For today’s businesses, growth and innovation go hand-in-hand. The same is true for individuals. People develop and advance professionally by being willing to move beyond their comfort zones to try new things, embrace new ideas, and expand their skills.

Fostering a growth mindset can be tremendously valuable for employees, as well as for their organization—but it doesn’t happen automatically. In fact, neuroscience shows that even the act of undergoing a traditional performance review can lead people to shrink from perceived risks, making them less innovative and productive. That’s why Citrix is changing the way we approach employee performance, development, and rewards to be more aligned with our strategy.

Our new approach is based not on high-stakes annual meetings, but on high-quality conversations throughout the year that are designed to motivate people toward creativity and excellence. This simple shift will make a big difference in our teams and on our ability to win in the marketplace.

Crossing the line of courage

In developing our new approach to employee performance, development, and rewards, we knew we had to create a process that helped our people make the extraordinary possible, reflected our values, and was true to our culture. We knew we had to be bold. We knew that in order to successfully achieve our mission, we needed to promote innovation and empowerment within our teams.

So, we started with a blank slate — with all hands on deck —and worked together to design a meaningful way forward — the Citrix way — that would benefit employees, the business, and our customers.

After organizing our thoughts, we looked at a wide range of companies in and out of the industry to gather best practices. Then, we invested a great deal of effort in understanding what employees needed, expected, and wanted through focus groups, conversations, and surveys. Finally, we explored the science behind human behavior—using proven data to illustrate the way perceptions of threat or reward can either motivate people to reach new heights or dampen their innovative spirit. The experts at the NeuroLeadership Institute talk about “crossing the line of courage”—gaining the confidence to take risks, venture into the unknown, and make new discoveries. That’s the nature of innovation and it’s a value we cherish in our employees, as much as in our business.

At Citrix, humans still rule

I don’t tire of saying that our people make Citrix special. When they flourish, so does our company and our customers, partners, and clients enjoy the benefits. This brings me to the third pillar, and the most complicated part of our new approach: working with (not against) the brain.

For even top-performing employees, an annual review can be unwelcome. It’s proven that when we are uncertain about our status and future prospects, we tend to scan any feedback for danger signs and cling to negativity rather than truly engaging in the discussion for our improvement. We’re changing that dynamic by shifting to more frequent and structured conversations where people know what to expect, and receive coaching and guidance instead of ratings. By helping people feel valued and respected, by giving them a sense of control about their career, and by emphasizing fairness, we can help them stay focused on driving value for the enterprise—not just protecting their own role in it.

No sandwiches

Over the course of my more-than-30-year career, I’ve lived through a lot of organizational trends. Some good, some bad — most somewhere in the middle. There was a time when managers were advised to deliver feedback using a formula of two compliments and a negative, with the undesirable content neatly nestled between the pieces of “good” news. They called this the “compliment sandwich” and there was nothing neat about it. It was well-intentioned, but flawed because, for starters, humans are smart and can sniff through the bologna (pun intended). Ultimately, the sandwich undermined the quality of the feedback given because we clung to the bad news and disregarded the compliments. The sandwich wasn’t actionable and often put good relationships at risk because it introduced doubt through disingenuousness.

Now, just because we don’t do “sandwiches” doesn’t mean we don’t address areas for improvement. The difference is that when someone is not performing, we tackle it head on, on the spot, without judgment, and take action with the goal of improving. This takes an additional level of courage, integrity and respect. It’s no coincidence those are three of Citrix five core values.

At Citrix, we’re all about gaining the confidence to take risks, venture into the unknown, and make new discoveries through meaningful, ongoing feedback. We’re getting into the rhythm of innovation. We try, we fail, we learn, and we try again, constantly communicating in order to avoid surprises. This way, setbacks don’t define us because our focus is on our contributions to the business and everyday progress.

This is why we’re dedicated to fostering a growth mindset that inspires people to do their best work.

By maintaining a culture of mutual respect, positivity, and learning, we can help people feel empowered and supported to take risks for the business. We know that if our talented employees are engaged, motivated, collaborative, and performing at their best, our company will be truly extraordinary.

Just as importantly, our approach to employee performance, development, and rewards is designed around insight, not just evaluation. Traditional performance reviews can interfere with insight by putting people on the defensive—especially whey they feel like they’re being graded. That’s one of the reasons we eliminated performance ratings—we’re not a company of labels, so why play by old, ineffective rules? Shifting the conversation to how we can move the business forward together can help people become more open to positive change.

We’ll work on doing fewer things—things that matter—and doing them better.

Reimagining the world, one employee at a time

We are a company of strong values and talented people who want to be accountable and in control of their contributions, career growth, and development. We are removing barriers to success, so that all of our people can continuously learn, grow, and deliver the results we all want to see. As a company, we’ve crossed the line of courage and are committed to powering a world where people, organizations, and things are securely connected and accessible to make the extraordinary possible. Will we make mistakes? Some, and they’ll lead us to greatness because we’re focused, open to learning, driven to innovate, and ready to take smart risks. Through it all, we’re in it together and we’re ready to win.