Last week I finished teaching a section of Interpersonal Dynamics (which everyone calls "Touchy Feely") at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. I first encountered the course as an MBA student in 1999, I joined the staff as a group facilitator in 2006, and in 2015 I was invited to join the faculty. Over the last two years I've had the privilege of working with some of the most dedicated students any instructor could hope for, and I've appreciated the opportunity to travel alongside them as they encountered concepts that have had a substantial impact on my own life and career over the past two decades.
In the penultimate class of the Quarter, I had my students brainstorm in small groups before we were visited by a group of alumni, all of whom took the course as students and have continued to explore its implications in the years since. I first asked my students to document what we learned--ideas that they want to bear in mind after they leave the GSB and return to the real world. And then I asked them to identify what they're still figuring out--questions that they wanted to pose to our alumni visitors.
Each group captured a set of lessons and a set of questions on flipcharts, and I've documented them here (with occasional links and editorial comments), so that they can refresh their memories as needed.
WHAT WE LEARNED
The Net (Stay on our side.)
Triggers can cloud feedback: Truth, relationship, identity. (Be aware of what triggers others and ourselves.)
Flooding. (Know how to react when flooded.)
Influence = Warmth + Strength. (First, be warm.)
Stress can be OK. (Know thyself.)
Know how to jump between cognitive and emotional.
Don't hate the player, hate the game.
I honestly have no idea what this could mean in this context.
Keep an eye out.
Don't pforget Pfeffer! (Is it really a lion or not?) Tradeoffs: Short-term vs. long-term.
Power of repeated interactions.
Leaders set the tone.
Gain influence --> Set norms.
Leaders are stewards of trust in the group.
Warmth and competence: Influence = Warmth + Strength. (Warmth comes first.)
Acting in Groups
Vulnerability: Self-disclosure --> Empathy --> Stay on your side of the Net
Question the tapes.
State your intentions.
Feedback = different lenses.
Meeting people emotionally before feedback.
Repair is possible!
It's OK to go over the Net when you acknowledge it.
Empathy is NOT agreement, but acknowledgement.
Recognize others' tapes.
Look out for triggers.
How to be transparent without losing power.
Establish trust first.
Disclosures don't always need solving.
Meet people where they are before plunging in.
Pay particular attention to the "Status" element of the SCARF model.
Notice the role of explicit and implicit norms at the start.
The Net: Don't make attributions, and assume good intentions.
Emotions are attention magnets.
Be aware of bids and their cumulative effects.
Step 1 is consciousness.
Beware of unknown unknowns.
Norms: Implicit and explicit.
Observing the environment.
Experimentation and constant curve.
Group EQ --> Meet emotions.
Warmth and competence: Increase with vulnerability.
Stay on your side of the Net and test your assumptions.
Adapt yourself to your audience; everyone hears a message differently.
Soft start --> Begin with mutual understanding.
State your intentions at the beginning.
In the real world you'll need to ask for feedback.
Be careful with assumptions--you might not know the full story.
Let people cool off--give them space.
WHAT WE'RE STILL FIGURING OUT
How do you apply Touchy Feely at different levels in your organization?
How vulnerable should you be in your life (and work)?
Did it ever backfire?
How have you integrated Touchy Feely in your life?
How do you apply this managing up?
How do you you institutionalize learnings?
How do you deal with people crying?
How do you make it all stick?
How do you spread it without being obnoxious?
What do you do with the feelings people share?
How do you coach others to be receptive to others' feelings?
How to balance vulnerability with power?
When does vulnerability work, and when doesn't it?
What concepts do you still use from Touchy Feely?
How do you bring Touchy Feely into an organization as a junior?
When does Touchy Feely go wrong?
How does Touchy Feely change your personality?
How do you remind yourself of key concept?
How do you bring Touchy Feely to your personal life?
How do you teach Touchy Feely to others?
What have you learned that you've applied most frequently in your personal and professional life?
How do you teach these concepts to others?
Do you have any failures or regrets from deploying your Touchy Feely skills?
Have these skills worked with people from different cultures and backgrounds?
How do you build it into your business culture?
When has it backfired? When has it worked?
When can one be vulnerable? How soon? And what does that mean at work?
What are some examples of showing warmth and strength? Does this change over time, or at different stages of your career? How does this differ for men and women?
Should feedback always be direct? Even upwards?
What are your favorite feedback systems and structures?
How do you mainstream it?
What are signals that a team is doing well?
Photo by Stuart Pilbrow. Yay Flickr and Creative Commons.