Leaders’ Insights: Margot Slattery, Sodexo Ireland

20 Jun 2016

Margot Slattery is the country president of the Irish operations of food and facilities management giant Sodexo.

Margot Slattery, who is also a vocal advocate in the LGBT community and spoke strongly in favour of a Yes vote in last year’s marriage equality referendum, was recognised last week when she was presented with a trailblazer award at the Women’s Executive Network’s annual awards dinner.

Slattery will also be at Inspirefest 2016 later this month, where she will speak on a panel, alongside Accenture’s Ellyn Shook and Dropbox’s Judith Williams, about the promotion of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Future Human

Sodexo Ireland is also a sponsor of Inspirefest and will be providing catering services at the event, as well as running a Health and Wellness Zone at the Inspirefest Fringe.

Describe your role and what you do.

I am responsible for all Sodexo’s company activities in the Republic and Northern Ireland. This covers the profit and loss for a number of business segments and other areas like corporate governance, health and safety, corporate social responsibility (CSR) and diversity and inclusion (D&I).

What set you on the road to where you are now in the industry?

I come from a farming and food background and studied in Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology to become a chef. I then worked in hotels in Dublin and London but I wanted to move into management, so when I returned to Dublin in the early ‘90s, I took a junior management role in a contract catering company later acquired by Sodexo and it went from there. Sodexo is very committed to people development and I received a lot of support from our senior management and my personal career journey has been an example of that.

‘Relax a bit more, worry less, empower your people and enjoy it all’

What do you do every day to help you achieve your business goals?

I try to place myself in the customer’s position, think how we can add value and be conscious of the effect of my actions on our teams.

What was your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?

My biggest mistake at the beginning of my management career was a tendency to micro-manage. I became exhausted and I discovered that it didn’t help staff members to develop in their own right. So I learned to delegate, ‘let go’ and, in so doing, empower people in their role.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Relax a bit more, worry less, empower your people and enjoy it all.

How do you get the best out of your team?

Empower them, recognise them and reward them.

What would you say are the key skills and traits a new starter in your industry needs?

We’re a people business, so the ability to work well with others and develop relationships is essential. Allied to that is good emotional intelligence, a creative mind and being open to opportunities. Although Sodexo is a multi-services company, food is at our core, so an interest in the business of food in all its fascinating diversity is also important.

What trends do you see affecting your industry in the near future?

The competitive environment is growing and we are now in a world where it’s far more customer-led, so providing services that improve the quality of life for our customers in the workplace is at the heart of delivering value in our business.

STEM sectors receive a lot of criticism for a lack of diversity. What are your thoughts on this and whats needed to effect change?

Simple language and interpretation, making maths and science more accessible to all in education, ensuring there is a non-traditional path for people who have different skills, and being open to difference.

Who is your business hero and why?

In Ireland, I love what Norah Casey has done with her media business, because she never stops innovating and giving something back.

Internationally, Airbnb and its founders, Joe Gebbia, Brian Chesky and Nathan Blecharczyk, stand out for their groundbreaking idea that satisfies the perennial desire to experience a travel destination like you live or have friends there. It’s definitely one of those ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’ ideas!

What books have you read that you would recommend?

At the moment, my main recommendations would be:

Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman

Originals: How Non-conformists Move the World, Adam Grant

The Industries of the Future, Alec Ross

What are the essential tools and resources that get you through the working week?

iPad and iPhone, social media, online newspapers, the support of my PA Melinda and my partner Sarah.

Inspirefest is Silicon Republic’s international event connecting sci-tech professionals passionate about the future of STEM. Book your tickets now to join us from 30 June to 2 July 2016 for fresh perspectives on leadership, innovation and diversity.