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Google Executive Sarah Madden Armstrong On Getting It All Done

In this edition of our Corporate Competitor Podcast, leadership speaker and storytelling expert Don Yaeger sits down with Sarah Madden Armstrong, VP of Global Marketing Operations at Google, to discuss setting boundaries like you mean it. 

When you graduate from a top academic institution like Georgetown, earning a bachelor’s degree in marketing while starting on the university’s volleyball team for four years, you have to learn the one thing they don’t teach you in a classroom: how to set boundaries so you can get everything done. Sarah Madden Armstrong learned her lesson well — very well.

Her impressive career includes 20 years at The Coca-Cola Company, where she led Worldwide Agency Operations across 200 countries and was recognized as one of Advertising Age’s “Women to Watch.” She was also a partner at McKinsey & Co and advised marketing leaders around the world, all while pursuing philanthropic work with the Jack & Jill Late Stage Cancer Foundation and Trinity Table Soup Kitchen. 

Today, she is Google’s vice president of global marketing operations and applies the same careful balance to all aspects of her life. “I always ask myself several questions: Am I learning? Am I contributing? Am I challenged? Do I enjoy who I work with? Do I get to travel? Can I balance life in the way I want to?” explained Madden Armstrong, currently at work on a book about the art of juggling work and life. 

In order to create a positive work-life balance, which includes plenty of “Grace time” with her daughter Grace, she learned how to set boundaries — but with one proviso. “Boundaries aren’t of any value if you don’t share them,” she noted. “People can’t honor boundaries they don’t know about.”

So Madden Armstrong is very clear about her boundaries, and when the time comes to push back and say no, she can’t do something, the push back doesn’t surprise or insult the requester. In the podcast, Madden Armstrong shares a host of similar insights into leading oneself and leading others. These include:

• How Madden Armstrong adapted the student-athlete mindset to become an effective “corporate-athlete” who puts the team first.

• Setting the default bar to best rather than better.

• Using community work to foster team building through “Feel It” moments.

“Our New York team put together care packages for kids living in foster care,” Madden Armstrong said. “And the satisfaction of working together to brighten the days of children in foster care really built camaraderie to the point that it changed the dynamic of our team in so many ways.” 


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