You’re probably wondering about the chain of events that led to me hiring a harmonica tutor and asking him to teach my 250 team members them to play John Mayall’s Room to Move.
I’ll get to the specific details around why this was an effective teaching aid later, but at its heart, this was about instilling an intrapreneurial and adventurous spirit in my team across Northern Europe. Not because it’s cool to be an intrapreneur or because we want to “think like a start-up,” but because ultimately this is what I believe leads to growth.
The paradox is that growth creates complexity, and complexity is the killer of growth.
Citrix is 30 years old this year, and we’ve become a powerhouse of the technology world, delivering solutions to 400,000 organisations, including almost all the Fortune 500. We’ve also become a heavily matrixed organisation, where people often have to manage multiple stakeholders (internal and external), who may have conflicting priorities. On top of this, typically there are lots of regional, global and corporate functions involved in major project, such as a large-scale desktop-as-a-service customer roll-out — so you can see how things start to get complex.
So complex in fact, that I saw an opportunity to move back to more of a growth mindset and, therefore, deliver better business value and superior solutions to our customers.
The Value of a Growth Mindset
Back to the harmonica lesson. Within my team, it’s a known fact that people feel most engaged when they are out of their comfort zone. Not so far out that they feel panicked or really stressed, but enough for them to activate the problem-solving parts of their brains.
Research from Yale, published in the neuroscience journal Neuron, demonstrated that when you’re unsure of your environment, your skills — or both — a signal is sent to your brain to kick-start learning.
I’ve always tried to push my team into this zone of “uncertainty” in their jobs. I wanted to demonstrate the normalcy around having low-level feelings of anxiety and embarrassment when asked to do something new. The harmonica lesson was a vehicle for teaching my team about what a “growth mindset” actually feels like, not just a team-building exercise designed to fill a couple of hours on a corporate away-day agenda.
But a willingness to try new things isn’t the only ingredient for success. Strong personal relationships, as well as a shared sense of purpose, are also vital.
Turning Shared Purpose into Success
Understanding a team’s purpose means understanding why some ideas within an organisation are great, while others fall flat. In my experience, and as shared purpose within my team grows, I see less of a haphazard “see what sticks’”approach, and see more ideas formed from strategic innovation. And as a result, I’ve started to see members of my team find the confidence to speak up — either directly to me or to others within the team to get feedback on their ideas.
Once finessed, I try and give people the resources and permissions they need to run with that new idea and make it happen. This to me is real intraprenurism, and it’s leading to excellent technology and service delivery, and importantly, growth.
It took between six months to a year to change behaviours. And truthfully, the team’s culture shift was initially met with a mixture of enthusiasm, cynicism, and indifference. Leaders trying to implement change should be prepared for this, and more importantly, they should be ready to back up their thinking with practical initiatives, a willingness to get their hands dirty, and the passion to drive things forward.
Now I get people coming to me with problems, ideas, and initiatives. The best part? Our performance as a region has sky-rocketed as a result.