Be Bold – Be Unique: The Power of Risks and Relationships - Deborah Gibbins, Chief Financial Officer, Mary Kay Inc.


We are going to look at how to make your mark by leveraging your unique strengths.

Deb Gibbins employs her skills by taking risks and building strong relationships. As the chief financial officer at Mary Kay Inc., Deb oversees the company's strategic planning and financial growth. Before joining Mary Kay in 2013, Deb held senior leadership roles within PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay North America division and Arthur Andersen LLP.  She serves on the board of directors for the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas.

In her professional life and her community roles, Deb is viewed as a connector.  She consistently looks for ways to build a bridge or initiate a relationship that would help people she meets.

I asked Deb to participate in the WBAP/KLIF Texas Women in Business series, sponsored by Newberry Executive Solutions. Her input was enlightening.

Q.  What has contributed to your successful career?

A. First, a willingness to embrace discomfort. I’ve accomplished far more by accepting messy assignments, the ones no one else wanted, than seeking the assignments that appeared to be a piece of cake.  I’ve learned so much by closing my eyes and jumping into a pool of problems and figuring out how to solve those problems, one by one.

Second, I approach most issues with a sense of humor and not taking myself too seriously. Lastly, I recognize that I have to lean on the support of my friends and family.  I think about my relationships as a bank account.  In order to make withdrawals from that relationship account, you have to take the time to make lots of deposits. I remind myself every day I benefit from people who were willing to sponsor and mentor me along the way.

Q. Tell us about a challenge you overcame in your career.

A. I find that most people struggle with knowing the right time to make a career change – a new assignment, a new function, a new company. Trading off the comforts of the known with the rewards of trying something new is always a challenge. When I am faced with a career change, I consult my trusted advisors – sponsors, mentors, friends and my husband — for their advice.  And then I make an old-fashioned list of pros and cons. I weigh the benefits with the risks and assess what I can do, if anything, to mitigate the risks. More often than not, I opt for the change, and once I do, I never look back. When you make a decision, embrace it and don’t lose sleep thinking about “what if.”

Q. How does the future look for women leaders in business?

A. The future for businesswomen who want and have the aptitude for leadership is bright. But not all women want to lead. For those who do, I increasingly see more recognition for the value of female perspective and a woman’s approach to strategic decision-making and risk-taking. The biggest challenge will be ensuring there is a solid pipeline of talented women leaders. Today, there is often a gap in the pipeline as talented women step out of the work force to raise a family.

Q. What advice would you give to women who are looking to make their mark in business?

A. I am so fortunate to work for a company founded 50 years ago by one of America’s greatest female entrepreneurs, Mary Kay Ash. Mary Kay wrote several books full of advice for succeeding in business. The principles of Mary Kay Ash are just as relevant today, and I look to them when offering advice on making a mark in business. Two of my favorites go hand in hand. First, "be a risk taker” and encourage those around you to take risks. Second, “don’t rest on your laurels." In today’s fast-paced world, you are either moving forward through self-improvement or falling behind.

As you consider the two prominent themes in Deb’s interview, risk-taking and relationships, challenge yourself to step out a little further –  and leverage your relationships to give you the support you need.  For more tips on how to do this, check out the chapter “What is sitting on the fence costing you?” in my book Show Up. Step Up. Step Out. available on Amazon.

Photo Credit:  Mary Kay