Risks Boards Should Take, from an ''Unapologetically Ambitious'' Director

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Risks Boards Should Take, From an “Unapologetically Ambitious” Director

Listen to Episode 34 on Apple Podcasts

Guest: Shellye Archambeauboard member, Verizon, Nordstrom, Roper Technologies, and Okta and former CEO of MetricStream

Hosts: Dottie Schindlinger, Executive Director of the Diligent Institute, and Meghan Day, Senior Director of Board Member Experience for Diligent Corporation

In this episode:

  1. Be open to risks—and realistic about failure. There’s no way you could be taking risks and pushing yourself, pushing the company, without some of them failing,” Archambeau says.
  2. Add value in an intentional fashion.Are you bringing your expertise or just your opinion to the table?
  3. Prioritize trust and authenticity throughout.Teams operate best on a foundation of trust, and the best way to build trust is by being authentic, Archambeau says.


In the tumultuous year that has been 2020it might seem prudent for companies to hunker down, lower expectations, and put proactive strategy on the back burner until the business climate stabilizes

Resist that urge, Shellye Archambeau says. 

Archambeau was among the first Black female CEOs in Silicon Valley when she held that post at MetricStream, a platform and software provider in the governance, risk, and compliance spaceSpeaking with podcast co-host Meghan Day, Archambeaudrew from her board membership withVerizon, Nordstrom, Roper Technologies and Okta, as well as her new book, “Unapologetically Ambitious: Take Risks, Break Barriers, and Create Success on Your Own Terms,” to talk about how boards can stay on track in today’s business environment

Times are challenging right now and companies absolutely have to address the challenges they are facing,” Archambeau says. “But it’s critical that they keep in mind their long-term strategy and that it’s constantly being challenged, looked at, and reviewed.”

Be open to risks—and realistic about failure

Frankly, if you say you’re taking risks and every single one of them has turned out positively, the answer is you’re actually not taking risks.

– Shellye Archambeau, board member, Verizon, Nordstrom, Roper Technologies, and Okta and former CEO of MetricStream

Businesses that succeed do things differently, Archambeau says. Getting there inherently incurs riskIn fact, that’s what the corporate structure was designed for.

“If we’re not having some failures, the company is probably being too conservative,” she says. Rather, boards should expect the occasional failure and learn from what doesn’t work: how to improve processesassessments, and other elements for next time.

Add value in an intentional fashion.

Archambeau reminds board members that they were each brought on for a reason, such as a specific skill set, set of experiencesor perspective. Board members should be aware of and draw from those strengths. 

Because board meetings are so short, and we have to accomplish a great deal, it’s not helpful if my expertise is in one lane—say, marketing—and yet I start opining in areas that may not be my strength or that are other people’s strengths,” Archambeau says. “You want to be careful that you are intentional about where you comment and whether or not you’re bringing your expertise or just your opinion to the table.”

Intentionality also extends to contributions outside of board meetings. If you’re seeing something that’s happening and you have a question about it, or there’s something that’s concerning you, don’t wait until the next meeting,” Archambeau advises.

Your purpose is to help support the company, so you want to make sure that you’re doing that as effectively as possible.

Shellye Archambeau, board member, Verizon, Nordstrom, Roper Technologies, and Okta and former CEO of MetricStream

Prioritize trust and authenticity throughout

It’s hard to have a really effective team when there isn’t trust within the team

Shellye Archambeau, board member, Verizon, Nordstrom, Roper Technologies, and Okta and former CEO of MetricStream

Day asks Archambeau about the importance of authenticity to leadership, particularly now?   

Authenticity is essential to trust, Archambeau says, and both are essential to teamwork and results

If you are the leader, the CEO, or in the board room and you’re not authentic, then people have a hard time trusting you,” she says.And if they have a hard time trusting you, then it’s very hard to actually create an environment where people can come together as a team and execute as effectively as possible.

Also in this episode…

Day and Archambeau talk about actions boards can take against racism

In the boardroom, we can make sure that our companies are taking a moment—this moment—to actually get educated on what racism is, what bias is, and do an audit and self-assessment,” Archambeau says. “Has racism crept in unknowingly into our systems? How are we paying?How are we hiring?How are we advancing?”

Archambeau also drew from her work writing and speaking about racial injustice to clarify terms that have been utilized and often mischaracterized, such as Black Lives Matter vs. “all lives matter.”The former, she explains, is a phrase of thoughtfulness and concern for a group that’s “been through a really hard time.”

“Imagine that someone you really care about has gone through a really tough period. They feel like they’ve been beat up and abused and mistreated, andthey look at you and say, ‘Honey, do you love me?’” Archambeau says. If “what you say to them is, ‘Hey, I love everybody,’ that’s not really what they need and that’s not the point of the question.” 

Resources in this episode

Listen to Episode 34 on Apple Podcasts