Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to share your story and your advice. First things first, though, I am sure readers would love to learn more about you. What is something about you that would surprise people?
Debi: I am a very quiet person by nature. I think this confuses people because I am very outgoing. I’m not shy, but definitely more on the introvert side. By that I mean, I prefer minimally stimulating surroundings and small intimate gatherings to large social events. I appreciate being invited and do love interacting with people, but over the years I have realized that large events and long gatherings really drain me, so I am very selective about what I attend. I have learned to honor and listen to myself and know that I require quiet time to recharge my batteries. I love people, don’t get me wrong, but I cherish my quiet time.
Adam: How did you get here? What failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your growth?
Debi: I have been an entrepreneur my whole life, so failure is a big part of my life journey. You can’t be a serial entrepreneur without having a lot of failures – it is part of the process. It is how you view and work with those failures that defines us. Challenges and setbacks are a part of everyone’s life, not just in business, so that’s where we are all similar. But our relationship with failure – that is what separates the pack.
You must cultivate a positive relationship with fear and use it as a tool. We can learn more from our failures than our successes, if we are fearless. Fear of failure is what holds so many people back from reaching their potential. I see failure as one of my biggest gifts. I have so many instances where I can look back and see that I imagined failure to be so much worse than it actually was. We often are more worried about what we think others will think if we fail than failure itself. And, in so many cases, people aren’t as focused on us as we think. I’m just a gal with a big dream who decided to swing for the fences. I knew if I didn’t make it, I would just do something else. We can’t worry about what others are thinking. Just pretend no one is watching and go for it!
Adam: In your experience, what are the defining qualities of an effective leader? How can leaders and aspiring leaders take their leadership skills to the next level?
Debi: I believe an effective leader never stops learning. We must remain teachable, no matter our successes, positions or titles. I do this by surrounding myself with people that know more than I do – this helps me to keep leveling up. I also think it is crucial that you create a collaborative environment. This not only empowers the people around us, it encourages ideas and this is how we all keep learning.
Adam: What are your three best tips applicable to entrepreneurs, executives and civic leaders?
1) Have a plan and run that plan by people that won’t feed you what you want to hear. Find your trusted critics and listen to their feedback.
2) Trust your intuition. This took time for me to realize what my intuition was. I have cultivated a process now where I reflect on times where I went right and should have gone left. Where were the signs. Did I feel them in my body as a sensation? They are there if you look for them. I have to get quiet and watch for cues. Sometimes they are big and other times super subtle.
3) Find your passion – what really lights you up on the inside. That is your truth. Let the truth of who you are be the foundation for your work. Don’t be afraid to be disruptive!
Adam: What is the single best piece of advice you have ever received?
Debi: Surround yourself with people who TRULY believe in your vision and cut those loose who don’t. This may sound harsh, but you must remember that you are building out your vision, and if you are the visionary, you must also be an effective leader. If you are honest about what you want and need, most of the time you will attract like-minded people to share your journey, and that is beautiful. But there are times when people don’t collaborate well with others or can’t hang with the evolution. Don’t force relationships.
Adam: What is one thing everyone should be doing to pay it forward?
Debi: Share your journey with the world – the good and the bad. My story has been a big part of why I do what I do. Take the time to mentor. Never turn down an opportunity to help someone. I grow in some way every time I get out of my world and into someone else’s.
Adam: What are your hobbies and how have they shaped you?
Debi: Travel! I learn something about myself every time I travel – no matter where it is. I really take the time to experience whatever place I go to – even if it is to a place I have been to before. I go out of my way to experience what the locals are doing and eating. Coffee shops are my favorite place to hang out. Just sitting and observing people is pure enjoyment for me.
Adam: Is there anything else you would like to share?
Debi: It is important to decide what kind of leader you want to be. It has taken me a while to grow into my vision of what kind of leader fits bet for me. While I enjoy being an effective leader, I’m also passionate about building other leaders. Someone asked me if I liked being an “it girl,” and I said sure, it’s fun, but I also love building the “it” team. Brene Brown’s quote on leadership sums it up: “Leadership is not about titles, status and wielding power. A leader is anyone who takes responsibility in recognizing the potential in people and ideas and has the courage to develop that potential.” This sums it up for me.