Where did you earn degrees and what are your current responsibilities at UGA?
I earned my Ph.D. in management from Michigan State University and my B.S. in psychology from Indiana University. I hold the William Harry Willson Distinguished Chair in the department of management in the Terry College of Business. My teaching responsibilities include teaching organizational behavior to our MBA students and research methods to our Ph.D. students. I am also graduate coordinator, which means I have an important role in recruiting, selecting and training our Ph.D. students. More than that, my responsibilities center on being a senior member of the department of management—doing the little things to protect junior faculty, expand our research presence and improve the Ph.D. program.
When did you come to UGA and what brought you here?
I was recruited to UGA from the University of Florida in 2011. I had been at Florida for 12 years as part of a faculty cohort that arrived together and grew into senior faculty together. UGA was attractive to me because the department of management includes an incredibly talented group of junior faculty. What the department needed was more of a senior presence, and I felt I could fill that role and be part of building something special.
What are your favorite courses and why?
Organizational behavior is one of my favorite courses to teach. My course covers a number of topics, including leadership, team effectiveness, personality and ability, motivation, job satisfaction, stress, trust and job performance. It is an interesting course to teach because the content lies at the intersection of experience and science. Students always bring an intuitive understanding of the concepts into the course, some of which are verified by scientific study and some of which are debunked by scientific study. The firms that excel at organizational behavior issues understand this and make decisions based on a combination of their own experiences and cutting-edge analytics.
What interests you about your field?
My field is applicable to virtually everyone. Everyone has worked for a good boss and a bad boss. Everyone has had jobs that they liked and jobs that they disliked. Everyone has had days where they were engaged and days where they just couldn’t get themselves going. Organizational behavior explains those differences—it explains why we’ve all felt what we felt. And those explanations have a huge impact on how well people perform their jobs and how long they want to stay with their employer. By extension, firms that embrace the importance of organizational behavior wind up outperforming their competitors for reasons that their competitors find mystical. Product decisions can be copied; technology decisions can be copied. Being good at managing people is much more difficult to copy.
How does your research or scholarship inspire your teaching, and vice versa?
Some professors believe that their research identity should be separated from their teaching identity. The two have always been intertwined to me. I’ve always emphasized the importance of teaching what organizational behavior scholars know now, not what we thought we knew two decades ago. I incorporate my research and others’ research in the classroom, and I find that students appreciate seeing the science behind what they consider to be soft material. I even have students in my MBA course perform a research project in which they build and test a theory of job performance. That project shows them the various steps in the scientific method and shows them the value of basing decisions on science, not just experience and intuition.
What do you hope students gain from their classroom experience with you?
When my students leave my course and return to the working world, I want them to see the value in science—to see the value in supplementing their experience and intuition with science-based wisdom. Even if they don’t recall the specific content we covered with respect to a given issue, I want them to know that there’s something to know. Then I want them to put on their scholar cap and find their own knowledge to bring to bear, whether from my textbook, science-based business best-sellers, practitioner-oriented journals and so forth. That mindset, and that knowledge base, is something that many of their competitors are not applying.
Describe your ideal student.
My ideal students are curious and open to new ideas. They intrinsically ask the sort of “why” questions that a class like mine can help answer. When they hear scientific findings that conflict with their own experience and intuition, they are intrigued and surprised and want to learn more. When they disagree about some assertion, they consider ways to test their viewpoint empirically. My ideal student also is comfortable enough to share past organizational behavior stories—both good and bad—in a way that enriches the quality of class discussion.
Favorite place to be/thing to do on campus is…
One of my favorite things about academic life is that we’re not chained to our desk. This is one of the most beautiful campuses on Earth. I personally love the fact that I can take my iPad or my MacBook Air and walk to the Miller Learning Center, walk downtown or walk to some random building to read or write. This campus is the best office in the world.
Beyond the UGA campus, I like to…
I have three young boys (ages 12, 10 and 6) who love basketball (almost) as much as I do. So we spend a lot of time playing hoops indoors and outdoors, on campus and off. I hopefully help them get better and they keep me in good enough shape that someday—someday—we’ll be able to have competitive games of two on two.
Favorite book/movie (and why)?
I am an avid collector of comic books. I do so much scientific and technical reading that I want my leisure reading to be as different as possible. Comic books also have plot lines and character arcs that span years and decades, which appeals to the detail-oriented, timeline-centric thought patterns of scientists. Some of my boys have embraced the hobby as well, which has helped to build their reading skills, given the complex nature of science fiction and fantasy writing. As for movies, the beauty of Hollywood over the past decade is that it keeps turning comic books into films. My summers are therefore filled with taking my boys to comic book movies where we can dissect the casting and writing to see whether they did the original stories justice.
Proudest moment at UGA?
I served as editor-in-chief of the Academy of Management Journal from July of 2010 to July of 2013. AMJ is the flagship empirical journal in management and one of the most impactful journals in all of business. One of my proudest moments here at UGA was completing that editorship and bringing to a close what I believe was a successful run. Having AMJ run out of UGA was good for the department of management and the Terry College of Business. Moreover, I shared the experience with several of my colleagues who served on my editorial board. Being editor took up a lot of my time, of course, so I look forward to having more hours to devote to my students and my service to the department, college and university.
(Originally published on Jan. 5, 2014)