Career Advice, Executive Feature, Jobs

Salesforce’s Cindy Robbins On How To Unleash Success

cindy robbins

Cindy Robbins thrives on feedback. As the Executive Vice President of Global Employee Success at Salesforce, Robbins oversees an org of 700 and is responsible for Salesforce’s 24,000 employees throughout the company’s 30 global offices. Not only does that equal a lot of feedback, it’s a tremendous amount of responsibility.

Yet, it’s a responsibility she gladly shoulders. Robbins has been with Salesforce since 2006 when she began as a Senior Staffing Consultant. Working her way up the organization, she not only learned a tremendous amount but she also mentored and collaborated along the way. It was through these relationships and the building of the cloud computing giant that she truly learned what it takes to enable employees to succeed. She now uses that insight—along with valuable feedback from thousands of colleagues—to define and up-level Salesforce’s world renowned company culture.

Managing a team? Looking to become a leader at your company? Or are you looking for insights from a real maverick in the business? 

Here’s how Cindy Robbins approaches employee success and continues to blaze a trail for other women executives.

Glassdoor: Salesforce is consistently named one of the best places to work. You’ve been at the company 10 years. What makes it so special to you? What has kept you engaged?

Cindy Robbins: The culture and our core values, which have stayed the same. We’re intentional about our culture and defining it through leading by example—it starts from the top. That has been key for me. Another thing that has been key to our success is the V2MOM process. Have you heard it?

[Related: What do Employees Say About Working for Salesforce?]

Glassdoor: What does V2MOM stand for?

Cindy Robbins: A V2MOM is basically the business plan for the year. It stands for Vision, Values, Methods, Obstacles and Metrics. Every employee in the company has a V2MOM, and the V2MOM of every employee is transparent for everybody else. It starts with the vision statement, such as what are you aspiring to do that year, and then the values that underlie the vision. The methods are in priority order around what actions you’re actually going to take to achieve the vision that you’re trying to achieve for that year. Obstacles are the hurdles that you expect to face and have to overcome, and the metrics are the measures that you’re going to put in place to track success.

[Related: How to Create Your Own V2MOM?]

Glassdoor: That’s impressive and very helpful for all incoming employees to have clear goals and definitions of success.

Cindy Robbins: It’s been critical because it really keeps us aligned. It helps define our priorities and prioritize our actions. Marc Benioff, our CEO, says if it’s not on the V2MOM then we shouldn’t do it. What’s become the number one priority as a method for the company is our culture. As we continue to grow rapidly, we have to be very intentional about nurturing our culture. It’s an important part of my job and probably the one thing that keeps me up at night. Culture is an important consideration when I think about the candidate or employee life cycle—it starts with what attracts people to Salesforce, which is our brand. Then it’s about the interview experience, the candidate journey, onboarding and then making employees successful in their everyday experience, which is about engagement. It’s very much like a customer success journey that we enable with our technology, and culture plays a key role throughout.

Glassdoor: Salesforce recently hired a new Chief Equality Officer, Tony Prophet. Talk to me about Marc Benioff’s decision and the title.

Cindy Robbins: The word equality really sends a bigger message. We define equality in terms of four pillars: equal pay, equal opportunity, equal advancement and equal rights. I work in partnership with Tony. Every leader in the company, every employee, is accountable for diversity and equality at Salesforce. Tony has a similar point of view, and because equality is a priority for the company we need someone thinking about this full time. He’s very passionate about this topic. He’s a very kind and generous leader.

Glassdoor: Given how successful Salesforce is, how are you and your team improving employee engagement and employee success?

Cindy Robbins: There are a few different ways that I measure employee success. First, I look at the company performance because an employee’s performance and success fuels our customers’ success. If our customers are successful, it’s attributed to our employees being successful. When we talk about our culture, we have a phrase that we use–Ohana. It means to “family” in Hawaiian. We are a family: the customer who trusts us, our partners who help us, the nonprofits who want to share in our success and our employees and communities. I look at that as a whole and try to nurture each group.

Glassdoor: How do you measure that impact?

Cindy Robbins: We conduct internal employee surveys. Feedback is really important, good or bad. I try to respond not just to the good postings on Glassdoor, but the critical ones because I do want the feedback. When people leave Salesforce, I really want to understand why. The feedback is essential, and I try to drive as many programs and tools to gather as much critical and supportive feedback to help us address the gaps. I still haven’t found a really great exit interview tool. Sometimes, we commission third parties to undertake culture studies. Marc has always instilled the spirit of transparency in this company, and I try to promote this aspect of our culture. He is a really engaged CEO–he responds when any employee emails him, and I think that is great to see. It’s promoting that spirit of transparency whether it’s great feedback or criticism.

Glassdoor: I’ve heard that Marc reads the reviews on Glassdoor. Is that true?

Cindy Robbins: He encourages all leaders to know what employees are saying to stay in touch and to engage with them. It’s hard to do in a fast growing company. I have almost a 700 person organization and a lot of direct reports. Do I know at all times what is going on everywhere in my organization? It’s really hard to do sometimes; Marc really stresses the importance of staying connected to your people. It’s really important and making sure that you have a spirit of openness where people feel comfortable coming forward and giving honest feedback is really key as well.

[Related: Marc Benioff: How to Create Alignment Within Your Company in Order to Succeed]

Glassdoor: Now for a fun one, what advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

Cindy Robbins: One, try to find a mentor to help you. A wise person told me once that mentors pick mentees, not the other way around and sometimes we get that mixed up. I found that person at Salesforce – my biggest champion and toughest critic. The mentor that I’m speaking about is someone who has not only helped me professionally. The important thing is that your mentor is guiding and helping you from a career aspect; sometimes they can be your life coach at the same time.

The other piece of advice I would give is as you elevate in your career it’s really important to thank the people who helped you get to that next level. I’ve been in Salesforce for ten years. I’ve had great success and I’ve had a lot of great advocates, champions, and mentors. As I elevated, I remembered to go back and say thank you. When you have teams helping you achieve success, go back and tell your team thank you. It’s easy to take the victory lap, but it’s most important to say thank you.

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