Don’t curb your enthusiasm

July 2010

Thumbs upIn modern business managers should encourage enterprising staff say William Blackburn, Lecturer in Computing from the University of Ulster and Dr Rafael Mompo Director of the Electronic and Communications Department from the Universidad Europea de Madrid.

The other day, a young friend of mine called me on the phone: ‘Rafa, I have an interview tomorrow for a great job. How can I convince them?’ My friend had it easy: the enterprising profile runs through his veins. 

However, in his interview, my friend had to explain what it meant to be enterprising, since it is a skill which is new for many human resources managers, although it is increasingly required.

In fact, having enterprising profiles in a company ensures execution of the innovative corporate policies. Likewise, gagging a young entrepreneur’s energy is like throwing money down the drain. Have you ever asked yourselves why the famous disruptive innovations within the Internet-related sector always come from small companies? Well, it is probably because the enterprising youth working in the big companies remain hidden.

Don’t hold back; visibility is much better. Not too long ago, another young friend of mine came to see me somewhat unmotivated: his boss (a very busy person) did not seem to have the energy to consider his ideas regarding new projects. The relationship with his boss was good, in the daily routine of the same old projects.

My friend thought the only reason his boss liked him was because of his ability to get quite a considerable amount of work done (that was undoubtedly the reason, and at a cheap cost), but he couldn’t help thinking that he was wasting his professional life. Therefore, his intentions were to stay a year longer in the company in order to finish the ongoing projects and include it in his resume, and then move to a different company, and who knows, maybe even another country.

OK, do it that way. But during that year you have to be more enterprising than ever, specifically for two reasons: first, that behaviour could make someone in the company notice and offer you new opportunities; and second, it is better to remain active and achieve successes, which can be profitable in future work interviews. Besides, the enterprising exercise will prevent you from getting left behind.

It is not smart to let yourself be discouraged, whatever the circumstances. Lack of motivation will always work against you, and you will be the main person affected. So, motivate yourself. An important way to keep motivated and to nurture your enterprising skills is to be mentored. Is there an enterprising person inside your or another organisation or even working independently (perhaps such might be a family member or friend)?

Someone you can talk to in confidence, who will listen and help you to explore ideas and give you feedback. A healthy work-life balance can refresh and reinvigorate. Reading cases of successful entrepreneurs can provide inspirational examples of enterprising behaviour. Engagement in study, formally towards qualification or informally through self-motivation can challenge you to develop enterprising thinking and behaviour.

How should you behave? I asked Mar and Roberto (who have responsibility in a  company to provide the resources necessary to select excellent people), what an enterprising profile meant to them. Their proposal, which we liked a lot, is explained below.

The approach consists of evaluating the individual’s abilities and associated behaviours. An enterprising IT professional should have the following four behavioural characteristics: initiative, innovation, flexibility and dynamism. Let’s give these a closer look.

Initiative

This refers to the predisposition to take action, create opportunities and improve results without the need of an external order.

People with initiative are usually overachievers. They will commonly get involved in other tasks and projects without being asked, aiming at helping their department or the company in general.

They are easily recognised since they usually anticipate problems and carry out actions to prevent them. Likewise, you will always see them trying to improve procedures and searching for maximum efficiency.  

This kind of behaviour may entail taking personal risks, but this is willingly accepted.  

People with initiative do not hesitate in presenting innovative proposals that may significantly change their department or the company. Moreover, if they are in charge of a human team, they tend to motivate their team to be creative and encourage them to take the risks associated with innovation. They value their team’s ideas and suggestions and actively involve them in the decision-making process.

Innovation

This is the capacity to think of new and different solutions for resolving problems or situations required by the employment position, the organisation or the clients.

Innovative behaviour in a company is shown, above all, by means of detecting new business opportunities and subsequently proposing new or the  reengineering of existing products, process improvements, or new commercial approaches. A business-oriented view is absolutely necessary.

The innovative personality also has a teamwork aspect. They realise that they need to share their innovative energy with others, gather everyone’s ideas and then use this intellectual richness to develop creative proposals through continuous brainstorming. They have to take time to listen to the people working with and for them and reward those contributing good ideas.

Flexibility

This refers to the capacity of modifying personal conduct in order to reach specific goals when facing difficulties or changes.

When these difficulties arise, the enterprising IT professional is expected to suggest suitable solutions for dealing with the new situation. And not only that, but to immediately volunteer to lead those changes.

Leadership is the most valued aspect in these cases because, when facing difficulties, people usually tend to question the company’s decisions but without contributing any ideas or solutions. This reactionary behaviour is normal in all organisations.

Flexible people simply interiorise the corporate decisions (make them their own), fully incorporate the same in the everyday work and clearly transmit the message to their colleagues. They don't forget to empathise with others (put themselves in their shoes), since only in this way will they get enough sympathy in order to lead successfully.  

By the way, flexibility is one of the customer service consultant’s basic qualities - but we’ll talk about that some other time.

Dynamism and energy

This deals with the ability to work hard (under pressure) in shifting or differing situations, with very diverse negotiators who can be replaced in short periods of time, and while working long hours.

Dynamic and energetic IT professionals carry out excellent projects and are constantly offering to participate in new ones. Moreover, they are capable of quickly shifting from one action to another, while keeping the quality and coherence of their work.  

All this intense activity is developed in a scenario of ambiguous challenges and uncertain results. In other words, whereas others are easily frustrated, the dynamic IT professional is capable of effortlessly pulling himself or herself together. And this feeling is also transmitted to his or her colleagues.

Of course, it is understood that all the started projects will be completed.

If you behave in this way, you will feel good about yourself and your company will benefit. So, if you like this behaviour proposal, don’t cut back - put it into practice. By the way, my young friend got a great offer. Good luck!

Case A

John came from an enterprising background - both his parents are successful entrepreneurs. As part of his IT sandwich degree programme, John was employed for one year by a small company involved in the design and development of web services. With the economic recession, the company was static, leaving employees were not being replaced and the financial position was becoming difficult.

John quickly showed his enterprising abilities and behaviours while being mentored by the company’s managing director, who was also the main creative influence and business driver. John was dynamic and energetic. He soon identified more useful and contemporary tools. He demonstrated initiative and innovation, initially in product reengineering and subsequently in new product proposal, design and development.

He impressed clients and was gradually given more responsibility in proposing and leading solutions with existing clients. This led to new clients and new directions in product and service provision within the company’s profile, enabling the company to embark on future expansion and growth rather than retrenchment.

John has developed his enterprise skills and made an impact on the company to such an extent that they have offered him share options to try to entice him to return on graduation.

Case B

Julie had worked for some years in IT service provision within a large public sector organisation. As a highly motivated individual, Julie identified a process improvement opportunity in relation to the organisation of training provision. All training had been centralised, much of it lacked specific relevance to IT services, and she saw several areas for improvement.

Julie engaged with colleagues in IT services to refine and gain acceptance of her proposal and ensure cooperation as she took her proposal forward. Discussions with colleagues led to their enthusiasm and willingness to contribute in such areas as sharing online course identification, review and evaluation in terms of relevance and quality.

Now she has developed a prototype portal with access to information on a wide range of appropriate training and is working towards gaining its adoption, linkage to human resource and other systems, and proposing its wider application to other public sector training specialisms.

Julie has developed her enterprising skills to such an extent that she is becoming more visible and identifiable to senior management as an enterprising individual possessing good innovative skills appropriate for improving effectiveness and efficiency in taking a large public sector organisation forward.

William Blackburn MSc CStat
Lecturer in Computing
University of Ulster

Dr Rafael Mompo
Director of the Electronic and Communications Department
Universidad Europea de Madrid

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  • 1
    Andy Butler wrote on 11th Jul 2010

    @ Rafa ---- As one of those smaller innovative companies which has been developing the revenue streams and profitability to finance research and development in data recovery software and hardware I have to agree with your statement " gagging a young entrepreneur’s energy is like throwing money down the drain" over 20 years ago I was a victim of just that.

    So now I am building my own enterprise and many of my staff have joined from larger organisations (some global) so that they could be part of a team that can help each other progress their knowledge and experience at a rate they could not achieve in other environments.

    In data recovery, the best software developers and hardware designers work collaboratively with feedback researchers and technicians worldwide.

    There is no substitute fo real world data recovery experience to enhance R&D to quickly identify developing problems and feedback into solutions. Some have tried the "fakeware" approach claiming to create tools that did not exist, this was one of the reasons which finally made me setup my own data recovery lab..

    What history shows us is teams like ours often get bought up and the impetus for enterprise and innovation killed dead.

    Over the years the big players have bought up the most successful and innovative in data recovery, Ontrack bought Vogon and Ibas, and Seagate bought Actionfront yet none have produced the equipment professional data recovery companies use on a daily basis.

    Hopefully in this next economic cycle the larger enterprises will find ways to capitalise on the smaller innovators and learn that by encouraging enterprising individuals the profits and markets developed are worth the investment.

    Andy Butler
    abc Data Recovery Ltd

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