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Carol Borghesi on Leadership podcast Fast Leader Show

006: Carol Borghesi: I’m the man my parents wanted me to marry

Podcast Show Notes with Carol Borghesi

What Carol perceived coming out of business school was that she needed to take a tuff stance. Join me as Carol shares her story of learning how to become a path paver for women and a transformation expert of organizations. Learn how Carol found herself with having no consideration at all with executives to having a seat at the executive table. Learn how Carol found out how to become a catalyst for change without the use of force.

Carol is a graduate of the marketing management program from the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT).

She has 31 years of experience telecommunications experience spanning three continents, Carol‘s career has taken her from TELUS in Canada to British Telecom (BT) in the U.K. to Bharti Airtel in India, and back.

Carol concluded her career at Telus as the Senior Vice President – Customers First Culture.

In this role Carol was a passionate advocate across TELUS for their Customers First in 2010 and was the driving force behind the evolution of TELUS’ corporate culture to deliver on the future is friendly® to clients.

Carol has held senior roles in sales, service and business unit management, and has successfully managed change through deregulation, labor relations, consolidations, acquisitions, and rapid technological innovation.

As the past Chair of the CCA (U.K.’s contact center association), Carol is a recognized expert in contact centers, customer service operations and customer experience leadership in complex, multi-channel environments.

In her career she has had responsibilities leading more than 50, 000 employees that has served well over 150 million customers.

She is currently writing a book about how to put customer first for profit and FUN, speaking internationally and working with like-minded organizations that believe the age of customer capitalism is now.

Tweetable Quotes and Mentions

Listen to @cborghesi getting over the hump on the @FastLeaderShow #Leadership #diversity Click to Tweet

“Much has been done to create greater diversity, but we have a long way to go.” -Carol Borghesi Click to Tweet

“Customer Experience is a team sport.” -Carol Borghesi Click to Tweet

“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it! –Goethe Click to Tweet

“I continue to learn now at a greater pace than I ever did in my career.” -Carol Borghesi Click to Tweet

“I have dipped in and out of believing my own press.” -Carol Borghesi Click to Tweet

“It’s not okay to be right if you’re all by yourself.” -Carol Borghesi Click to Tweet

“Customer Service is the drip tray of the organization.” -Carol Borghesi Click to Tweet

“Nobody is exempt from the team sport of customer experience.” -Carol Borghesi Click to Tweet

“Individual responsibility is what builds the company responsibility.” -Carol Borghesi Click to Tweet

“Bring more of who you are to your work.” -Carol Borghesi Click to Tweet

“Armed with data, I would then go talk to everybody.”-Carol Borghesi Click to Tweet

“What people tell you that they do and what they actually do can often be different.” -Carol Borghesi Click to Tweet

Hump to Get Over

Carol was the head of Customer Experience for a large telecommunications company with an enterprise change issue. Sitting in customer service she was in a position that had no seat at the table. After several attempts and years Carol finally got it. Customer experience, which includes customer service is a team sport and nobody is exempt from playing.  That’s when she got traction. Listen to the show to find out how Carol learned how to become a path paver and catalyst for organizational change, so you can become one faster.

Leadership Epiphany

There is no darn way a company could be filled with such customer oriented executives and not be customer focused.

Best Leadership Advice Received

Bring more of yourself to work.

Secret to Success

Voracious and eclectic reader. “I read economics book for pleasure.”

Recommended Reading

The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t

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Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best… and Learn from the Worst

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More Resources

Customer Experience Big Data Dysfunction  Better understand and plan by completing the customer experience big data dysfunction self-assessment contained in the ebook. The assessment is a simple and effective way for you and your team to identify the areas necessary to realize increased performance while reducing guess work.

Show Transcript: 

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

006: Carol Borghesi: I’m the man my parents wanted me to marry


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: Alright Fast Leader Legion hold back on that camel, we’re going to have a great day today, Carol Borghesi’s with us. She has really a depth of knowledge that I hope I can continue to tap in to for the next decade or so while she still wants to have time with me. But I get to share her with you today and it’s going to be fun. Carol is actually a graduate of the Marketing and Management program from the British Columbia Institute of Technology. She has 31 years of experience in telecommunications spanning three continents. She concluded her career at TELLUS as the Senior Vice-President of their Customer First Culture. In Israel, Carol was a passionate advocate across TELLUS for their Customers First in 2010 and was the driving force behind evolution of TELLUS’s corporate culture to deliver on the future is friendly to clients. 

Carol has held several senior roles in sales, service, business unit management and has successfully manage change through deregulation, labor relations, consolidations, acquisitions and rapid technological innovation.  Carol is a recognized expert in contact centers, customer service operations and customer experience leadership in complex multi-channel environments. In her career she has had responsibilities leading more than 50,000 employees and has served well over 150 million customers. She’s currently writing a book about how to put customers first and profit for fun, hopefully we’ll get in to little bit fun piece. And she also speaks internationally and loves working with like-minded organizations that believe the age of customer capitalism is now. Carole Borghesi were glad to have you, are you ready to help us get over the hump?

Carol Borghesi:     I have never been more ready for anything in my entire life. Buoyed by that Las Vegas show lounge kind of introduction, Jim, my gosh I’m exhausted listening to my own career [inaudible 2:21]

Jim Rembach:  As you can see, you know why Carol and I love to have conversations, we have a good time it’s something that always leads to another interaction that’s going to be even better. Alright, Carol, I’ve given our listeners a brief introduction but can you please tell us what your current passion is so that we can actually get to know you a little bit better?

Carol Borghesi:     Well, what I want to say actually, listening to the background on the career I’ve had there’s three things that I wanted to really call out to the listeners. One is that, given that I’ve been working for more than 30 years, I started at a very young age obviously, one of the things that I ran into Jim, was I was often the first women to be in a particular role. I was first women that was on manage reports and so I want to call that out because I think that that’s really important to today’s world of work as well.  That much has been done in the past to create greater diversity and focus but we still got long way to go and I really benefited I think from being an early pioneer which really it sounds, interest me even more pioneers circle the wagon. 

The second thing that really characterized my career for me, was transformation.  I was in an industry that has transformed beyond recognition going from monopoly to a very, very competitive and I tell you, I got the bug around managing change, managing change respectfully. Pretty up early on in my career, it’s something that continues to excite me and invigorate me, and I would add to that that I am so excited by the developments that I’ve seen in social media, as well as the why’s and rise of the millennial generation. I think that people coming up in world of worker or just [inaudible 4:10] 

The third thing is that, I have been really lucky because I’ve worked in sales, marketing and service and those are the kind of the usual suspects when it comes to the work that I do, which is around customer experience. And I’m thrilled to tell you that I think a lot of the customer experience as a team’s sport which involves the entire organization need be on those three functional areas is really coming to its own right now, and that’s what getting me excited and passionate about running Customer First Culture, the little company that I founded and the principle core.

Jim Rembach:     I almost have to say to myself, Carol is turning back the clock a little bit ‘cause we definitely need you as that path paver for many other women. You really were a pioneer. I know you were in the wagon, you’re not that old. However, you have been one of those who’ve been on the forefront in a lot of ways and that’s why I’m so glad to have you on the show so that you can continue to do just that, help pave the path runners, teach us how we can get ahead faster by learning from you. 

With that we often find in the Fast Leader show where we need some inspiration, we like looking to leadership quotes in order to get some of that inspiration. Now I know you are an avid reader, you always seek to move things forward and you probably have had a lot of influences in your life. But is there one quote that kind of stands out to you as a driving force, a kind of always plays over in your head that know you enjoy, could you share that with us?

Carol Borghesi:     I certainly can. I did a little bit of research on a quote that I’ve got to say has guided and probably influenced my career and approach to work many, many years ago and that is, whatever we can do or dream you can do begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it and that was back in the olden days attributed to Goethe, which is Johann Goethe, a famous and very, very prolific as well as terrific, writer, philosopher and poet but it actually was coined by W. H. Murray who works as spots man and it was in connection with mountain climbing which is what his particular passion was. 

I think that its relevant today, certainly in the pace that I am in my career, as it was when I was a young [inaudible 6:48] getting started. It is action focused. I love that it reflects boldness. I love that it opens, went out to the possibilities. I know the feeling of being the only one in the room that can see it where you can get a mirage or you can see it but no one else can. And sometimes that’s kind of lonely but I’ve going to say that it’s immensely rewarding. It has also spurred me on to learn and continue to dream and to grow. I may have been a path finder for women back in that day but I can say that with absolute clarity and conviction that I continue to learn at a greater pace now than I’ve ever been in my career, probably because I know now what I don’t know. 

Jim Rembach:    That’s a really interesting point that you have made there as far as the velocity of the learning. What would you necessarily attribute that to, is there something that kind of stands out to you that says: “Ah, that’s one of the reasons why it is that way, is it just because we’ve had so much information or is it something else?

Carol Borghesi:     I think that it’s certainly reflection of the society, the advents of the Internet, the explosion of the information society that we’re in but I also actually think it’s personal. Some people are life-long learners and I think however, when you get to be the age that I am, I  am so old I think they’ve discontinued my blood type for crying out loud, but it is almost a life stage kind of thing where I now realize that there’s so much happening and so much to learn from. I’d see there’s humility in that Jim and I can’t always frame that I was the most humble leader. I have occasionally victim in out of believing my own crust [Laughter] and that’s generally what’s prevented me from creaking out my ears and learning from others.  

Jim Rembach:     I think we’ve all had a taste of that to some degree, I don’t think there’d be any forward movement if we didn’t experience that. There’s a lot of humps that we all have to get over, we call them humps here in the Fast Leader Show, as I chat with you before our mission is kind of redefining what leadership is and what it means. I think you just in telling your story at this point have really made it very clear that a lot of it entails leading yourself and if you think about it just from that perspective, we’re all leaders. The nature of work today requires that we all become better at that. The individual who’s sitting there out on a proverbial island having to take care of certain responsibilities for organization has to do a lot of leading. Leading of self, leading of project timelines, leading of their own career advancement. A lot of times I had talked to employees and the like, ‘what are going to give me as an employee/as a company to help me get ahead?’ And I’m like, ‘First of all, you need to fix your mindset and think, what do I need to do? And stuck handed to you, you have to take your own initiative take your own strength from that and move forward, so, that’s an important point. I know there’s a lot of humps and you talked about path paving, you talked about a lot of different things within your career, but is there a particular story that kind of stands out that was a defining moment that you could share with us?

Carlo Borghesi:    Yeah. I did learn early and often that it’s not right that you’re all by yourself. To say that I had a very excited opinion  of my own intellect would be characteristic of one of my wonder years, let me say, but that the hump that I really wanted to share with you today is—I spend a lot of times working in customer service. Customer service as I’ve said to you Jim before is the drip tray of the organization. It ain’t somewhere that you got a lot of credit or kudos. Your mom and dad didn’t say, ”Gee, I hope he goes to school and becomes a customer service professional.” And I puzzled over that for the longest time. I really, finally kind of realize that I can spend all day long trying to yell ever louder at a customer service organization and wouldn’t get anywhere, kind of like how you raise your voice volume when you’re trying to somebody who doesn’t speak English as though that’s the problem. So it dawned on me that I had an enterprise changes here on my hands and that’s really daunting because seating in customer service your particular function in the organization, not necessarily always at the table and it wasn’t until I reach the last company that I worked with that I really saw the way through to overcome the issue. 

First and foremost, I wanted to say that when I finally got it, that customer experience which includes customer service is a team’s sport that was when I really started to get some traction. And I took an approach which said that nobody is exempt from the team’s sport of customer experience and I seriously mean that, I don’t care if you’re an internal audit or the security guard you can’t find your way back to customer experience in the way that you impact that.

The second thing that I realize and was able to work on, was that the frontline of an organization has as much to contribute to the executives of an organization as the other way around. The other thing about executives being the liberators of those that work in jobs that are closer to the customer and generally not a [inaudible 12:33] What I saw was really understanding that, instead of trying to get the executive to preach to the frontline, I brought the executive to the frontline and actually let them teach the executive a thing or two about the reality of what’s it’s like to be with customers when you don’t have all the tools and information that you need. 

The third thing that happened was kind of strengthen that conviction. I’ve worked with an extremely talented guy on a framework called Likelihood to recommend and I talked to you about this Jim before, you remember that. But the reason I wanted to bring this up is because I got a lot of stick over the Likelihood to recommend framework which is incredibly a simple notion. It’s based on the fact that Likelihood to recommend is kind of the highest order intermingling the customer and a company’s brand so that if I’m going to recommend you that’s really putting my reputation on the line as well. The problem arose when dealing with a lot of ingenuity finance traits that they now let me put it that way, behind the framework that I’d created, was honestly subject to what could be amounts to ridicule. 

I’d walked through that and stand my ground it was really helpful. I’ve learned a lot about being able to manage information that was performance base as well as customer information and employee information. The good news is that singular focus of Likelihood to recommend and understanding what drives, like we have to work then, really did carry the day. 

And the last thing and the most interesting thing, once I realize that there’s a big difference between how we perceive others, which we generally perceive by their behaviors, which is how we perceive ourselves, which is generally by our intentions. One of the things that I learned first-hand was that in asking this group of executives to spend some time with frontline, after they’ve had that experience ask them two questions. The first questions was, to what degree do you think our company puts customers first? About 41% of the executives, remembering these are the guys that run the place, said 42%, so I thought that’s not really good, less than half. But when I ask them to what degree do you personally put customers first? A whacking 82% claimed that they in fact put customers first. Big moment because that really helped everybody understand, there’s no darn way that a company could be filled with such customer oriented executives and not be customer focused. So that individual responsibility is what builds the company responsibility and that was an incredibly exciting breakthrough that I got with the last company with it. 

Jim Rembach:     Now, I know that force is not something that a woman who’s sitting there with probably a bunch of old telecom engineers running a business and trying to talk to them about customer service is something that would work. So how were you able to essentially ‘crack the nut’, get over the hump with them? How did you actually move things forward? What did you do specifically as a person, as an individual? What things did you learn throughout the course of your working on different continents that you had to do or do differently in order to really have that impact and effect?

 Carol Borghesi:     For listeners of my vintage, I’m sure they won’t be surprised to know that I did try the ‘force approach’. What I perceive coming out of business school was kind of a touch down and so on. Since I’m often referred to them as the man my parents wanted me to marry, I guess it’s not totally surprising I take on the male approach. I got over that, but you know, what really worked in the end, was I realized that the CEO of an organization is a really critical player and they often look to the CEO to provide direction. What I notice is that CEO’s are not waiting for their teams to take up the goblet particularly of customer’s experience. And I learned that understanding and meeting the uncertainties and concerns that the CEO’s or the [inaudible16:59] had, was really important. That led to, believe it or not, critical mess and I think that that in the end is what I’ve learned is that critical mess—you got a momentum Jim that starts to turn the tide in an organization. Does it helps to have the CEO on site? Absolutely. But in the end you don’t need force you need to tap into what arguably is a very popular concept with people right across any organization and to really start to make that a tipping point. You don’t need to force anything. I suppose in that too you realize that anyone person really isn’t going to make anything happen in any organization through [inaudible 7:43] however much we’d like to think of it that way. 

 And when you see that bringing people on and giving them the opportunity to express their views and create that informal network in an organization, Bingo! that’s what made the difference. 


Jim Rembach:     You have mentioned something about the current work that you’re doing, can you share a little bit about that with us?

Carol Borghesi:     My next assignment is really, really terrific it’s in the U.K. I’m going to be working on developing a customer contact operation for a business that represents 23 manufacturers and 74 dealers in the automotive industry. It’s a juicy lemon in a sense there’s a lot of complexity in trying to manage various staff and many stakeholders who have varying degrees of customer relationship management system. Everything from back of a cocktail napkin to a very sophisticated but equally a way territorial and protective of customer information. I think that I’ll be spending a little bit of the spring and summer in the U.K.

Jim Rembach:     Oh, there could be things that are a lot worse than that. We wish you the best and we hope that goes well for you. Now we transition to the rapid part of our show and that is Hump Day Hoedown. Okay Carol Borghesi, the Hump Day Hoedown is the part of our show where you give us a good insights fast. I’m going to ask you several questions and your job is to give us a robust yet rapid responses that are going to help us move onward and upward faster. Carol, are you ready the hoedown?

Carol Borghesi:     I am ready to hoedown. 

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

Carol Borghesi:     This may be considered oversharing ladies and gentlemen but the absolute honest truth—procrastination. It is something that is a personal trait of mine, 2015 is about working on procrastination for me. 

Jim Rembach:     There you go, onward and upward faster, right? Okay, what’s the best leadership advice you have ever received?

Carol Borghesi:     Bring more of who you are to your work.

Jim Rembach:     What is one of your secret that you believe that contributes to your success?

Carol Borghesi:     I am, as you mentioned earlier a voracious and eclectic reader. I read across a very broad spectrum of topics, my family despairs because I read the economics book for pleasure. I do have the usual suspects, the Economist, the Harper Business Review, novels and pretty weighty Thomason, neuroscience—it’s pretty broad. 

Jim Rembach:     Well, we don’t want to necessarily constrict you to one particular John Roe or topic type, but is there a book that you would recommend to our listeners? 

Carol Borghesi:  Yes there is. This was very easy for me to think of but it’s very difficult for me to convey because we have a family show. The book that I want to recommend to your readers has an extremely rude word in it. The book is by Robert Sutton. He’s an organization behaviorist professor and quite prolific. He wrote a book called ‘The No A rule’ and so you can fill in the gap there. The reason that I think that’s the best business book that I ever read is it calls oath  categorically the definition of a person that couldn’t, frankly, earned that secular title and the reality is that according to Robert Sutton when you’re in the presence of one of those, you come away from that interaction feeling somehow diminished. I love that definition. I strive not to be labelled in that itinerant way but it may be pretty savvy for spotting those that are in the organizations and dealing with them accordingly. 

Jim Rembach:     Unless of course you’re one of my three brothers and then that was my nickname growing up. [Laughter] Alright. Thank you very much Carol I appreciate that. We’re going to give links to that book and a couple of others on our show notes page. If you want to find out where that is, I’ll give it to you its right here. It’s at Alright Carol, now we come to the last question on our Hump day Hoedown. 

Imagine you woke up tomorrow and you are 25 years old again, and there’s no more wagons, and you were supposed to begin a new job as a manager of a team that is underperforming and disengaged but you have retained all the knowledge and skill that you currently have, your job of course, is to turn them around. So, you get up, you head out to work, what you do now?

Carol Borghesi:  Well, there’s three things that I would do. The first of which is to look at the operational data of the team that I’m responsible for. You may think that’s not very people-ly but I tell you that three areas that I would look up for operation information is the performance data of the function, what we do and what’s our output and what’s the costing. 

The second would be the customer feedback whether that’s an internal team or external facing team. And the third would be any engagements information that I can clean. Armed with that data I would go up and talk to people. I would talk to absolutely everybody. And I would take the time to do it probably as one of the most important skills that I learn which is to listen carefully and openly. Having the data in my head and in my hands means I can ask some interesting questions to start to understand why we’re maybe be having the issues that we’re having in teams performance. And then the last thing I would do, is I would observe. I’m going to walk my business, I would look up what’s going in. And the reason that I would that is because what people tell you that they do, and what they actually do can often be different. So with those three elements together I can put one the first few days of my time with my meeting.

Jim Rembach:  I think all of those contribute to what…you even mentioned that you were a voracious one, and that’s reading. You’re reading the business, you’re reading the information before you take an action. Carol Borghesi it was an honor spending time with you today. Can you please share with Fast Leader listeners how they can connect with you? 

Carol Borghesi:     You certainly can. I am available at and I’ll even give my mobile number that’s okay, 771-778-86690, I’m also on Linkedin and would love to hear from your listeners.  

Jim Rembach:    That’s awesome. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and wisdom. The Fast Leader legion honors you and thanks you for helping us get over the hump. 

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 to so we can help you move onward and upward faster.