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Business Observer Friday, May 31, 2019 2 weeks ago

Bloomin' exec, fresh off national award, shares leadership tips

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Liz Smith says embracing failure, more than a great teacher, shows humility.

After a close to a decade in the top spot, Liz Smith shifted out of the CEO role at Bloomin’ Brands earlier this spring, taking on the role of chairwoman of the publicly traded company.

But while out of the Wall Street limelight, Smith remains a highly-respected restaurant and hospitality executive. For her work at Tampa-based Bloomin’ — parent of Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill and Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar — Smith was recently named to the 2019 class of Golden Chain Award winners from Nation’s Restaurant News.

'You’re not going to get people to work for you and take risks and call the audible when something’s not working out, if you don’t have the humility to show your own failings.' Liz Smith, Chairwoman, Bloomin' Brands

Smith, who previously held management posts at Avon and Kraft, will be part of a group of winners honored at an event in October in Denver. She was also recently part of a Nation’s Restaurant News’ podcast, where she talked about her Bloomin’ experience, career and leadership.  

One answer on the podcast stood out, for its take on leading with humility. Asked how she approaches failure at a senior management level, Smith talked about the Wall of Shame she kept in her office at Kraft. 

That’s where she says she posted “every dumb idea that I’ve been involved in over my 14 years” at the food giant. That kind of transparency, she says, is key for leading a team. “You’re not going to get people to work for you and take risks and call the audible when something’s not working out,” says Smith, “if you don’t have the humility to show your own failings.”

Smith adds that humility leads to a good succession plan. At Bloomin’ she helped groom David Deno for the CEO post; he had been CFO since 2012 before being promoted to CEO when Smith left the position in April. “If you don’t have someone to hand the reins over to,” says Smith, “then you haven’t done your job. Your No. 1 job is to make yourself replaceable.”

 

 

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