Kathleen O’Connor, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Management at the S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University. She is also a visiting faculty member at London Business School.
Her teaching, research, and corporate work aims to help managers and managerial teams make smarter decisions, foster sustained levels of engagement and performance, lead more effective teams, and negotiate better strategic partnerships. Current corporate clients include Deutsche Bank, ING, KPMG, Nestle, Danone, Young Presidents’ Organization, and World Economic Forum.
Kathleen is a scholar known for her research on how people can collaborate and negotiate more successfully. Recent work has explored how stress affects decision-making and engagement, as well as the effect of physical appearance on work outcomes. Kathleen’s current research examines women’s career paths and key decision points, focusing on the roles of courage and serendipity in women’s work lives and career outcomes. Over the years, Kathleen has been honoured for her work by scientific awards from leading academic organizations, including the Academy of Management and the International Association for Conflict Management.
Kathleen received a B.S. from Cornell University, and an A.M. and Ph.D. in Social and Organizational Psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In addition to her appointments at Cornell and London Business School, she has held faculty and visiting faculty appointments at Rice University and the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University.
What I Do
With current and recent clients, Kathleen has been engaged in projects centered on:
• Front-line behavioural change
• Middle management engagement
• Executive team assessment and dynamics
• Organisational alignment
• Women’s leadership capabilities
• Collaboration and negotiation
Working closely with clients, Kathleen identifies the firm’s and managers’ needs, and then designs and delivers custom programmes to address them. She is passionate about giving clients practical tools to make them both “Monday-morning ready” and more effective over the course of their careers. Her goal is to improve managers’ outcomes, as well as their teams’ and firms’ performance, by helping managers reconsider how they approach their reports, their responsibilities, and the challenges they face.
Depending on clients’ needs, Kathleen offers a variety of engagement types, including:
• Two-, three-, and four-day workshops
• Single day training sessions
• Off-site facilitation
• Part-time consulting engagements
• Full-time consulting engagements
Kathleen’s programmes help managers build their leadership competencies by providing them with ready-to-use tools rooted in cutting-edge scientific findings. Because lessons are ‘sticky’ when they are vivid, Kathleen relies on a personalised and experiential approach to development. In many of her programmes, Kathleen’s participants complete diagnostic self-assessments to give them insight into their values, strengths, and needs. To help them develop their skills, participants take part in simulations and interactive dialogue. Combined, these methods deliver practical and easy-to-use tools for managers to improve their work lives and outcomes as well as those of the people they support and lead. What follows is a small sample of the programmes Kathleen currently offers.
Executive Assessment and Dynamics
The executive team is the brain trust of the business. Yet, these teams, like so many others, can fall short of their potential, failing to take full advantage of the talent around the table, reaching suboptimal decisions, and failing to learn from experience. Some teams need a refresh around their process habits and decision blind spots. Other executive teams need help building their capacity to face future challenges. Depending on the team’s needs, Kathleen offers programmes to improve the team’s—and firm’s—performance.
Creating Inclusion and Engagement
In a world of constant change, managers need the tools and skills to build and sustain a sense of inclusion and engagement among their reports. For themselves, too, managers must maintain their resilience. Capitalising on the adage that people don’t quit their jobs, they quit their managers, we focus on what managers can do — cheaply and easily — to foster feelings of inclusion and to deepen reports’ feelings of engagement. Through interactive casework, we analyze how resource-challenged managers can create productive, committed, happy teams. Drawing on an empirically-validated engagement framework, I work with participants in small groups to brainstorm innovative practices that they can implement Monday morning to achieve their inclusion and engagement goals.
Women Leading with Impact
Kathleen is passionate about working with women to help them recognise and pull down the barriers that prevent them from having the impact and success they want. Working with Jill McCullough, an internationally renowned acting coach, Kathleen relies on a range of techniques to help each woman hone the skills she needs to accelerate her career. Drawing on drama techniques, for instance, women practice skills to manage their experience of fear that may inhibit them from claiming their “place at the table.” Kathleen relies on empirically validated research to provide women with tactics to help them better negotiate outcomes for themselves and their teams. Women leave the programme with a greater sense of self-confidence, easy-to-use tools to help them lead more effectively, and an affiliation network to support them as they put these tools into practice.
Negotiating with Difficult People
Getting things done in today’s firms requires excellent collaboration and conflict management skills. One’s ability to find solutions to shared problems, to manage difficult people, and to get people with diverse values and perspectives to work together effectively is critical for one’s success as a leader. As a recognised thought leader in the field of negotiation, Kathleen builds the programme around her SHIFT© model of collaboration. SHIFT© gives participants a set of tactics to help them navigate and manage tricky situations, and in ways that enable participants to maximise their economic, relationship, and reputational goals. Highly experiential, this programme provides a “learning laboratory” for participants to experiment with new tactics free from the stakes and constraints that can inhibit them in the real world. Participants leave with a clearer understanding of their strengths, a set of effective tactics, and the confidence to begin to use them right away.
A seasoned and highly effective public speaker, Kathleen regularly shares her expertise with audiences in keynote speeches and annual meeting addresses. Current topics include how women can achieve greater success for themselves and their firms, how to become a trusted advisor to one’s clients, and how employees can better navigate the firm to become even more effective.
More sample programs can be found here.
A graduate of Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Kathleen received an A.M. and Ph.D. in Social and Organizational Psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She has been a professor at Cornell University’s S. C. Johnson Graduate School of Management, London Business School, the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University, and Rice University.
Kathleen's research has been published in leading academic journals and practitioner outlets, and she has served on the editorial boards of major journals in her field. She is a member of the Academy of Management, the American Psychological Association, and the International Association for Conflict Management. Kathleen continues to present her research at international management conferences.
For her full academic CV, click here.
Kathleen's Ideas in Practice
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