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Lan Tran Believes “Emotions Lead to Motions”

Lan Tran Believes “Emotions Lead to Motions”

At McDonald’s, Lan Tran takes a people-first approach to training and leadership to inspire learners to make the impossible possible

Photo by Cian Halloran

Lan Tran admits that her job makes her hungry. “Sometimes we’ll be on a call and talking about the Quarter Pounder burger and I’ll be like, ‘OK, we’re going to have to order from McDonald’s because I’ve been talking about this for an hour now,’” she says.

As director of learning design and technology at McDonald’s Corporation, Tran sets the approach for the company’s training. She and her team create a variety of training programs for corporate and restaurant staff, such as courses on leadership, handling difficult feedback conversations, cooking fries, and restaurant hospitality.

No matter the content, the goal of Tran’s courses is to spark authentic aha moments to influence behavior change. She starts by identifying the behavior needing modification then considers learners’ experience and their journey through the course.

“As human beings, we all learn from stories because they give us something relatable to set the context and help connect the insights from the learning.”

Lan Tran

“I’m a big believer in ‘emotions lead to motions,’” Tran says. “We want to move our learners in such a way that they’ll reflect on the insights they gained from the course and what they need to do differently to make a difference. That’s what really leads to behavior change.”

Tran immerses McDonald’s learners by creating training in all types of modalities, including on-demand e-learning, virtual, and live instructor-led. The courses can include live actors, animations, and other multimedia aspects to engage learners.

“As human beings, we all learn from stories because they give us something relatable to set the context and help connect the insights from the learning,” the director says.  

To ensure her courses remain fresh and appealing, Tran and her team simulate the media platforms that users gravitate toward in their nonwork lives. “We live in a TikTok world where so many people I know say every day, ‘I learned something from TikTok.’ And that’s about a minute or less,” she explains. “If people like watching things that are a minute or less and we put them in front of an hour-long video, they’re not going to like that.”  

Tran identifies both her training courses and leadership style as “people-first.” After a bit of soul searching, she realized that one of her purposes in life is to inspire hope in others so they can strive to live their best lives.

“I think if more people were living or on the path to living their best lives, we’d have a better world.”

Lan Tran

“I think if more people were living or on the path to living their best lives, we’d have a better world,” Tran says. She encourages her employees to make the impossible possible. Once others realize what they can achieve, it opens their eyes to more possibilities, she affirms.

Originally a liberal arts major in college, Tran drifted into software development and found it “stress relieving.” “It was like a game,” she notes. After college, she took a job with Accenture, where she created high-end learning simulations. Before coming to McDonald’s in December 2021, she worked for Kraft Heinz, where she helped create the next evolution of its online university, a platform where employees could seek out learning that made them feel valued.

Tran built a career by elevating individuals around her, and she advises women in tech to do the same. “Your journey is also about who reaches the destinations with you,” she says. “Who can you celebrate with, learn with, grow with? The successes of your colleagues and your team members are also your successes.”


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