In 1987, when Deb Crowe was supposed to be experiencing her free and easy university years, she dropped out of school to care for her ailing father.

Deb Crowe
(Source: LinkedIn)

While she grew up quickly, she insists she’s not a victim. In fact, it was during that challenging period that Deb tapped into an internal reservoir of resilience that has led her to where she is today.

An executive coach for C-Suite leaders, Deb knows a thing or two about running a business. 

In a recent conversation with Chris Thomson on our Leaders of Tomorrow Podcast, Deb shared powerful words of wisdom for entrepreneurs of all levels of experience:

Fail Forward

While most of the population equates failure with embarrassment, Deb believes that it’s a valuable opportunity for growth.

“Don’t be afraid to fail! Fail forward, because at least you tried,” she said.

Yes, we’ve all heard it before, but when was the last time you did something totally outside of your comfort zone? The fact is, while we know we should embrace failure as a learning experience, in practice, most of us avoid it at all costs. 

For those still struggling to embrace the “fail forward” mindset, especially within the workplace, Deb offered more words of encouragement:

“We all make mistakes, we all say the wrong things, we’ve all put our foot in our mouth at some point. The workplace doesn’t make it any different,” she said. 

Put yourself out there! You might be surprised at what you can achieve and learn along the way.

Design your Life

In her quest for a meaningful life, Deb has many non-negotiable boxes that must remain checked at all times. 

“My biggest success as a business owner, I think, is creating a life by design. I’m there for my kids when they need me. Been married to the same guy for over 30 years. I never let my work [take over] my life or define my being. So I really feel that work-life integration, that life by design equation … [My schedule is booked] to the point of fulfillment and enjoyment and that makes me feel successful,” she shared.

So what exactly does success feel like to Deb?

“I don’t measure it by tangible extrinsic things. I measure it by keeping myself intrinsically focused and keeping my eye on the prize of being the best version of myself. Whether that’s being a wife, mom, or an entrepreneur,” she told Chris.

Lead with your Heart

Heart-centred leadership is a major key in the Deb Crowe playbook for success. 

“Heart-centred leadership: It’s listening. It’s asking questions. It’s being vulnerable. If you don’t know something about someone’s culture or ethnicity, don’t try to be that leader. Do some research, but more importantly, just have a conversation and be willing and open to learn,” she advised.

Historically, this type of leadership has been the exception, not the rule. But Deb believes that tides are changing.

“A lot of C-suite leaders were trained that heart-centred, or the word love, shouldn’t be in the same sentence as leader or leadership. At the end of a day, if a leader can own their character flaws and model self-care …. that’s fostering a healthy [company] culture. When [I speak to clients] about [heart-centred leadership], I always encourage them to take off the armour they learned academically that fits on their chest, and lower their wall of resistance [so that they can] have a beautiful experience and conversation with their executive team. When they model that, their executive team sees space and allowance to do the same,” she said.

Deb leaves future leaders with one thought-starting question: 

“How can you lead if you haven’t connected?” 

Are you a student looking to further your development as a leader and enter the exciting world of entrepreneurship? Check out more stories from Student Works participants and alumni on our Leaders of Tomorrow Podcast!