Do you have trouble setting boundaries and trusting God with your career choices? With decades of experience in corporate America, Dr. Debra Dean is an expert at integrating faith in every aspect of life. In this INNER VIEW, she candidly shares the lessons she’s learned to become a successful leader who influences others for an eternal difference.
Bio – Dr. Debra Dean is a Christian, first and foremost, wife and mother. She is co-founder of His Kingdom Matters, president and CEO of Dean Business Consulting, and adjunct professor at Regent University. Dr. Dean served in corporate America for 25 years. Her most recent position was Director of Business Transformation nested in the Business Intelligence Department.
Dr. Dean is a published author and public speaker. Her TEDx talk Restorative Justice and Disrupt HR presentation Respectful Pluralism: Including Everyone relates to her faith at work passion. Dr. Dean has received numerous awards, including the Colorado Springs Business Journal 2020 Women of Influence Award and the 2020 Global CEO Excellence Award: Most Influential Business Consultancy CEO. She was nominated in 2019 as an operational excellence leader with OPEX Week: Business Transformation World Summit, and in 2018, she won the Outstanding Reviewer Award for Management, Spirituality, and Religion.
Dr. Dean was born and raised in Kentucky, spent nine years in Iowa, and currently resides in Colorado with her husband Steve and their youngest son Gavin. They have six children and four grandchildren. Her mission statement is to “Inspire each person to identify their human potential and pursue authenticity while living a life of eternal focus.”
Kathleen Cooke: We all think we are smart until things flop. What has God taught you about trusting Him for the unknown and seeing failures as opportunities for what He desires for us and not what we thought we wanted for ourselves.
Debra Dean: God is teaching me to trust him. It is so easy to get distracted with self-doubt about my ability or calling, but God is teaching me to trust that He has a plan, and I need to follow His plan. When I left corporate in 2018, I thought I was following God, but I got off track and started my business instead of God’s business. The past few years have been lessons of listening, praying, trusting, obeying, surrendering, and being willing to let God provide and guide me. I’m a hard-headed woman, so this is hard. But, when I surrender and trust Him, everything else works out much better. In December 2020, I had a call from a woman that worked with the White House Faith & Opportunities Initiative. We had planned an agenda for the call, but she started crying. I could hear how overwhelmed she was with work and life in her voice. She asked me, “Where are all the Christians?” She was fighting a good fight in D.C., but she felt all alone.
This gave me fuel to move from my business to God’s business and launch His Kingdom Matters in June 2021. Wow! When I trust God, BIG things happen. I did not want people to feel alone or unequipped with fighting the Christian battle in our world today. I have prayed and asked God for wisdom and guidance, and I trust that He divinely pre-plans all the content in the ministry. We start with Bold & Courageous and move into Revival. In retrospect, there is no way I could have come up with this content. It is God. Trusting Him is still a struggle I face daily, but when I trust Him with all aspects of life, He delivers miraculous works.
Kathleen: You have worked in leadership positions in the corporate business world for many years. What are some key things you have learned in your career journey?
Debra: I have a Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership, and I have held leadership roles in my corporate career. I remember my mother telling me to dress for the job you want, not for the job you have, and that she wanted me to be better than her. This caused me to strive for greatness. I wanted to be successful. For most of my life, success meant a big paycheck, a great title, a nice office, and respect for the position I held. I stayed loyal to my company with 21-years of service.
I learned that I did not play the game the way I should have. In review, I would have probably job hopped to increase my salary and level my career faster. I did not know about negotiating for my job until well beyond my 15th year at the office. This caused me to be grossly underpaid and lose opportunities with titles and responsibilities. I was often the only woman at the board room table, but I learned to hold my ground and stay true to my faith and values. But, I wish I had known then what I know now. I wish I had learned to map out a career path and strategize SMART goals for optimal success.
Finally, I would have redefined success much earlier. My definition of success (now) involves being a wife and mother to support my family for eternal greatness. I believe the most important job we have as a woman is motherhood. Those of us blessed with children should not take this responsibility lightly. A book that helped me with negotiating is “Ask For It: How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want.”
Kathleen: One of the challenges women have in their lives and careers is setting boundaries. What have you learned about why they are so important?
Debra: I never had boundaries and didn’t know what that word was until life smacked me in the face in my 20s. I am now in my 40s, and I’m still trying to lay down boundaries in all the right places. I was molested from 5 years of age to 9 years of age, raped in middle and high school, and married at 19. My brother died when I was 22 years old as I was divorcing my first husband. I remarried at 26 years of age, lost a baby at 28 years of age, and had my last child at 32. When I was 33 years of age, I relocated for work and “retired” at age 42. So my life hasn’t been easy.
Since starting my business and then launching God’s business, I have faced many evil people and sinful situations that I was not always aware of as quickly as I should have been. These trials and tribulations have shaped who I am today. They have knocked me down, but God has picked me up. If I had set healthy boundaries, I could have avoided a lot of heartache, pain, and loss. But I believe this is part of the learning process. A book that has helped me with boundaries is called “Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No To Take Control of Your Life.”
Kathleen: Working in the corporate environment as a leader, you know the importance of identity and influence. What have you learned about how they are connected and why understanding their connectedness affects success?
Debra: I have looked for influence in all the wrong places. I wanted to be pretty like a supermodel, rich like a millionaire, and popular like a celebrity. But when we know our true identity and are authentic with our walk on this earth, we influence others in a powerful way.
My story is full of trials and tribulations, but I had swept it under the rug years ago. After “retiring,” I needed to find my ideal client and my ideal niche. Little did I know that I was really finding myself and uncovering that buried treasure I had covered up years ago. Today, I am me. I try my best to honor and glorify God with everything I do every day. I still fail, but I try each day again and praise Him for giving me a fresh start each morning.
As I share my stories, I have been surprised and energized by those who come up to me after an event to say thank you or say they are experiencing the same thing and that their life was touched. I used to think I was an oddball and that no one cared or understood me. However, as I walk with confidence in my true identity as a Christian, wife, mother, and leader, I see more ripples in the water than when I tried to be someone else. I may not know the end result, but I know I am living within my purpose and mission and intentionally working to influence others for an eternal difference.
Follow Dr. Debra Dean here…