Every once in a while I hear someone speak about leadership and immediately think to myself:
“This person gets it.”
One of these people is Shellye Archambeau.
Shellye is an absolute powerhouse when it comes to leadership. She is the former CEO of MetricStream and currently sits on the boards of Nordstrom, Verizon, Roper Technologies, and Okta AND advises the Royal Bank of Canada, Capital Markets Group, and Forbes Ignite.
She has cracked the code on what it takes to get to that next level of leadership, and she has recently poured everything she’s learned into a book on the subject called Unapologetically Ambitious.
On this episode of Maximize Your Career with Stacy Mayer, Shellye joins me to explain exactly what unapologetic ambition is AND how YOU can unlock new growth in your career (and life) by putting it into practice.
This conversation is absolutely jam packed with both super inspiring AND super practical advice. This is a must listen!
What You'll Learn:
- The three questions Shellye always asks herself that help her set and achieve her goals
- How to propel yourself to the top faster by finding the “current of power” in your organization
- The #1 mistake most mentees make
- How to build a network of supporters by asking the right questions
- How women and male minority leaders can raise issues in a way that actually moves things forward
Listen to the Full Episode:
Featured on the Show:
- Ep #52: Why Emotional Intelligence is Non-Negotiable for Executive Leaders with Leila Bulling Towne
- Check out Shellye’s book: Unapologetically Ambitious: Take Risks, Break Barriers, and Create Success on Your Own Terms
- Connect with Shellye on LinkedIn
- Connect with Stacy on LinkedIn
- Download my Promotion Roadmap
- Join the waitlist for my 6-week group coaching intensive, Executive Ahead of Time
Stacy Mayer: Hello, everyone, welcome to another episode of Maximize Your Career. I'm your host, Stacy Mayer, and I have a very special guest with us this week. Her name is Shellye Archambeau, and I met Shellye last year. She was actually interviewed on my dear friend, my mentor, my colleague, Leila Bulling Towne's webinar series. And, and you heard from Leila. Go back to December and I will share that link in the show notes of the interview that I did with Leila on emotional intelligence. So Leila interviews Shellye. And whenever I hear somebody that I'm just like, "Oh. Whoa, That person has it." That person has figured it out. She has cracked the code of not only what it takes to get here, but what it takes to get there. What it takes to get to that next level of leadership. She has lived she has breathed that in her corporate career, and now she has done that by turning it into a book and becoming a national speaker on the subject of unapologetic ambition.
Now, when you hear those words, so I'm just going to tell you from my own experience when I hear those words, I'm like, "Heck yeah, let's do it!" Right. And when you see it, you see executive leaders with unapologetic ambition and you're like, yes, that is what got them there. That is. It makes sense. And then my brain, I don't know if yours is the same way you go, but how, how do I do that? What does that mean? Right. How do I actually put that into practice? And Shellye is the walking, breathing example of that, not only in her career, in her life, and how she shows up every day, but then she's also given us the tools of the how in this beautiful book.
So I'm so thrilled to have her with you today. To have her with us today to share her wisdom so that she can start to tell us how to be a little bit more unapologetic ambitious, ambitious in our every day.
So let me do a more formal introduction of Shellye before we get started. Shellye Archambeau is the former CEO of Metrick Stream, who Reid Hoffman, the co-founder and former executive chairman of LinkedIn, describes as the woman who pulled off the most incredible Silicon Valley turnaround you never heard of.
That just gave me goosebumps. I like this. You know, when they talk about manifesting and putting your ideas out there, I think I might just put what Stacy Mayer is going to do. Like that already is an idea. I'm like, oh, what do I want to be known as? Archambeau currently sits on the boards of Nordstrom, Verizon, Roper Technologies, and Okta. She advises the Royal Bank of Canada, capital markets, and Forbes Ignite as well as growing startups. She is regularly named on whose, whose lists and technology and is the protagonist of the Harvard Business School case study: Becoming a CEO.
She is the author of "Unapologetically Ambitious, Take Risks, Break Barriers, and Create Success on Your Own Terms." Yes, yes, yes. I want that. A book that will inspire you and provide the tools to enable you to fight the battles, make the trade-offs and create the life that you want.
In her spare time, she is a Forbes contributor, runs a gourmet dinner club, and writes the blog that provides career advice, insight, and other musings from her career at Shellye.com. I'll link to that so that you'll know how to spell her name because she is the Shellye. I love that she's already just a first-name superstar. I'm already I'm just so excited. Shelley, let's have you introduce yourself. Thank you so much for being here today.
Shellye Archambeau: Oh, listen, Stacy, thanks so much for having me and for that glowing introduction. So I'm, listen, I'm just a little black girl who grew up in the sixties. In elementary school when the world was, we think racial challenges are heavy now, back then, it was very, very challenging.
So I knew very early in life that the odds weren't in my favor. And yet I wanted to run a company one day. So I spent my career, basically, building strategy, figuring out tactics, coming up with approaches to try to improve my odds. To actually get what I wanted out of life. And I was able to actually do that. So, yes, I wrote the book because I wanted to share for others, but especially women, people of color, folks from challenged backgrounds. Right. There are a lot of us whose odds are not in our favor to get what we want. And I wanted to share with all of them, here's how to improve your odds. Here's what you can actually do to take ownership of your own life and create, create the success that you want and that you define for yourself. So that's why I wrote the book.
Stacy Mayer: Why did you run to run your own business?
Shellye Archambeau: Well, it was interesting. I was in high school and had that fateful conversation with your guidance counselor in junior year. Do you want to go to college? Yes, I want to go to college. What do you want to do after college? I don't know. I mean, my family's all about get good grades and go to a good college so you can get a job and then you're done. So they said, what job? I'm like, I don't know. So she said, to her credit, the counselor said, "Well, what do you like to do?" And I said, clubs. I'm in American Field Service, National Honor Society, French Club. You name it, I'm in it. But more than that, I like running them. I'm president of this one, vice president of that one president. And she said, well, you know, business is just like clubs pull people together to go after common mission, get things done. And I went - Done. I want to go into business and the like running club, so I'll run a business. So I looked it up and the people who run businesses were called CEOs and I said, great, I'll become a CEO.
Stacy Mayer: Oh, my goodness. You know, it's so interesting because I always do a values exercises with my clients and leadership as a core value will come up so often for them. And there's always this sort of disconnect. Well, that's not really a value. It's kind of just what I do, right? Like it's just like, you know, I never really identified it. I'm like, no, you actually like being in charge. So in terms of that, there's like this double-edged sword. When I say you actually like being in charge, I can see the firelight up. And then but then they're like, oh, but I'm not supposed to do that. I'm not supposed to like being in charge. But I could tell from your story you were like very early on. No, I like being in charge. I like running things. So tell us about that in terms of unapologetic ambition, where that kind of comes from, how you have to own that.
Shellye Archambeau: Yeah, well, you know, it's interesting for me getting into leadership I learned that by actually being the leader or being in charge, or whatever it was, that two things. One, I could protect myself and I'll be happy to touch on that if you want me to. But number two, I could influence where I actually spent time. You know, what I did? And literally it was in Girl Scouts, and I was a Girl Scout forever, even through high school. But I didn't tell anybody. But I was the Girl Scout forever. And in Girl Scouts they try early, on at young ages, to actually give you responsibility. You're responsible to collect the wood. You're responsible to build the fire. You're responding, which is great for leadership, et cetera. Well, I figured out that if I actually was in a leadership role, I got to help decide who did what. And I didn't like collecting wood because you had to pick up that wood and there's bugs and things. And I mean, never knew what was underneath that log. Right. Or that piece of stuff. And I, I hated that some like if I'm actually, like, in charge and working with the team, I can kind of pick what I do, which won't be collecting wood. So that's was my early taste of leadership. And then, you know, the whole protect yourself thing was, you know, I grew up in an environment. I said it was racially charged. And so people did a lot of things that weren't very nice to me. And I'm kind of being pretty light, was pretty damn pretty terrible to me. But by actually having a role and having credibility, it helped actually build some of that respect that I was so creating. So all of that really came together in this whole leadership thing. And so, yeah, when I was like, oh, business. Sure, that's like clouds. I love that. So I'll go run a business. But I had no idea what it really meant to be a CEO. And come on I'm sixteen. I know, I do admit, but I'm goal oriented. So I was like, all right, now they have a goal. How do I manifest that goal? And, you know, Stacy, I literally asked myself three questions and whether this is true, whether it's a personal objective or a professional objective, what is it I want to make happen? So what is it I want to either create, to impact, or to achieve? And then I ask, what has to be true for me to actually do that? So when I looked at CEO, I'm like, all right, I want to be a CEO. Well, what has to be true for me to be a CEO? Well, that's where you do your research. What has to be true in order to answer that question, you have to do your homework and homework goes on forever. Doesn't stop in school. So I did the research. Who are CEOs? What were their backgrounds? What kind of degrees did they have? What kind of home life did they have? What kind of I mean, I researched everything. And then I said, all right, next question. How do I make that true? And that becomes the plan. So I knew that I needed credentials because people weren't going to look like me in those jobs, so I needed the highest credentials I could get. So I went to Wharton, right. I knew that all the CEOs I reached out to, I mean, they're all men. I see women. I didn't definitely see black people. And then most of them had stay-at-home wives if they were married. So I'm like, hmm, I want a husband and I want kids. So I need to find a husband who's actually going to be supportive and maybe even stay home with the kids at some point, if that's required. Because that's what has to be true. So how do I make that true? Well, I made it one of the criteria when I was deciding when I was getting married. Right. So, I mean, this, this whole thing drove everything I did in life. I'd always say, what is it I want? What has to be true for me to achieve it. How do I make it true? And then I'd go execute that plan.
Stacy Mayer: Yeah, that sort of answers the question I was going to ask you what just like how do we become a CEO? And you're like, yeah, you figure it out and it's unique to you. But yet there are clues out there for us to follow.
Shellye Archambeau: Absolutely. And it's so much easier today with LinkedIn and the Web. I mean, you can figure out what the career paths are and how you go do it. You know, I talk about in the book in terms of finding the current of power. Right. Every organization and or industry has a current. You know, look at who is in leadership, what were their roles, what were their jobs, what divisions, what groups. And typically you'll find that 80/20 rule. Where a good 80% kind of went through a very similar path. Well, I consider that the path to power. It's the current. It's like getting on a river. I mean, I guess if I'm paddling against the current, can I still get where I'm going? Absolutely. Is it hard and slow? Yes. If I get on the current and I start paddling like crazy, I get there a lot faster because the current is moving me as well as my own power. So find the current within your business, within your company, within your industry, and figure out how to let that current help propel you as well as the work that you do.
Stacy Mayer: So one of the things that I really like to do with my interviews on this podcast is give my listeners better role models. So one of the reasons why I brought you on here is because, because you are a woman who has had a great deal of success, but yet still appears very grounded, has her head on straight, doesn't seem like she just used power to get ahead. When we think about unapologetic ambition, not in a good way, we might instantly see someone that seems extremely ambitious and is at the top of our organization, but we don't like them very much. And are 150% not that person. So it's like you can see it, you emulate it. I have a feeling, I don't know for sure, I didn't know you when you were a CEO, that you weren't that type of CEO either. So I want to go back in time because there's something that's kind of coming up for me as I'm listening to you, where I'm like, oh, that's Shellye, though. Shellye always knew that she's in leadership. She seems extremely proactive. She went to war and she made it happen. I doubt myself. I'm thinking through the listener. It's almost like you're this magical unicorn and I know that is not true. So let's go back a little bit and remind ourselves that you are like all of my listeners.
Shellye Archambeau: Listen, it's so true, Stacy. I mean, part of the reason why I wrote the book was there are too many books out there where you read about what somebody has done with their career. What you hear is, oh, you know, I took step one, step two had a little hurdle, jumped over it. Step three, boom. Right. It all seems so easy. It's not. Okay. People don't tell you life is hard. I'm here to tell you it is hard, so I don't mince any of that in terms of in the book. I have suffered from imposter syndrome my entire life. I still do at times, which is ridiculous, okay, but I do. So self-doubt? Yes! Right. Imposter syndrome. Absolutely! Fear, uncertainly, doubt all that stuff, yes. You know, I sit up now, and you hear me, and I talk and I'm confident, well, listen, it took me, whatever, how old am I? So I'm fifty-eight years old. OK, so it took me a long time to get to this point. But no, I was not born this way. So thank you for asking that question. If I rollback, All Right, if I roll back, what countered that fear, you know, what countered the trepidation was a couple of things. One, I grew up in a family of four. My parents were crazy, Stacy. They had four children in less than five years.
Yeah, I imagine I can't. So we grew up very close, but also very competitive. So I had that whole competitive thing going. And then, again, 60s elementary school, a lot of white environments. I was not treated well. I mean, I was I was beat up. I was, you know, tormented, verbally abused. I mean, it was not good. So you come home when things happen to you, right? You say to your mom or your dad, but mom was a stay-at-home mom, so you say to mom such and such happened. It's not fair, right? It's not fair. And Mom would just look at me and say, you're right, Shelley, life's not fair. What? Life is supposed to be fair. If you get one cookie, I should get a cookie. Right. As a kid, everything should be fair. But she was really clear. No, I can get that hug the whole thing. Oh, it'll be fair later. No, life is not fair. So what are you going to do about it? And then the second message was, you can't control what people say to you, because they would say horrible things, and you can't control what they would do to you, likewise. But you can control how you respond. So don't let them win. And winning is when what they say or what they do impacts how you feel.
Especially about yourself, so don't let them win, they don't know you. They don't know you, so don't let them win. Who are they to judge you? Who are they make you feel bad? They don't know you. So the combination of those two things, life's not fair. Right. And you can't control what people say, what they do, but you can control your respond. That really made up the framework that combined with my competitive nature of really saying, OK, I have got to figure out how I get what I want in this life because nobody is going to give it to me. My mom said, "Vera, whatcha do? It's not fair." OK, so that's what really set out my whole focus on being intentional, because what I learned is that if I was intentional, if I set that goal and then really work toward it, I can improve my odds of actually making it happen. And therefore, that became what I did. Now, did I fear yes. Were there times when I'm thinking, oh, my God, I can't do this or wait till they figure out that I don't really know as much as I know, and all that kind of stuff? Right.
Stacy Mayer: Yes.
Shellye Archambeau: But what I did was I tried to surround myself with people who build me up, not tear me down.
Stacy Mayer: Yeah!
Shellye Archambeau: I'm a big believer, Stacy, in cheerleaders. And I mean, real cheerleaders. Go, Stacy! Yeah, Shellye! You got this, John! Come on, Shaniqua! Let's go, Jamal! Right. It's the people in your life who are the ones to remind you when you're sitting there saying, oh, my God, I don't think I could do this job or I don't know about that promotion or, you know, I don't know if I should actually take on this whatever project or speech or whatever. They're the ones they're saying, of course, you should. You can absolutely do this. You know, rah, rah, go, go. Right. Go do this. Because honestly, I think we live in a very judgmental world that just exacerbating all the reasons we feel inadequate. We need people around us who remind us actually what we can do and how good we are, because I'm not strong enough. I needed those people to push through. So I believe that everyone should have those people in their lives to help them push through. Because remember what I said earlier, life is hard. You cannot do this by yourself. Nobody achieves anything of significance. Nobody all by themselves. And if they tell you they did, they are lying. Okay. So don't think you should do this all by yourself. Get help. Get help.
Stacy Mayer: So what do we do instead? This is what goes back to the role models we surround ourselves in a 40, 60 hour work week with a lot of people who, who are telling us we can't do it. Indirectly and often directly. and we take that as what it is. Well, you know, my spouse tells me I'm really great, but that's about it. And and so at that executive level, it's this shift of saying, no, I am humble enough to say no, I don't have to figure it out first so that I can become a CEO. I surround myself with the right people who are going to cheerlead me, who are going to tell me and remind me of the power, it's not fake, of the power that is within you. So that you can make it into that position.
Shellye Archambeau: Absolutely, absolutely. I mean, I talk about imposter syndrome all through the book. All through the book. And I talk about how to deal with it because, frankly, I don't know how to get over it. Like I said, I still suffer from it from time to time, but I can tell you how to deal with it so it does not stop you. That's the key. Do not let it stop you, because honestly, at the end of the day, the end of the day, whatever comes your way, you ultimately figure it out. So give yourself the benefit of the doubt. And you know, if that means okay, pretend you know what you're doing until you do, then do that, because eventually you will figure it out. You always do. You always do. People around us who are reminding us of that fact. So we'll step forward. So we'll raise our hands. So we'll volunteer. And then, you know, take help. In my experience, most people want to be helpful if asked in the right way. So let people help you. Figure out how to ask in the right way. And one, can I just share one example?
Stacy Mayer: Yes, please.
Shellye Archambeau: So one example, Stacy, that has worked for me, you know, have a conversation with somebody that could be helpful in the future or is in the up chain or whatever it is. And you say, you know, one day I aspire to be the Chief Revenue Officer. Do you think I have the potential? Now, in that question, you've done a couple of things. One, you've told them what you want. Right? Now, you didn't do it by saying. You didn't walk in and say, hey, I want to be Chief Marketing Officer So how do we make it happen?
Stacy Mayer: Right.
Shellye Archambeau: No. Nobody wants to work with that kind of person. No, no, no. You walk in instead of asking the question, do you think I have the potential. Now by asking potential, that's such an easy yes. All Right. And people want to be able to say yes. So my, My experience is they always say yes, because potential, what potential, right everyone's got potential. So, yes, great. Now it's like fishing and they just bit the hook because now you get to follow up. Oh, thank you. Thank you. What experience do you think I need to add to my resume and background to help me better compete for that kind of role? Or what skills do you think I should, right. You ask them a question. Not all of the things I just said. One question. Now they're going to be compelled to answer because they just told you you have potential.
So they've shared they've got a view. Well, if they just sit there and say, I don't know, they look stupid. People don't want to look stupid. So they will tell you something. Great. Now, they told you something. Oh, you should, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Go do it.
Stacy Mayer: Go do it,
Shellye Archambeau: Go do it. All right. And then report back. Oh, my gosh. Stacy, thank you so much for the suggestion of doing blah, blah, blah. I did it. I think it actually went well. I'm really pleased with that. Is that the kind of step you thought I should take? Now they have to come back and either they will say, yes, because that's what they told you to do and you just did it, or they'll say, well, actually I meant blah, blah, blah, which is still fine. All Right. You go to that. Now, why do you do that? You do that because now you've told them that you're serious. That's number one. Two, you're following their advice, so they now start to feel responsible for you. Which means you get to ask for more advice.
Stacy Mayer: Yep.
Shellye Archambeau: And you keep taking it and you keep reporting back and before you know it, you've actually got somebody who is mentoring you or sponsoring you because they want to show that they knew what they were talking about. So they want this now to work out. So how do you build supporters? One question at a time?
Stacy Mayer: I love that. Oh, my goodness. Now, I want to ask you as a supporter, I'm sure you have mentored people in your career. Can you think of somebody who you felt extremely proud of? Who you were able to help mold and help them grow and give them this advice, I just want to hear it from the CEO's mouth.
Shellye Archambeau: So, sure. So I'll give you, as a matter of fact, I talk about her in the book, because I give examples. Her name is Sophia. So Sophia and I met because she bought me. It was at an auction and this had to be... Oh, man, I mean, her kids, her kids weren't even - she was pregnant with her with their first child - this had to be 15 years ago, it's been a long time. So she bought me one of these auctions where you could bid on having an hour lunch with somebody and get advice. Right.
Stacy Mayer: Amazing.
Shellye Archambeau: Yep. So she bid on me in this auction. So we got together and here's what Sophia did that most don't do know. Most people, by the way, terrible mentees.
Stacy Mayer: I know.
Shellye Archambeau: We can put a period on that and come back.
Stacy Mayer: Yeah.
Shellye Archambeau: Anyway, so we spent time she asked for advice, both professional and personal. She was at the time an engineering senior manager, and she had big aspirations. Okay. Well, she constantly reached out, reported back. Let me know what she was doing, how things were going, blah, blah, blah. Fifteen years later, she's still my mentee and Sophia is now a general manager. And I don't know what other title goes with that. But in an A.I. space for Microsoft. All right. She has done extremely well. She currently sits on a public board. She has two children, marriage. I mean, so she now has the things that she was shooting for, right. In her overall career. So that would be an example of somebody that I have mentored that actually has also been able to achieve her aspirations.
Stacy Mayer: You said that she did something different. Can you elaborate on that?
Shellye Archambeau: Absolutely. So the reason I said most people are terrible mentees. Is because most people are. You know, the mentee/mentor relationship is a relationship. It is not a come and take. Come and take. Come and take. So what does that mean? It means both parties have to get value, Stacy. So what, what Sophia did, was she'd come she asked for advice, right. Or perspective. Then she go off and do some things and then she'd report back. Hey, I did X, Y, Z, like you suggested. This worked or this didn't. Right. What happened, et cetera. Why is that important? It's important because now I get feedback. Number one, I know that, hey, she actually listened to me. Two, that she took advice and she's learning. So she's a listener and a learner. And when things work, it makes me feel good, which means I'm getting value. Most people I find squander opportunities. They'll ask me for prospective advice or whatever, and then crickets hear nothing. I don't hear from them again. I've no idea. They might come back a year or two or three later and say, oh, da, da, da. I'm kind of like well, we don't have a relationship. I mean, why would I invest more time and I have no idea whether it was helpful, but it was worth anything. I mean, time is my most precious commodity. So a good mentee actually takes ownership for the relationship. They're the ones that reach out to set time. They send the agenda before you actually meet so that as a mentor, you get a chance to think about what the issues or topics are. Right. They report back on, hey, what worked, what didn't. They let you know how things are progressing? So when you meet next, you're kind of caught up with what's going on. The mentee is the owner of the relationship, not the mentor, not the mentors, the mentee. And most people don't do that.
Stacy Mayer: Amazing. I love that story so much because I see it all the time. And it's the first thing that comes into my listeners minds a lot of times is there are too busy. Their time is so valuable. And then you think about Sophie, she's got this double whammy, which is, well, I bought her time. So I really need to respect it and not ask for more and not put, and then you just, just. No. Listen to what Shellye just said. She genuinely wants to help. And if you think about whoever your mentor is, as I always tell my clients, look, let them control their own calendar. Very important people know how to set boundaries. That's how they got there. If they don't have time to be with you or if they can't talk about something, they will tell you. But don't get into their calendar. Speak up, share, tell them what's working, and then from Shelley's mouth, it actually feels good to her. Believe her when she says that, you know, it's so helpful.
Shellye Archambeau: Absolutely. And there's more you know, my other my advice to the guidance of the whole mentor thing is I was fortunate to have had experience early in my career that shaped my entire outlook to mentors. IBM, I was at IBM about six years in. So I'm still in my 20s and IBM decided they want their high potential employees to have mentors. But they asked us who we wanted our mentors to be. Okay. So I picked a gentleman by the name of Roland Harris. He was a couple levels above me. And, you know, I knew him. I thought he liked me. So I said, Great, I'll pick Roland. Well, several days later I get a call. Shellye." "Hey, Roland." "Shellye, you put my name down to be your mentor." "Well, yeah Roland, I thought you liked me?" "Shellye, you've got me. Go get somebody else." I was like, what? So I learned two things. I learned two things in that conversation. One, this whole mentee/mentor thing, it doesn't have to be formal. I had no idea Roland considered himself a mentor. Two, I can have as many mentors as I want. He told me to go get another one. So literally for the rest of my career, I adopted mentors all over the place. I've had so many people say, who is your mentor? I'm like "A?" "One?" No. I have like I've no idea. I've never written down their names. But I might have one hundred. I mean I've had, I mean, when I say mentors, I mean mentors everywhere. And here's what I learned about taking help, no matter what job you get, somebody else has done it before. A 99% odds. Somebody else has done it before. People think of mentors as people to help them with their career plans. That job they do next. Right. The future. Guess what? That future doesn't happen until you nail the job you've got. All right. So get mentors to help you do the job you've got. That's like the biggest leverage you can possibly get. So go find the people that have done this job. Right? And leverage that. So, you know, that's something that I gosh, that I learned early. Again, I took on a new job that was a brand new focus, kind of an IBM. So it wasn't like there were a ton of people around. But my boss, to its credit, said, "Hey, Shelley, there's a guy in Baltimore." I was in Pennsylvania at the time. "This guy, Baltimore, he's actually been doing this for about seven months. you might want to go chat with him." And I did. And you know what? That was so helpful that I was like, I'm doing this every time. I'm always going to find people who've done the job that I've got. Why start at home plate when you can talk to people and start on first base? If you're ambitious, you want to move forward, but move forward quickly. So back to the help, take help. And most people want to help if asked properly. And then the biggest way I found to actually build these networks and things like that is I help other people. I'm a giver. You know. You need help? You need advice? Which I offer. I that's how you meet. That's how you actually create relationships. Relationships are how many people's names and phone numbers I have on my phone. To me, a network is comprised of people who will do something for you when it's not convenient. That is a network and that you have to build and you have to earn.
Stacy Mayer: This is a bit of a segue, but it was on my list when you said this. So as a woman of color or even a male minority leader, there are lots of currents of power that we are not interested in following. And so I could be wrong. Let's unpack this a little bit and see where I'm going. Okay. So I don't care what people say about me or how people see me as long as it doesn't affect me, I'm willing to speak up. I'm willing to be unapologetic ambition. I'm willing to go for it. And then we see something happening at our organization of how 80% of the people are getting ahead. Are you following me here? And
Shellye Archambeau: Sort of. Go ahead.
Stacy Mayer: I want to say that there are things that we want to speak up about at work. There are political systems that we want to challenge. There are... We're noticing that people are rising to the top in a certain way. Maybe it's because they're friends with the executives. Maybe it's because they have or are on power trips. I don't know, whatever that is. And we don't want to ride that current of power. We want to do it our way. We want to be ambitious. We want to create our own path. And so we're trying to do it our way.
So, I have all of my clients are minorities, and they always want to speak up about something and they really want to change the system and they're very upset. Right. And then at some point, it really hurts them and their ambitions because they're trying to fight the system. They're trying to change the way their organization works or how people speak to people or my boss is an asshole. That's actually the question I want to ask.
Shellye Archambeau: So. You know, one of the challenges about being a minority and a female within different organizations is I see, because I'm both, I see so many instances of microaggressions. Right. And things that people say and bias, right. And stuff that's out there, I see it all the time. The challenge is. I need to do two things. One, pick my battles where I believe I can have the most impact and, two to try to make things better for people that are coming behind me. All right. So that's what I try to do. So in doing that, it's then figuring out how do you raise issues in a way that actually moves things forward? And let me give you an example. I've been in rooms where people will talk about, oh, you know, we need to improve diversity, so let's look for a woman or look for a person of color. I mean, fill in the blank, and somebody will invariably say, oh, absolutely, but we can't lower the bar. All right. Mm-hmm. OK, well, what does that mean? Well, when somebody says we can't lower the bar, what they're communicating is they think that women and people of color are by definition, not capable.
Not as capable as non-women and non-people of color, because otherwise, you wouldn't raise the whole bar thing. You don't talk about the bar when you just looking at a job in general. Right. And trying to hire for it. But many people, when they say that they don't even realize that that's what they're communicating. So different ways of doing this. So in this meeting, you could sit there and say out loud, do you realize how racist or discriminatory or biased that statement is? What were you thinking?
Stacy Mayer: Yeah.
Shellye Archambeau: The problem is when you call people out, especially in public like that, they get defensive. Because most people don't even realize what they're insinuating when they say something like that. So all of a sudden become defensive? Well, as soon as people become defensive, they stop listening. And now it's all about them because now they have to support their position and everything and not about the issue. And you get pinged. Because people remember how you make them feel. You don't remember how what you said. They don't know what you do, how you make them feel, and you just made them feel badly.
Which is going to hurt you from a relationship standpoint. It's hard to do business like that. So how do I do it? When that's raised, All Right, a couple of ways. Depends on how well I know the people around the room, how big the room is. If it's a big room and I don't know people well what I typically will do is I won't actually raise it in that setting. Instead, right after the session, though, I'll say, "Hey, John Jacob Webber, can I just grab you for a second?" and then I'll tell them. I'll say, "I don't know if you realize it, but when you make the statement, we just can't lower the bar after talking about women or people of color as a candidate with that actually implies to people like me who are listening is that you think by definition we are substandard." And I know that's not what you meant. Right. So give them the benefit of the doubt. I know that's not what you meant. So I just wanted to let you know how it's being interpreted because I don't want people to misunderstand your position and your view. So what have I done? I've just taken that whole issue and I've actually done them a favor. Right, because I put it in the context of them, and how I don't want them hurt or them to be tainted or them to... And you know what happens? They listen.
They listen. And it's oh, thank you for letting me know. I really I didn't realize that I. Right. And so you start to fix those things. You know, if you're in a room where you know, most of the people, you can do the same thing in the group. Like, say, say it's a small group. And, you know, most of them you can just say, hey, Stacy, I know you just said blah, blah, blah, blah, and I know you didn't mean this. Right. So you lighten it up. Right?
Stacy Mayer: Right.
Shellye Archambeau: I didn't mean this, but actually, people who don't know, you might think when you make a statement like this that you met bah bah bah bah bah bah. But I know you. All right. Now, what have I done again? A communicated it, but I've done it easily. I have not created this tension so that we could still have a good relationship. Right. Going forward. Business is about relationships. So the key is to use your power in the best way to get your point across, to make the change. But not create environments that can become tough to overcome. And the other is pick your battles. You know, if you're rising and you're ambitious, the higher up you get, the more impact you get to have.
Stacy Mayer: Exactly.
Shellye Archambeau: So certain battles you want to wait to get certain roles. I sit on the board of directors of Fortune 500 companies. Am I making an impact? Your damn right I am.
Stacy Mayer: Absolutely.
Shellye Archambeau: Am I raising issues? I absolutely am. I've earned it. I'm now at the spot. Right.
So get to the role that has the power and make the change.
Stacy Mayer: Absolutely. That actually segues straight into your book. So you transitioned into this public figure, I guess, so to speak. Can you talk about what, what happened in terms of your career where you said, okay, I've done this this phase of my career and now I'm going to make a different type of impact on the world?
Shellye Archambeau: Yeah, well, I'm a planner, right? I set goals make plans, all of it. So when I when I gosh, I guess I was in my early thirties when I realized there was such a thing as a board of directors and that the CEO actually reports to the board and the board hires and fires them and went. And I went, oh, I want that job.
Stacy Mayer: So you went one step. So when you were 16, it was the CEO. But then at some point you realized, oh, there's somebody else up there who's calling the shots.
Shellye Archambeau: I wanted that job. All Right. And so I did what I always do. What has to be true. Right. I went and did the research. Who are these board directors? What are their skills that I saw? I laid out a plan. So my plan was because the number one request at the time for board members were people with experience serving on boards. OK, well, this is kind of a Catch 22. How do you get experience? So I said, all right, what that means, is as soon as I possibly can, I need to get on a public board. Just one, so that I can have years of experience. So then when I'm ready for phase two, and phase two for me was always a time when I wanted to be in more control. Phase two for me was when I always wanted to be in control of my calendar so that I could spend time on how I wanted to spend it. Still, I wanted to impact, but I also wanted to be able to inspire. And I thought and I wanted to be self-sufficient. So I didn't have to worry about being paid by people and all those kinds of good things. So I said all right I don't know when I want to go into phase two. In my mind, I was probably thinking at sixty, sixty-five I'll go into phase two, but I wanted to have everything lined up. So when I was ready to pull the ripcord, time for phase two, it was easy. That's the whole reason you plan, right? Make things easy, improve your odds. So great. So I became CEO at 40 and I immediately started working on my board seat and I got a board seat at forty-two and then my plan was to ride that out, which I which I did.
But what happened was my husband actually became ill with a terminal cancer and so I needed to pull that ripcord earlier than anticipated. Now the good news is I had planned for it, so I wasn't expecting the timing. You know, I pulled the report about three years ago and it was the right decision to make because it gave me more flexibility. I was able to spend more time with him before he passed, and I have no regrets. So now I'm in phase two, which is all about impact and inspiration. I want more people to be able to achieve their aspirations, but especially women and people of color, because for the most part, in my experience, most women and people of color aren't able to contribute to heck 50, 60% of their true capabilities. And I think that's ridiculous. So I wanted to write the book, to share, to share strategies, approaches, hack's techniques, you know, whatever things that I used. Here's how you can improve your odds to actually get what you want if you're willing to be intentional and do the work. So that's what I'm that's, what I'm doing. So right now, the impact of serving on boards, I advise companies all those things are impactful and inspiration. Write the book. I'm speaking. I'm sharing stuff on social media, blogs, what have you. I'm just trying to put it out there to say, hey, listen, I want more people to be able to get here because I didn't get here by myself and I want to make sure I help as many others as I can.
Stacy Mayer: Any surprises since the book came out last year? Because I feel like we write the book and then we do all the interviews and then we learn a bunch of stuff after that. So would you be willing to share anything you've learned since you wrote the book?
Shellye Archambeau: Yeah, you know, it's my book. When I wrote it, my target was, more core target, because they said, figure out who you're writing to. Right. So my core target was really young professionals. People call it mid-twenties, mid-thirties was my core target because you make so many decisions in that decade that impact the trajectory of the rest of your life. Where you live, what industry you're going to be in, who you marry, kids, I mean, all this stuff happens like in this decade, right, for so many people. But I also thought it would help a lot of people in that anybody who was ambitious and still trying to achieve things. The group that surprised me was middle-aged men. Middle-aged men, especially middle-aged white men. And it is absolutely I've gotten notes and emails and thanks. And it's like, wow, OK, I knew it was broad and base because I, you know, yes, I'm a black woman, but I didn't write it for black women. I wrote it for people. Right. And I just shared my experiences that some people may be able to identify with more than others. But that was the one that blew me away. I'm like, OK, well, good. So anyway.
Stacy Mayer: Oh, thank you for that. That's great. I absolutely love that. So can you give us any final words of advice for a senior executive leader looking to transition into higher levels of leadership? Anything as we're, as we're going out? I know we've talked about a lot today, but anything else that we didn't touch on that you would like to share?
Shellye Archambeau: Yes, just two quick things.
One, you own your career. You do. You do, not your boss, not your mentor, not your company, you own your career. You would never spend thousands and thousands of dollars on airline ticket, pack your bags, put the dog in the kennel, hold your mail, let your neighbors know that you are going to be gone for a while, head to the airport, buckle your seat belt and look at the pilot and say, so where are we going anyway? But people do that with their career all the time, they spend tens, if not hundreds of thousand dollars on education and coaches and teachers and conferences and all of these things. And then they work hard, put their head down, work hard, and they wait for tap, tap, tap. OK, Stacy, you can do this now. OK, tap, tap, tap. Oh, you could do that now. OK. What? No. You own your career decide what it is you're trying to do, where it is that you're going, and then make decisions that of being intentional. Right. To be able to try to drive that.
Number two, make sure people know what you do, not your title. All right, so in our culture, we introduce, hey, how are you? And it's very socially acceptable to say, oh, what do you do, Stacy? Right. And people will say, oh, I'm Executive Vice President of Operations for XYZ Company. OK. What does that mean? I don't know. Because of a title, does it mean anything outside of the organization that you're actually in because the roles and responsibilities are dictated by the company or by the division? Heck, it can vary in individual division. You want to make sure that people know what your skills are, what your strengths are. So that if they hear of opportunities, if they know of cool, neat initiatives or task forces that you should be part of, they will think of you. So, no, you're not just the EVP of Operations. What are you? You're the VP of operations. You have responsibility for all of the full supply chain globally for your most critical blah, blah, blah, blah. 20 seconds. No more. 20 seconds, you're answering a question. More than that, you're bragging. All right, 20 seconds. Practice it. Pick what your speech is going to be. And whenever people say, what do you do? Don't you dare stop at your title. For as much as we negotiate and we fight for and aspire to titles, they are meaningless.
So tell people what you do. And then the last thing, the last thing is, for God's sake, take risks. All right. Corporations were formed legally, the legal entity of a corporation was put in place so that people could come together and take shared-risk. All right. it's the foundation of a company. If you are not able to demonstrate that you are good and capable at risk taking, you are not making it to the C-suite. All right. I've been a CEO. I've been a board director. One of the things that holds people back the most is they're not risk takers. All right. I don't want risk-takers in the company because you have to take risks. You don't win in the market. You don't expand in the market. You don't enter new markets unless you take risks. So they aren't going to put people in place to drive shareholder value who aren't taking risks. So you have to learn how to take effective risk. Do not be too conservative. All right. Take risks, learn how to do it. So anyway, I could go on. Read the book.
Stacy Mayer: Yes, exactly. Exactly.
Shellye Archambeau: At least does those three things.
Stacy Mayer: Well, and I was just thinking, that it's actually, as a reminder, it is risky to go to your boss and to say, I want to become a CMO what should I do? This is what we talked about earlier in this episode, right?
Shellye Archambeau: Yes.
Stacy Mayer: And then go do it and come back and say, okay, this is what I tried. This worked. Is that the way. It is risky, in a good sense, in the most simplistic way, to just show up. To be unapologetically ambitious and to say, I am here to grow, I'm here to learn, I'm here to learn from you.
Shellye Archambeau: Exactly right. And let me just - one more caveat on this whole ambitious thing, because you're right, we almost started earlier. When people think of people who are ambitious, you know, they think, oh, somebody like clawed their way, elbowed others out, took credit. That's not ambitious. That's just rude. Okay. What is ambition? All ambitious means is there is something in the future that you want to create, that you want to impact or that you want to achieve. That's it, and you're working toward it. So that's it. That is ambition. Everyone deserves to be ambitious.
Stacy Mayer: That's amazing. Thank you, Shellye. So how do we find you, how do we connect with you? Besides, I'll link to your book in the show notes that I definitely check out Unapologetically Ambitious. How else should they follow you,
Shellye Archambeau: Shellye.com and that Shellye with a Y E. S-H-E-L-L-Y-e.com. You can find me. Follow me. I'm very active on social media, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, etc. If you heard anything today that was helpful or inspiring, post about it. Tag me. I'm, I'm happy to respond and I would appreciate the help because I'm trying to market a book during covid.
Stacy Mayer: Exactly.
Shellye Archambeau: This is hard. This is hard. Okay, I need the help. So if anything that you heard was actually helpful or inspiring, just tweet or post or something. Hey, Shellye, said X. I really appreciate it. Whatever might be.
Stacy Mayer: Amazing. Yeah.
Shellye Archambeau: Thanks. Thanks in advance for the help. Thanks for having me, Stacy.
Stacy Mayer: Thank you, Shellye. Well, I so appreciate it. Thank you.
About Your Host
Hi! I'm Stacy Mayer, a Certified Executive Coach and Promotion Strategist on a mission to bring more diversity to the leadership table by getting 1000 underrepresented corporate managers promoted into senior executive positions each year worldwide.
I help undervalued executives scale to the C-Suite using repositioning strategies that build your confidence and visibility, so you can earn the recognition and support you need from key stakeholders while embodying your unique leadership style.
My podcast “Women Changing Leadership with Stacy Mayer” tackles topics like executive communication, getting more respect in the workplace from challenging bosses and team members, and avoiding the common mistakes that sabotage career advancement.
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