Remember the golden rule. I’ve had my share of negative (and positive!) experiences with managers, so I know how it feels to be frustrated with management. I always try to remember the golden rule when it comes to leading: treat others how you want to be treated. It’s simple, easy to remember, and effective. I had a memorable manager that treated me with dignity and respect, and I try to emulate her when leading my own team.
As a part of our series about the five things you need to successfully manage a large team, I had the pleasure of interviewing Elyse Stoltz Dickerson.
Elyse Stoltz Dickerson is CEO and Co-Founder ofEosera, Inc., a female-led biotech company committed to developing innovative products that address underserved healthcare needs. Elyse holds a BA from the University of Notre Dame and an MBA from the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University. Additionally, she completed The Integral Leadership Program and The Advanced Leadership Program at the Stagen Leadership Academy. Elyse, married with two children, resides in Texas.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I started my career in big pharma with the commercialization of eye care products. Through my 13 years there, I worked my way up in the company to global director and managed portfolios of 1.7 billion. However, my time at that company ended in 2015, and I started my own company focused on ear care. I saw a clear and glaring gap in the ear care market and knew it would help people tremendously and be lucrative to pursue. My business partner, Joe Griffin, saw the same opportunity I did, and after hundreds of tested formulations, we launched with our flagship product, EARWAX MD. CVS took the product in all 8,000 stores shortly after launching, and Rite Aid soon followed suit. Things took off from there. We now have 9 ear care products in over 13K stores and more in the pipeline.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
One January morning in 2015, I received a FedExed letter informing me that I was terminated. It was devastating being let go after 13 years at the company. Luckily for me, I saw it as an opportunity to start my own business, and that’s been a tremendous success. The situation was unfortunate, and you can’t always control your circumstances, but it ended up being the most exciting and interesting points of my career to build from the ground up a sensational business and gather an outstanding team to share it with. Often, calamitous events in your life end up being the catalyst for your greatest accomplishments.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
It was my first week on the job at a big corporation. Worried I would be late, I rushed to my meeting, weaving through cubicles and dodging sharp corners. I turned a corner rather quickly and ran smack into an administrative assistant. Everyone had a great laugh and never let me live it down. Luckily, she was okay and had a good sense of humor about it. I learned to roll with the punches and to not be afraid to laugh at yourself.
Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Most times when people quit their jobs they actually “quit their managers”. What are your thoughts on the best way to retain great talent today?
I have a very rigorous hiring process here at Eosera. There are many stages (about 5–7) that an interviewee goes through to make sure it’s the right fit for both of us. Getting to know each other on a number of levels before hiring is key to starting off the manager-employee relationship on the right foot. I want to get a sense of how they’d perform here — how they’d use their strengths and improve their weaknesses. By doing a laborious interviewing process, I cut out potential people that are ill-fitted for the job and the manager. As far as retaining talent, one of our core values as a company is people. We believe people should be at the core of our business and treating them with kindness and respect goes a long way and costs nothing. We value people before profit, always. That includes our employees. Our bottom line is important, and I’m no doubt a capitalist, but people and relationships are prioritized before our bottom line. I make this abundantly clear to my employees, and I think it creates a kind of trust and mutual respect that we all appreciate.
How do you synchronize large teams to effectively work together?
It’s all about open communication. Where the breakdowns happen in large teams is when one part of the team knows something, and one part doesn’t. One part of the team is moving in one direction, and one in another. It’s the constant communication and collaboration that keeps a large group moving forward.
Here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your personal experience, what are the “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Team”. (Please share a story or example for each, Ideally an example from your experience)
- Company culture sets the precedent for behavior and success, and it starts with me. A culture of positivity in the workplace is vital for avoiding office politics. It’s important to remember that everyone contributes to the culture in the workplace, either negatively or positively, but the cultivation of the culture begins with me as the company’s CEO and co-founder. When I started this company, I knew I wanted a positive, encouraging, empowering culture for my employees and myself to thrive in. Through the hiring process, we picked people that would contribute positively to the culture, and who take the maintaining of the culture as seriously as we do. If there comes a point where an employee is not consistently contributing positively to the culture, it’s best to part ways.
- Hire flexible experts. Round out your team with people who have a different area of expertise than you. Surround yourself with employees that know their stuff but are also willing to learn more and dabble outside their training (not everyone can know everything). It creates opportunities for them, keeps them challenged, and is helpful for you. Our team is on the smaller side, so we all pitch in when necessary to help others on the team that may not be in their field. By doing this, employees get cross-trained, which is helpful for future success at our company or whatever challenge they decide to pursue outside of Eosera.
- Remember the golden rule. I’ve had my share of negative (and positive!) experiences with managers, so I know how it feels to be frustrated with management. I always try to remember the golden rule when it comes to leading: treat others how you want to be treated. It’s simple, easy to remember, and effective. I had a memorable manager that treated me with dignity and respect, and I try to emulate her when leading my own team.
- Give everyone a voice. In my company, we are very collaborative. I try to give everyone a voice or a space to raise questions, offer new ideas, or flag potential issues. Not only is it helpful for me as a leader to have different perspectives and ideas, it’s essential for my employees to feel part of the team.
- Value bravery. Calculated risk-taking, bravery, and courageousness are not celebrated enough in business. Gain team members who are brave in sharing ideas, take risks in the name of creativity, and are courageous and confident when interacting with leadership. Bravery is one of our core values as a company, and it’s not a business value you see often, but it’s especially important for women. I learned the value of bravery through many years of doing business nervous to share ideas in a meeting or sit near the front of a conference room table. Once I decided to be braver, I noticed more opportunities come my way.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
My advice would be to not get in their way. Letting your employees explore their jobs with clear expectations is imperative. Creativity, forward thinking, and problem solving are all crucial aspects of a position at my company, and I don’t want to squash any of those aspects by over managing.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Giving women and minorities an equal voice in all aspects of humanity would undoubtedly change the world. It’s part treating others with respect and kindness and part breaking down present systems of oppression. Each generation progresses more than the last in regard to shattering glass ceilings, but we have an enormous amount of work to do still. I am confident that we will get there by working hard to dismantle complex systemic oppressional structures (difficulty done) and simply being kind to one another (easily done).
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite life lesson quote and an often-quoted mantra around the office is “this too shall pass”. Owning your own business comes with its ups and downs. At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, something goes wrong every single day. There’s always a new fire to put out. Knowing that the rough times will pass eventually helps keep perspective. Additionally, the good times come and go as often as the bad times, so soak up every minute; it’s bittersweet, as life often is, to watch the good times fly by along with the difficult times.
Thank you for these great insights!