Coach Class

My 50th podcast reunion with L.L.Bean CEO Steve Smith

February 08, 2024 Dom Burch Season 2 Episode 15
My 50th podcast reunion with L.L.Bean CEO Steve Smith
Coach Class
More Info
Coach Class
My 50th podcast reunion with L.L.Bean CEO Steve Smith
Feb 08, 2024 Season 2 Episode 15
Dom Burch

In this, my 50th podcast, I welcome back Steve Smith, who was my first guest on Coach class nearly three years ago. Steve shares valuable insights into leadership and life,  being your authentic self whether you're washing the car, buying a bagel or appearing on stage as the CEO of Maine's most famous brand L.L.Bean. With a break from the norm, we also take questions from Coach Class listeners who admire Steve or were positively influenced by him when he was at Asda and Walmart - like Gal who asks what his book will be about, Tope who asks about authentic leadership, and Sean who is curious about the transition from CMO to CEO.

We cover a wide variety of themes including: 

  • Longevity in Leadership: Steve reflects on his eight years at L.L.Bean, emphasising the rarity of such a tenure in the retail industry (he's lasted 3X longer than the average CEO), and how each year has presented unique challenges and learning opportunities.
  • Team Dynamics and Culture: Steve highlights the importance of building a team with trust, respect, and candour. He stresses the significance of each team member being the best in their field and the impact of a positive work environment on overall performance.
  • Adapting to Crisis and Change: Our conversation delves into the challenges posed by COVID, US politics, climate change, and social justice issues. Steve discusses how these events have reshaped the role of leadership and required adaptability and resilience.
  • Energy Management and Emotional Intelligence: Steve speaks about managing different types of energy (physical, intellectual, emotional) as a leader, especially in light of the global pandemic and societal issues. He mentions the importance of empathetically understanding and addressing team members' emotional needs.
  • Authentic Leadership Principles: Transparency, empathy, and integrity are highlighted as core principles of Steve's leadership approach. He emphasises the need for authenticity, being the same person in all settings, and the importance of aligning actions with these values.
  • Career Development and his 'Backpack' Analogy: Finally Steve shares his 'backpack' analogy, which involves methodically gathering skills and experiences throughout one's career and life, and the necessity of reflection in this process.

Steve's honesty and openness is refreshing. He's warm and generous, not least to me, but also to everyone seemingly he has ever met.

Finally I promised in the podcast to provide a link to his recent appearance on NPR's Wait Wait Don't Tell Me  (fast forward to 20 mins).

If you enjoy listening to this podcast why not check out some of the others in season 1 & 2. Or perhaps you fancy taking part yourself? If so why not get in touch. You can find me via LinkedIn or Twitter

Show Notes

In this, my 50th podcast, I welcome back Steve Smith, who was my first guest on Coach class nearly three years ago. Steve shares valuable insights into leadership and life,  being your authentic self whether you're washing the car, buying a bagel or appearing on stage as the CEO of Maine's most famous brand L.L.Bean. With a break from the norm, we also take questions from Coach Class listeners who admire Steve or were positively influenced by him when he was at Asda and Walmart - like Gal who asks what his book will be about, Tope who asks about authentic leadership, and Sean who is curious about the transition from CMO to CEO.

We cover a wide variety of themes including: 

  • Longevity in Leadership: Steve reflects on his eight years at L.L.Bean, emphasising the rarity of such a tenure in the retail industry (he's lasted 3X longer than the average CEO), and how each year has presented unique challenges and learning opportunities.
  • Team Dynamics and Culture: Steve highlights the importance of building a team with trust, respect, and candour. He stresses the significance of each team member being the best in their field and the impact of a positive work environment on overall performance.
  • Adapting to Crisis and Change: Our conversation delves into the challenges posed by COVID, US politics, climate change, and social justice issues. Steve discusses how these events have reshaped the role of leadership and required adaptability and resilience.
  • Energy Management and Emotional Intelligence: Steve speaks about managing different types of energy (physical, intellectual, emotional) as a leader, especially in light of the global pandemic and societal issues. He mentions the importance of empathetically understanding and addressing team members' emotional needs.
  • Authentic Leadership Principles: Transparency, empathy, and integrity are highlighted as core principles of Steve's leadership approach. He emphasises the need for authenticity, being the same person in all settings, and the importance of aligning actions with these values.
  • Career Development and his 'Backpack' Analogy: Finally Steve shares his 'backpack' analogy, which involves methodically gathering skills and experiences throughout one's career and life, and the necessity of reflection in this process.

Steve's honesty and openness is refreshing. He's warm and generous, not least to me, but also to everyone seemingly he has ever met.

Finally I promised in the podcast to provide a link to his recent appearance on NPR's Wait Wait Don't Tell Me  (fast forward to 20 mins).

If you enjoy listening to this podcast why not check out some of the others in season 1 & 2. Or perhaps you fancy taking part yourself? If so why not get in touch. You can find me via LinkedIn or Twitter