In business, change is inevitable. That can be unsettling for employees, as they move from the known and familiar into an uncertain future. We can’t entirely eliminate that uncertainty or the anxiety it can bring—it’s human nature to fear the unknown. But as the pace of change increases for many organizations, especially in our own tech industry, there are things everyone can do to embrace change and move the business forward.
Citrix has experienced tremendous change over the past couple of years. We’ve adapted to changes in the marketplace, such as the explosion of cloud computing, that has created new opportunities and reshaped the market for virtual apps, data, and workspaces. And as much as we valued our GoTo product line, we recognized that it was no longer aligned with our future direction, so we made the strategic decision to sell the business to LogMeIn. We’ve also made several changes within our executive leadership team, including CEO changes, in the past two years. And we’ve shifted our organization from a business unit structure to a functional structure.
With all of these changes, we knew we had to redefine our company in fundamental ways, beginning with our mission, strategy, culture and values, and extending across our products, services, operations, and the way we interface with customers. Within HR, we also changed our reporting lines, individual roles and responsibilities, and our approach for developing and rewarding our employees.
If that sounds like a lot, it was actually a piece of cake… (just kidding!) But I’m happy to report that it’s been well worth the effort. Today, Citrix is doing well both in terms of products and business performance. Our workforce is highly engaged and we’ve recently been named a Great Place to Work. We still have a lot of work to do, and there’s always room to grow, but we’re proud of our successes during this time of intense change. It’s been a learning experience for all of us, and I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned along the way. Whether you’re a senior leader, a people manager or an individual contributor, here are my six tips for leading change.
1. Build on the bright spots
The lessons of the past are vital in helping you build a successful future, but it’s important to keep it in perspective. Don’t take a negative view of the past; honor it. Your company’s history is filled with successes and lessons that you can learn and grow from. Embrace the things that have fueled your success to date and build on them as you move forward. What can you improve on, modify, and modernize to thrive in a changing business environment?
2. Create a feedback culture
Change isn’t just something that happens to employees — it’s something they can help to make happen. When team members have the opportunity to provide input for a transition, they feel invested and motivated to support the change. As a leader, you can create practices and infrastructure to welcome new ideas and thoughts from your workforce. And as an individual contributor, you can provide meaningful feedback whenever you have the chance. At Citrix, we’ve done this through interviews and focus groups around the globe, our annual engagement survey, quarterly pulse surveys, monthly global employee town hall sessions and enterprise social media. This can become a self-reinforcing circle: as people see that their feedback is being taken seriously and used, their trust grows and their contributions increase. In recent years, we’ve seen the participation rate in our annual engagement survey reach an average of 90%.
3. Focus on what you can control
As much as you incorporate employee feedback into your journey of change, you can’t please everyone. That’s especially true with the kinds of strategic decisions only your senior leaders can make. But whether you’re a manager or an individual contributor, you can respond well to change. A positive attitude can go a long way to communicate trust in your colleagues, team and leadership, and it’ll help you feel happier and more engaged. Even if some of the changes aren’t the ones you would have chosen, does the new direction offer opportunities to improve your skills, collaborate in new ways with your co-workers or embrace new challenges? Getting outside of your comfort zone can be a great way to learn—and the way you rise to new challenges is something you can control.
4. Offer to help
Change is always a team effort. Reach out to your managers and leaders to see what you can do to support the change. You should feel empowered to engage with and lead the change. That includes asking managers and leaders about any questions or confusion you may have; you’re probably not the only one with similar questions, and by helping communicate their answers to the rest of the team, you can make the transition that much smoother. Just try to be constructive and empathetic with any tough questions you have; change can be unsettling for managers, too.
5. Emphasize solutions, not problems
If you see potential issues, I definitely recommend you raise it with your manager. But don’t stop with problems; try to bring solutions. Instead of saying “Here are all the ways this can go wrong,” say “Here are a few ways we can help make sure this goes right.” If it’s something beyond your control, don’t dwell on it. Focus on the positive contributions you can make to your company’s success.
6. Pursue meaningful progress, not perfection
Don’t let “perfect” be the enemy of “good.” Set clear expectations, but remember that consistent, forward progress is more important than making everything perfect. As problems or mistakes come to light, acknowledge and learn from them, then encourage people to find solutions — that’s the nature of innovation. Most importantly, celebrate wins along the way, so that people keep their eyes on the future you’re creating together, not on the bumps you experience along the way.
You may have noticed a theme running through these tips — an emphasis on acknowledging both strengths and weaknesses, and understanding that there’s always room for improvement. That’s what we at Citrix call a “growth mindset,” and it’s our secret weapon for overcoming organizational change. A growth mindset means always striving to advance your skills and get better at your job. In an industry and era defined by rapid change, the only way to stay relevant is through innovation and agility. If you and your colleagues are empowered and inspired to grow and adapt with change, and do your best to be your best, your company can succeed in any environment, no matter how much change there is.