Three award-winning Utah executives explain how to be the best boss you can

Regardless of the size of the company, good leadership comes not from a heavy-handed approach to management, but from trusting and bringing out the best in your employees, according to the winners of leadership awards in a Top Workplaces survey for The Salt Lake Tribune.

Erin Bennett of Brighton Home Health and Hospice, Casey Kleinman of Access Development and Spencer Young of the Young Automotive Group are being recognized with special leadership awards based on employee responses to the question “I have confidence in the leader of this company.”

Erin Bennett, Brighton Home Health and Hospice

Erin Bennett, co-founder and owner of Brighton Home Health and Hospice

Bennett and Thomas Godfrey founded the Murray company in 2012. Bennett is a registered nurse and has a clinical leadership resume, and Godfrey has a marketing and business background. Since its launch in Utah, the company has expanded with care services in Minnesota, Oregon and Nevada.

“Initially, as with most startups, Thomas and I wore many hats. Thomas hit the pavement marketing and oversaw the financial aspect of the company. I was the acting administrator and at times put on scrubs and provided patient care,” Bennett said. “As our company grew, we added many positions but our focus is, and always will be, patient care.”

Bennett said she first held a leadership role as a manager for a retail store in Zion National Park when she was 22.

“What I took away from that position was the importance of listening to my team. I know I don’t always have the right answer,” she said. “At Brighton, we believe in collaborative leadership. I love to brainstorm with Brighton’s leadership team. We come up with amazing ideas.”

Among the other leadership lessons Bennett has learned along the way is to pick the right business partner, someone who complements your strengths and weaknesses.

“Thomas and I are very different. We have opposite backgrounds and skills, and we also think very differently,” she said. “We are able to bring diverse perspectives to our collaborative decisions.”

Along those same lines, she believes it’s important to hire better leaders than yourself.

“Many bosses and managers are intimidated if they meet someone who is a stronger leader than they are.” Bennett said. “When I look around the room at a Brighton leadership meeting, I see a whole group of people who have strengths in areas that I don’t, and that is a big part of our success.”

(Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune) Access Development CEO Casey Kleinman talks with the company's employees as they attend an open enrollment benefits meeting at the South Salt Lake company on Nov. 16, 2017.

Casey Kleinman, CEO of Access Development

Kleinman started in sales at Access Development more than 17 years ago, when the company, which provides access to a network of discounts for merchants, clubs and other organizations, had about 20 employees.

The South Salt Lake company now has more than 150 employees, and Kleinman has worked his way up, becoming a sales manager and then president before rising to chief executive in August 2016.

Kleinman said the key to his leadership success — and that of the company — is hiring forward-thinking, driven people.

”My role is finding really talented people and giving them the support they need to succeed,” he said. “We’re not big on titles here. My door is open. It was that way when I started with this company, and I want to keep it that way.”

This open, hands-on approach is something he said stems from lessons he has learned in his career and by watching other leaders.

“There are times that things go really badly. Deals fall through, a client can get really upset. My theory is that you don’t just tell [your employees] to clean it up. Get in there and help come up with a plan,” he said. “In my experience, with the leaders I follow, they’ve been right there in the trenches. Be on the battleground and help deal with the really hard stuff.”

Kleinman acknowledges that getting the best out of employees is a bit of a balancing act.

“The key is finding that balance between too much attention and oversight and not enough. Too much oversight, and you get a culture of fear and oppression. Too little, and you’re not where you need to be,” he said. “Being nervous, stressed at times, that’s not always bad.”

Spencer Young, Young Automotive Group

Spencer Young, CEO of Young Automotive Group

Young is the third generation in a 92-year-old family-owned company that began with his grandfather, Jack Olsen, selling cars.

“I started by weeding the flower beds and washed cars,” Young recalls.

Young went on to work in the parts department and in sales before becoming a finance manager for the Layton company in the mid-1970s.

It was there that his father gave him some of his best management advice.

“If [a customer] missed their payments, we would have to take the loss,” he said. “I would have meetings with my father about evaluating opportunity. What happens if it doesn’t go right? Can we minimize those losses? I learned a lot having those discussions with my father.”

Young sees his leadership role now as doing what he needs to do to prepare the next generation in his family to take over the business.

“Don’t get in their way. They need to learn and grow,” Young said. “Don’t micromanage. Give them advice when they ask for it, but give them the reins to run the business or they won’t learn.”

He said it hasn’t been much of a change from the philosophy he has implemented for years, one of providing information openly.

“I have always shared with my management team all the financial information,” he said. “I think a lot of managers in any business make the mistake that they know some things and think that is their security. If you do that, you are making it a problem not only for others to grow but for yourself as well.”

This culture of openness works both ways, Young noted. His advice to young people starting out in their careers is to share their goals with their managers or supervisors.

“Sometimes people wait and wait to get an advancement or promotion or raise, and it doesn’t come and they get discouraged,” Young said. “They have an equal or more responsibility to go to their manager and say, ‘I would like to get here.’ They just think there’s a step-by-step ladder that they take, and it doesn’t happen that way.”

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