Representation Matters: Celebrating Dianne Mills

March 31, 2021 Savion Stephens

What's your favorite Acuity Brands story or memory thus far? 


Today is actually my one-year anniversary with AcuityWhile it’s only been a year, it has been an unprecedented year, so I have many impactful stories to share because they are by-products of today's climate 


However, today, one particular story comes to mind, and it makes me smile! George McilwraithSVP, Commercial Products, is such a character! Within the first two weeks that we transitioned to working remotely during phase 1 of quarantining, George said to me, "I think I need an emotional support animal." Even though he was joking, I know all too well how the stressors of a crisis could have a heavy emotional impact, and I wanted him to know that he was not alone in his sentiments. 



I asked my colleague, "if you were to have an emotional support  animal, what would it be?” George excitedly replied, “a giraffe.”  Feeling inspired, I immediately went on an online search to find  George the perfect companion. I found an oversized giraffe. I sent  it to George, and he was so surprised! What I didn't expect to  happen was that “Ollie the Giraffe” would start appearing in the  background of all of our virtual calls. Ollie grew to be so loved and  woven into the fabric of our leadership group that he'd often be  seen in sunglasses, baseball caps, and all kinds of accessories. He  even inspired other associates to go out and get their own giraffes.


I love this story because it speaks to our culture's strength and how  we strive to cultivate support and connectedness, even in uncertain  times. 





What is one mistake you witness leaders making more frequently than others?

I would have to say the lack of directness and transparency. I believe that effective leadership means feeling empowered to diffuse issues so they can be dealt with productively.

In short, in difficult situations, be transparent and don’t deflect. 


If you were guaranteed to be successful in a different profession, what alternate role would you want to try and why? 

I'd want to be a teacher for sure! My grandmother was 3rd-grade teacher for more than 40 yearsWhen I was a young girl, I can remember adults coming up to us and recounting these great stories of her from when they were her students. I always admired the warmth and reverence that resonated with the people she was able to touch through teaching.  


Naturally, that influenced me as a little girl, and I can recall subjecting all of my neighborhood friends to playing school. Like my grandmother, I was always the teacher!  I think that's why I love HR; at the heart of it, after all, it's about teaching people how to grow in their careers and develop others – it’s about teaching leaders how to be more effective and productive. 


What is the most beautiful place you've ever been? 


The Almafi Coast in Italy wins that one for me, hands-down! The entire experience - the colors, the smells, the seafood, the pasta - I left there completely enamored by the warm and welcoming Italian culture! 

What tv show is currently a guilty pleasure for you?

  • Your Honor – because I love a good mystery/drama/suspense show! 
  • The Bachelor – okay, I will let you in on a little secret: I have a completely irrational obsession with this show [Laughs.]  I don’t get it - the concept baffles me.  I think my husband would agree that it's totally ridiculous, and yet, I can't stop watching it, so I watch it in secrecy. Shh! 
  • I love anything on the Food Network or HGTV! 



If you could give one piece of advice to women aspiring to    

ascend professionally, what would it be? 


Don't give up on your dreams and take the time to see who

you really are. What do I mean by that? As women, wdon't 

often give ourselves enough credit.


Treat yourself like you would treat your best friend. You wouldn't criticize her every choice. You woulbe gentle with her when she experienced pain, you would give her a break when she had a heavy load to carry and made a mistake or two along the way, and you would likely be supportive when she shared with you that she aspires to do something she has never done beforeRemember to cultivate your spirit like you would that of a good friend. 


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