Dr. Lauren Keating, Assistant Professor at emlyon business school, arrived in Lyon from Sydney, Australia in 2018. Since completing her Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior and Management at UNSW Sydney, she has taught Organizational Behavior in the International MBA and MSc in Management programs, as well as Leadership Development for the European Triple Degree.
1. What was the subject of your Ph.D.?
My Ph.D. focused on mindsets – that is, people’s assumptions about whether they believe their abilities are fixed or malleable. Mindsets are simple beliefs about the plasticity of our abilities and yet they can have profound effects on the way we think, feel, act, and interact with others, particularly when we’re facing adversity. For instance, we’re more likely to embrace challenges and be in the spirit of learning to the extent that we believe our abilities are changeable. On the other hand, we see individuals, managers, and other leaders become defensive, frustrated, and avoidant of challenges when they assume their abilities are set in stone and thus nothing can be done to really change them.
Mindsets are a type of implicit assumption, meaning that we’re often not aware that we even hold these beliefs and how they affect us. Part of my research, including what I did for my Ph.D., thus involves conducting experiments with people to draw attention to their mindset and how it might be serving or undermining them. During my Ph.D., I explored the effects of mindsets in the context of employee engagement, job search and unemployment, as well as designing mindset interventions that could prompt managers to better leverage the talent of an older workforce. As an Assistant Professor, I continue to research mindsets and other related cognitions, personality, leadership, and motivation. I also work on research projects related to stress, expertise, and career development.
2. How do you think your research and experience could be useful to MBA students?
A core element of my research is about unearthing the types of implicit beliefs and biases people hold that affect them in their daily (working) life. Even when you’re not aware of them, as we seldom are, these implicit beliefs can affect whether you push yourself or shy away from challenges, how quickly you judge others, or even the kind of leader you are, just to name a few implications. I think my research could be useful to MBA students wanting to learn more about their own belief systems and biases, how such beliefs have shaped the employee/manager they currently are, as well as how they can re-shape these beliefs in ways that help them to become more of the leader they aspire to be. Delving into this kind of research is also a great way for MBA students to better connect with and empower others in their personal and professional life.
Beyond research, I have several years’ work experience in various industries, including in education, construction, and medicine; working in an array of small and larger organizations. I have first-hand experience of how organizational behaviour dynamics can shift depending on the industry and size of a company, which enables me to connect with the experiences of an MBA cohort with diverse professional backgrounds.
3. How do you find teaching MBA students as opposed to Master students?
Teaching Master students is great, but there is such a wealth of professional and cultural diversity in the MBA that makes teaching MBA students an incredibly insightful and enjoyable experience. The MBAs have a great deal of work and, oftentimes, international experience that enables them to make thought-provoking contributions to class discussions and debates. It’s often the case that MBA students provide a perspective I haven’t heard before or that gets class members questioning their own assumptions. This is really important for inspiring genuine growth and development as a leader, particularly amongst a cohort who have come back to study precisely for this reason.
4. What do you think the strong points of the MBA students are?
As mentioned, I think the professional and cultural diversity of the MBA cohort is a real asset to students wishing to benefit from the insights of not just their professors, but also their peers. It’s also important to note that the team behind recruiting, managing, and welcoming the MBAs is strongly committed to students finding their feet in Lyon, as well as connecting them with others in their cohort through various workshops and events. When I walk into a room, ready to teach a class, I can feel the connection that has been built between the MBAs. It fosters an inclusive and safe learning environment, where students feel comfortable to openly share their insights and perspectives. Not only do MBA students learn a great deal in this environment, they’re cultivating life-long networks and friendships.
5. Do you find teaching such a diverse class challenging?
No, I thoroughly enjoy it!
6. Do you have any advice for candidates wishing to join the program?
Take advantage of all the knowledge that’s around you – from your professors, your class work, and your peers. How will you actually apply the knowledge you’re accumulating to develop yourself as a leader? I think it’s important for students to routinely reflect on this question, so that they can keep track of their progress toward their goals and shift gears when necessary.
I think it’s important for students to also be open to the fact that many of an organization’s problems don’t have definitive solutions. Particularly when we’re talking about organizational behaviour—and thus the complexities of people—the issues we face as managers will depend on the context, the employee in question, or both. An MBA isn’t about matching a solution to a problem, but students being equipped with the tools to become more effective and skilled decision-makers against the backdrop of rapidly changing business dynamics.
Lauren Keating, Assistant Professor at emlyon
Organizational Behavior & Leadership Group
Cognitions, Behaviours, & Transformations Research Centre
Ph.D. in Organizational Behaviour and Management, UNSW Sydney