Since her debut at HEC nearly 13 years ago, Professor Dauger has consistently ranked among participants’ favorite professors in exit surveys. This is of course a testament to her aptitude as an instructor, but also to an astonishingly well-rounded professional background; her résumé glitters with the requisite polish of a multifaceted graduate of HEC Paris’ Grand Ecole, studded with her two decades’ worth of regional and global leadership experience at Procter & Gamble and Hermès.
Look a little closer, though, and one notices deliberate artistic depth that dots the glossy contours of her professional accomplishments.
As a Master’s student at HEC Paris (H.84), she proactively nurtured a visceral passion for art. Indeed, as a student, she married her flowering business acumen with art courses at the Ecole du Louvre. Upon graduation, she ensured that her training in art bloomed in lockstep with that of her burgeoning corporate career by enrolling first at the Brussels Royal Academy of Fine Arts, and then the Prado Madrid Academic Art School.
In late 2005, Professor Dauger left France and the Hermès Group to dedicate herself to both executive teaching and consulting, as well as to her own artistic expression in Spain. A chance discussion with HEC Paris Professor Frédéric Dalsace led to her first foray into MBA and Executive MBA classrooms; soon, she was hooked.
Since then, she has split her time teaching, painting, and lending her formidable brand-building savoir-faire to firms like Chanel, LVMH, and Porsche, among others. She sat down with us to answer some questions about the latest stanza of her professional life.
Q: When did you know you wanted to be a professor?
Professor Corinne Dauger: I don’t do research – I’m not an academic – that’s just not my life. But I love learning and sharing, which is something I discovered about myself during my time at P&G. There is an emphasis on sharing knowledge there; managers are evaluated equally for building the business and building their people. You’re encouraged to build and share knowledge with your teams, and to attend a lot of trainings yourself. Becoming a professor isn’t anything I ever planned on doing, but looking back and connecting the dots, it makes sense that I really enjoy it, and usually you’re good at what you enjoy doing. It’s a virtuous cycle.
I came across a friend and former colleague of mine, Frédéric Dalsace, who was looking for people like me. There was a need not only for people with academic backgrounds, but also people with hands-on, on-the-job experience who could conceptualize the experiences. I gave it a try and I can say now that I really love doing it.
“I’m actually not only a professor: I have three jobs.”
Q: What would you be doing if you weren’t a professor?
CD: I don’t have to worry about that question because at the moment, I’m actually not only a professor: I have three jobs.
In addition to being a professor, I’m a consultant with many different kind of companies. I love brand building in any category– B2B, B2C, B2B2C—it’s all the same kind of strategic thinking, and I love the creative industries. I work for many different types of company [Corinne is or has consulted for LVMH, Chanel, Suez, Total and Porsche, to name just a few] usually at the CEO level, putting creation and strategy together in order to build the business.
I’m also an artist. Usually, I’d have three or four exhibitions every year, but that’s slowed down because of COVID. I’ve been working a lot from my studio as a result!
I’m nourished by my three jobs: MBA/EMBA professor, consultant, artist.
Q: What do you think makes you stand out as a professor?
CD: One aspect would be competence; I know what I’m talking about. I would never teach something that I don’t feel like I know well, and I make sure that the content is always up to date.
Secondly, I think it’s my personality. I throw myself into what I do: I give a lot of myself and I give a lot of energy. When you give energy, you receive energy, and I like that. Being a professor is really a mix of transmission and theatre: your content must be both informative and entertaining, and worth every minute of the participant’s attention. I genuinely enjoy the interaction with people, and I hope I am everything but an old-school academic.
And finally, even though I’ve accomplished a lot in my career, at the end of the day, I know that the world keeps changing, so I never come into class with this idea that the lesson is going to be top-down, as if I know everything there is to know. I like to keep things very interactive, very open, very fresh and genuine.
Q: Describe how you felt your first time teaching.
CD: Stimulating and humbling. I had been coming from an environment in business where I was the boss, so when I opened my mouth, everybody would usually listen to what I had to say. When I walked into a classroom for the first time as a professor, that kind of taken for granted dynamic immediately evaporated. I had to earn the students’ attention.
Q: What’s your driving philosophy as a professor?
CD: I got fantastic advice from Frédéric Dalsace, whom I admire a lot.
He told me that the way you convey your content is just as important as the content itself. In the end, it’s about transmission. It’s not about pushing content; it’s about bringing value and making sure something will stick. Sometimes it’s storytelling, sometimes it’s paying extra attention and care; it’s the pedagogy. That’s what it’s all about.
One of the things I admire about Frédéric and a lesson he’s passed down to me is that you should never be satisfied with what you have, content-wise. I never teach the same thing twice. I change it from year to year; every two or three years, I change my content 100%.
Of course, that’s always a challenge. The world of knowledge-sharing keeps changing. There are different ways to access knowledge; there are more and more entertaining ways to learn beyond being in a classroom and showing PowerPoint slides.
The challenge is how can we bring all these new and exciting possibilities into the world of knowledge sharing — we should at least be in line with the cutting edge of today’s world. What should change and what should not? I like to think that the human part will always be a key transmission factor.
Q: What do you enjoy most about teaching MBA Programs students?
CD: The students themselves. The relationships. Very often, they are relationships that last. It’s meeting with human beings, at the end. It’s not just sharing content.
Q: In your opinion, what is something that companies need to improve, or to do more?
CD: They need to be better at managing people. That’s what really sucks today.
At the end of the day, it’s the people make the businesses. You create great businesses not just if you have the best ideas, but if you have the right motivation, and if you’re working well together, if it has meaning, if it’s exciting, and if there’s a reward beyond the financial aspect. It’s all that.
With stress and pressure, the important factors in building successful companies are often lost. People get burnt out. Managing people through genuine leadership—working together and making sure work doesn’t feel like work—then you’re doing wonders and productivity and satisfaction goes through the roof. It’s not just because you have a coffee machine, a food truck and a chief happiness officer that your business is going to work. People matter.
“Managing people through genuine leadership—working together and making sure work doesn’t feel like work—then you’re doing wonders and productivity and satisfaction goes through the roof.”
Q: What are you proudest of from your previous life as a leader in a multinational corporation?
CD: There are a couple things.
The first was how I was able to contribute to people’s growth. That’s super rewarding. When I see people who were in my team at P&G doing fantastically well in their lives and business-wise, it makes me extremely proud to have helped in my own little way.
Secondly, in business, there are moments when you consolidate to rationalize and then you do breakthroughs. I am less fond of consolidation, I love making breakthroughs. So I think the job I enjoyed the most was when I was a Marketing Director of Procter & Gamble France in the 1990’s. I was working on fabric and homecare. Typical stuff that everybody in your circle of friends thinks is totally boring. Everything was stuck, and I wanted to do something different. So, working with fashion designers, we took Ariel (a leading brand in detergent) and suddenly shifted the conversation from removing food stains to keeping the clothes we love looking fantastically great for longer.
Coming up with all of these different ideas, from a different angle, different way to market, different communications formats, we were able to increase market share from 17 to 25 percent, which was never done before (1-percent growth was considered a banner year).
So taking something that everyone thought could only be done the same way and experimenting with something different—still strategically right, but creatively different—that’s what I love.
I love to change things when you need to reignite, and in the end, looking back at my life, this is what I’m always trying to do, starting with myself.
More CEOs of Fortune Global 500 companies have graduated from HEC Paris than any other university in Europe, and nearly 4,000 graduates are currently CEOs, CFOs, or have founded their own companies. According to the Financial Times, the HEC Paris Executive MBA is ranked #1 in Europe and #3 in the world; click here to learn more.
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