Future Leaders + New Talent

“It is important to create a cultural environment that allows talent to rise to the top.”  

-Kim Miller, CEO, Scarpa NA

Last week at SIA, we convened a panel to discuss the best ways to develop talent in the active-outdoor industries and support the passionate women and men who will be our future leaders.

The panel, moderated by Amy Luther of Camber Outdoors, included leaders from across the industry at different stages in their careers.

  • Kim Miller – CEO, Scarpa NA 

  • Beth Steele – VP of Sales, Burton 

  • Danica Carey – Marketing Manager, Seirus 

  • Cami Garrison – Association Director, WWSRA 

There were lots of great takeaways from the session, but these topline points really stood out to us:

  • In order to identify high-potential talent in your organization, you have to take the time to talk with people (and listen to what they have to say).
  • By giving people opportunities beyond their job descriptions (and sometimes their comfort zones), you’ll discover untapped potential and help employees thrive in new and powerful ways.
  • It’s important to build a company culture where people can thrive. By supporting employees through programs like sponsorship and mentorship, you’ll create an environment that fosters growth and leadership.
  • Leaders show up in many different ways—and talent is color blind and gender neutral. If you pay attention, and really tap into people’s interests and passions, you might discover leaders who look different than you expected. 

Want to read more? Here’s an edited summary of the panel discussion.

Amy: Kim, how much time do you spend thinking about talent and leadership at Scarpa?

Kim: I spend a lot of time thinking about it.  It’s a part of my job on a daily basis and it’s in my job description. I want all the team at Scarpa to have a great experience while working here. I go to the warehouse, I ask questions, I walk around the office, I listen and I pay attention to the individuals and their contributions. So in short, I think about it daily.

Amy: We’ve all had times that we’ve been in a leadership role and it didn’t turn out quite the way we expected. Cami, would you share what your team or the leadership team could have offered in terms of advice to help you lean into an opportunity or challenge in a different way?   

Cami: Working with sales reps is difficult. Each day is different and needs a different approach. I think helping me to pull back and look at the big picture instead of the day to day is helpful—listening, really listening to all the inputs and taking the larger look at the industry as a whole. Leaders need input. And they need to listen.

Amy: It’s so important that leaders recognize and cultivate the talent in our workforces. Beth, can you share an example when you were supported by leaders at Burton and the impact that had on your career?

Beth: Yes, it’s why I am where I am at today. I started at Burton as a Administrative Assistant.  In the early days, we had a faulty binding and to fix the crises. It took all of us to hit the road and go shop to shop to crank bindings. I had no experience whatsoever in doing this—my direct report at the time volunteered me to get out there too. I learned how to do it and gained a lot of confidence, and I recognized that I could learn other parts of the business, and that I could be technical. I’ve had a lot of encouragement while at Burton to take on other projects and to learn and grow, and I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to get me to where I am today.

Amy: Kim, as a CEO, how do you engage with high potential leaders in your organization? 
How do you identify those leaders internally? Are their opportunities for employees to have high-level conversations with leaders about their careers?  

Kim: It’s important to create a cultural environment that allows talent to rise to the top. I have an open-door policy as does our team. You must put yourself in the perspective of up-and-coming talent. What can you offer and do to help raise them up? It’s really important to recognize that leadership will show up in different ways then you may typically expect.  Sometimes it may come in a more quiet, unassuming form, sometimes it’s going to look different then you. Look deep to see the different skill sets within each individual that can lead to being a leader.

Amy:  Danica, does your company offer informal mentoring opportunities to high potentials? Do you see opportunities to improve that would have a larger impact?

Danica: I went through the Camber Outdoors Professional Mentoring Program, and it was a really great opportunity for me. At Seirus, we believe if you see a spark in someone else, you should build upon it and foster people that are supporting the team. We do this informally right now at Seirus and are looking to formalize it in some manner to better serve our team and those seeking more leadership opportunities.

Amy: A quote from an industry CEO has stuck with me, and I use it often. “The skills that got you to where you are now are not the skills that will get you to the next step in your career.”  As leaders yourselves, what advice would you give to your direct reports to support you as you move into greater leadership roles?   

Cami: Allow people to stumble.  By ‘failing’ you learn and grow.  It’s an opportunity for huge growth and development.

Beth: It is important to take a customized approach to people on your team—to understand their talents and be willing to work with them. Anything is possible and as a leader it is our responsibility to help our team recognize where they can grow and what is needed as a next step.   

Kim: Everyone has talent. Talent is the basic ingredient for building a leader.  Pay attention, listen, be objective, figure out where your people’s passions lie. We use diagnostic tools, too, such as the DISC personality profiles, which allow you to customize your world and how you operate. They help you identify what comes naturally to you. Skills can be taught, leaders can be fostered but you need the right environment. Pay attention, it may not be obvious, but the talent is there.   

Danica: Talent doesn’t have gender or color. Talent is neutral. It doesn’t have a defined look or identification. This is so important to remember and accept. Put away any biases, conscious or unconscious. Google and Apple don’t have a lens to leadership like we do and we will lose the battle for talent if as an industry we don’t stop looking for talent and leaders that look just like we do. Now is the time to show up and help grow this innovative industry.

Formerly the Outdoor Industries Women’s Coalition (OIWC)


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