Insight CEO Joyce Mullen: ‘Do You Balance Your Team’s Hunger, Heart and Harmony?’

In this edition of our Corporate Competitor Podcast, Maxwell Leadership Thought Leader Don Yaeger sits down with Joyce Mullen, CEO of Insight, who draws on mountain climbing and soccer to discuss the essence of teamwork—at 19,000+ feet or in the office. 

Joyce Mullen may have degrees from Brown and Harvard, but the toughest schooling she got was probably from the college of Kilimanjaro—as in Mount Kilimanjaro.

You never forget your first hike up the African mountain. But if you’re Joyce Mullen and destined to one day become the CEO of Insight, a $9.4 billion Fortune 500 organization, you remember things,  well, a bit differently. Her most powerful memories were about the 50 porters who managed every facet of the climbers’ health and safety, the navigation route and carrying a lot of stuff up to the mountain’s peak, 19,218 feet into the clouds. 

“Each of the porters had a specialty,” she remembered. “There were people in charge of the food, water, sleeping quarters, hygiene, preparing trails, fitness, everything imaginable. And they managed everything to make our trip a success.” As she grew up to become a business leader in charge of a team of thousands at leading technology companies like Dell and Insight, she drew explicit connections to the porters’ example.

“The analogy of porters guiding people like me, who don’t have any knowledge or experience of mountain climbing or Africa, is analogous to the work we do for our clients,” Mullen said. “Technology is a big complex area, and the notion of guiding clients through their choices, making sure that they reach their objectives, is what we do on a daily basis. Similarly, we all have areas of focus and expertise, so everybody has to play their role in order to make sure we deliver the outcomes to our clients.”

At Insight, a more subtle analogy has emerged through the set of values Mullen calls “hunger, heart and harmony.” The unifying force for her 12,500-member strong team, the motto offers a shorthand for such porter-esque qualities as continuous improvement, working together to contribute to the team and the larger community and seeking out diverse opinions because, as Mullen avers, “a thousand minds are better than one.” 

On top of learning how hunger, heart and harmony may be applied in diverse organizations, listeners to the podcast will benefit from Mullen’s other well-applied sports analogies, including:

• What soccer teaches us about the need for players to be able to play in more than one position—and preferably in all positions.

• How to “line-up” each team member’s personal goals with the goals of the team.

• Why there is no “one size fits all” approach to inspiring and motivating your team.

The key to successfully implementing hunger, heart and harmony is balance, says Mullen, whose successful balancing act led Insight to a 14 percent sales hike amid a global pandemic and designation as a 2022 Forbes America’s Best Employees honoree. 

Now that’s a balance even a Kilimanjaro porter could respect.


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