By Kathy Wilson, Regional Director of Operations
Kathy Wilson will celebrate 40 years with Morrison Healthcare in June. Based in Southfield, Michigan, she oversees 12 accounts throughout the state, including one corporate cafeteria and an all-girls Catholic high school, in addition to the hospital settings. She has been an RDO since 1992.
I attended Michigan State University, majoring in dietetics. It met my passion for healthcare and a strong desire to help people. Four years later, after graduating on a Saturday in June 1982, I started my career the following Monday.
I started as a clinical dietitian at a Michigan-based food service company that served customers nationwide. After a couple of years, I realized that all of the action and fun was in the kitchen, so I moved into a management role.
It was certainly a different world back then. Technology was virtually nonexistent. When I started, we didn’t use computers; board and medical executive meetings typically included full bar service, and, yes, my first cell phone was the size of a shoe. And speaking of shoes, no safety shoes; I usually wore stilettos!
Ten years after I began my career, I became a Regional Director of Operations (RDO). Not long after that, in 2005, Morrison acquired the company I was working for.
I’ve learned a lot over the last 40 years as a Regional Director of Operations, perhaps the most important thing being that building a competent team and empowering them to make decisions is critical to our overall success. One way to embrace this idea is to try not to solve every problem by myself. Instead, I like to call on key directors and managers throughout the region, use their expertise and connect them to find solutions.
Like every region, we have people who have strong skills in finance management, culinary, dietetics, and other key roles. I want them to contact each other to collaborate and brainstorm best practices to resolve issues. As a result, we help build champions throughout the organization while getting to know one another.
Like many RDOs, I knew that for us to succeed, I needed to focus on the region’s top priorities and long-term opportunities for improvement. I recognized that we have enormous talent throughout Morrison and Compass. By tapping into these resources and experts, managing processes is easier; we create a brand and win as a team.
Using this management approach, I’ve been able to build our team through the years by serving as a mentor to many people. I get a lot of satisfaction in helping people learn new aspects of a job, take on more responsibility, earn promotions, and grow their careers.
I had several leaders along the way who guided me and coached me and allowed me to grow professionally and personally. So, it is important to me to invest my time and energy into doing the same for others. It’s so rewarding to help people on their career journey, and it makes me feel good about the future of our company.
This belief has also trickled across the region. For example, our directors know that they can’t succeed without a strong team. And as people get promoted, our teams change. So, there needs to be a process in place to ensure that new managers are given the time and attention to develop and succeed.
The process includes allowing them to see different operations, as well as different means to the same end. And allowing them to make a mistake and learn. Making sure we put effort into making that happen is a responsibility any manager must embrace.
Finally, I’m a firm believer that a team can’t be successful without a concentrated effort to be more diverse and inclusive. This is one of our greatest strengths at Compass and Morrison.
There has to be diversity in skill, thought, personality, demographic background, and experiences. In my region, we have leaders who are dietitians, chefs, and hospitality managers; we have ethnic diversity, we have gender diversity, we have people who have traveled the world, and others who have never been on an airplane. In an environment where we are inclusive in words and actions, we will all succeed.
I couldn’t be prouder to have worked for Morrison and Compass for four decades. When I hit my anniversary on June 8th, I’m not quite sure how I will celebrate – but I know I will. And now, as I pass the torch to a successor, I will take with me so many memories of the journey and the people I have met, and the friends I have made and will keep forever.