Human Resolve HR

Salesforce Exec on Leading 50,000 Employees through Change

Karen Mangia | VP of Customer and Market Insights, Salesforce

“Success is as much about what you divest as where you invest.” Author, thought leader and big tech exec, Karen Mangia says that accepting opportunities often requires declining others – an important step in progressing toward your goals.

With over twenty years of experience engaging with customers and growing revenue at Fortune 50 companies, Karen is now the Vice President of Customer and Market Insights at Salesforce. Recently, she’s helped more than 50,000 employees around the world adapt to a remote work lifestyle during the pandemic, a way of life she’s been accustomed to for almost two decades.

After suffering from a mysterious yet serious illness for years, Karen reimagined success, allowing her to live a happier, healthier and more prosperous life — entirely on her terms. 

In the pilot episode of Human Resolve, Karen discusses what she’s learned from almost twenty years of remote work experience, how her definition of success has transformed through her life, and what vulnerability can offer your professional life.

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Meet Karen

Karen Mangia is an internationally-recognized thought leader whose TEDx appearance, keynotes, blogs and books reach hundreds of thousands of business leaders each year. She is the author of Working from Home: Making the New Normal Work for You, Success With Less and most recently, Listen UP! How to Tune Into Customers and Turn Down the Noise. A prolific blogger and sought-after media interview, she has been featured in Forbes and regularly contributes to Thrive Globaland ZDNet.

As Vice President of Customer and Market Insights at Salesforce, she engages current and future customers around the world to discover new ways of creating success and growth together. She serves on the company’s Work from Home Taskforce, where she is helping the company’s 50,000+ worldwide employees to better adapt to a work-from-home environment. Passionate about diversity and inclusion, she also serves on the company’s Racial Equality and Justice Taskforce. Prior to Salesforce, she spearheaded Customer Satisfaction and Experience at Cisco Systems.

Recognized with the Centurion Award, Hall of Fame Honoree and a Graduate of Distinction from Ball State University; part of the 40 under 40 in the Indianapolis Business Journal; and Ivy Tech Distinguished Alumni Award. She is a trained chef, and is active in numerous community organizations, including serving on the board of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and Ball State University.

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Karen Mangia

Show Notes

“Success is as much about what you divest as where you invest.” Author, big tech leader and amateur climber, Karen Mangia says that accepting opportunities often requires declining others, an important step in progressing toward your goals.

With over 20 years of experience engaging with customers and growing revenue at Fortune 50 companies, Karen is now the Vice President of Customer and Market Insights at Salesforce. Recently, she’s helped more than 50,000 employees around the world adapt to a remote work lifestyle during the pandemic, a way of life she’s been accustomed to for almost two decades.

In the past, Karen’s formula for success was to say yes to everything – “make it look easy and then deliver the results.” But that formula only scaled to a certain point in her career. After suffering from a major medical crisis, she felt a sudden urge to redefine success.

Realizing everyone has “finite time and energy,” Karen faced a pivotal moment in her life: She now urges listeners to put their energy toward the things that really matter while removing those that don’t advance them toward their larger goals.

While recovering from a mysterious yet major medical setback, Karen’s executive coach encouraged her to take a vacation where she didn’t check any emails or return any missed calls – something she had never done before. The pause was a chance for Karen to bask in silence and understand the importance of her mental health.

When she returned to work, she joked that the organization was shockingly still operating just as before. However, she recognized how her “always-on” behavior and goal of perfection slowly devastated her team over time. It made them believe that to get ahead, they also needed to portray her same “perfect” image.

Recognizing the power of vulnerability and authenticity in the workplace – whether virtual or in-person –, Karen now guides leaders through her books and speaking engagements. She hopes to instill the same valuable lessons of clear communication to her thousands of followers and employees around the globe.

Karen’s call for business leaders to be true to who they are is massively important now. Rightfully nicknamed the “Great Reset,” this period of time in which many organizations are working from home requires managers and employees to establish a mutual trust and understanding, only molded by a strong bond.

Karen sees 2020 as an invitation for leaders to show authenticity. “That authenticity, just like we were talking about [with] vulnerability, is uncomfortable, but it’s also a skill that can be taught.”

Notable Quotes

Defining success for yourself and
putting your best energy forward

“When I hit a major medical crisis and I couldn’t say ‘yes’ to everything, for the first time, I was forced to confront that we have finite time and finite energy. You have to get really clear about defining success for you, so that you can put your best energy toward what matters most. But also, so that you can take the obligations, people and experiences out of your life that no longer serve you or move you closer to that goal.”

Pausing deliberately
to feel empowered

“Success to me at that point in my life was ‘I want to be healthy enough to enjoy my life.’ When I chose to pause saying yes to everything and people-pleasing, I felt empowered because I chose the pause. It kind of energized me and I felt different because I took that pause in order to put energy toward what mattered most.”

Meeting crisis with compassion
for every employee

“Meeting crisis with compassion is always the first step [in helping employees cope with difficult situations]. I have so much respect for HR professionals and people who are really in the position of meeting employees literally as a whole human being. Every aspect of fear, uncertainty, worry and hopelessness — all of those feelings — and what it takes to be present in that moment for each person is a very special gift and a very cultivated discipline. We need more of that.”

Struggles with vulnerability
are a trust issue

“When I came back from [my two-week vacation], this is what stuck with me to this day about how powerful vulnerability is in the workplace and how critical it is to make space for people to show up as real and authentic. My team said, ‘We are so glad you finally trusted us enough to take a break and leave us here to be in charge.’ It had never occurred to me that my struggle to be vulnerable and show up as real showed up to them as a trust issue.”

Break down your goals into small steps

“It doesn’t matter what your starting point is — if you’re struggling with your boss, managing e-learning with your kids, getting people to listen to your great idea at your job — when you set that goal, break it down into the smallest steps you can take. And then celebrate that.”

HR professionals must also be
business partners

“There’s really a strong call to action for our HR professionals to be business partners and help senior leaders, especially, and all people managers. Think through what training they need for crisis communication, connection, vulnerability, because — if your organization has largely functioned on being a go-to-the-office culture or where people can be in person frequently — this is a really significant shift.”

Middle managers are critical to success

“I’m very passionate that that middle layer of managers is critical to the success or failure of work from home or a distributed workforce at your company because they’re under pressure to deliver up. They’re also intercepting the reality of how employees are really feeling and what they’re needing. So if you’re going to start somewhere, with thinking about the training or being the HR partner that steps up, I really think that middle layer of managers and how you help them feel seen and heard, how can you make some purposeful investments in elevating them, and gifting them and equipping them with the skills they need to lead effectively.” 

Establishing new leadership norms
in this period of authenticity

“This time’s being called ‘the Great Pause’ or ‘the Great Reset.’ What I think is this time is an invitation to authenticity. Every leader is now being invited to show up as your authentic self because you can no longer pretend like you don’t have kids, or you don’t have a pet, or you don’t leave to get your haircut, or whatever that looks like for you. That authenticity, just like we were talking about vulnerability, is uncomfortable. And it’s also a skill that can be taught.”

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