Want to Make It as an Intrapraneur? Start Overcommunicating.

Investing time in communicating directly can save you a lot of angst and missteps.

Written by Louis K. Gump
Published on Mar. 13, 2024
Want to Make It as an Intrapraneur? Start Overcommunicating.
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Everyone communicates. In business leadership and management, most people think they have some well-practiced communication skills. It’s natural to assume this since we communicate often, by necessity. If we can talk or pick up a pen or put fingers on a keyboard, we’re pretty sure we know what we’re doing on some level.

And this represents one of the primary pitfalls of intrapreneurship — overconfidence in communications skills. So much so that some people fail to plan and execute an effective communications process from the start, and then they scramble to catch up later.

The hard truth: Communication is a pivotal factor in the intrapreneurial process, not just the substance of your idea. Do it well, and your project advances. Just wing it without some serious intentional planning and careful delivery, and you may very well find yourself in hot water, or at the very least, doing a whole lot of unnecessary cleanup.

In this article, we look at particular tactics demanded in intrapreneurial communication. These are some best practices in intrapreneurial communications.

What Is an Intrapraneur?

Intrapraneurs bring ambition, creativity and innovation to their place of employment, improving processes and bringing opportunities to the already established company.

More on communication skill buildingHow to Help Employees Brush Up on Their Soft Skills


How Overcommunicating Can Save Face

Anything with the word “over” as a prefix may sound like a criticism. Overpriced. Overthinking. Overbuilt. But in this case, “over” is exactly what we’re going for. It’s a big part of the secret sauce in the intrapreneurial communications process. What’s more, it emerges as a key place in which many an intrapreneur will stumble.

When you’re trying to launch something new and innovative within the walls of a company, your instinct may be to lie low until you have great results to trumpet. Corporate culture often encourages this kind of measured discussion. Don’t buy any billboard ads until you can be sure you’ve got a winner.

“You’ve got to convince other people your idea is a good idea. Your communication needs to be about being optimistic and painting a picture, creating a vision, inspiring people.”

But that can’t, and shouldn’t, stop you from conducting a robust communications process early on. While getting out ahead of your results may be a bit tricky, surprising someone important in your organization can present a much greater risk. Communicating, even at the very early stages, can save you hardship later on.

Here’s an example from my own experience.

The economy faced a sudden major challenge right in the middle of the calendar year. Our ad revenues dropped suddenly, and our salespeople relied on commission. Through no fault of their own, their compensation was expected to go down dramatically, just as we were all adjusting to the new environment. Our management team discussed this and decided to address it quickly so team members would not have to worry about changed expectations in financials. We decided to recommend that we pay 100 percent of bonuses to all salespeople for that month while we sorted things out. 

Our finance lead communicated with his chain of command while I coordinated with other leaders, especially those on the sales team. My boss was supportive. Then we got approval back from finance, had a discussion with our broader sales leadership team, and rolled it out to the entire nationwide sales team. We were quick, decisive and people-focused while checking with all who needed to be involved.

As you might imagine, this was well received. We went through a similar process in future months, managing through until we were able to ease back into a more standard compensation approach months later after we had more of our bearings.


How Good Communication Is Like Making a Sale

Overcommunicating, while it may feel as if you’re being uncomfortably assertive or repetitive, is actually a smart strategy. You’re using communication to build support while surfacing and addressing potential concerns.

I spoke with Bill Burke, who likens the necessary communications strategy to the process of sales. When you’re an intrapreneur, he says, you’re working in sales even if you’re not working in sales. That has to be the mindset of your communications process. “You’ve got to convince other people your idea is a good idea. Your communication needs to be about being optimistic and painting a picture, creating a vision, inspiring people.”

Bill recalls using this approach when he and his team convinced Turner Broadcasting to take a chance on creating a new channel, Turner Classic Movies. “It’s all about motivating people and convincing them. You need to be persuasive. If someone says, ‘What’s this all about?’ You’d better have an answer. If you don’t, shame on you. This is the mandate of internal selling.”


Overcommunicating Creates a Culture of Accountability

When starting a new line of business or other initiative, you’ll find multiple strong incentives to have done your homework and developed a clear statement about what your venture is designed to achieve. This incentive for clear and timely communications continues in the operations of the business. 

In a conversation I had with Rusty Friddell, longtime general counsel at Landmark Communications who has been involved in numerous intrapreneurial and entrepreneurial ventures, he points out the importance of communication in an environment where team members have wide latitude to make decisions.

He says that at Landmark Communications, “there was an unwritten rule that no one would get put in a penalty box if something bad happened.” Rather, that was part of the process. However, if it occurred in whatever you were presiding over or working with, you were expected to raise your hand so that everybody could be aware of it, and then support you and try to fix it together as needed.

He further observed, “And the two effects of that were, one, you did, in fact, raise your hand when it first started to be a problem. And we could bring in whatever resources necessary to mitigate it and fix it and sometimes turn it into lemonade. But also, you weren’t afraid to try things.”

More on entrpreneurial communication5 Crisis Communication Tips Every Startup Needs


Investing in Communication Pays Off

The cornerstone of your overcommunication strategy stems from your three-part game plan: vision, goals and values. You may not have results to share at this early date, but you have your road map. You know what you’re moving toward, you know why you’ve undertaken the journey and, if you’ve done your Inside Innovator coverhomework, you know how to connect it to the larger goals and success of the mothership.

You’ve spent time creating the process and the language of your journey. Now leverage that work — in a wide and vigorous conversation with the many people in your organization who might be impacted by your project. Some of them you will contact because you need their help and their input. Others you will connect with to ensure they don’t find out from someone else — risking their taking an instant dislike to your efforts as a result.

Investing time to communicate up front is valuable. Missing communication steps can cause costly delays and plenty of angst later. Even if you think you’re already stretched with existing commitments, make the time now anyway to bring people into the loop whenever possible.

Start the conversation with your organization, and then keep it going.

Excerpted from The Inside Innovator: A Practical Guide to Intrapreneurship by Louis K. Gump. Copyright 2024 Louis K. Gump Reprinted with permission.

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