Nona Golledge: Seeking Opportunities

"The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” These words, first spoken by Winston Churchill, have guided Nona Golledge, director of KU Dining Services at 30,000-student University of Kansas in Lawrence, during her five years as director. Through mergers, budget cuts and culture change, Golledge has used her team-oriented philosophy to revolutionize the university’s foodservice. These efforts were recently applauded in the university community when Golledge was named one of the 2009 KU Women of Distinction.

“I always tell people that Nona is probably the most ‘politically correct’ person I know,” says Alecia Stultz, assistant director of retail. “She shows the ultimate in ‘KU Dining Calm.’ Her open-door policy extends to all and I know that it makes a difference with the staff.”

Advance, not retreat: During Golledge’s first year as director, it was imperative that she get her team on the same page regarding her vision, because Golledge was responsible for managing the merging of residential and retail dining into one unit.

“We took two completely separate, but both equally fantastic, teams and merged them into one,” Golledge says. “That was a bit of a challenge because everyone was still operating under the way they used to do it. So I knew that we had to somehow figure out a way to get a more cohesive team. We did that through a lot of communication and keeping the staff informed from start to finish.”

Golledge says a turning point in the process came when she decided to hold one of her “advances.” Advances are what Golledge calls her staff retreats—“we don’t retreat, we advance,” she says.

“We spent several hours together in a room and we just wiped the slate clean,” Golledge says. “We tried to get everyone to forget everything they knew from the past, and we developed our own strategic plan. I think when everyone left that room, everybody felt like, ‘Wow, this is going to be good.’”

FoodService Director - FSD of the Month - Nona GolledgeGolledge says the advances—she holds one every year—are demonstrative of her preferred leadership style.

“My style of leadership is that it is a team effort,” Golledge says. “I like to get everybody involved. I value people’s expertise and want their input, so it felt like this was everyone’s plan. When members of my team make decisions, they make those based on the same goals.”

The merger wasn’t just good for team morale; it encouraged significant growth in every area of dining—retail sales by 36%, catering by 31% and residential dining by 11%.

“Nona was instrumental in merging [those two departments], and she did so in a very gentle and effective fashion because those mergers can turn into a bloodbath,” says David Mucci, director of KU Memorial Unions. “Our situation was a little different because we had to meld a state operation with an affiliated corporation on the retail side, so it was apples to oranges.”

Sustainability: Another huge area of growth that Golledge has fostered has been sustainability. During Golledge’s time as director, the department has been chipping away at the sustainability checklist—implementing trayless dining, starting a rooftop herb garden, switching to biodegradable disposables, collecting used cooking oil for conversion, increasing use of locally grown foods and more.

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