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Employee Spotlight

From Professionalism to Connection

Students, employees, and executives typically work hard to present themselves professionally, ensuring blazers are pressed and handshakes are firm. Yet BYU Marriott professor Kristen DeTienne, who has more than three decades of professional experience, calls for something beyond professionalism. “What’s that extra edge that helps you be effective and enjoy what you’re doing?” DeTienne says, “It’s personal connection.”

BYU Marriott professor Kristen DeTienne sitting near a row of chairs.
Kristen DeTienne has taught at BYU Marriott for more than thirty years.
Photo courtesy of Kristen DeTienne.

The California native has consulted with businesses on management and negotiation since 1989 and taught since 1991. Even with her successful career as an academic and consultant, what DeTienne values most is reaching above the standard expectations of professionalism to create meaningful relationships.

After earning a doctorate from the University of Southern California in 1991, DeTienne joined BYU Marriott as a faculty member in the Department of Management, where she now works a professor of organizational behavior and human resources. A few years later, DeTienne started with KBD Management Consultants, where she guides business leaders to create better interpersonal relationships.

DeTienne helps her clients and students improve negotiation skills, develop influence tactics, and navigate various approaches to human interactions, and she strives to be on the cutting edge of management and negotiation research. DeTienne has published work in everything from the Harvard Business Review to the Academy of Management, covering topics such as business ethics, communication strategy, and business feedback.

DeTienne standing with a trophy.
BYU Marriott Dean Brigitte Madrian presenting Kristen DeTienne with the BYU Marriott Outstanding Faculty Award in 2020.
Photo courtesy of Kristen DeTienne.

For DeTienne, the highest form of effective leadership comes from following Jesus Christ’s example. “I want my students to be better leaders in the workplace. I want them to be able to use their power and influence in a Christlike manner,” she says. “I want the students to be able to listen to people on their team. I want them to have a mindset where they’re looking for win-win solutions rather than trying to ram their ideas down someone’s throat.” She invites her pupils to think about their professional relationships as more than transactions, aiming ultimately to lead like the Savior.

DeTienne’s attitude toward interpersonal connection looks beyond traditional professionalism in a way that coincides with BYU Marriott’s singular vision to transform the world through Christlike leadership. “BYU Marriott is just such a special place,” DeTienne says. “I hope that people understand what a blessing it is to be in a place where everyone’s trying to support each other.”

Taking direction from BYU Marriott’s unique mission to develop Christlike leaders, DeTienne researches and publishes on how business leaders can better care for their employees. She’s found that most managers learn about an employee’s mental health issues only when they begin investigating poor performance. DeTienne’s research calls on managers to create flexible work schedules, simplify work demands, and show sensitivity about negative feedback.

Kristen DeTienne posing with a bike helmet.
DeTienne's research provides managers with the tools to create supportive, open workplaces
Photo courtesy of Kristen DeTienne.

“I’ve learned to soften myself up, as well, because you never know what kind of a burden somebody is carrying,” DeTienne says. “If you have that kindness, students are going to feel more comfortable opening up. But even if they don’t, they’re going to feel that love that’s going to help them make it through.”

At BYU Marriott and in her consulting efforts, DeTienne works to develop leaders who not only present themselves professionally but also give hope to others by building meaningful connections with people who are struggling. She says it’s those relationships that make BYU Marriott special. “That’s one more thing I like about BYU,” DeTienne says. “The hope is in the air."


Written by Alec Pope