How to Build Better Relationships

By Deborah Lynn Bumberg

Strong relationships are a vital part of effective management, and yet most of us, especially this year, interact far more with screens than with human beings. Recognizing the critical importance of forging deep connections with others — and learning how to build those bonds in real time — is the focus of a course that’s been the most popular elective at Stanford GSB for decades: Interpersonal Dynamics (also known as “Touchy Feely”).

The iconic MBA course has taught thousands of students what it means to have “exceptional relationships” in their personal and professional lives and how to interact with others in a way that contributes to deeper, stronger connections.

Now, two of the course’s longtime teachers have teamed up to write a book based on its lessons. David Bradford, the Eugene D. O’Kelly II Senior Lecturer in Leadership, Emeritus, and Carole Robin, the former Dorothy J. King Lecturer in Leadership, are the coauthors of Connect: Building Exceptional Relationships with Family, Friends, and Colleagues, which translates what they’ve been teaching in the classroom for a broader audience. The book, which also includes case studies and self-reflection exercises, will be published in February.

Bradford joined Stanford GSB three years after the course was first offered in 1966, adding more sections and lecturers to meet the growing demand. Robin came to Stanford in 1998 to develop the program even further. They also created an executive-level offering, distilling the course into a five-day intensive. In 2017, Robin helped launch Leaders in Tech, a program designed to support and develop top executives of high-growth companies.

Interpersonal Dynamics — which currently reaches more than 400 students in 12 sections — is known for its “T-group,” or training group, sessions, where Stanford-trained facilitators help students discover more about themselves and the nuances of interpersonal relationships in order to build connections that are authentic, meaningful, and productive.

Here, Bradford and Robin talk about the course, their book, and the lessons to be learned from both.

Strong relationships are a vital part of effective management. Steal lessons from Stanford.

Originally published on January 7, 2021