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CareerBuilder Leadership Series: Spotlight on Patrick E. Connolly, President, Sodexo Health Care Market

Pat Connolly President of Sodexo Health Care“Making our people the most valued asset in our company is everyone’s responsibility.”

Patrick E. Connolly, President of Sodexo Health Care Market, discusses the qualities he looks for in employees – and how these qualities contribute to his organization’s success.

Can you tell me about your philosophy as it relates to people and their impact on your daily business?
Almost all of the services we provide can essentially be commoditized to some extent. This is one reason we focus on people as the essence of how we deliver an experience. It’s about the patient’s and the resident’s experience, their family’s experience; and the hospital’s staff experience. Whether or not we serve turkey or chicken has minimal bearing on whether we make things better for them. It’s our people who make things better for them. Since the beginning, we’ve been focused on improving the quality of people’s lives. And it’s the people in our organization who make that happen.

What do you do and how do you engage with and relate with your employees?
The majority of my job is internal communications and messaging, direction-setting strategy. I invest a large amount of my time inserting myself in situations where I can make sure that the people know what the message is and what’s expected. For example, I do open forums as a way to make sure of that. Sitting down with 15 to 20 managers at a time, just me and them—no bosses, no format. Open, honest, unfiltered conversation around how I view our work, what I expect the rest of the organization to be like, and how they see it and what they expect.

What are the most important leadership lessons you’ve learned?
Authenticity in leadership is really important to me. Bringing your genuine self to work is really important. And, we’re inclusive of everybody’s perspectives. I believe that you have to build teams of diverse people, in order to be as successful as you’re going to be.

What are some of your leadership lessons?
I feel very strongly about living your values. If you look inside your heart and make your decisions from a grounded principled perspective, it makes leadership easier. It doesn’t mean you always make the easy decision, but it makes it easier to make the right decisions and then live with those decisions. I also think accountability is really crucial. I can’t remember who it was who said, “It’s easy to dodge your responsibilities; it’s not so easy to dodge the consequences of dodging your responsibilities,” but it rings true.

How do your people affect your business, particularly as it relates to client services?
There are a lot of other organizations that are in the same businesses as Sodexo. Our teams make the difference by the way they view their roles from the perspective of how they can improve the quality of somebody’s life. We do CARES behavior training—Compassion, Accountability, Respect, Enthusiasm, and Service. Those five behaviors are critical for us to succeed in doing what we do. Our associates literally make a difference in peoples’ lives. They make others’ lives better.

How do you define your company’s culture, and, as a leader, what is your impact on that culture?
Our culture is one of caring and inclusiveness. And the role that I play is serving as a living example of that culture. It’s helping people see  that’s what’s expected from everybody. We’re a spectacular organization. This is the most diverse and inclusive organization around. We’re committed through and through to being the kind of organization that treats everybody fairly, with dignity and respect; and gives everybody opportunities. The organizational culture is about values. Some people believe that responsibility for the organization’s people falls under the human resources department. Not us. Making our people the most valued asset in our company is everyone’s responsibility.

How do you make your overall talent strategy a priority, and what role do you play in driving it?
I don’t believe in traditional views of hierarchy. Whether you run business development or human resources or strategy, you are equally involved with me in the success of this organization. I’m very involved in the high potential people on our team, their training and development, and their succession planning. I know who’s stretching to be in the next role, because I need to know – because people are so important to the organization. All of the leadership people on my team are responsible for the success of the human resources component of the business—and they must be.

What’s the best hiring decision you ever made?
My answer would be that there really isn’t one. There are a hundred of them. There isn’t one best hire in a 22-year career. But, the best hiring practice might be not going hiring simply based on technical fit. So, the best hiring decision is how we approach all of our hiring – looking for the best people who fit our culture and saying, “That’s who we want.” For me, all hiring decisions are really important.

ABOUT PATRICK E. CONNOLLY: Patrick E. Connolly is President of Sodexo Health Care Market, representing $2.9B in revenue. Mr. Connolly joined Sodexo in 1989 in the Schools Division. In 2007, he was appointed President of Sodexo’s Health Care Market Group, which includes the Hospitals, Senior Living and Laundry Divisions in the United States. He also serves as Chief Operating Officer of Sodexo North America. Mr. Connolly focuses on driving growth in a portfolio of management services designed to improve the quality of life of patients and residents across the healthcare and senior living continuum. Mr. Connolly currently sits on the Board of Directors of Comfort Keepers, a leading in-home care company. He is a member of the board of directors of the National Center for Healthcare Leadership. He is also the Chair of the Sodexo Senior Living Market Champions, responsible for development of the Seniors market worldwide. Patrick is holds a bachelor’s degree from Western Illinois University and a master’s degree from the J. L. Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

ABOUT SODEXO IN NORTH AMERICA: Sodexo, Inc. (www.sodexoUSA.com), a member of Sodexo Group, is the leading provider of Quality of Daily Life Solutions serving more than ten million customers daily in corporations, health care, long term care, retirement, schools, higher education, government and remote sites. Headquartered in Gaithersburg, Md., Sodexo, Inc. operates in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, with $7.7 billion (USD) in annual revenue and 120,000 employees. The Sodexo Foundation (www.SodexoFoundation.org) is an independent charitable organization that, since its founding in 1999, has made more than $12.7 million in grants to fight hunger in America.

Jamie Womack

About Jamie Womack

As Vice President of Corporate Marketing and Branding, Womack directs the development of strategic marketing for the corporate marketing team and focuses on the recruitment needs of employers of all sizes. This includes overseeing business-to-business strategy including communications, advertising, promotions, events, and customer lifecycle and loyalty. In addition to leading corporate marketing efforts, Womack manages the sales training program at CareerBuilder. She works closely with her team of trainers to clearly communicate sales strategies, tactics, product developments and overall company goals to CareerBuilder’s sales force. Womack has been with the CareerBuilder organization for seven years. Prior to her role as vice president of marketing, Womack worked as a vice president in the sales training department and as a marketing team director. Before joining CareerBuilder, Womack worked in the real estate and mortgage industry. She has a bachelor’s degree from Florida State University and is pursuing her masters of business administration from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.
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