A Passion for People: How Feedback Makes Morrison Better
Suzanne Schoby, Regional Director of Operations in Phoenix, Arizona, believes in people. “Developing people to become great leaders is my passion.”
“I have a theory that in order for us to grow as a company and to drive excellence, we have to nurture and develop the next generation of leaders. Otherwise we’re done, because there would be no one to fulfill those roles,” says Suzanne. “They don’t teach this in school.”
Being a Regional Operations Director means guiding teams and individuals to invest in themselves and achieve their goals. This is Suzanne’s favorite part of the job, sitting down with team members—from hourly associates to Senior Directors—to discuss their goals and how to achieve them.
“One thing I’m good at is providing feedback, negative and positive,” says Suzanne. “To help them better themselves and improve.”
Negative feedback can be tricky, so we asked Suzanne and one of her team members, Senior Director of Food and Nutrition Pete McQuiston, to talk about it.
“Feedback has been a cornerstone in my training here with Morrison Healthcare,” says Pete. “When executed correctly, it is one of the most important tools a leader can use to grow their team.”
Pete began working for Suzanne in 2018, after more than five years with Morrison. “He had just joined my team and was struggling a bit to find how we were going to work together,” remembers Suzanne. “He told me, ‘I’m used to being the number one person, the number one account. And you don’t see that in me.’”
“I said, well, let’s look at that, let’s work toward it. So, we started working together and we realized that he needed to pay more attention to the steps, the tasks we needed to complete in order to accomplish that goal.”
“So I came up with an analogy. I asked Pete to imagine we were watching football, and the quarterback was passing to the receiver. If the receiver is focused on the goal instead of the football, he’s more likely to drop it—if he catches it at all. If he focuses on the ball, and works toward that, he would actually be closer to achieving his goal. The touchdown. He can’t get there without having the ball in his hand.”
Instead of becoming defensive, Pete decided to play better offense. “My initial response was to pause and really think about what was just said. It helped me step back and rethink my strategy for running this account. It made me more self-aware of my actions, and able to break down my day.”
“I started to look for the small wins,” Pete continued. “I started to ask myself what I could do today to make tomorrow better. I started seeing results. I started to see growth and excitement in my team, and it continues today.”
Today, Pete and Suzanne are working together to keep Morrison humming even as they train the next generation of leaders.
“Morrison has, hands down, provided the most comprehensive training I have received compared to any group I have worked for,” says Pete. “Suzanne is accessible, open to feedback, and offers quality coaching. She sets challenging yet realistic goals and keeps pushing, supporting us until we reach them. She is a pragmatic optimist, a great listener, and adapts to a variety of complex situations with quality solutions.”
“Working with Suzanne has made growing into a leadership position easier because I know what a great leader looks like. It’s great to be able to mirror the best.”
We interviewed Suzanne Schoby about leadership, feedback, and what it takes to grow with Morrison.
How has negative feedback helped you improve as a leader?
When I was a Director, there was a lot going on. I was always focused on emails, on the next project. I wasn’t being intentional when I was with other people.
One morning, I was in line for breakfast but wasn’t paying attention to anything going on around me. The cashier said, “Hey—I said hi to you. Sometimes it’s like you are looking at me, but not even paying attention to me.”
The fact that someone said that was jarring, especially since she was brave enough to say that to her boss. I thought about it and later went back to thank her. Ever since, I have tried to be more intentional.
The average RDO has been with the company for 14 years. More than 40% of them have 15 or more years tenure. When did you start working for Morrison?
I started in November 2005, just over 14 years ago. I was a clinical RD at the community hospital near my home. I worked summers at a community hospital as a college student, to get experience in healthcare foodservice, and completed my Clinical Dietetic internship rotation there. The hospital partnered with Morrison Healthcare, which is how I started my journey.
How did you get where you are today?
Mostly hard work and determination. I always say yes. I volunteer. That lets people know they can reach out to you. I am always looking for opportunities to improve.
People like Division President John Cipollini believed in my capabilities and pushed me toward bigger things. He always gave me extra projects because he believed I could do them, and encouraged me to invest in my own development.
My current supervisor is Regional VP Lisa Trombley. She hired me for my current role, knowing I was green for this level of position. She believed in me and my capabilities. She’s been integral to my development, giving me projects and the ability to prove myself.
Morrison actively mentors high achievers. Not all companies do this. Is it part of your best practices?
It’s not a written rule, it’s an unspoken process. We do try to challenge and mentor high achievers, by giving them projects and support to see if they can grow, move up to the next level. Sometimes you have to pick up the pieces, but that’s OK too. It’s a leadership style that we encourage each other to follow.
I like to mentor people. I try to approach other individuals working to achieve the next level of their career. I want to spend time with them, give them feedback, figure out their passion. That’s the fun part, especially when they are receptive and asking questions. When they have goals they want to achieve.
Why do you love working for Morrison?
I have always felt that I was valued. Our team is like a family, not just coworkers. We not only work as a team but have a real sense of comradery and family community.
Seeing a team member overcome obstacles and grow into their role is very rewarding, especially knowing I had some impact on that development. Seeing the company grow and continue to be the best, and knowing I am a part of that success, drives me to continue to my work every day.
It’s exciting to me! I am very proud to be a part of such a great organization.
How are you connecting your purpose to working here?
When I was a young girl, I was asked what I wanted to be when I grow up. I responded, “the boss of a big building.” That response came from a passion to be a leader who would listen to her employees and make good decisions.
My father had a different experience throughout most of his career. His bosses would not listen to feedback, so he didn’t feel rewarded although he was a very hard worker. It wasn’t until later in his career that he finally found a leader who would listen. I wanted to achieve this goal so that someday I would be able to positively impact individuals, so they could enjoy a positive work environment and leadership that listened to them. My last several roles have allowed me to do that.
What do you do on your downtime?
What I enjoy most is the time I spend with my family, and any chance I can get to my home in Indiana, where I spent 37 years. I’m close to my parents who still live there, and who are so supportive. They’re my biggest fans! I also enjoy hiking, working out, kickboxing, watching movies, listening to music, going to concerts, and any time I can laugh. I love to laugh with my friends and family!
Suzanne started in foodservice at age 17, when her parents opened a restaurant in our small town, and worked there for 10 years, even after becoming an RDN. Her current region includes 5 states: California, Arizona, South Dakota, Idaho, and Washington. She travels often and could not do her job without her supportive family in Arizona: her mother–in-law, Phyllis; husband, Bill; and three children, Macy, Andi and Heath.
Photos of Suzanne with her team and family.