The title of “world’s best boss” is not an easy cross to bear; With this hefty title comes great responsibility. Just look at Michael Scott from NBC’s “The Office“, the fearless leader of Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. But Becky Clouse-Mickey, director of talent at Benco Dental, is no Michael Scott. She carries this title humbly and effortlessly. This is why Becky is the recipient of The Predictive Index World’s Best Boss Award 2018.
The Predictive Index World’s Best Boss Award is given to managers and leaders who have been nominated by their employees, coworkers, and/or peers as an exemplary example of leadership and dedication to their team and organization. CEO of The Predictive Index (PI) Mike Zani chatted with Becky about what it takes to manage a team to greatness and what prompted her people to nominate her for this award.
“We are owners of the culture, responsible for taking care of the people.”
Mike: Congrats, Becky! You are our very first World’s Best Boss Award winner. To start, let’s set the stage. Can you tell us a bit about Benco Dental?
Becky: Thank you, Mike! Benco Dental is the third largest family-owned dental distribution company and I definitely think this sets us apart from our competition, but it also really sets the tone for who we are as an organization and the people that work here. I’m the director of talent at Benco, which is part of our culture and people department. I get a lot of funny looks when referring to my department. People wonder what the talent team does here and what “culture and people” really mean.
What my team does encompasses Benco, our family-owned nature, and who we are as a culture. We’re not an HR department. We are owners of the culture here, responsible for taking care of the people. So, although that does fall under the HR realm and I do consider myself a human resources professional, it’s different than the stuffy HR departments that some people are familiar with.
Mike: We really respect and appreciate Benco’s commitment to their talent. When we hear people who are already in the camp of treating their talent in a special, curated, and thoughtful way, we’re already realizing we’re talking to an organization that is top quartile, if not top decile. How long have you been at Benco?
Becky: I’ve been here ten years.
Mike: Ten years? That’s fantastic! Are there any previous management roles that you’ve had that got your career started and that were influential?
Becky: I like to say I’ve grown up Benco. I started here right out of college. Our department and the entire company was a lot smaller then. As I grew and developed in the organization, I got the opportunity to join the talent team. This year, I was promoted to a director.
“My style is one part hands-on and one part completely hands-off.”
I was previously the talent manager for about four years prior to my new role so I’ve learned a lot about managing people. I had the opportunity to work with most of the leadership in our organization and was able to learn a lot from them, as well.
Mike: You’re a self-made Benco manager and leader.
Becky: That’s a good way to put it!
Mike: How do think of your management style and your philosophy on management and leadership?
Becky: My style is one part hands-on and one part completely hands-off. That’s pretty contradictory, right? What I mean is, I would never ask someone on the team to do something I wouldn’t do, but at the same time, I don’t micromanage. For example, today I was covering a candidate interview for one of my employees and I was happy to do that for them.
I like to set direction and agree as a team, getting everyone’s buy-in on where we’re headed and what we’re doing. Then I back up and let them run with it. One of the things that’s most important to me is that everybody on the team has something they’re really passionate about. We all have things that we have to do that we don’t like but if everybody has something that they’re passionate about we get the best work out of the group, as well as the most engagement.
I see my primary job as being to keep roadblocks out of my team’s way. I try to help solve for the unexpected, while focusing on relationships within our organization.
Mike: I want to dive into The Predictive Index’s World’s Best Boss Award and what your people had to say about you.
PI has been in the people business for 64 years but this is the first time we’ve ever had an award of this kind. We narrowed submissions based on the nominators’ compelling story about the leader. I would love to share with you some things your team said about you.
Mike: You’ve never heard this?
Becky: I have not!
“It’s sometimes a thankless job so it’s nice to hear the efforts I’m putting in are appreciated. I have a great team.”
Mike: This comes straight from one of your direct reports.
We asked: Tell us about a time this nominee truly supported their team and cared about the well-being of the people on it.
They came back with, “This is a daily occurrence. Becky truly exemplifies being a leader to our team. She’s not just a boss. She’s our leader. Becky is constantly challenging our team and providing us with the direction and knowledge we need in order for us to be successful in our positions, as well as grow personally and professionally. Becky is constantly taking the temperature of our team and trying to come up with new ways to keep us engaged, but preventing us from getting overwhelmed. I wouldn’t want any other manager!”
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Mike: We then asked how they would describe you and they came back with, “Direct, hard-working, loyal. Becky exemplifies the kind of leader everyone wants—challenging your team but allowing them the opportunity to be part of things.”
They go on to say how, “Becky allows her team to take the lead with projects and ideas, while providing leadership and knowledge to really excel. Becky is the best.”
Becky: It’s nice to hear that! Especially in my role, and I’m sure many other leaders feel the same way, it’s sometimes a thankless job so it’s nice to hear the efforts I’m putting in are appreciated. I have a great team.
Mike: What sort of challenges have you or do you face when it comes to leading people on the team and how do you overcome them?
Becky: I think the biggest thing that I run into as a manager is remembering that one size does not fit all. For example, we were just talking about summer flex scheduling, and the problem is the same flexible arrangement does not work for everybody on our team. Work/life balance is such a challenge. We’re all trying to have it. We’re trying to give it to employees but how do you pick something that works for everyone?
The reality is, you can’t. My approach is to start by asking, “what works for you?” Let’s try to come up with a suggestion and then see if we can execute it. This approach is working well for us. It not only is effective with flex scheduling, but with coaching and performance motivating our people, as well.
Celebrate the team and win as a team, not as an individual.
Mike: You’ve given us some sense of your style and how you approach challenges. What management skills have you dropped from your repertoire? Things that you tried that haven’t worked.
Becky: The hardest thing for me was letting go of being the expert on what my people do. This is because I was once in the role they are in. I recognize now that it’s not my job anymore. My people are the ones that are better at what they do and I always say I don’t want to be the best talent specialist on my team. They should be the best ones.
Mike: Do you have any little sound bite advice or tips for people who are thinking of making a leap from being doers to managers/leaders?
Becky: Get more excited about helping someone else achieve something. If it’s sales, you get more excited about the person you’re mentoring getting their sale than you do about meeting a quota. If someone you’re mentoring won an award or gets promoted, celebrate it! If this is what gets you excited and gets you out of bed, then you’re probably ready. Leadership, a lot of the time, is all guts, no glory. Celebrate the team and win as a team, not as an individual.