Why DBI Brands President Andrea O’Donnell Avoids Harping on Failure

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Andrea O’Donnell tries to stay away from what she calls “the F-word” (failure). As brands president at Designer Brands Inc., where she oversees the sourcing, design and distribution of DBI’s growing roster of owned and licensed labels, O’Donnell knows people can sometimes forget that failure is a part of life and not something that should be internalized.

“Because of this, the use of the word failure can create anxiety and fear in a team,” O’Donnell said. “Fear gets in the way of change, forward momentum and progress, so I don’t use it.”

Instead, O’Donnell encourages her team to focus more on what they can get right as opposed to what might go wrong. “On a good day, that’s what my team and I do,” she said. “On bad days, we dust ourselves off, learn some lessons and start again.”

This positive attitude is just one of the skills O’Donnell encourages employees — especially women — to develop throughout the course of their careers. She’s an advocate for staying resilient under pressure and adopting a realistic, yet optimistic view when it comes to long-term goals.

O’Donnell also understands the power of mentorship. Having benefited from the advice and support of women earlier in her career, O’Donnell now makes it a priority to pass her knowledge forward, with a focus on empowering women to be more active in the trajectory of their careers.

“Minimize the distance between gathering data, formulating insights and taking action,” she told FN. “Remember, you can’t create value if you don’t act.”

A version of this article appeared in the June 3 print issue of FN, as part of the “Women Who Rock” special section. On June 5, FN and Two Ten Footwear Foundation honored these women at a live event in New York City.

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