Action-orientation is a vital characteristic of an intrapreneur.
The job of an intrapreneur is to create value for both customers and company. In most cases we are starting from scratch… from nothing more than a problem and an initial idea. Moving forward means taking repeated actions – quickly and decisively:
Understand the problem. Explore ideas. Plan a test. Build. Measure. Learn. Repeat.
Each step getting us closer to a solution.
Time spent procrastinating is time wasted that could help us uncover the answer we’re looking for.
What Stops People Being Action Oriented?
No-one chooses to procrastinate. But we all do it from time to time. The first step to becoming more action-oriented is to understand what stops us moving forward. In other words, what stops us making a decision? Once we have an understanding of our own behaviours, we can start to plan corrective action.
Here are some things that cause people to procrastinate. As you read through this, take a moment to think about which of these have ever applied to you.
We find that the most common reason people tend to hold back from taking action is fear. Fear can come in many forms. For example: fear of failure, fear of making the ‘wrong’ decision, or fear of upsetting someone. All of these fears tend to be closely related to people’s feeling of self-worth or respect – which is what can make them so difficult to overcome.
- Too much or too little information
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information at our fingertips these days and often times can be hard to know where to start. On the other hand, there are also those times when you need to make a decision to move a project forward, and you don’t seem to have enough information to make an informed decision at all. In both cases many people may choose not to make a decision of any kind.
- Confused about your goals
Decision-making is a complicated process and uncertainty about your goals or targets can make decisions harder. When goals are unclear, we can find ourselves jumping from one option to then next indiscriminately. Ultimately that means we never truly make any progress and may end up feeling frustrated, exhausted and unfulfilled.
- Company culture
Some companies have a consensus-based culture. In these types of organisations leaders are never truly empowered to make decisions and take action. Instead, decision making is inclined to be slow, considered and based around committees. Much time and energy tends to be spent influencing, persuading and negotiating with others. If you work in a company like this it’s extremely challenging to be action-oriented in your approach.
- You know what you need to do, but you just don’t want to
Let’s be honest, we’ve all fallen into this trap: We know what we should do. We know that it’s the right thing to do. But we put it off. We procrastinate. This tends to happen when the best way forward involves a task we simply don’t enjoy, or when we know the right path of action will cause pain or problems for someone else. (If you’ve ever had to fire someone, you’ll know this feeling all too well.)
3 Things You Can Do Now to Become More Action-Oriented
Here are three changes you can make that will help grow your action-orientation muscle.
1. Take Small, Low-Risk Decisions and Move Forward
We often think of risk as something that can only be managed by big, high-impact decisions. But the reality is that risk is present in every decision we take. We all want to feel confident and safe in our decisions, but our fear of failure can stop us from taking the actions that are necessary for success.
A good tactic to use when faced with a big, potentially scary, decision is to break the decision down into smaller steps. Use the evidence you have at hand to make an initial decision about the best path forward. Next set out to explore that path, discover more information, and test your theory. Time-box your exploration and then, make another small decision. Don’t be afraid to back-track if some new information you discover points you in a different direction.
2. Understand that Failure is Part of the Process (and Plan for It!)
Being action-oriented does not mean we avoid planning. On the contrary, planning is vital.
Start by asking yourself: “What’s the worst that could happen?”
In many cases, just this simple step can help us see that the consequences of failure are similar (or even identical) to doing nothing.
And in that instant, the procrastination is gone. You feel immediately lighter and can move forward with ease.
For those situations where the consequences of failure are significant, plan to reduce the risk. Use the techniques we’ve described in tip #1 (above) to minimise the risks but keep moving forward.
3. Develop Your Curiosity
Being action-oriented goes hand-in-hand with curiosity. When you are curious to explore and learn more, you are naturally motivated to take action so that you can further your exploration and understanding.
Curiosity is the counter balance to cautiousness caused by our perception of risk. Curiosity helps us discover new opportunities, take risks and try new things. In fact, curiosity is so important for intrapreneurs that the first article in this series is specifically about just that: How to Develop Your Curiosity.
We hope you enjoyed this article about how to become more intrapreneurial. Being action-oriented is important for intrapreneurs because it helps us explore opportunities quickly and move projects forward at pace. In turn, this means we are able to focus our time on the things that really matter and discount the distractions that don’t.
To learn more about how to become more intrapreneurial, please take a look at our intrapreneurship training options, or if you’d like some help contact us and one of the team will get back to you to discuss your needs.