Michele Lieber stands out in the corporate world for her unique blend of public policy expertise and legal acumen, skills that have propelled her to prominent roles in the boardroom.
Based in Washington DC, Michele serves as the SVP, Global Head of Government Affairs at FactSet and an Independent Director of Lendmark Financial Services. Her story demonstrates the importance of specialized knowledge and the power of strategic foresight in today’s complex regulatory environments.
In our conversation, Michele shares insights from her journey. She talks about the value of bringing something different to the table and how a distinct skill set can shape a fulfilling career.
Beyond her boardroom achievements, Michele is deeply committed to mentoring. Her work with young professionals, especially in Washington D.C., reflects her dedication to nurturing the next generation of leaders.
We extend our deepest gratitude to Michele for her time and willingness to share her experiences and insights, providing an invaluable perspective for those navigating the path to leadership in the corporate world.
Michele is currently the SVP, Global Head of Government Affairs at FactSet and an Independent Director of Lendmark Financial Services. After a 25-year career in corporate America as a government relations attorney, Michele founded BluePoint DC a boutique government and public affairs firm where she served as a strategic advisor for Boards and private company CEOs. As a trusted advisor and accomplished leader, she has helped senior corporate executives navigate Congressional and regulatory opportunities and challenges. Previously she built the Washington DC office for Ally Financial where she played an important role in the evolution of the company and designed a political program and advocacy function that she has helped other entities replicate in her consulting business.Her work as a strategic "River Guide" for CEOs and senior management coupled with education as an attorney has enabled her top be a leading expert in guiding organizations to achieve public policy results.
Being at the heart of political and regulatory developments in Washington D.C. must be exhilarating! Whats it like being in the midst of such a dynamic atmosphere?
I have lived and worked in Washington, DC for over 25 years and love everything about the political process. Now DC is my home and the public policy process is my craft. Even in the more crazy times, I find policy making not only to be my professional expertise but my personal hobby as well. In recent years I have lived one block from the Capitol and spend my time with policymakers and staff.
I have more recently been tasked with a global advocacy role and have taken the lessons learned working with the US Government abroad. The excitement of being in DC has never lessened for me and I have been excited to share my experiences with colleagues and friends around the world.
Could you share your journey to the boardroom? What were the key moments or decisions that led you to your current position?
I was approached by a recruiter to join the board of a privately held company. I was asked because of my professional expertise in public policy and government advocacy and the industry in which this company operates is very heavily regulated. The company was going through some transitions with a new general counsel and my legal training was viewed as an additional bonus. I had never thought of joining a board so this felt like a great opportunity to experience board service as an independent director.
How has your specialized expertise in public affairs and government policy influenced your approach and success in the boardroom?
My career as a government affairs professional has always made me valuable as a member of the senior leadership of the companies for which I have worked. It is an area that is not taught to many finance executives and most CEOs come up through the finance ladder at a company. This is a new area that a CEO must navigate and it has a different language and rules. I have long served as a translator of the process for the people I have worked with throughout my career. I actually enjoy educating my colleagues on how the government works and how we as an employer can have a seat at the table in policy making discussions. I have had to help the other board members understand the approach that the government affairs professionals within the company are taking and explain the costs associated with managing the regulatory environment efficiently.
Can you describe some of the positive experiences you've had in the boardroom that highlight the impact of your expertise?
I work closely with the government affairs professionals within the company. We meet regularly and talk through the strategy. I provide guidance, introductions for the team and serve as a translator to others on the board in the meetings about the legislative/regulatory environment and company challenges and opportunities. Occasionally, I have recommended third party experts and other industry participants.
Transitioning from a hands-on role to an advisory position as a board member can be significant. How has this shift impacted your professional growth and perspective?
This has been a critical learning experience for me. In my professional career I have been asked to jump in and handle many complex situations quickly. In this role I have been asked to advise and then step back to let the management team handle a given situation. This lesson has really helped me in other areas of my career and life. I am not always going to be in charge and that is important to keep in mind.
Your mentoring work has clearly been a fulfilling aspect of your career. Can you talk a bit about that and how the role has influenced you?
Mentorship has become a very important part of my life in the last few years. Initially I was asked to help three young people on Capitol Hill here in Washington who did not have mentors to turn to for help with career advice. I realized that it was so exciting for me to help guide these people who have gone on to do amazing things. Those three recommended me to many more.
Now I have a large group of young people I speak with and meet with regularly who have all far surpassed my expectations. I make sure I am selective in choosing mentees, being aware when someone may not benefit from my advice.
What has been one of the most unexpected lessons you've learned while serving on a board?
Most of my experience has been incredibly fulfilling and I have grown to understand and respect the company philosophy that the management operates with daily. It was a very different culture than I have experienced in my professional roles and I see that as very positive now.
I have also learned that there are some people who only value the bottom line and their opinions and are not open to learning about the important role the government can and does play in private business. There is one other male board member who initially spoke over me and dismissed my contribution when it differed from his own perspective. I have noticed others on the board stop to ask my perspective regularly which has helped develop a more cordial and collaborative environment.
What advice would you give to anyone aspiring to reach the boardroom?
Finding the right opportunity where you can add value, educate the leadership team and other board members is key. For me, this opportunity has been incredible. I have been able to learn and educate while pushing myself to advise but let the management of the company engage and execute. This has been an important lesson for me at this later stage in my career. I recommend that people make sure they have the time to attend board meetings and to make themselves available outside of board meetings. If you do not have the time this is not the right opportunity for you and when you have more time available then pursue it. It can be incredibly rewarding but only if it complements your lifestyle. Like anything else if you are over scheduled it will add more stress to your life if you have time you can devote yourself.
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