This week’s Misfit Entrepreneur is David Bradford. David is well known throughout the world for his work and development of Interpersonal Dynamics -arguably the most sought-after course at Stanford Business School. He is the Eugene O’Kelly II Senior Lecturer Emeritus in Leadership at Stanford and has been leading in his areas of expertise since 1969.
His work in Interpersonal Dynamics has been at the forefront of how to build great relationships in business and in life and David has been tapped by many of the largest companies in the world to help them in better developing their leaders and teams. He is the co-author, with Carole Robin, of the best-selling book, Connect: Building Exceptional Relationships with Family, Friends, and Colleagues. The book is in many ways the Stanford course he is so well-known for packaged in an easy to use and implement guide so anyone can put the principles to work.
And its these principles that I want to dig into today, so let’s jump in.
David did his doctoral work in social psychology with an emphasis on interpersonal group behavior. He learned how to get students working in groups of 12 to get better at interpersonal relations and was brought to Stanford to help teach this to generations. Students call it “touchy/feely.” Over the course of a semester students learn how to be more open and authentic and get it validated from their peers. The experience is often transformation for students. After succeeding for so many years, David and his co-author, Carol decided that they could help people build powerful relationships on a larger scale by putting their process into a book, Connect.
What is Interpersonal Dynamics?
- The course is part of the business school because business is about relationships. Strong relationships.
- We have to look at how we relate to other people and it will be different for each person – there isn’t one way to do it.
- Interpersonal Dynamics is about creating strong relationships where people can be honest, authentic, and work through challenges successfully together.
What is an exceptional relationship and what are the characteristics of them?
- Relationships are on a continuum. Some are casual or superficial. Others are closer. We have friends that we share experiences with as well as intimate ones.
- Exceptional relationships have 6 core dimensions that David has discovered throughout his career. They are as follows
- #1: Can I be myself? Not having to “spin an image.” Can I tell you who I really am?
- #2: Can I build conditions where you can be yourself and let yourself be known? This builds trust.
- #3: Do I know that neither of us will use this information against the other person?
- #4: Can we be honest and say what we mean and mean what we say?
- #5: Can we lean into the conflicts and learn from them in a way that builds the relationship?
- #6: Are we committed to each other’s growth and development.
- This is high standard. If you have 3-4 exceptional relationships, you are ahead of the game.
Is there one of the dimensions that is harder to achieve in a relationship?
- Each one has its own needs, but the hardest one is learning to deal with conflicts.
- We have trouble with getting and giving feedback.
- We have trouble dealing with someone being upset with us.
- We need to see conflict in a positive sense.
- Conflict is a sign something needs to be fixed.
- If you car is broke, you don’t say “Bad car!,” you get it fixed.
At the 11 min mark, David tells the story of how he and Carol had a falling out and used the dimensions to repair their relationship.
- Carol and David had a very strong relationship.
- They were both teaching the interpersonal course and David had mentored Carol.
- Carol was set to replace David as he was moving to Emeritus.
- Carol wanted a new title and some other things that David didn’t really think was needed and he did not go to bat for her with the University.
- It hurt their relationship deeply.
- After some time passed and each reflected, they got together and neither ended up agreeing, but they understood each other and accepted each other’s views, it allowed them to rebound and even led to them writing the book.
- Logic and feelings are both important. It’s the feelings behind the logic that give it importance.
- Logic and feelings are partners. Not in opposition. We don’t want logic to fully control us like Spock on Star Trek and we also don’t want feelings to fully control us. But if we don’t recognize our feelings, then they do control us. So, can we know what we are feeling and now what we want and have them work together.
What are some of the things people should be doing to put their relationships on a path toward exceptional?
- At the 18 min mark, David talks about how they do the groups with the students at Stanford. It’s best to listen.
- You should look at each of the 6 Dimensions/variables and ask where you can improve.
- Then focus on getting a little bit better and growing each area of improvement.
You worked with and advised some of the biggest companies in the world include top Silicon Valley startups, where are some of the biggest challenges in most companies when it comes to building better relationships?
- Entrepreneurs often have a great idea and pull in others, but they over-emphasize what they know.
- Building a company and solution is complicated.
- It is hard as a leader to both have a vision and drive but stop and listen to other people.
- At the 25 min mark, David tells the story of George Washington being talked out of attacking New York by his team and if he had, they would have been defeated and the US would not exist.
- You have to be able to make decisions and know where you are going, but listen to others and implement their feedback at the same time.
At an individual leader level, what are things they should thinking about when interacting 1:1?
- What is often most difficult to recognize that the power differential between them and their direct reports.
- In the end, they are the boss. They hold the employee’s future in their hand. So leaders have to work extra hard to make sure their relationships are strong enough to get the truth, but also that they maintain the line of being the boss and not becoming a friend.
- Asking “Am I doing anything that is getting in the way?” or “How can I be more helpful?” is important to show you are willing to work with people and adapt to help them succeed.
What do you see in the great leaders you’ve worked with on how they balance being a leader and being a friend?
- It’s both.
- Your primary objective is the organization.
- This doesn’t keep your from building a strong, open relationship with direct reports.
- At the 31 min mark, David tells the story of Jeff Immelt, former CEO of GE, giving a talk at Stanford discussing his relationship at GE with then CEO, Jack Welch. He said they were friends and liked each other. Jeff worked for Jack.
- Jeff had a time where he didn’t meet his numbers for 2 quarters. At a leadership retreat, Jack pulled him aside and said “Jeff, I really like, but a 3rd quarter like that and you are out.”
- They could be friends, but Jack never forgot that his first duty was the organization.
- Hiring and growing people is important – we hire people for their potential and it your duty to help them. Feedback is a gift.
Any practices or habits leader embody that help them learn to get better?
- Leaders need to know themselves.
- If you want a leader to be liked, you are in trouble. You want to be a leader that is effective. You need to get likes and approval somewhere else.
- Can you live with the fact that a direct report is mad at your or disappointed in you and not bend yourself into a pretzel?
- This important when you need to terminate someone.
- Can you honor differences in style with direct reports? This is important and needed to succeed. Don’t just hire people like you.
What works or mentors have influenced you most in your career?
- David’s father.
- The best mentors have been the mistakes he’s made. And what he has learned has been huge for his success.
- David sometimes has a class that doesn’t go well, and he takes time to write down why.
- Mistakes are learning opportunities and you must use them as such.
Best Quote: Logic and feelings are partners. Not in opposition. We don’t want logic to fully control us like Spock on Star Trek and we also don’t want feelings to fully control us. But if we don’t recognize our feelings, then they do control us. So, can we know what we are feeling and now what we want and have them work together.
David's Misfit 3:
- We constantly have choices. “I can’t” is a choice. Whatever you decide on anything, is a choice. Own it.
- Realize that your goal is not to be perfect, but to be human and show who you are.
- See disagreement and conflict as a sign that there is something here we need to work on. Seek a 3rd alternative that has the best of both. See conflict as a source of creativity and a source of growth.
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