Kelly Greenwood ’07 MBA has spent much of her career focused on mental health in the workplace — first as someone who struggled with and now successfully manages anxiety, and today as a nonprofit founder and CEO hoping to normalize mental health challenges at work for others and promote sustainable, mentally healthy workplaces.
Greenwood started Mind Share Partners, a national nonprofit that is changing the culture of workplace mental health, in 2017. But it took years for her to reach the point of launching the startup, in part because of the lack of support around mental health in the corporate world. Diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, she has experienced two bouts of what she calls “debilitating” depression, one of which while working full time — not something she felt comfortable discussing publicly. At that point, “only a handful of folks in my personal life knew about my mental health challenges,” she recalls.
She worried that revealing her personal information would affect the career she had worked so hard to build. “I was terrified about professional repercussions,” she says. “Ultimately, I think the hardest thing that I’ve ever done is to learn how to successfully manage my health challenges in the same way that I learned to manage my chronic asthma as a kid. I felt incredibly alone and didn’t think it was possible to be a successful professional who was also managing a mental health challenge.”
Today, through her work at Mind Share Partners — which is based in San Francisco and has an all-remote, nationally distributed team— she’s teaching other organizations to do what she wishes her employers had done for her. She’s also helping to lead the social movement around workplace mental health, including by writing in Harvard Business Review and Forbes. To ensure that employees don’t have to suffer in silence, she’s helping businesses create workplaces where a focus on mental health is woven into the culture.
Right now, there’s more demand than ever for this type of work.
The pandemic, civil unrest, systemic racism, gun violence, the war in Ukraine and other global events have all been difficult for employees, she says. “The issue of workplace mental health was already at an inflection point, and that just poured gasoline on it,” she says. “All of that does not stay at home with us or outside of the Zoom when we start working — mental health is intersectional with all of our identities.”
In the past two years, Mind Share Partners has supported some of the world’s largest companies as clients, including BlackRock, Yahoo, Pinterest, Prudential and Genentech. Mind Share Partners works with employees at every level of an organization, offering custom, live training solutions, on-demand modules, free toolkits and strategic advising to everyone from entry-level employees to executives. One of the most popular offerings is manager training, which equips managers with core skills to support the mental health of their teams through a diversity and inclusion lens, she says.
Two of Mind Share’s board members have connections to the Kellogg School of Management community: Ann Goggins Gregory ’05 MBA, one of Greenwood’s mentors, and Jill Miller ’07 MBA, whom Greenwood met in the Bullfrogs section. Greenwood says the additional Kellogg perspectives have contributed to the organization’s success.
Greenwood says she chose Kellogg for her MBA because of its strong social sector program, which enabled her to focus on helping others while rounding out her business skills. After graduation, she did management consulting before returning to the nonprofit sector, where she worked to scale an organization helping low-income girls of color interested in STEM careers. That opportunity led to the launch of Mind Share Partners by solidifying her commitment to improving the landscape in workplace mental health, where she could be an “authentic leader,” she says.
Mind Share Partners does not employ therapists, but instead takes a proactive, preventive approach using a management lens to address workplace mental health. The approach centers on reducing stigma and addressing the workplace factors that can contribute to mental health challenges. This includes learning how to show vulnerability to others at work while having authentic conversations around mental health and championing the topic in the workplace by modeling mentally healthy behaviors.
For many companies, that means figuring out how to truly show up for employees — an ongoing challenge, especially in hybrid work environments. “It’s all about how do you help them navigate while staying in your lane without trying to be a therapist,” she says.