Asa part of our interview series called “Women Of The C-Suite,” we had the pleasure of interviewing Deb King, CEO of GS Mining Company.
Deb King brings thirty years of corporate management and leadership experience to the role of CEO of GS Mining Company. She has been a principal, operator, investor, and advisor. Mrs. King has owned and operated two minority certified women owned businesses dealing with Fortune 100 and 500 companies, small closely held businesses, and private equity investors. She was also a consultant to mining companies with operations in Asia, the United States and Latin America where she focused on strategic planning and fundraising.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you share the most interesting story that’s happened to you since you began leading your company?
Itwas fascinating to descend 250 feet deep into a mine and see the workings and infrastructure from more than 80 years ago. We then walked across that level and into the saferoom, and the safety that the miners had before us was surprising.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I’m pretty directionally challenged. I was leaving my hotel in Black Hawk at 5:30 in the morning. I asked for directions to Central City, where our mine is located, maybe a half-mile away. Black Hawk and Central City are very small and next to each other. I was sure I understood the “go right and then left, and you’ll be there.” Somehow I got lost in the three blocks and called one of the employees to get straightened out.
Always do a trial run when you are driving alone, directionally challenged, and head out early, just in case.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Gary Klingl was the president of a Fortune 500 company and was a mentor for me years ago. Back then, some of his lessons didn’t seem to apply to my small company, but he showed me the principles he taught me to fit any business and any size.
1. Know your numbers. Without them, you will fail.
2. Have a business plan with all of the risks included. A business plan is like a map for a road trip. It helps you see the opportunities along the way and, when followed, gets you to your destination. Without it, you run the risk of straying from the road and ending up somewhere you didn’t want to be. A business plan defines the risks and helps you avoid them, and it’s a living document that can be refined as you go along and as market conditions dictate.
In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high-stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?
I think the big thing is self-care. Sleep, water, food, quiet time, and exercise daily helps to set the day up for success. If I’m preparing for a talk or a meeting or need to make an important decision, I find it helpful to step away for a few minutes and take a deep breath. Faith is a big part of managing stress for me as well. I take time to connect with God daily — He helps me remember my “why” in life.
As you know, the United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality, and inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
I like to describe it this way. You have a round table with X amount of people sitting around it, and you’re all looking at a globe. Each person only sees what’s in front of them, so they only have a small picture and perspective. Only when you hear what each person is seeing, and their perspective on what they see will a leader get the whole picture and contributing factors to the whole.
It’s essential to have a variety of viewpoints and opinions and allow robust discussion to find the best solution or direction that contains texture and depth. When everyone sees things the same way, it keeps the team from developing a healthy and strong plan because it diminishes the variety of scenarios from which to choose.
As a business leader, can you please share a few steps we must take to create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society? Kindly share a story or example for each.
Remember to have people of opposing views or perspectives that allow others to express their point of view and value their perspective.
Have a variety of ages, men, women, different cultures. It brings a rich texture and the ability to have the value each can bring to the table.
Remember to respect and embrace our differences. Respect brings such a fullness to the workplace, to our own lives, and to the communities in which we live. It doesn’t mean we have to agree — it means we can agree to disagree and still respect the person and their views.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words, can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?
The CEO has to have the vision for the company and remain faithful to the vision. As Jim Collins says in his book “Good To Great,” a CEO needs to make sure the right people are on the bus in the right seats.
Good CEOs are servant leaders, meaning they are concerned with the company’s welfare and all the stakeholders: The customers, employees, investors, partners, and the communities in which they live.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive? Can you explain what you mean?
A myth I’d like to dispel is that “you delegate and then dream.” While it’s important to delegate and dream, it’s only a small part of the job. Another myth is that culture works up, not down. It’s the opposite. I needed to determine what kind of a culture I wanted in any of my businesses. That included all stakeholders, employees, customers, banks, vendors, and the city where we worked and lived. Giving back to every person with whom we interacted. When I respect my employees, it rolls down through the ranks. When I treat our customers with care, consideration, good service, and value, they feel good about working with us. That practice starts with me, with us as CEOs.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
It’s a challenge to be taken seriously as a CEO. From the first day and each day afterward, we have to prove we deserve this position. Instead of feeling entitled to the job, we have to know we are right for it.
What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
The day-to-day is far more intense and dependent on things like COVID, Supply Chain than I expected.
Do you think everyone is cut out to be an executive? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive, and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive? Can you explain what you mean?
No, I don’t think everyone is cut out to be an executive. A key trait to being a strong leader is the ability to listen, and not everyone has that ability. Influential executives listen and then listen again. They hear what people are saying to them, and they are respectful when answering — whether they agree with the person or not. Listening and respect go a long way in business and life.
What advice would you give to other women leaders to help their team to thrive?
Have the right people in the right seats on the right bus and then believe in them. Trust your team and empower them to succeed.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I’ve mentored a lot of new entrepreneurs, and it is worth taking the time. I always ask young people to dream and know that God has put inside of them all of what they need to make their dream a reality. They just need to unlock all of those things inside and passionately work to achieve that dream.