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Strengthening the Pipeline

December 16, 2014

By: Rico Bennett, Director of Operations, LongHorn Steakhouse

Strengthening the Pipeline

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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 first in a three-part series recapping the recent ELC leadership development programs.

I started my career with Darden in 2004 as a restaurant manager and was immediately impressed with the steps Darden took to ensure that diversity and inclusion were living and breathing within our organization. I have always felt valued and believe that the company strives to create social value by contributing to the successes and well-being of the people whose lives we touch. I’ve also always felt supported and provided with room for growth, having worked in multiple roles of increasing responsibility across two of our restaurant brands. I am grateful for these opportunities and the continued support I receive.

Recently, with colleagues across the company, I had the honor of being selected to participate in a wonderful development opportunity. “Strengthening the Pipeline” and the “Mid-Level Manager’s Symposium” are two leadership developmental initiatives offered by the ELC Institute.

Strengthening the Pipeline helps participants gain an understanding of advanced concepts in leadership with a special emphasis on enhancing self-awareness, learning to navigate the organization, and creating a career development plan. The symposium, designed for leaders at critical career stages, prepares you for career growth by providing skills, professional relationship strategies and global perspective. The ELC Institute has created a well-researched and documented understanding of the corporate experiences of black managers and executives. Through this program, I have broadened my business perspective as well as strengthened my network of executives that have shared similar experiences. I left feeling fulfilled, and I have already started to implement some of my learnings.

Besides expanding my network and learning more about the importance of diversity, I would also credit this program with developing my leadership skills. I attended mentoring sessions designed to enhance my ability to deliver feedback and receive it. I also became much more self-aware in regards to individual leadership styles, strengths and weaknesses. I increased my understanding of organizational culture and how to manage relationships in and around the workplace. We discussed the intangible factors that can influence the decisions of business leaders. I also learned about the importance of having an entrepreneurial outlook and development plan.

I left the program feeling enriched and proud of my company’s commitment to development and diversity. I am honored to continue to grow within the organization both in responsibilities and in leadership skills. The ELC provided a thoughtful and valuable experience for me and my colleagues, which I will continue to share as a leader. I am proud to work for a company that provides such unique development experiences focused on creating diverse and effective leaders.

By: Rico Bennett, Director of Operations, LongHorn Steakhouse

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