Robert ‘Bob’ Bies
McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University
“I have never had a better professor than Bob Bies. He was the first professor I really connected with on campus. In his class, I participated in a social impact case competition that opened my eyes to the ways in which a student can not only do their best personally but also have a larger effect on the greater world around us … When I look back on my college experience, I know that Professor Bies will be at the center of it, having greatly impacted my time at Georgetown and who I will become after I graduate.” – Andrea Delgado, student
Robert “Bob” Bies, 68, is Professor of Management and founder of the Executive Master’s in Leadership Program at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. He’s been at McDonough since 1990.
He earned his PhD from Stanford University, as well as his BA and MBA from the University of Washington. He currently teaches Heroes and Villains: Character and Leadership in a Global Context; and Imagination and Creativity.
Dr. Bies’ current research focuses on leadership, the delivery of bad news, organizational justice, and revenge and forgiveness in the workplace, and has been published in such journals as Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, Human Relations, Journal of Applied Psychology, Journal of Business Ethics, Journal of Management, Journal of Social Issues, Organization Science, and Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. He is the co-author of the book, Getting Even: The Truth About Workplace Revenge—And How to Stop It.
He serves on the editorial boards of Journal of Applied Psychology, Journal of Organizational Behavior, Journal of Management, International Journal of Conflict Management, and Negotiation and Conflict Management Research.
In the classroom, he is a two-time winner of the Joseph Le Moine Award for Undergraduate and Graduate Teaching Excellence at the McDonough School of Business, along with numerous other awards at the undergraduate and graduate level.
“Professor Bies is one of the best management professors at Georgetown, and he’s hands down the most inspiring professor I have ever studied with,” writes Febin Bellamy (Georgetown ’17). “He is kind, thoughtful, and passionate about education, and he goes out of his way to support his students.”
LIFE AS A BUSINESS SCHOOL PROFESSOR
I knew I wanted to be a business school professor when… I was a junior in the Business School at the University of Washington and I was taking a course on Human Relations taught by Professor Vern Buck. I was always raising issues of social justice in class, so Professor Buck called me the “keeper of morals and values.” Through many discussions with him, I realized that my passion for social justice could be pursued as a professor instead of becoming a lawyer, which had been my plan. I could do research on justice in the workplace—and I could have my students engage in social justice through Community-Based Learning projects. While I am a professor, I still view myself as a “foot soldier for social justice.” Professor Vern Buck changed my life trajectory—and I owe him a debt of gratitude.
What are you currently researching and what is the most significant discovery you’ve made from it? I am currently working on a justice research project that resulted in an unexpected, but important, discovery about people working in organizations. What we found is this: People want to be treated equally, but uniquely. I call this The Justice Paradox. We have always assumed that people want to be treated equally—and they do, but they also want to be treated uniquely. To treat people equally is easy to do, but it is also treating them uniquely, at the same time, that is challenging. Whether it is how managers reward employees—or implementing diversity, equity, and inclusion policies and practices—managing the justice paradox is a central leadership and organizational challenge.
If I weren’t a business school professor, I’d be…a lawyer and an activist. I would be fighting for social justice for the poor, the marginalized, and the forgotten. I would want to be on the frontline of fighting for social justice—while also developing future activists, as I aim to do now.
What do you think makes you stand out as a professor? I want my students to say “WOW” after every class session—and after the course is over. To do so, I bring energy and passion to every one of my lectures. I view myself as a “performer” who works hard to connect with and engage his “audience.” I tell stories relevant to the lecture that day—and I engage my students to tell their stories. I always have a movie clip to illustrate a key learning point in the class. And I provide them with “Sage Wisdom” in each class, which are quotations that reinforce a key learning point in the class. But I also focus on socially relevant topics in my course projects, which engages my students as they are motivated by a social purpose and a desire for social impact. For example, in my Imagination and Creativity course, the major project is “Redesigning the Business School Undergraduate Program for 2030 and Beyond”—with a focus on developing purpose-driven and inclusive leadership, creating positive social impact in a multicultural world. I want my undergraduate students to be central in the collaboration and co-creation of the undergraduate business school program of the future! Their project reports will go to the Dean of the Undergraduate Business School Program—and key Georgetown University leaders.
One word that describes my first time teaching: Exhilarating! I was so excited to be in front of the class. But to be honest, I was also nervous, as I had never taught before. But my first lecture was a success, which built my confidence as a professor—and to “be good” and “do good” for my students.
Here’s what I wish someone would’ve told me about being a business school professor: It can be fun! Research can be fun when you are collaborating with great colleagues on an important issue. Teaching can be fun if you focus on projects and papers that open their eyes and their hearts. Finally, one’s colleagues can be a source of fun with their sense of humor that puts things in “proper” perspective.
Professor I most admire and why: I most admire Professor Vern Buck of the University of Washington. He always brought passion and energy to his teaching. He would engage students with “probing, even provocative, questions” to get them to think for themselves—and then be confident in sharing their ideas in class. He taught me the power of caring for students—and to have the courage to stand up and do what is right for the students.
TEACHING BUSINESS SCHOOL STUDENTS
What do you enjoy most about teaching business students? They are highly motivated—and fun! I never underestimate their intelligence, their imagination, their creativity, and their resilience.
What is most challenging? Getting students to live a more balanced life, one that is not just focused on getting a job. I challenge them to find 15 minutes each day for “quiet time” to reflect on their day—what went right, what went wrong, what could they do better the next day. And at the end of the day to find their “3 Moments of Joy” for the day—whatever they are, small or big.
In one word, describe your favorite type of student: Open-minded. My favorite type of student is one who is open to discovery—the discovery of new ideas and new ways of thinking about the world and about themselves.
In one word, describe your least favorite type of student: Narrow-minded. These are the few students who think they know everything—and they don’t want to be challenged with any new ideas or new ways of thinking.
When it comes to grading, I think students would describe me as…Fair. I demand a lot from my students—and they deliver exceptional papers and project reports, often exceeding my expectations (and I have high expectations!).
LIFE OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM
What are your hobbies? Traveling; Going on long walks with my wife—and my daughter’s dog, Zoey, when we are dog-sitting her—to discuss our “3 Moments of Joy” that day; Playing golf (trying to get better at the game); wine tasting.
How will you spend your summer? Playing golf with my wife (she is way better than me!); Traveling to California to visit our favorite wineries; Working on my research project—The Justice Paradox, I will also start work on a new research project: Creating the WOW Experience for Clients, Customers, and Employees.
Favorite place(s) to vacation: Hawaii (Maui); Italy (particularly Rome); Ireland; London; Sonoma County in California; Seattle (my hometown).
Favorite book(s): The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff; Thomas Merton: An Introduction to His Life, Teachings, and Practices by Jon M. Sweeney. Each day I read The Washington Post, The Seattle Times, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal—different newspapers with different perspectives and great writers!
What is currently your favorite movie and/or show and what is it about the film or program that you enjoy so much? My favorite movie (and the greatest movie of all time in my judgment) is The Godfather. It is my favorite because it has incredible acting, a script with so many memorable lines, and it explores issues of power and family dynamics. I have a Top 25 Leadership Movie list (actually, I have 50 in my Top 25!)—and The Godfather is #1! I just watched Steve Jobs (with Michael Fassbender) with my son—he introduced me to the movie many years ago. It has great acting—and it explores the question of whether Steve Jobs was a hero or a villain. My answer to that question is: Yes! My wife and I watched The Beatles: Get Back documentary—and I loved it because I love The Beatles. But it was also a Master Class in Creativity—and I make use of it in my Imagination and Creativity course! I also watch a lot of shows that are streaming on Netflix and Hulu. My daughter got my wife and me to watch two different series—Succession and Emily in Paris. While they are so different, I enjoy them both because they are about the functional and dysfunctional aspects of personal and human relationships. My wife and I just finished watching the first season of Only Murders in the Building, which is unbelievably funny with a great storyline and acting—and it had an unexpected ending that we did not see coming. WOW!
What is your favorite type of music or artist(s) and why? My favorite kind of music is Rock ‘n Roll—and my favorite group is The Beatles (John Lennon is my favorite Beatle). I grew up with their music—and the songs always make me think, smile, laugh, and leave me hopeful for a better world.
THOUGHTS AND REFLECTIONS
If I had my way, the business school of the future would have much more of this… Imagination, Creativity, and Innovation! Also, I would want the business school of the future—and in the present, too—to focus on developing students to be purpose-driven and inclusive leaders creating positive social impact in a multicultural world. And that Business Schools would engage their students in the Collaboration and Co-Creation of the Business School in 2030 and Beyond
In my opinion, companies and organizations today need to do a better job at… Imagination, Creativity, and Innovation! Also creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive work environment—where ALL people feel they belong—which will also lead to more creativity and innovation!
I’m grateful for… my wife, my daughter, and my son, who support me (and nudge me when needed). I am also grateful to be a faculty member in the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University and to teach talented and gifted undergraduate students—and to help them unleash the greatness of who they are!