Microsoft Exec Julie Larson-Green on The Value of Reconsidering Your Approach

The tech giant’s first chief experience officer on how she deals with email and the book that changed her life.

When you have the opportunity to ask some of the most interesting people in the world about their lives, sometimes the most fascinating answers come from the simplest questions. The Thrive Questionnaire is an ongoing series that gives an intimate look inside the lives of some of the world’s most successful people.

Thrive Global: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?
Julie Larson-Green: The first thing I do, with coffee in hand, is get caught up on the news. Typically, I read various news sites and see what’s trending on Twitter to know what is impacting the world and what is capturing people’s attention.

TG: What gives you energy?
JLG: I get my energy from being around other people. When I’m working, I get energized when I’m problem-solving and brainstorming with a group of people. I love bouncing ideas off different people. Outside of work, spending time with my family and friends helps me recharge, along with exercising and being outdoors.

TG: What’s your secret life hack?
JLG: There are a lot of small hacks that I love to use. If you are trying to search for answers to a technology problem, add “solved” to your query. You get more responses with the answer instead of just the sites where people have asked the same question.

From a work perspective, when there is something blocking you or your team from moving forward, find the person who has the most at stake that might be facing similar barriers and try to problem-solve together. By working with them, you immediately create a partnership and can overcome the issue from more than one angle.

TG: Name a book that changed your life.
JLG: The Nancy Drew series captured my imagination when I was a younger. Nancy’s approach to solving problems with intellect and intuition, and her willingness to enlist others to achieve her goals, inspired me. I related to her endless curiosity about the world and her ability to solve problems by engaging others.

TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?
JLG: No, it sits patiently on the bedside table waiting for me to wake up. I put it on sleep mode. It needs its resting and recharge time too!

TG: How do you deal with email?
JLG: I organize emails by person, topic and who is on the ‘To’ line, to help prioritize what emails need my attention. Inbox Zero is not a reality for me, so I have found this to be the best system. I also tackle email in LIFO (last in first out) order, starting with the most recent emails at the top of my inbox.

TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?
JLG: It depends where I am and what’s happening around me. On days where I am not feeling pressured by deadlines, I may take the 15 minutes to call a friend, talk to my mom or even browse the internet. If it’s an especially busy day at work, I’d likely try to get an item checked off my to-do list.

TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?
JLG: In December I had spinal column surgery, and it has been very challenging waiting for things to heal on their own and not be able to do anything to speed the process along. I’m not one to sit idly by, so it’s been a lesson in patience.

TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?
JLG: About six months ago, I was giving a talk to a team I work closely with and rely heavily on. I had grand goals of inspiring them with my new vision, but ultimately it didn’t have the impact I wanted for the talk.

To address the gap, I worked closely with the team to understand what mattered most in understanding the vision. Sometimes the course correction you need isn’t changing the message, but reconsidering your approach and if you addressed the questions that matter to the people who are listening to you. By focusing on moving forward with them, I didn’t waste time redoing my presentation or analyzing how it went wrong, and ultimately I was able to work with them to achieve my initial goal.

TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.
JLG: “Nevertheless, she persisted.” This has given me great strength lately. I also love, “Success is often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable.” — Coco Chanel


Julie Larson-Green is Microsoft’s first Chief Experience Officer (CXO), responsible for bringing all of Microsoft’s services together in a way that is more relevant to the way people work today. Julie cultivates a startup culture within Microsoft, fostering ideas from anyone and everywhere, reflecting the company’s broader vision of helping people be more productive and focus on what matters most.