TalkingHeadz with Karen Mangia of Salesforce

by Dave Michels

From the inside flap of Working From Home

We knew virtual workplaces were coming, but we didn’t think they would come so soon. Yet, here we are, sitting in our home offices, trying to make sense of our now-remote careers. Do our employers still remember that we exist? How can we get noticed from a distance? What does it mean to lead and inspire a team that never meets face-to-face? These are pressing questions, and the dog isn’t much help in answering them. Thankfully, Karen Mangia has come to our rescue with Working From Home: Making the New Normal Work for You.

Offices are carefully planned work environments that emphasize focus and productivity. When we shift to remote roles, not only do we lose the benefit of meeting in person, we lose that emphasis and find ourselves isolated in spaces that might invite us to distraction. The first step to successfully working from home is to create an environment where you will thrive professionally. This book provides readers with sound advice on how to set up a virtual office, claim that work-from-home space, and begin remotely connecting with colleagues on a regular schedule.

Are effective communication, collaboration, and growth really possible in remote- work environments? As a member of the leadership team at Salesforce, author Karen Mangia has played a pivotal role in creating technology-enabled, virtual experiences and insights. This just-in-time book explores the ins and outs of remote collaboration, with expert guidance on creating team alignment and influence using tech tools and strategies. Every virtual team member and remote leader in today’s suddenly remote business world will want a copy of this book.


Dave Michels 3:03
So today we have with us Karen Mangia, Vice President of customer and market insights at Salesforce, and the author of three books. Last year 2020, she wrote two of them, one’s called Listen up how to tune into customers and turn down the noise. The one we’re going to be mostly talking about is called working from home, making the new normal work for you. And the way back in 2016. She wrote success with less obviously talking about the success of this podcast that they’re having to work with Evan. So welcome, Karen.

Karen Mangia 3:38
Well, thanks so much. And I love that we get to start with laughing we don’t have enough of that in our work from home world do we know Dave Michaels all the time.

Dave Michels 3:48
So let’s start off with you’re doing two things. You’re a corporate executive at a big company. And you’re also writing about things that you kind of work on. This must create some boundary issues, some balancing acts, is it difficult to balance your full time career at Salesforce, with being a public figure and talking to people like us and writing books, and sharing secrets to success without sharing secrets of Salesforce?

Karen Mangia 4:14
Well, very well said. And when I think about your question, I think we all have choices that we can make about where we set our boundaries and how we spend our time is certainly one of them. And so for me, I try to think about in any given day, week or month, what is it that matters most? To be able to find that effective blend of you know, some of these outside writing and creative pursuits and doing what I need to do with my day job and connecting with our customers. And so I kind of think about every conversation as a little listening endeavor for a book or a blog or something that might spark an idea for further exploration with a customer in a conversation. So who knows? You might hear something or see something that we talked About here show up as an idea sparked somewhere else at some point.

Evan Kirstel 5:04
I love it. And we want to talk in detail about your three books, which is more than three than, than Dave Michaels has written. But before we do that, you know, Salesforce is a fantastic, Li interesting organization, but very complex. So maybe explained to us and our listeners, what you do at Salesforce and kind of where you fit in this organization.

Karen Mangia 5:26
Salesforce is all about helping to connect you and your organization, with the information you need at the right time to take great care of your customers, and also now your employees. And so when I think about what we’re really trying to do, it’s to help us know each other better. I mean, we all love that feeling right when we are doing business with an organization or contacting support, for example, at a company, and they know something about us, our preferences, our history, even benchmarks of how we might be successful or use their products to the best benefit. And Salesforce makes all of that possible. And in my role, I’m fortunate to sit in our market Strategy Group, with very talented people who are keeping a pulse on literally what’s happening in the market, whether that’s with competitors, or big emerging themes and trends like the future of work.

Dave Michels 6:22
Salesforce is such an exciting company and interesting company and sun, that disruptive edge, obviously the CRM, but clouds Software as a Service, social responsibility, so many things going on there. But I’m going to say something that I know a lot of people won’t say out loud, but I think Salesforce is a dumb name for a company to employees ever talk about what a dumb name Salesforce is as a company?

Karen Mangia 6:44
Well, I have to tell you, we love working here. So you know, I think you should be wise about that. What I would say is What’s in a name. And the reality is we think the force is with us at Salesforce. So I guess in some way, shape or form is probably working out. With that said, we do take the very entrepreneurial approach to how we come up with the names of our products. And perhaps you’ve seen some of our mascots, these wonderful characters we have that are an extension of of our company. So I mean, when I think about us having a goat named cloudy, I mean, I feel like there’s still an opportunity to find a fit for you in our naming convention on some level.

Dave Michels 7:21
Yeah, no, I don’t mean to be mean about. It’s just that you’re doing so many unique and special things there. But every company has a Salesforce that’s like that just so mundane. But anyway, enough of that Evan

Evan Kirstel 7:31
will put that recommendation into Marc Benioff right away. Dave, thank

Dave Michels 7:35
you for that. Let them know my thoughts.

Evan Kirstel 7:36
Yeah, for that branding recommendation. But let’s dive into working from home making the new normal work for view your book published in March of 2020, which seems like eons ago, not just over a year ago. So Karen, could there have been better timing in the history of time to publish your book?

Karen Mangia 7:57
Well, it’s funny that you mentioned that because sometimes success shows up out of sequence. I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed that you have this perfect plan and you think things will follow as a linear

Dave Michels 8:07

Karen Mangia 8:11
Well, that would explain the Hawaiian shirts. I mean, wow. That’s why we call it five Oh, yeah. We’ll have to imagine ourselves to the listeners as deeply fashionable people write and be there in my story was so interesting, because I was contracted to write that book, listen up first. And when the pandemic happened, I thought my manuscript is due may 1, this will be wonderful, I’m not flying, I’m going to be home a lot, I can probably write a better book and have that book take less toll on me personally to write. So I got down to business wrote it submitted it may 1, and about a week and a half later, I was talking to my editor about the Listen up book. And we started talking about working from home. And I got curious, I just asked her in the publishing world, what’s it like to work from home? I mean, in tech, we’re used to having tools, right and, and accessing those tools from a variety of contexts. And we started talking and I shared, I’ve been writing this blog about working from home, and she was like working from home. Do you think you could write a book about that? And I laughed, which is not a good decision. I laughed, and I said, in my sleep, she said, Do you think you could do it in two weeks? I said, what is in your coffee? And she said, How about 30 days? And I said, why not? And I think those words, you know, open up possibilities, but working from home was written in 30 days, and it actually preempted the Listen up book. It came out first. So contracted second came up first. And what I would tell you is certainly a topic for our time.

Dave Michels 9:41
Amazing. In your book, you talk about rituals and routines and boundaries. And what do you mean by rituals? And are rituals a good thing or a bad thing?

Karen Mangia 9:53
Well, it depends. I mean, if you look at Michael Phelps, for example, I think we all watched his warm up ritual. When he was competing in the Olympics, do you remember this? You know, his

Dave Michels 10:03
very similar mind? Actually, yeah,

Karen Mangia 10:05
I know I do that too. I mean, I have a substantial wingspan at five to what can I say it’s daunting, people do not want to get in a ring with me, I am a fierce competitor. But if you watch him or any other high performance athlete, they almost always have a ritual, right? How you stretch maybe how you throw the ball, the music, you listen to that ritual, and really the purpose of it, and we need them in, in corporate America and organizational jobs as well. Those rituals put us in the zone to say I am changing to a different mode, I’m no longer relaxing, right? I’m no longer spending time with my family, or whatever else, I’m getting in the zone to do something different to do my best work. And I think those rituals are so powerful, because they are the basis of helping our muscle memory kick in and activate to say, How do I get moving here? How do I come up with an idea or connect? And how do I know that I’m fully present right here at work or in a competition depending on the kind of business you’re in.

Dave Michels 11:04
So Microsoft just came out with what they call a virtual commute, which was supposed to be your wind up and wind down to the day and kind of prepare your task and make notes and stuff like that. So that’s kind of what you’re talking about, have these little rituals before and after, and kind of signaling to your brain what, what’s next or what transition you’re in.

Karen Mangia 11:23
Yes, and I think about it in terms of something I call the five minute fix. And here’s why I say this, I think great routines and rituals that I have seen people execute and sustain in this virtual world of work, where the boundary between home and life and work is completely erased, at this point, are these little five minute activities that create upside for you. I’ll give you an example. I happen to love the music of Queen. So listening to four minutes and 58 seconds exactly in length, by the way of Don’t stop me now is a great way to get my day going every single day because that’s my five minute ritual. It’s upside, I love it. At the end of the day, that looks like a five minute walk. Because that’s bigger upside to me than staring into this box and doing more email or giving into that just one more syndrome. And what I find is these small rituals, these small routines help us form a boundary of when work starts and stops, so that we avoid that scope creep of suddenly, where did the night go? Where did the weekend go? Why am I still working that ultimately people will tell you leads to burnout

Dave Michels 12:32
at Night at the Opera Evans ritual is a day of the races. But Okay, enough of that one. Thank you.

Evan Kirstel 12:38
Yeah, that’s great. I love BJ Fogg and his tiny habits book. So this could be a new, tiny habit I might need to adopt. Karen, what do you think about the pandemic forcing people to work much longer hours at home than they ever did before? Was this a surprise to you? What do you think happened there?

Karen Mangia 12:59
I think that your laptop has become your pantry. You know how this happens, right? You’re at home and you’re thinking to yourself, I’m going to have this great habit, I’ll drink more water, perhaps right. So you go to your kitchen. And in the process of refilling that water bottle or cup, what happens? Last night’s leftovers start calling you from the refrigerator, someone in your house has baked cookies and left them on the stove. They don’t even look good anymore. But you are compelled to take a bite because they are calling your name whether you’re hungry or not. And just like grazing all day long is not a healthy habit, food perspective. grazing on work all day long and at all hours isn’t a good habit either. And those routines, rituals and boundaries are so critical because they help you shut that pantry door. That is your laptop. And that is work. And what I would contend is, we say that we’re working more and I would question are we getting more done? Because in this work from home world, what we need to do is replace these dated terms like productivity, right? And hours worked with really what are the outcomes you’re producing? I mean, I could be in front of my laptop, as could all of you all day long. And I mean, I could appear to be very busy. I could consume many hours attending webinars and answering emails. Are those things inherently the outcomes? I’m expected to deliver in my job that create value for our customers in our company? Not really. So but I would question is, if we took a pause, and evaluated Am I clear on the outcomes? I’m trying to deliver an Am I aligning my time and best energy with delivering those outcomes? Would we be working so much? Or is it possible that we’re mindlessly grazing on work the way we can mindlessly graze on snacks in the pantry?

Dave Michels 14:43
Hmm, that’s interesting. I haven’t and I’ve been working from home for a long time. And so at least I shouldn’t be forever, but at least I didn’t think it was that big of a transition to work from home. But I guess what I didn’t fully appreciate was that most people that were working from home before the pandemic were doing so voluntarily. And a lot of people were forced into this against their will, often kicking and screaming. And it really had a pretty big impact. And so things like the virtual green screens in the video, you know, I thought it was kind of a cute, silly feature. But it became a necessary feature for privacy because not everyone, the non voluntary, didn’t volunteer to share their homes with their colleagues, did you see a lot of that type of adjustments and reactions, because the non voluntary, we’re kind of, we’re kind of forced into this?

Karen Mangia 15:27
Well, it’s, you’re suddenly inviting professional people into your personal context. And I think in so many ways, we’ve learned this behavior, for better or worse, that you should have some boundaries, maybe everyone at work doesn’t need to see everything that’s happening in your life and vice versa. And I think it’s also challenged this construct of what we believe it means to be a professional, I mean, because let’s face it, when you go into the office, you can pretty largely pretend like you don’t have a life. And that doesn’t ever, this life doesn’t ever creep up and disrupt your ability to do work, right. Because you can put some boundaries around it, you have physical separation, but you know, you appear to be fully present. Whereas when you’re doing work from your home context, and life shows up in the form of your pets, or your kids or the UPS delivery person ringing your doorbell and needing the signature, it’s very difficult to pretend that you’re not spending every moment of the day focused on work, as we all believe that successful people must be doing. And so that is uncomfortable. The other piece too is we have people working in all kinds of spaces. You know, if you are an urban dweller, perhaps or in in many parts of the world, you might have multiple roommates, and there’s no walls, and now you’re all working from home. And so I think what those backgrounds and even if those are, you know, virtual pop up backgrounds have done is a couple of things. First of all, give people that sense of privacy and professionalism. It’s also personalization, right, I’m sure you’re noticing this now how creative people are getting, you know, it’s the photograph of the vacation or the trip, they’re dreaming of taking, you know, some wonderful seascape. So it is a tool to the degree as well that people want to share something about themselves with what they put in their background.

Dave Michels 17:08
Interesting. I understand you were on the Salesforce work from home counsel. So two questions. Were you there? When was that counsel created? And what did it do?

Evan Kirstel 17:19
And was it like the Jedi Council? Yeah.

Karen Mangia 17:23
Well, it was a little bit mysterious. I was hoping for lightsabers, or something where we got to tour the inside of like area 51. Even virtually, I’m disappointed to report that didn’t happen. However, I do believe that we activated some kind of alternate universe that was previously unbeknownst to many of us. And what surprised me so much, I received the initial invitation for a mysterious looking meeting at the end of February or very early March. And I remember, we’ve all had this happen before you get a calendar invite from people who you know. And so therefore, you think you sort of know the content of the meeting and what it’s about. And when I joined the meeting, and I looked as confused as the couple of other people who were there with me and the two senior leaders in our business that Congratulations, you’re now the work from home Task Force. You’re very adept at working from home working from anywhere. And we’re going to be closing down all of our offices and sending our employees home simultaneously. And we need you to stay on this call with us as long as it takes to build a plan. And I remember thinking, that’s not going to happen. We have great offices, we love to go to our offices at Salesforce. Right this was we have many towers, and this was before you know, the the pandemic was as real as it certainly became. And I thought, How strange would we really do that. And so I remember there was one guy on there who’s very expert with the actual technology underpinnings of a home office, they’re like, you build us the bill of materials of what people need, and about how much that would cost, you know, when they’re doling out these tasks. And I thought, this is so fascinating. What came to me in that early time was, for example, if you are an employee or a manager to the example you provided earlier, who’s never worked from home, it is a substantial shift to consider taking something like a performance review conversation, or a career development conversation or a new product launch or anything else, and putting that into a virtual world. And then add on this layer of people needing to feel safe and having concerns about that. And so I thought how are we going to talk to each other even? I mean, what’s our new language of leadership? How do we communicate? And my sense at that time wasn’t it has really proven out to be true is the pandemic and work and the style of work that we took on has really shifted the manager employee relationship. I mean, we suddenly started expecting our bosses to check in on are we physically safe we started expecting our company’s right to help keep us safe or assure us that we could get through this together. And it really changes the dynamic of those relationships and how work happens and what we’re expecting from our companies, employers. And in fact, the Edelman trust index that comes out every year, this past year for 2020 was the first time that that people who responded to the survey rated the institution in which they have their highest level of trust as the company where they work. Well, I mean, yeah, so think about that. It’s, as we’re, we’re capping shifted, the pandemic also forced a what we expect of the people we work for, and with shift in a really unprecedented way.

Evan Kirstel 20:38
Interesting. So Salesforce did announce that two thirds of its staff will likely work remotely indefinitely. So are you one of those two thirds,

Karen Mangia 20:49
I am one of those two thirds in the way we’ve made our announcement, we are making it possible for people to work from home, through the end of December, kind of no questions asked whatever your scenario might be. And then we really are working on three designations of workers. So some people who will be in the office full time at a point going forward, and that’s fully safe, because their job really requires it, we will have a percentage of our workforce that will be hybrid flex, meaning you’re in the office one to three days a week. And then you know, our full time virtual and remote and that is the category that I fall into, even though there’s actually a Salesforce office within walking distance of my house.

Evan Kirstel 21:29
Wow. And what do you think for many people? Why is working from home so hard? What’s the psychology there? For me, it’s like you said access to this kitchen. But what about you and others? Do you find it difficult

Karen Mangia 21:44
connection is the primary reason connection and collaboration that people will share, they want to return to an office, there is a moment when you’re coming up with an idea with someone or deepening a relationship. We’re we’re conditioned to do that in person, you know, have access to more nonverbal cues, that sense of community is often much more pronounced when we can be together in person. And for me, I think like many folks, part of feeling great about where you work is having relationships with the people you work with. And sometimes those are cultivated over a dinner, or a coffee in person, or the happy hour, whatever that might look like for you. And so I’m an extrovert, I miss that energy of being with people just like everyone else, what I think about is, where do I need to be at any given moment to be doing my best work, I mean, I write a lot and create a lot of original content, which means sometimes, I need to be in a very quiet place by myself with very few distractions, and maybe not spending time on a commute. There are other times where perhaps that collaboration or outcome will take the form of CO creation. And I would love to be able to get into a conference room with a colleague or a customer and draw on a whiteboard, right? There’s something to that iterative co creation dynamic and person that I think we all miss from time to time.

Dave Michels 23:05
Yeah, I think the image of work from home has really changed, particularly last year, but changed over the years. It used to be kind of a slacker, or maybe everything wrong with you, you know, it’s like that, but it’s really changed. And, and last year, we saw, you know, people like my wife, for example, who were adamantly opposed to working from home, not only do it but embrace it, actually analysis questioning, never going back. Do you agree with me that the concept is more or less changed? And do you think there’s like stages to the adoption or stages to work from home?

Karen Mangia 23:35
What I think about is the difference between something being kind of allowed versus accepted. And what comes to mind for me are the number of times based on your comment that I have worked with organizations over the past year, that have have said to me, Listen, for us, working from home is what you do if you’re not that serious about your career. And now for a myriad of reasons, we’re making this a full time option going forward, and people at all levels of the organization are taking this option. How do we shift the culture to make work from home not just something that you do that perceptually makes people think you’re kind of phoning in your career or maybe not fully focused? And so I think it’s how do we change this culture of work? You know, when I think about these categories, it’s what is the work that needs to be done? then where does that work need to happen, you know, from a physical kind of construct, and then what’s the workforce that’s aligned to it, and you might have people in all kinds of roles that could do their jobs from home and perhaps do them even better. And then the workflow, man, how do we make sure we have some workflows in place so that as we have some people in the office and some outside or we’ve got the promotion process that needs to be revisited, that we’re putting kind of the tools in place that help us make that more seamless, not just a Hey, we were all together in person. Now, we have kind of tool to capture that.

Evan Kirstel 25:01
Fantastic. Let me ask you a few questions about your newest book called Listen up, how to turn down the noise of customers, which sounds a little provocative as a title. While it’s actually

Karen Mangia 25:14
the wrong title, you got there. So I think that’s why it sounds so provocative book is called, listen up how to tune into customers and turn down the noise.

Dave Michels 25:26
Oh, that’s it. I blew it.

Karen Mangia 25:29
That’s okay. I mean, I think that the book that you just said, though, would fall heavily into a clickbait category, which, who knows, you know, that could be a strategy as well,

Evan Kirstel 25:38
I’m gonna write that book. I butchered this so badly, I’m not even sure how to proceed, we have to just sign off a chain.

Karen Mangia 25:46
No, I think it’s, it calls to mind a leader, we were talking about this kind of a merging of the working from home and customer listening. And as I was doing research for both books, I had the opportunity to spend time with the CEO of a plumbing company. And one of the challenges well before the pandemic he had been trying to solve was new market expansion. And this challenge, also of having his staff of plumbers and his existing staff take on overtime work, right, as opposed to having to find a secondary workforce. Now picture in the plumbing business, right, you get forced into working from home. And they started listening to what their customers needed, which people still need plumbing services, even during a pandemic. And he essentially comes to an understanding between listening to his employees and listening to his customers about how to solve these challenges. And he was just fixated on this idea that to do their jobs. Well, they had to physically be at a warehouse waiting for an on call moment, or they physically had to have an office or a presence in the city to expand to a market there. And he went back to his team after they actually grew their business substantially during the pandemic. And he realized that what was preventing them from growing and from getting his own staff to be incredibly engaged and work the overtime hours with him was how attached he was to having people physically be in a space together. And I’ll never forget what he said to me, he said, he realized this model would work it it forced him to have to challenge everything about his values and beliefs, right related to work. And you can borrow his phrase that stuck with me. He just said to his team, two simple words, I’ve reconsidered so that could be your take on the title I’ve reconsidered and now you just get to go in a new direction. Right? That moment was then this moment is now

Evan Kirstel 27:40
completely blame Dave Michaels for sabotaging the title here. I apologize on his behalf again.

Dave Michels 27:48
You monster you,

Evan Kirstel 27:49
the book is called How to tune into customers and turn down the noise. I’ve just added it to my shopping cart on Amazon. So thanks for writing it.

Dave Michels 27:57
So Karen, I’m gonna ask you a question. And I gotta warn you, this is the kind of question that’s gonna get you fired. So be careful how you answer this one ready? Regarding Listen up. We all agree that customers love to be heard, and they should be heard and all that. So that’s it. That’s the key premise of your book. And I think that’s great. So the question is, money context in our companies that we work with him in concluding in CRM companies that you work with, are using more and more artificial intelligence as a way of managing customer conversations. So can AI Listen,

Karen Mangia 28:31
AI can listen, and something I think AI can do that is very helpful, is AI can be a very powerful tool to help your employees in your organization hear literally the voice of the customer in new ways. And I’ve got a number of examples of companies that are using AI, for example, to go through their call center calls and be able to select a couple of representative conversations that they can literally play for senior executives, in conjunction with some other ways they’re listening. They’re using it to you know, distribute information about who their customers are, and bring that voice of customer literally to life throughout the organization. And AI can be very helpful in recommending next best actions that customer facing people can take to connect with their clients. Now, certainly, we still need to have human to human conversations. So I think about it as how do we have some human guided intelligence. And one of the challenges and promises of AI is we’ve got to ask better questions. Right? I mean, artificial intelligence is only going to answer the question that you posed to it or the hypothesis that you program it for. And I talked a lot and listen up about some new questions we can ask to change the conversation and open up the conversation. And I think that starts person to person and then can be supported and scaled using AI.

Dave Michels 29:54
Well navigated could answer there. All right. All right. Let’s wrap this up with one final question about We’re seeing a big trend with contact center agents working at home. Is that both of your books? Or is that a new book? How do you feel about contact center agents at home? Well,

Karen Mangia 30:10
FedEx was an early pioneer in sending a lot of their contact center agents at home. And in so doing, yes. And in so doing, they made sure their employees were very connected to their, what they call the purple promise, which is make every customer experience outstanding. And then they have metrics that go along with that. And as you get your reviews, sort of each week, and month and quarter on those metrics, it ties back to the type of customer experience you’re delivering. So I think they were kind of a pioneer and trying that out. And certainly other companies that followed suit, again, I would say find ways to help people live and work at their best. And for a lot of companies, that’s a very viable option. I do believe FedEx was a pioneer in that space. And, and so it kind of does span Listen up and, and working from home and my next book coming out in the fall the work from anywhere blueprint.

Evan Kirstel 31:01
Stick well definitely come back and share your insights with that book. Thanks for so much for putting up with Dave Michaels and sharing all of your insights.

Karen Mangia 31:09
Well, I mean, it has been a struggle, but I’ve got to be honest with you. It was getting a little lonely here in my home office. So I’m glad we could be together. All right, awesome. Thank you, Karen.