page title icon 017: Karyn Furstman: Be positively relentless

Karyn Furstman Show Notes

When you have had a situation when you needed to get someone to buy-in to change what did you do? Join me as Karyn Furstman shares her story of how she has had success in her many years of leading transformation and change. Listen and learn how Karyn found strength with an approach that is not common practice but has provided her with uncommon results.

A seasoned executive with over 25 years of business experience, Karyn has held many roles of increasing responsibility. Her passion for championing the customer is evident throughout her career. Currently, Karyn is VP of Agent & Customer Experience for Safeco Insurance, a Liberty Mutual company, and leads the Customer Experience, Lean Process Improvements, Training and Communications organizations.

Previously, Karyn was Senior Vice President, Marketing Director for JPMorgan Chase, where she led the Washington Mutual (WaMu) Customer Communications transition team. At WaMu, Karyn held the first ever Retail Bank Customer Experience Executive role where she was responsible for creation, development and execution of the overall strategy. Karyn and her team improved quality and consistency of the Customer Experience across channels which drove increased loyalty and retention.

Karyn held prior management positions at WaMu as the P&L Executive responsible for the deposit product portfolio (checking, savings, CDs, money market investments) and served as Small Business Product Executive where she developed the overall segment strategy, secured board approval, and managed the implementation to over 2,000 retail branches and business sales managers.

Karyn was Senior Vice President at Bank of America for over 10 years in a variety of positions including sales support, product management, marketing communications, training, and technology strategy where she was Program Manager for the bank’s national Customer Relationship Management (CRM) program.

Before her move into financial services, Karyn spent over 10 years in various national advertising agencies in Seattle and Los Angeles, managing various consumer product and corporate accounts.

Karyn is certified as a Master Black Belt in Six Sigma and Lean methodologies.

Karyn serves as Vice Chairman and board member of the CXPA (Customer Experience Professionals Association); a national emeritus trustee position on the Freedom Writers Foundation; and Temple De Hirsh Sinai in Seattle, Washington. She is a mother of three boys, enjoys theatre and music, and as an avid reader, has belonged to her book club for over 25 years

Tweetable Quotes and Mentions

Listen and @customers_furst will help you get over the hump on @FastLeaderShow Click to Tweet 

“It’s the relationships with people that we have that carry us through.“ -Karyn Furstman Click to Tweet

“It’s all about feeding those relationships as you move forward in your life.” -Karyn Furstman Click to Tweet

“Find something that you’re passionate about and you’ll never work another day in your life.”-Karyn Furstman Click to Tweet

“Sometimes executives find it hard to know what to do to walk the walk.” -Karyn Furstman Click to Tweet

“Don’t take yourself to seriously and be authentic.” -Karyn Furstman Click to Tweet

“Sometimes it’s two steps forwards and three steps backwards.” -Karyn Furstman Click to Tweet

“Enjoy what you’re doing and the ride you are on together.” -Karyn Furstman Click to Tweet

“I believe that my work in customer experience is something that was meant for me to do.” -Karyn Furstman Click to Tweet

“This phase and this day is all we have.” -Karyn Furstman Click to Tweet

Hump to Get Over

Throughout her career Karyn has led transformation and change initiatives. As part of her responsibilities she needed to help executives at various levels buy-in. Karyn learned how to become positively relentless in her quest to help executives walk the walk. Listen to the show to find out just how Karyn does it, so you can move onward and upward faster.

Holding her back from being an even better leader

Her time management. Being able to make better use of her time.

Best Leadership Advice Received

Be authentic. Don’t be something you are not.

Secret to Success

Her ability to connect people and having a common greater good.

Recommended Reading

10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story

Contacting Karyn



More Resources

Eileen Kremen Gallery

Show Transcript: 

[expand title=”Click to access edited transcript”]

017: Karyn Furstman: Be positively relentless


Intro: Welcome to the Fast Leader Podcast, where we explore convenient yet effective shortcuts that will help you get ahead and move forward faster by becoming a better leader. And now here’s your host, customer and employee engagement expert and certified emotional intelligent practitioner, Jim Rembach.

Jim Rembach:   Thanks Kimberly. Okay, Fast Leader legion, this particular episode is really unique because in a moment I’m going to share with you an interview that was recorded on location at the Customer Experience Professional Association of Member Inside Exchange. I had the opportunity to interview Karyn Furstman who is the new chair of the association. Karyn is a seasoned executive with over 25 years of business experience. Karyn has helped many roles of increasing responsibility. Her passion for championing the customers is evident throughout her career. Karyn is the Vice President of Agent & Customer Experience for Safeco insurance, which is a Liberty Mutual company and lead the Customer Experience, LEAN Process Improvements, Training and Communications organizations. She was previously the Senior Vice President for JP. Morgan Chase where she led the Washington Mutual Customer Communications transition team. 

At Washington Mutual she held the first ever Retail Bank Customer Experience executive role where she was responsible for the creation, development, and execution of the overall strategy. Karyn and her team improved quality and consistency of the customer experience cross channels which drove increased loyalty and retention. Karyn also held positions at Bank of America where she was the Senior Vice President for 10 years in a variety of positions including Sales, Support, Product Management, Marketing Communications Training and Technology Strategy were she was the Program Manager for the bank’s National Customer Relationship Management Program. 

Before her moving to financial services, Karyn spent over 10 years in various national advertising agencies in Los Angeles and Seattle and she managed various consumer products and corporate accounts. She is a certified Master Black Belt in Six Sigma and Ling methodologies. Beyond all of this technical skill that she has amassed she is a fantastic leader and you’re going to really enjoy this interview and hear that side of Karyn’s success. So, now on to the interview with Karyn. 

I am so excited today folks, I have one of those ladies that I look up to and admire in so many different ways not just from her professional perspective but now also knowing that she has three boys a 16-year-old two twin 15-year-olds, you know she’s got to be a strong woman, it’s Karyn Furstman who was born and raised in Fullerton, California. Both of her parents were entrepreneurs. Her mama owned an art gallery and her dad on the pharmacy. And even from a very young age she worked in both of those places which helped shape who she is today. Currently, she resides in Bellevue, Washington and I’m so excited to have her, Karyn Furstman, are you ready to help us get over the hump?

Karyn Furstman:     I am thank you so much. 

Jim Rembach:      That’s awesome. No, I’ve given I guest a little bit about you but can you share something about your current passion is so that we can get to know you better? 

Karyn Furstman:     Sure. My current passion is really very much what my passion has been throughout my whole life. And as I’ve gotten more involved in working in the CX and the Customer Experience capabilities, I’ve realized that my passion is really around taking care of people, taking care of others and building relationships. Because it’s the relationships with people that we have that carry us through, regardless of it being a personal relationship or a business relationships, somebody that works for you or somebody that you work for, it’s all about feeding those relationships as you move forward in your life. 

Jim Rembach:   And also know that you’re one of those folks that does a great job of helping to build those relationships—Karyn, I know her through the Customers Experience Professionals Association she’s the Vice-Chair of the CXPA and I’m getting the chance to chat with her here at the Member Inside Exchange where she has played the role with helping to recognize folks for and taking care others as well, so it’s a community of care which is just absolutely awesome it’s one of the places that you definitely wanted to be. Karyn we have a lot of things that helped, motivated us and inspired us in a lot of ways and we focus on leadership quotes at Fast Leader show, is there one that stands out to you that drives you and pushes you forward each day?

Karyn Furstman:     Yeah. Absolutely. One thing I will say is it’s really an exciting day for me personally because I’m taking over as Chair of CXPA as of 5 o’clock tonight, so I’m really excited to be able to lead this organization going forward. To that point a leadership quote is really something I’ve lived with—again for many years my mother when passed away about five years ago, I was looking through and going through all of her possessions in her house, she own this art gallery, and I came across this typed thing that was sitting at her computer and it’s the quote that I’ve lived by for many years and that is: Find something that your passionate about and you’ll never work a day in your life. And I lived by that every single day. 

Jim Rembach:      I’ve think you’ve also made that ‘live on’ because your mom’s online store you’ve kept open and you’ve said she’s pass five years now—sorry about that—why did you do that? 

Karyn Furstman:     It was really important for me to carry on her legacy. She was so passionate about art and glass, an art glass and she had a personal collection but she had a website that after she was not able to have her physical gallery anymore. She kept an online presence and she would bring people into her home and she would connect people. She would bring artist to people’s houses to be able to showcase that. And it’s one of the things that is really important about. Number one: keeping the legacy alive around her passion and how glass bring so many things into people’s imaginations. But it also connecting people with artist and that’s really what I will do. If somebody wants to see a piece of glass that’s on the website I will still be able to connect the artist with those individual wanting something of beauty. And that’s really she was about color and beauty. 

Jim Rembach:     Now, there’s no doubt with being a female in an industry or in a role where you have to—you have to do more than just sell the idea of being more customer centric sometimes you just have to be downright strong and forceful about it, and I’m sure you’ve had a lot of humps and challenges to get over, is there one that sticks out to you that we can learn from?

Karyn Furstman:     I would say that it is really around to your point about being relentless but positive relentless. What I’ve really try to do is when I had a situation where somebody is not [inaudible 6:53] let’s say at the executive level or the C suite level, based on their role or based on maybe some previous concerns that they’ve had I really spend some time, not just working with them once on one, but having them sharing the accountabilities. So, making it real for them to be able to, whether it be assigning a specific type of thing for them to be able to do owning a moment of truth as an example, so that they became part of the thing that we we’re trying to change. Because I find that sometimes executives absolutely want to talk the talk but oftentimes it’s really hard for them to know what to do to actually walk the walk. And so, providing some accountabilities for them. And what I saw as a result was more impassioned leaders around the customer experience. 

 Jim Rembach:     That’s a very good point. When I went through university or college, I actually double majored in finance and real estate, and I’m used to say, ‘I didn’t go down that path.’ When I graduated it was another recession, however, with the real estate teaching and learning I really got a better understanding of what they call in real estate as pride of ownership, so in order for you to ride down the street you could probably stop in front of the house as a rental and pick it out because that ownership just isn’t there. So, I think what you’re saying is that you’re giving these guys, ladies an opportunity to take some ownership and then therefore it will actually brought out their intrinsic passion or drive.

Karyn Furstman:     Exactly. Because it helps them understand it more. What I found in my years of transforming and leading change in organizations is that when people don’t know what they need to do it’s hard for them to—they may say they embrace it—but until they experience it themselves. I also find very simply sometimes executives will have their own situation, a poor customer experience happened to them and that helps motivate them as well. 


Jim Rembach: So in other words, you want to push them into having a bad experience. 


Karyn Furstman:     Not really, but sometimes they just doing it and it becomes their ** commission.


Jim Rembach:   That’s good point. So, if you were to say from the experiences that you had what piece of advice would you give to our listeners?


Karyn Furstman:     From an advice perspective, what I would say is: Don’t take yourself too seriously and be authentic.  This is work that is very exciting but it can also be—sometimes two steps forward three steps backwards. And again back to that tenacity I think sometime in business we take ourselves too seriously and we’re people—back to my comment about building relationships and if you can relate to people on a human level and be able to have fun, enjoy what you’re doing and the ride that you’re on together, oftentimes that takes you to a greater place. I think we are so focus on business so much and we have to bake our numbers and that’s absolutely important. But it’s the how you do things and engage and inspire the people that you’re working with or your siblings or your parents or you children to be able to have some fun. 


Jim Rembach:    If you’re to say, have fun, what is something that you are really focusing on right now that’s giving you that fun?


Karyn Furstman:     It’s a great question. I would say that—back to fun and passion is, what I said before that I am taking over the home of the CXPA. I believe that my work in Customer Experience is something that was meant for me to do. As you said earlier, I grew up with two parents who were in business for many years. I really have this customer focus while I’ve held many jobs throughout my career, marketing, branding, product, P&L bringing this all together has just been a very much inspiring way for me to move my life forward and to help other people. Through the CXPA and taking on this leadership position it really allows me to help connect people who are all facing the same challenges, the same opportunities to be able to move that forward. I think that it is a great way for me to give back my passion. 


Jim Rembach:     Well, the Fast Leader legion wishes you the very best. Okay, now Karyn it’s time for the—Hump Day Hoedown. The Hump Day Hoedown is the part of our show where I ask you several questions fast and your job is to give us quick responses that are robust. So, Karyn are you ready to hoedown?


Karyn Furstman:     I sure am.  


Jim Rembach:     What do you think is holding you back from being an even better leader today?


Karyn Furstman:     I would say that it’s my time management. And not having enough hours in the day but being able to look at myself and make better use of my time so I can spend more time on value added activities.


Jim Rembach:     I have the same issue that’s for sure. What’s the best leadership advice you have ever received?

Karyn Furstman:     To be authentic. Don’t be something you’re not and don’t be a fake but be ‘You’. 


Jim Rembach:     Can you share one of your personal habits that you strongly believe contributes to your leadership life or life success?


Karyn Furstman:     I would say that it is my ability to connect people and have a common greater good with being able to give back and whether it’s giving back to each other or helping to get back to the community, it’s taking myself out of my self  and being able to help other people


Jim Rembach:     Thanks for sharing that. What one book would you recommend to our Fast Leader legion, I’m sure you have several good ones, but is there one that stands out? 


Karyn Furstman:     You know, it’s just the recent one that I picked up at the airport on a business trip recently and it really has had a profound impact and it’s called, 10% Happier, and the author who is a correspondent on ABC Good Morning America, it talks a lot about how do you get just that—10% more happy and he has some really interesting ways both in your personal and your business life to achieve that. 


Jim Rembach:     We all definitely need to get more happy. We’re going to make a link to that off of our show notes page which you’re going to find at Furstman. Okay Karyn, here’s the last question on our Hump Day Hoedown: Imagine tomorrow you’re going to be 25 years old again and you get to take one skill or piece of knowledge back with you and you’ve got to choose what it is, what would you take back with you? And why?


Karyn Furstman:     Two that are related and it would be about not worrying and live in the present. And I think in my career as I’ve wanted or as we move forward in our life, it’s always about the one thing something else or the wanting to be at that next phase. This phase and this day is all that we have so being present brings out that in other people as well. 


Jim Rembach:      That sounds like some of the teachings that we get from that happiness part is that sometimes if we pursue too much we don’t find that happening. Thank you for sharing that with us. Can you tell us how our Fast Leader legion can get in touch with you?


Karyn Furstman:     Absolutely. , Twitter is customers first. 


Jim Rembach:      Karyn Furstman we thank you for sharing and helping us get over the hump. Woot Woot!    


Thank you for joining me on the Fast Leader show today. For recaps, links from every show, special offers and access to download and subscribe, if you haven’t already, head on over the so we can help you move onward and upward faster.