Rising Through Resilience: Karen Mangia of Salesforce On The Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient During Turbulent Times

An Interview With Savio P. Clemente

Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine

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Ponder your values. Values are your guiding principles and your core beliefs. Examples include spirituality, wellbeing, family relationships, justice, and so on. Get specific. Choose your top value.

Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Karen Mangia.

Karen Mangia is an executive at Salesforce, and her work focuses on strategies for personal and professional success. She is the author of four books: Success from Anywhere: Your Personal Guide to Creating the Future of Work from the Inside Out (Wiley, 2021), Success with Less: Releasing Obligations & Discovering Joy (Marie St. Press, 2016), Listen Up! How to Tune in To Customers, And Turn Down the Noise (Wiley, 2020), and Working from Home: Making the New Normal Work for You (Wiley, 2020). Thinkers 360 recently named her as one the Top 20 Thought Leaders for Mental Health in the world.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

Have you ever met a tap dancing, piano playing, professionally trained chef who’s also a Fortune 250 tech exec and a four-time published author? That’s my basic backstory. I’m a multipotentalite, according to Emilie Wapnick. Her TED talk, “Why some of us don’t have one true calling,” introduced me to the concept. A multipotentialite is someone whose interests span multiple areas, rather than being strong in just one, according to Wikipedia. I delight in discovery over mastery.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

I’ll never forget the time I flew out of state for a job interview. As I pulled out of the rental car lot, my phone rang. The hiring manager said he needed to reschedule and asked if I could fly back the following week. For a myriad of reasons, the answer was no. I phoned my mentor in a panic. She quicky devised a plan that included cold calling the Chief Operating Officer of the same Fortune 50 company. Her logic was that the COO and I graduated from the same university, and he would be thrilled to meet me in person. It was a terrible plan devised out of desperation that worked. He returned my phone call (much to my surprise), and I ended up working for him for the next four years. That experience taught me three powerful lessons:

(1). All plans are subject to change, often for the better.

(2). Connecting with someone you trust when you feel stuck leads to creating choices you might not be able to create on your own.

(3). Loyalty and trust are built in minor moments more than in grand gestures. To this day, I would walk through a ring of fire for that mentor and for that COO.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Salesforce offers a remarkable range of wellbeing programs. We recognize today, more than ever before, it’s important to focus on our wellbeing and build our resilience to overcome and to thrive during these challenging times. One of my favorite programs is B-Well Together, a 30-minute video series that is publicly available. On B-Well Together we host luminary speakers and wellbeing experts to provide tips, resources, and insights into all aspects of mental, physical, and social wellbeing. I’ve mediated with monks, stretched with superstar athletes, connected with compassion, cracked up with comedians, and more from the comforts of my home office. What’s reinforced in our culture daily is that we must live well to work well and work well to live well.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

When I walked into my Telecommunications management class during undergrad, I had no idea I would walk out with a lifelong coach, mentor, and friend. Dr. Joe Misiewicz is the best inside voice imaginable. He has a gentle way of speaking the truth with kindness and humor. He hits the heart of the matter while he salves your soul. He asks probing questions like, “Are you making time for you, KM?” He is the master of meaningful messages like, “KM…Make the weekend a KM weekend…take care of YOU.“ He’s part life coach, part fortune cookie. He says more in a single sentence than most say in a memoir. I am grateful for his positive presence in every personal and professional crossroads I’ve navigated to date.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

I resonate with Dr. Ginsburg, a human development expert, who asserts there are seven integrated and interrelated components that make up being resilient. The seven C’s of resilience are competence, confidence, connection, character, contribution, coping and control.

Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?

Resilience is courage in action. Resilience begins with making the courageous choice to accept what is rather than what we wish. Acceptance is a choice available only in the present moment. Acceptance makes it possible for us to adapt. Resilience requires adaptation. Changing our playbook — even a winning playbook — takes courage. Accelerate is the third step. We move forward with purpose. We put distance between what was and step toward what we choose as our next. Accept — Adapt — Accelerate helps us make the mindset shifts required to access our own resilience.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

Shannon Cagle Dawson immediately comes to mind. She publicly shares her personal stories of profound loss to advocate for mental health while quietly going about the rest of her life. Her heartfelt desire to transform tragedy into teachable moments is a shining example of resilience. She lives past her pain in a way that is inspiring. You can learn more about her story on an episode of Great Day TV with Patty Spitler called, “Her heartbreaking loss.”

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

The first step in conquering the impossible, I have found, is a change in perspective. When I’m confronted with opportunity, there are two words that have really opened me up to new possibilities. Two words that have helped me to see beyond my own thinking. Two words that I regularly share with others as often as I can. Here they are: Why not?

Those two simple words have unlocked more possibilities that I could have ever imagined. Because those words help me to break through boundaries and see the limits in my own thinking. As the saying goes, “It’s never tougher than it is in your mind.”

On May 1, 2020, I submitted the manuscript for my book, Listen Up!. A week and a half later, my editor asked if I could write another book in 27 days that would come out 60 days later. Everyone around me told me it couldn’t be done. Remember, we were at the apex of a global pandemic, and I also had a full-time job. I asked, “Why not?” The result is Working from Home went from conversation to copy as a hardback book in less than 87 days, which is unheard of in the traditional publishing industry.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

The setback to comeback experience that changed my life for the better is surviving a major medical crisis in my early 30’s. I didn’t know what to call my illness and neither did a team of five doctors. Through the confusion and the despair, I kept working, doing, being and achieving — further sacrificing my health, my relationships and myself. Major medical brought me to a critical crossroads. That crossroads was the pause I needed to confront my dysfunctional relationship with success. What I discovered was the secret to success isn’t more. The secret to success is less — less of the people, obligations and beliefs that no longer serve you. When you let go of what no longer matters, you make room for what does.

How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

We moved three times during my K-12 years. Between the moves and my parents’ religious differences, I attended three divergent religious schools plus public school. Resilience is a survival skill when you change neighborhoods, schools, friends, and religious rituals regularly. What I took away from those experiences was to start with where you are, work with what you have, and make the most of your circumstances.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

(1). Pause. Recovery and resilience begin with rest. Even 60 seconds of rest makes it easier to access your resilience.

(2). Ponder your values. Values are your guiding principles and your core beliefs. Examples include spirituality, wellbeing, family relationships, justice, and so on. Get specific. Choose your top value.

(3). Put pen to paper. Write your top value — just one value — on a piece of paper or in a journal.

(4). Pontificate. Set a timer for 10 minutes. During those 10 minutes, write about how your top value shows up in your everyday life. Don’t worry about sentence structure. Write down whatever comes to mind without judgment.

(5). Perform the experiment again. When you’re ready, select another value. Repeat the experiment.

Researchers at Stanford University developed this stress-free experiment and tested it with a group of stressed-out college students. After analyzing thousands of journal pages, scientists discovered writing about values helped these students see new meaning in their lives. Stressful and difficult situations were re-framed for the students, via this experiment. Tough times became opportunities to reconnect with a source of strength, resilience and ultimately, new ideas. That source? Their values.

In a similar intervention, but with a different test group, scientists discovered that this values-based affirmation exercise creates results that can be measured years later. That’s right: people who wrote down how their values were reflected in everyday life showed positive effects and greater resilience even three years later.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Do the do-able. We have big aspirations and get down on ourselves when we don’t immediately realize results. Whether you want to be healthier or happier, your success starts in the next five minutes. I call it the five-minute fix. Take anything you want to achieve and move forward five minutes at a time. Five minutes creates progress. Five minutes creates momentum. Anyone can find five minutes. A 1% daily improvement will more than double your results in 72 days.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them :-)

A better breakfast boost than coffee would be to start my day with Jay Shetty. He’s the #1 New York Times best-selling author of Think Like a Monk and host of the podcast On Purpose. I changed the way I start my day to mirror his TIME (Thankfulness — Inspiration — Meditation — Exercise) principle. He suggests spending about five minutes a day on each of those four habits. And I like his daily self-reflection question, “What is one thing I can do for myself today to make today a great day?” Maybe my contribution could be my culinary skills. What do you think Jay Shetty eats for breakfast? I’m sure I can find a recipe.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I would be delighted to connect with and to learn from your readers on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram where I regularly share new ideas. Together, we rise!

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine

TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor