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Bruce Cozadd: “Followers really determine how successful a leader will be”

As an organization, we strive to bring innovation to every facet of our work, encouraging employees to innovate to transform the lives of our patients. That can mean developing more effective treatment, but it can also mean developing a safer treatment, or one that requires less treatment time away from home. And while much of […]

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As an organization, we strive to bring innovation to every facet of our work, encouraging employees to innovate to transform the lives of our patients. That can mean developing more effective treatment, but it can also mean developing a safer treatment, or one that requires less treatment time away from home. And while much of research and development is driven by innovation, we’re interested in finding new ways to approach all aspects of our business.


As a part of our series about “How business leaders can create a fantastic work environment”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Bruce C. Cozadd. He co-founded Jazz Pharmaceuticals, Inc. in 2003 and has served as our Chairman and Chief Executive Officer since April 2009. From 1991 until 2001, he held various positions with ALZA Corporation, a pharmaceutical company acquired by Johnson & Johnson, most recently as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, with responsibility for research and development, manufacturing and sales and marketing. Previously at ALZA Corporation he held the roles of Chief Financial Officer and Vice President, Corporate Planning and Analysis. Mr. Cozadd serves on the boards of two non-profit organizations, The Nueva School and SFJAZZ. He received a B.S. from Yale University and an M.B.A. from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Music has always been a source of joy and creativity for me. I’ve played piano and sung since I was a kid but realized I wasn’t good enough to make a career out of it, so in 10th grade, I instead decided I wanted to run a biopharmaceutical company. This was not a common thing to decide in the 1970s when there weren’t a lot of biotech companies. In college, I combined science (molecular biophysics and biochemistry) and business (economics) as an unusual double major. Even with this career focus, I never lost the passion for music, and when it came time to co-found my own company, we gave it a musical name: Jazz Pharmaceuticals. The first thing I bought for the company in 2003 was a used piano, and we still have it in one of the employee break rooms today. I will still play it during work sometimes, employees join in and sing with me; it’s a great community-builder.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

Leading Jazz through the 2008–09 financial crisis was quite a roller-coaster ride, but it reinforced for me the incredible power of a strong, positive corporate culture. Employees remained committed to the company’s survival and ultimate success, and many of those employees whose jobs we had to cut during that difficult time came back to the company as “boomerangers.” (I’d also like to mention that Wynton Marsalis, one of my heroes, came to visit the company and I had the chance to show him our “Marsalis” break room — all of the rooms in that building are named for jazz musicians and Marsalis is the biggest one!)

Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We’ve recently received two U.S. FDA approvals that will help transform the lives of patients. In June, we received approval for the treatment of adult patients with metastatic small cell lung cancer, a disease with very limited treatment options. And in July, we received FDA approval for a new treatment for cataplexy or excessive daytime sleepiness in patients seven years of age and older with narcolepsy. Not only has this been an important milestone for patients, marking our third product to treat this disease, but it has also been an exciting milestone for Jazz as a whole. This treatment is the first product that we developed from concept through approval as a part of our continued commitment to providing life-changing medicines for people living with sleep disorders.

According to this study cited in Forbes, more than half of the US workforce is unhappy. Why do you think that number is so high?

People want to be involved in meaningful work, to be given a chance to make a difference, to be recognized for what they contribute and to work in an environment where they can bring their whole selves to work — when these things aren’t present, it’s no wonder they’re not happy.

I like to keep in mind that as a leader of an organization, the environment and culture I create has an impact on employees’ health and happiness. For many people, a big source of stress in life comes from their work (see Pfeffer’s excellent book “Dying for a Paycheck” to better understand the problem and some solutions). I also know that to positively impact patients’ lives, we must first invest in our people.

Creating a great place to work was a key focus of our executive team, who modeled our values from the very beginning. We founded Jazz with the aim to create the best working experience in our employees’ careers.

Today, at Jazz, we strive to understand what new employees are looking for when they join our team. We give them the opportunity to provide feedback during their first 60 days on the job so we can gain an understanding of their thoughts on the company culture and how we can continue to set them up for success as they mature in their role. We also provide all of our employees the opportunity to provide regular feedback on whether we’re staying true to our purpose and living our stated values. We’re transparent with that data — sharing all of it with our employees, along with our plans to remedy any areas where we’re falling short.

Processes around interviewing, onboarding, training, feedback and recognition each play a part in reinforcing a culture through shared organizational experiences. For example, our “Jazz Master” award (the highest honor we bestow on an individual) is a way for us to recognize an employee living the company’s values.

Based on your experience or research, how do you think an unhappy workforce will impact a) company productivity b) company profitability c) and employee health and wellbeing?

The reason Jazz exists is because I wanted to create a purpose-driven company that treats its employees well. Employees who know their work matters and connect with the corporate culture have higher motivation and productivity. Collaboration is better, and we make better things happen. This drives our overall success in achieving our purpose (innovate to transform the lives of patients). Profitability should and does derive from how we add value for patients. I believe anyone who has experienced a great culture will never again tolerate being in an organization without one.

Can you share 5 things that managers and executives should be doing to improve their company work culture? Can you give a personal story or example for each?

At Jazz, we have five core values that define our corporate practices and demonstrate our commitment to addressing the needs of both our employees and our patients:

  • Integrity: What leaders do in private moments can have a tremendous impact across the organization. How does an organization treat an employee who has had a traumatic injury? Does it keep their job open for a year so they can eventually rejoin the company? It’s meeting employees in the parking garage and taking the time to chat with them on the walk into the office. Those employees are going to tell that story to other people inside and outside the company. In other words, what you’re doing all the time as a leader matters for culture. It’s not just those seminal moments we all know that matter, it’s how you treat people all the time.
  • Collaboration: We think of collaboration as how we work together with others, not just inside the company, but outside the company as well. In response to the pandemic, we moved to a work-from-home model in March, limiting all travel, and have been leveraging new technologies to continue our critical work with healthcare professionals and customers. Employees collaborated virtually before COVID-19, but we have certainly taken it to a new level with new technology platforms. We’ve continued to achieve our primary corporate objectives despite the disruption and continue to connect with each other. By the way, we think of collaboration as how we work with others, not just inside the company, but outside the company as well. We also want to collaborate with partners, regulators, customers and patient advocacy groups.
  • Passion: Our purpose at Jazz is innovating to transform the lives of patients. Our employees are the only ones who can deliver on that purpose. Interestingly, sometimes our patients and our employees are one — an employee could be diagnosed with one of the diseases we treat. We have colleagues/employees who are survivors of, or are currently living with, a particular disease who choose to come work at Jazz because they are passionate about helping others in similar situations. One of the orphan disease states we treat is narcolepsy, and we have quite a few people with narcolepsy working at Jazz. We also have patients visit the company to share their experiences with us — they are our inspiration.
  • Innovation: As an organization, we strive to bring innovation to every facet of our work, encouraging employees to innovate to transform the lives of our patients. That can mean developing more effective treatment, but it can also mean developing a safer treatment, or one that requires less treatment time away from home. And while much of research and development is driven by innovation, we’re interested in finding new ways to approach all aspects of our business.
  • Pursuit of Excellence: As an organization, we know that we can always strive to take things to the next level. We want to continue to learn, grow and adapt. We provide ongoing leadership training for all managers, as well as provide employees the opportunity to tell us what we could be doing better through annual all-employee anonymous surveys

It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but it seems like we have to “change the culture regarding work culture”. What can we do as a society to make a broader change in the US workforce’s work culture?

Our lives in and out of work continue to become more intertwined, so our actions as a society have a tremendous impact on the work culture. Racism, for example, is one of the most pressing challenges of our time — one we simply cannot address in a silo.

Companies are in a unique position to be a driving force for diversity and inclusion (D&I) and provide opportunities for their employees and prospective workforce. In 2016, Jazz initiated a program designed to empower employees to guide our strategy and support programs related to hiring diverse talent, defining Employee Resource Groups and using education and communication to continue fostering an inclusive environment. Our D&I Resource Groups now include employees across all parts of our organization focused on helping to embed diversity and inclusion into all that we do at Jazz.

While the members of our D&I Resources Groups are advocates for diversity and inclusion at Jazz, we believe that all employees are responsible for creating an inclusive workplace, especially our leaders and managers. We expect them to be skilled at valuing the differences among their teams. We remain committed to providing our leaders, managers and employees with the tools and support to have courageous conversations needed to create a more inclusive workforce.

We have a gender-balanced management team focused on hiring, developing and promoting more Black leaders, and we strive to celebrate diversity on multiple dimensions, visible and not.

How would you describe your leadership or management style? Can you give us a few examples?

My responsibility is to set a vision (our purpose and goals) and create an environment where our employees can do great things (our values and culture). I try to lead by example, behaving in the ways I think all of us should behave. I make time for people and care about them as individuals — they know that’s authentic.

Early in my career, I found that if I interacted with employees across the organization in informal ways, I could build strong and durable relationships that fostered collaboration. As Chairman and CEO, it is important for employees to know they can communicate with me in an honest way. It’s a very risky moment when the CEO doesn’t have an accurate view of what’s going on in their company and how employees really feel about how they are treated.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Yes! Alejandro Zaffaroni interviewed me in 1991 (over four days!) and asked me to come work with him at ALZA. I learned so much from watching how he interacted with employees and built a wonderful corporate culture. He was a remarkable man — a visionary — and influenced the careers of many people who worked under him, including many successful CEOs who’ve emulated Alex’s focus on culture.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Jazz is a purpose-led organization aiming to innovate to transform the lives of patients. We have always been focused on what good our medicines can do for people that may benefit. We are also looking at how we can make an impact on broader society and how we bring that social impact lens into our company strategy. This is an exciting area for us and one that will be an ongoing part of how we measure our success.

I have also consistently served on multiple non-profit boards throughout my career, including TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, Stanford Hospital, and at the present, SFJAZZ and The Nueva School. I tend to focus my personal energy around healthcare, education and the arts. And I love mentoring people, both in my industry and in the non-profit space.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Max DePree: “Followers really determine how successful a leader will be.” I care deeply about the people who do inspiring work and want to give them the best environment, a compelling vision and the right resources to succeed.

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I’m hoping my work has a positive impact on facets of my professional and personal life that are important to me, including improving the lives of patients, creating a great workplace for employees, improving education and supporting the arts. But I wouldn’t say I’m aspiring to start a “movement” per se — I do think treating others with compassion and seeking to understand them would go a long way in promoting a better world for all of us.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you continued success!

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