It’s tough being a good boss but these 11 have found out how to keep it cool.
Aside from being a parent, being a boss is one of the most difficult jobs on the planet for a number of reasons. Bosses have to hire the right people (and be comfortable that they may be more experienced or just plain smarter), they have to make difficult decisions that some people won’t like, and when things go wrong it’s the boss who has to bear most of the blame.
On the flipside, if one does it right, being a boss has its perks—including loyal employees who openly praise their boss’s leadership, admire their abilities and truly value them as mentors, coaches and friends.
PPB seeks out and spotlights the industry’s best bosses annually, and in this issue we are pleased to reveal the latest lineup of top people managers.
National Sales Manager
Peerless Umbrella, Newark, New Jersey
Number of direct reports: 15
Nominated by: Debra Amato
Dan’s cool factor: His ability to not micromanage his salespeople. “If he knows you are working and doing your job and the numbers are there, he empowers you to do whatever you need to do within reason to help increase sales in your territory,” says nominator Debra Amato, regional sales manager.
For the past 25 years, Dan Edge has been somebody’s boss—either at Peerless Umbrella, where he’s been for 19 years, or at a lighting company where he worked for seven years. In that time, he’s honed his people skills and learned some valuable lessons about leading others. His core conviction is that he trusts his direct reports to do what is best for their territory.
“Dan enables each regional sales manager to run their territory as if it was their own business,” says Debra Amato, who has reported to him for the past 18 years. “He doesn’t micromanage salespeople who report to him and he doesn’t require massive amounts of reports or paper work.” Instead, Amato says Edge focuses on what the team can do to improve their relationships with their customers and become better partners with them—and she credits him with much of the supplier company’s success.
“I have worked at Peerless for many years and feel that Dan Edge is a major reason that Peerless has had the success it has over the years. He allows each salesperson to do what is good for their territory within reason and will offer whatever support necessary to help accomplish your goals.”
One-On-One With Dan Edge
Most important lesson learned as a boss:
Work to earn everyone’s respect; this is critical. I can’t expect something from my reps if I’m not willing to do it as well. I can honestly say I am in the trenches with all of them. Second, listen to people; hear what they are saying. Accept and ask for their ideas on how to make things better. I certainly don’t always have the right answer. The people I manage are on the front lines; they hear what customers are asking for, need, etc. Listen to what they have to say—it’s a great way to grow your business.
Philosophy for successfully managing people:
I don’t micromanage. I don’t ask for call reports, schedules, etc. I feel I have a close enough relationship to everyone I work with and typically know what their days and weeks consist of. I’d rather my salespeople be selling and not spending an enormous amount of time filling out reports for me. I also believe in being respectful of the people you manage and understand who they are and what makes them tick. No two people can be managed the same way. I try to look for what motivates people best and play on that. Sometimes it’s talking to them about their kids and how their softball team did over the weekend. Sometimes it might be about working out and what the “diet of the month” is. I know it’s a fine line, but it’s one I don’t mind walking. When I need to be serious, it’s an easy transition. Last, I tell all of my salespeople to handle their territories like it’s their own business. Don’t be afraid to make educated decisions. If you treat your territory like you own it, good things happen.
To create a positive team culture:
Keep it fun. Work and travel is hard enough; let’s do everything we can to enjoy the time we have while with our work family. If people enjoy work, they will perform. All but one of my sales reps have been with me and Peerless for more than 12 years. That’s a good track record in this industry.
Best advice for other people managers:
Get off your high horse and don’t be afraid to work hand-in-hand with people. I see too many managers who think they are above it all. That’s really not the case. You need your team probably more than they need you. My door is always open; I know it is a cliché, but anyone in our company can walk into my office and ask me anything or just vent. Be a team player; it makes the whole dynamic that much easier. Engage with them; know who they are, what motivates them. Always offer words of encouragement, make them feel good and special. That too will make each of them better at what they do. I love sending random notes to my staff, acknowledging things they have done, accomplishments or just as a pick me up.
Best boss ever:
My father. I worked for him during high school and college. He taught me so much—most importantly being respectful of the people you manage and not to be afraid to get personal with them and get on their level. He also told me something that I do to this day: say good morning to everyone. It might seem silly, but it is a nice way to start the day and helps connect you with everyone in the office. Last, he taught me to write everything down—keep a list. If you do, you won’t forget to do anything. I assume this is why I am neurotic about getting back to people—in a good way, of course.