“Touchy Feely” Class at the Stanford Graduate School of Business has been the number one class for 45 years!
“Touchy Feely class” or interpersonal dynamics class at the Stanford Graduate School of Business was the number one class based on student voting for the past 45 years! Makes you wonder about what is taught in class, what students learn, and why students like it the most.
Could it be the real world impact a class like that has on these students? Or the complete avoidance of anything to do with emotions, love, and relationships in traditional business classes? The fact remains that understanding interpersonal relationships is one of the most valuable skills in 2017 and beyond. Ori and Rom Brafman believe is has to do with the most underrated characteristic in business, vulnerability.
Click: the magic of instant connections
I first read about Touchy Feely class in Ori Braffman’s book Click. The book is about the five principles that make people click. The first and most counterintuitive principle is vulnerability, the most underrate characteristic in business. You may have heard of Brené Brown’s The Power of Vulnerability, an amazing Ted talk on how opening up and leading with the heart is the most effective leadership tool. (PS: I like this talk of hers even better: Listening to Shame.
“Vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage.” -Brené Brown
Maybe Stanford is on to something…
From Stanford’s website:
The ability to forge strong relationships with others is crucial to becoming a more effective manager in today’s complex, global, and highly interdependent organizations.
Technology can never replace authentic relationship building
It’ll enhance it, make it easier in come respects and more difficult in others. Technology has already changed the way we build, maintain and adapt to relationships but some things will never change. Trust, authenticity, humility, all matter No matter what changes about technology, the people behind the technology, developing it and using it still reply on human beings.
In business we rarely talk about how we’re building relationships, how we’re becoming a better team, how we’re becoming better people. But why the hell not? It’s the most important part of business. If you can’t figure out how to get along with other people it’s going to a long lonely life. People are number one, they always will be number one, no matter what technology comes along we will always have to know how to build relationships with other human beings.
How are you building your interpersonal relationship skills daily?
Stop telling people you believe in “relationship building” and “networking”, show people how are you practicing that regularly. Meeting new people, connecting with old friends, volunteering to make new friends, whatever your thing is, keep doing it! If you don’t have “a way” to grow your network, ask someone for advice, you need to start making it a priority. Start reaching out to people and connecting on whatever they want to talk about, be a good listener first. We are all learning how to communicate better, take as many opportunities as you can to be around, communicate with, and help people.
Recently I’ve been making a concerted effort to get more reading done. My mother is a teacher librarian so when I was a kid reading was priority numero uno, but as often happens when one goes through university “reading for pleasure” is squeezed out of the equation by “required reading”. That said, (oops, ignore that) I’m realizing more and more how little I’ve actually learned about life and business from such riveting reads as “Managing Information Systems, 1st Edition”. As a pro tip if you find you have a hard time sitting down and actually turning pages I would highly recommend downloading an audiobook app like Audible, it goes a long way. Last night I mowed through Richard Branson’s “The Virgin Way” and managed to get about half way through. I gotta say, the guy knows his stuff. As I often do, I found myself texting myself some of the best quotes and biggest ideas from the first half of the book and they eventually stacked up to the point where I had to write a blog post just to get them out. So here goes.
1.”Nobody has ever learned anything from hearing themselves speak.”
The entire first section of The Virgin Way deals with the importance of listening. The best business leaders it turns out are not necessarily great orators, but rather are extremely good at actively listening to everyone who talks to them and, most importantly, acting on feedback. Richard stresses that it’s much better to listen and say nothing than to talk and say nothing (which many people are prone to do). His advice is simple and, true to form, he summarizes it perfectly in this quote. Shouldn’t you be looking to learn as much as possible in your interactions with clients or colleagues? Are you really going to learn anything from speaking yourself?
2. “The only valuable thing on your business card is your name and your contact info.”
On the subject of “rank”, the “Virgin Way” (as Virgin staff affectionately refer to their way of doing business) deals with hierarchy in a very flat way. As far as Richard is concerned your title at the company is subservient to your ideas and your work ethic. Your name (and by association, your reputation) is a much better indication of your value. Furthermore, being able to get a hold of you directly and easily is much more valuable than the letters behind your name.
3. “Delegation is better than relegation.”
When it comes to leadership in management, Richard stresses the importance of handing things off to trusted people, and then trusting them entirely. The Virgin Group is made up of over 30 companies, each with their own team of C-level executives and Richard rarely gives them input on how to run their respective companies. The Virgin Way makes the firm distinction and relegation. Delegating passes the full blame or praise for decisions along with the unfettered ability to make those decisions and respond to the outcomes. Relegating in contrast passes the blame but takes away full control of the decisions, or puts the other party in a box (think: “I’m passing this along to you, pick the best bad option).
4. “Sometimes not knowing the correct way to do things and doing them anyways opens up the most amazing doorways.”
One of Richard’s most well-known “catch phrases” and consequently the title of his first book, is “Screw it, let’s do it!”. Think about the diversity of the Virgin Group of companies. You’ve got everything from records production, to air travel, to cell phones, to the ill-fated Virgin Cola (yes, that was a real thing). A product offering this diverse comes from jumping in with both feet, having only a “pretty good” idea of what’s below. Often times, approaching a situation you’ve never dealt with puts you at an advantage, because you’re not pre-trained to achieve predictable (and often mediocre) results. Take risks, try things, fail and learn, says Sir Richard.
I’m very much looking forward to finishing The Virgin Way tonight. Branson writes in a very personal tone, and you can almost hear the smile behind every word. It doesn’t hurt that the guy reading his audio-book has a voice like butter. Part 2 will be coming soon!
That said, is the phrase you use just before you disagree with whatever the other person said.
Brenda: “This new martini shaker is really the bees knees! You can take it completely apart to clean it and it has a handle!”
Tom: “That said, the handle is bulky and makes it look dumb and it’ll probably fall apart because of all the different parts to it.”
You see, being the “Devil’s Advocate” makes you sound like an ass. Stop it.
That said, maybe it’s good to be an ass every now and then?
No, it’s not.
Don’t do it. It makes you sound argumentative, you lose rapport and that person doesn’t want to talk to you anymore. When you disagree with someone, which whether you admit to it or not, that’s what you’re doing when you play devil’s advocate, you’re giving them a great reason not to ask you never time.
I heard this first from Richard Branson in the Virgin Way. He talks about how these two words should never be uttered in the context of business. The exact opposite of the 7 most important words a leader can say.
As you prepare your speech being the Devil’s advocate remember you’re going to lose all respect from the party you’re arguing with. As Seth Godin once eloquently put it, “the Devil is doing just fine on his own, he does NOT need you to advocate for him!”.
It’s easy to disagree with people, it’s hard to find common ground where you can agree. Try to take the high road, stop disagreeing with people, you’ll be much more fun at cocktail parties!