DePaul Spotlight on Dr. Kenneth Thompson
Chicago Family Business Council: Tell us a little bit about your department?
Dr. Kenneth Thompson: The Management Department has over 36 full time faculty members covering areas of entrepreneurship, strategic management, operations management, human resource management, business law, quality management, and organizational behavior.
CFBC: Tell us why you chose to come to DePaul
KT: I came to DePaul 26 years ago. Brother Leo V. Ryan was the dean at the time, the same dean that I was honored to serve with at the University of Notre Dame. At the time my wife was finishing her Ph.D. at the University of Arkansas and I had just finished working with others on creating the Walton Institute of Retailing, then generating $3 million dollars for the University of Arkansas. DePaul offered some exciting challenges in the role of department chair and I valued serving under Brother Ryan and his vision of a quality educational environment.
CFBC: What was your first impression of DePaul?
KT: I was impressed with the great students that value the education process. Brother Leo Ryan was developing the College of Commerce (as it was called at that time) into a nationally-ranked institution. It was exciting to be part of that development.
CFBC: What has been the most rewarding aspect of your work with DePaul, and why?
KT: Working in the Chicago area with outstanding business contacts is rewarding. I am still awed by the quality of the students who take the educational experience seriously. Over the years DePaul has developed a research and teaching faculty that care about DePaul, its students, and its contribution to the profession.
CFBC: What has been your greatest lesson you’ve learned through your work at DePaul?
KT: Patience, which I sorely lack, the experiences at DePaul has given me a bit more patience to work to get things done, but not much. I think I must practice the Bob Knight approach to leadership.
CFBC: What do you wish CFBC members knew about DePaul or your department, and why?
KT: I was at the “Great Games Seminar” put on Oct 3rd by CFBC and was impressed with the interest displayed by those attending. I understand each person’s time commitment as a family business leader. I would want each to know that we have dedicated faculty members that can support what you do through consultation, using MBA and undergraduate teams to provide research support to help an organization to solve problems, and through collaborative efforts with other academic networks to extend DePaul’s expertise. Many of us have a desire to help CFBC members to better be prepared for the challenges they may face.
CFBC: How could you serve as a resource for the CFBC members, and how could they serve as a resource for you?
KT: I have just finished a book with an outstanding author team. The book is titled, “It’s My Company Too: How Entangle Companies Move Beyond Engagement for Remarkable Results.” We studied eight superior organizations that have either received the Baldrige Award or have won the Best Place to Work award from Inc Magazine. We learned much from our interviews with these organizations on the elements that lead to engaged employees. We want to share it with others showing how to create a more engaged workforce and why that is important to sustain an organization.
In a similar manner, an academic wants to learn more, wants you to share your experience with others in the classroom. I met the Walter brothers (Tom, Larry, and Kevin) through reaching out to find resources to bring to my classroom. The experience was an educational enrichment for me and my classes, a real blessing.
CFBC: Tell me about someone who has influenced your decision to do the work you do?
KT: So many people encouraged my efforts to bring greater quality of human interaction in the work environment. I have always encouraged that psychological capital is a powerful asset in the organization that is not fully used. Leaders need to unlock this potential through engaging the workforce and creating a culture that promotes social justice and high work performance.
CFBC: What would you tell our members who are thinking about working with DePaul?
KT: Find a person you are comfortable working with and do it. Judy Hogel is a good contact to link you to the right people.
CFBC: What do you do when you aren't working?
KT: I am a railroad enthusiast, riding trains, taking pictures, understanding rail history.
CFBC: What one book would you recommend to our members?
KT: Mine of course! “It’s My Company Too: How Entangle Companies Move Beyond Engagement for Remarkable Results.” By Ken Thompson, Ramon Benedetto, Tom Walter, and Molly Meyer.
CFBC: What in your early work life had an impact or motivated for you?
KT: My church, my family, and my first boss, Bernadel Lehman were major influences. I grew up in Des Plaines, Illinois. My first high school job was with Wieboldt’s Department Store at Randhurst in Mount Prospect, Illinois. Each of these different groups and many of my bosses taught me the core values of honesty, caring, working hard, and persevering.
CFBC: How does your department celebrate successes? And can we be invited?
KT: We do not do enough. When I was chair we honored student achievements with their parents at an annual brunch, we acknowledged publications in our meetings and newsletter. Hopefully, we will renew that and invite you all as our students and you are our best ways to communicate the good things we are doing to serve Chicago and the world.
CFBC: What are your plans for the future?
KT: I am 64; I love what I am doing and plan to continue to do that for a while to come. I would like to write another book building on the current one and learning more about some of what leaders do that lead to engaged employees doing some remarkable things.