Steve Preston on transforming lives by unlocking opportunities - Kathy Varol
Steve Preston
February 1, 2023   |   Episode #: 048

Steve Preston on transforming lives by unlocking opportunities

Show Notes:

Steve Preston is the President and CEO at Goodwill Industries International. Many people are familiar with Goodwill as a place to donate clothing and home goods or go thrift shopping. But most people don’t realize that a significant part of what Goodwill does is help people overcome challenges to find jobs and grow their careers.

Goodwill transforms donations into job opportunities by using the revenue from their stores to provide free career counseling, skills training, and résumé prep services that help unlock opportunities for job seekers. Every day, more than 300 people find a job with Goodwill’s help. In 2021 alone, almost one-quarter of a million people found jobs with support from Goodwill, and another 120 thousand were employed by the organization itself.

And when you make a donation or shop at your local Goodwill you not only help people in your community, you also help protect the planet. In 2021, Goodwill diverted 3 billion pounds of usable goods from landfills.

Before joining Goodwill, Steve held leadership positions in the public and private sectors. He served as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and as the Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, leading both federal agencies during times of national crisis. He also orchestrated successful turnarounds as the CEO of two private corporations, and was the CFO of two Fortune 500 companies during times of significant change and restructuring.


In this episode, we discuss:

✅ How big companies are partnering with Goodwill to transform communities
✅ The impact of believing in an individual’s potential and helping them communicate it
✅ How Goodwill closes the widening skills gaps


3 episode takeaways (listen to the full episode for a lot more gems!): 

1️⃣ One theme across Steve’s career has been enabling transformation. You could call it his superpower. Earlier in his career, Steve developed a reputation for leading companies through transitional periods. What made him successful was his ability to identify and remove barriers so that employees could show up in the best way possible, allowing the organization to perform at its best. Now, through Goodwill, Steve is removing barriers for marginalized groups that enable individuals to perform their best and attain the skills they need for better employment. This work is impacting lives and transforming communities.


2️⃣ It’s easy to hide from accountability. To complain about a problem, but say it’s someone else’s job to fix it.  It might actually be someone else’s job, like your boss or the government. But you are not powerless. You can find ways to step in, even if it’s not your job. You can take accountability for creating the change you want to see. It’s hard work to create change, but the reward is so much greater than a paycheck when your convictions inspire you to act.


3️⃣ I understand why stories of overcoming are often hidden—people don’t want to risk having their past judged.  Sometimes we lock people’s identity into what’s happened to them or where they’ve been, not who they are. And let’s face it, each one of us has already spent a lifetime being judged by the things we can’t hide: our age, our gender, our skin color, our spiritual beliefs or non-beliefs. Why add more fuel to the judgment fire?  

For the record, I am in awe of every single person who has overcome a deck that was stacked against them. I am in awe of every single person who had the courage to pivot away from one path and bravely choose a new one. I am in awe of every single person who was able to expand beyond the box society tried to trap them in. I am proud of you for everything you have survived, overcome, and accomplished. From the small things to the big things.  I am proud of you for who you are, and who you are working to become.


Site Design Rebecca Pollock
Site Development North Star Sites