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Diversity at Its Best

January 05, 2015

By: Winston Williams, irector of Operations, Olive Garden

Diversity at Its Best

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Recently, individuals across our company were selected to participate in a variety of development opportunities offered by the Executive Leadership Council (ELC) Institute as part of Darden's commitment to diversity and development. The ELC is the premier organization dedicated to the development of African-American leaders that Darden is proud to have been partnering with for over a decade. This is the second in a three-part series recapping the recent ELC leadership development programs.

When I began my career as a Service Manager with Darden more than 10 years ago, I was extremely invigorated by the passion and urgency displayed towards diversity. From day one, I experienced diversity as part of the Darden culture through its empowered relationships among multiracial/multicultural individuals, who all have the same goal. The goal was to consistently have a culture of inclusion that supported the vision and vitality of the company that would sustain the growth of the business as well as the communities that support the business. It was clear to me that understanding and embracing diversity enhanced the richness of ideas and perspectives that would allow me to grow as a leader. This was confirmed during my recent experience attending the ELC Mid-Level Manager Symposium.

At the symposium, I was especially invigorated by Dr. Keith Pigues, a thought-leader and widely sought-after speaker and advisor of growth and strategic marketing, who spoke on “unlocking talent.” He referenced how understanding the cultural backgrounds and disciplines of your team would enable you to unleash human potential across geographical borders and generations. I was given ideas on how to expand my capacity to build and implement breakthrough platforms for diversely skilled people to move them forward in their careers. I now understand more clearly how organizations require leadership that answers the global equation with respect to my leadership style, team output and the ability to see around corners for opportunities. The symposium also allowed me to network with other mid-level managers that were striving for the same goals with the same challenges. I truly benefitted from being in the company of such insightful individuals.

Now as an African-American Director of Operations with Darden, I am more proud today of our direction and initiatives towards diversity than even that of my first day as a Service Manager. I feel we are clear on everyone’s roles and accountabilities and that everyone has a voice. I am convinced that it will be those combined voices of inclusion that will continue to make Darden a great place to work and sustain its future. The cultural differences will never matter because it will be those differences that will guide the success of the company and build bigger and brighter futures for many.

In conclusion, Tim Berners-Lee once said, “It’s difficult to imagine the power you’re going to have when so many different sorts of data are available.” Can you imagine the power of a company with all that data coming from its diverse group of people? I call that diversity at its best!

By: Winston Williams, Director of Operations, Olive Garden

Previous ELC Recaps
Part 1: Strengthening the Pipeline

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