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Say “yes” to coffee (even if you don’t drink it)

October 23, 2015 Sarah Breigle

I am excited to bring you the first story in our ‘Leaders Who Inspire Us’ series. In these candid one-on-one interviews, we will feature senior leaders who have had a lasting impact on their teams and their organizations. We will share stories that are about more than doing a job or building a career. They are about fulfilling a personal mission to drive change.

Today, we’re sharing Michelle Oroschakoff’s story. Michelle is the first female Chief Risk Officer at LPL Financial, the nation’s largest independent broker-dealer. Her grounded and thoughtful approach to talent management and her mission as LPL’s first diversity champion left us feeling more than a little inspired. We hope that sharing her story will give you reason to pause and think about your passion. Enjoy! —Ed

“Everything that I learned about showing up, executing and acting quickly came from him,” Michelle said of her first boss, her father.

Michelle spent her early childhood years working at her family’s Northern California ranch. She is the first to admit that this (anything-but-9-to-5) job had a profound impact on her. She reflects back on her formative years with gratitude and appreciation.

Fast forward to today, and Michelle has worked her way up through the ranks in various roles on Wall Street to her current position as LPL’s Chief Risk Officer. Her impact reaches far beyond her official role managing a team responsible for companywide risk management processes and controls, compliance and governance and enhancing the corporate risk profile. She has had a role in pioneering inclusion initiatives and best practices as LPL’s first diversity champion—and in helping her “best” talent get better, even if it means letting them go.

Discovering the “whole”
“It’s important to bring your whole self to work,” Michelle explained. “Diversity and inclusion go beyond gender and ethnicity to encompass the whole of the human experience. This is an important core value of an organization.”

In addition to her role on the executive team at LPL, Michelle is an outspoken proponent of mentorship and serves as an LPL PathFinder, a program in which employees at all levels volunteer to take time to discuss their careers and experiences. She fosters career development for employees and is a proponent of encouraging dialogue about diversity and the value that it brings to LPL, its clients and the industry.

Michelle is particularly dedicated to supporting women in leadership positions in her field. She recently addressed 400 of her female peers at a conference in the securities industry, sharing her journey in navigating her career and the Aha moments she had along the way. At LPL, two of the four executive vice presidents on Michelle’s team are women, and she and her team recently recruited three new female senior vice presidents. It is efforts such as those that position her as a talent magnet within the industry.

Michelle enjoys making her network available to others. She identifies herself as a “connector” and is quick to emphasize the value of growing and nurturing your network.

“I’ve always found that making the time to get to know people is invaluable. Always say ‘yes’ to going for coffee,” she said. Informal meetings and open dialogue can form new relationships that can ultimately lead to opportunity—either now or in the future—and valuable self-discovery.

“Sometimes you can get more done in a five-minute walk to a coffee shop than you can in a two-hour meeting,” she said.

Give up good talent (yep, she said it)
“One of the things that I’ve learned is to spend time on strengths and strong performers,” she said. “The strong performers are the people who carry you forward. People who are strong can get even better….Strong performers deserve opportunities.”

That said, “Hoarding talent is a poor way to run your firm. I make it a practice of giving up talent when I can,” she added.

When you reach the point where you can’t imagine doing your job without someone, it may be time for them to move on to the next opportunity,” she said. This creates a brand associated with trust, self-enrichment and opportunity—and simply put, a team that people want to work for.

Say what you mean and mean what you say
“As a leader, one of the hardest things that I had to learn was to be direct and straightforward,” she said.

As leaders, what you say and do is available for general consumption. If you don’t communicate clearly and directly, people spend time interpreting you and they can (and sometimes do) get it wrong. After getting this feedback from one of her staff members after she took on a leadership role, Michelle realized that she had to say what she meant or people would move on. “Now, I am extremely direct,” Michelle said with a smile.

From ranch life growing up in the mountains of Northern California to a successful career on Wall Street, Michelle has charted a remarkable and meaningful journey of self-discovery. She is a passionate champion for the high-potential talent in her firm and is trying to make a lasting impact on her team and throughout her organization.

Michelle, thank you for sharing your story and for inspiring us. Oh, and we’ll take your advice on that cup of coffee next time.

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