January 16th, 2013 | 1:00 pm

5 Ways to Bring Entrepreneurial Energy to Your Corporate Career

filed under Expert Answers

Contributed by Ekaterina Walter, author of Think Like Zuck

I was attending a big event for entrepreneurs. I was in the world of young founders and Facebook wannabes. At some point a guy who I was having a conversation with leaned over and asked what I did. He seemed disappointed when I told him I worked for a big brand. “Oh,” he said, “that would drive me nuts.” What he meant was that the lack of agile decision-making, high levels of bureaucracy, and the lack of opportunities for fast advancement.

Now wait just a minute! That’s just a lazy excuse, I thought to myself. I have worked in a number of large companies in my career and, even though I did see some of the shortcomings this gentleman was so afraid of, I have also seen amazing innovation happen. I don’t believe for a second that one has to be an entrepreneur to leave a mark on the world or pursue a dream.

But no matter where we are, we do need some guidance, a roadmap, to living a full life or building a successful career.

In writing my book, Think Like Zuck, I looked at what makes organizations, small and large, successful. I looked at companies like Facebook, Threadless, Dyson, 3M, Zappos, TOMS Shoes and others. And what I realized is that they have a lot of things in common. From there I created a framework and combined those things into 5 categories, 5 Ps. Today, however, I want to use this framework not to talk about the business and organizational success, but rather to talk about professional success on a personal level. And I’d like to do it from a female perspective.

  • Passion. One thing women don’t lack is passion. And that’s what makes us so good at what we do. Passion gives you energy, it feeds your motivation, it fuels perseverance that’s required to truly disrupt. One will only succeed if she cares deeply about something. So when you hear remarks like “pipe down,” “you need to be more reserved,” “don’t get all emotional”, I say ignore it. Just like women are great at listening to their gut, they need to listen to their passions. Act on them! And in the process charge up everyone else around you, rally them behind your mission. That’s what great leaders do. (Note: there is a difference between drama and a passionate belief.)
  • Purpose. Successful people have one big thing in common: they have purpose. They know who they are and what they are put on this earth to do. It is not always easy to find your path. But you cannot expect to be successful if you don’t know what you want and where you are going. Understand your passions and your motivations and based on that define your purpose. Stand by it and don’t be afraid to take risks. And when your goals seem unachievable, break them into small steps and walk your path one step at a time.
  • People. To help you get where you are going, bring the right people along. The right people are those who share the same beliefs and the same mission. They are the ones who complement you in skills, attitude and courage. Bring them on board and then empower them to do what they do best. Trust them, listen to them openly, and thank them often. And have fun along the way.
  • Product. No matter what your job is – be excellent at it. Always look for ways to improve and to serve others. Be an insatiable learner; always ask “why?” and “why not?” Do not be afraid to make mistakes, it is okay to fail your way to amazing things. Forgive yourself for indiscretions every now and then, but never give up.
  • Partnerships. There are different kinds of partnerships. We partner with our spouses, with our colleagues, our vendors, even our customers. But do we partner with each other? Do we, as women, support each other and propel each other’s success? Do we praise our fellow female colleagues and help them rise to new heights? Or do we still think it’s a man’s world and each one if out there for herself? Madeleine Albright once said: “There is a special place in Hell for women who don’t help other women.”

    It is my belief that we are stronger when we support each other than when we are apart. We learn, we grow, we achieve amazing things when we have each other’s back. I believe it is our responsibility to mentor younger generations, pass on our knowledge to them, and cultivate their passions. And since women are not usually very good at bragging about their accomplishments, we need to support our female colleagues in recognizing their successes publicly and rewarding them for the work well done.

I would love to hear from you – what are your thoughts on the 5Ps?

Ekaterina Walter is a social innovator at Intel, speaker, and the author of “Think Like Zuck: The Five Business Secrets of Facebook’s Improbably Brilliant CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

3 comments

  1. Cindy Wilson

    Working with women to help them to see the breadth and width of their talents can be quite a struggle. You have provided me with a concise way to help them to elevate themselves and to reach for the next level of their career.

    I think it is expecially improtant that you have added the note: drama and passion are not the same. This statement alone will help them identify true passion.

    THanks
    Cindy

  2. Nicole Davis

    I am a 27 yr old female who works for a major oil and gas company. I’m one of the few women in my dept. Everyday is a new challenge and that is one part of my job that I love. I take my job personally; its a part of me and I find that when I am succesfful at it, I feel better about myself. I recently had a minor oversight that led to some financial implications and I felt like my husband had just divorced me. Everyone told me that mistakes happen, and I beat myself up over it, to the point where I didnt sleep for a few days. I always thought that perhaps I was too emotional about my work, but your article is great support that taking one’s job personally is ok. In fact its more than ok, its a key factor to success. Thank you for helping to give women like myself confidence in knowing that having passion and drive will help us succeed in life and reach the higher goals of senior management that I strive everyday for.

  3. Loraine Huchler

    I could not agree more! Last November, I spoke to nearly a 1000 women engineers at The Society of Women Engineers’ National Conference in Houston Texas about the threads of entrepreneurship that run through the lives of all successful engineers – as I was recognized as the recipient of the SWE Entrepreneur Award for 2012.
    My short remarks are available on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFGj_F5ZC4g&feature=youtu.be