356 days ago
Business manager at Northern Ireland Hospice, Laura Wilson, was the inaugural winner of the Unsung Hero of the Year Award at the 2018 Institute of Hospitality Northern Ireland Awards for Professionalism, having been nominated by client relations manager, Suzanne Pollock.
Your–Sodexo caught up with her following her win.
Q. You’ve built an engaged team that is empowered to carry on when you are not there. What’s the secret of good employee engagement?
A. Communication is important. We have a team huddle 2-3 times a week, maybe once formally and other times a sit down for a chat over a cup of tea. In the hospice, it’s important to keep two-way communication open so we are able to get things organised quite quickly, if necessary.
Q. People who endorsed your award nomination described you as inspirational, but who inspires you?
A. When I started with Sodexo 11 years ago, I came from a bar restaurant background and I was amazed at how my managers and colleagues managed everything, including things like finance and HR as well as the operation. I am a bit of a sponge and I took a little bit of knowledge from all of them. I also love new software and am always looking to use it to my advantage.
Q. You’ve a penchant for quirky, innovative ideas that can make a difference in patients’ final days: where does that come from?
A. I love looking at different sources for ideas and I do absorb a lot of information quite quickly. I’ll look around Pinterest and Google but also my mother’s background is in interior design and my dad’s a dab hand at carpentry, so creativity is in my genes.
Q. You have your own health issues with the debilitating immune system illness Lupus, but everyone says you are very positive. How do you manage?
A. It’s not possible all the time. I’m lucky to have a great team and my line manager Suzanne who helps out when required, and that’s important to me. Most days I can get up, drive to work and manage 40 hours a week. I come into work and I enjoy it: there are lots of people who would love to swap places with me. I often struggle and feel a bit sorry for myself but working in a place focused on palliative care helps to put it into perspective.
Q. Is there an overriding philosophy behind the way you are at work and at home?
A. I like to treat people with dignity and respect. If you give it, you earn it. I love to coach people and to mentor people through things, and I don’t like to give up on people. I won’t ask anyone to do any job that I wouldn’t do myself. At the first place where I worked for 16 years, and trained as a chef, my boss treated me like the daughter he never had. He had a really good work ethic and high standards. He could be hard but he was fair, and he liked everything in order. That’s stuck with me throughout my career.
Q. Do you have any favourite hobbies or pursuits?
A. I am the treasurer of a local cycling club and a commissaire (race referee) for Cycling Ireland, which involves a lot of weekend events. My husband Robin also races. I’ve got a daughter, Rhianna, who’s 16, and son, Ben, 13, and lots of extended family. And not forgetting my 10-month-old Springer spaniel!
Q, You take great trouble to give hospice patients personalised food choices, but what’s your own ideal meal? And where would you like to eat it?
A. Blue steak would be my favourite food, and I’m rather spoilt for choice living close to Strangford Lough, but The Poacher’s Pocket would be my favourite place.
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