How Important Are Interpersonal Dynamics?

When It Comes To Leadership, They Are Everything

Dr. Carole Robin, winner of the MBA Distinguished Teaching Award at Stanford GSB

We are sad to be writing this letter. We love the Stanford GSB. We are eternally loyal to the school. Our loyalty is why we write.

As a result of an impasse reached with the Dean’s office, Dr. Carole Robin, winner of the MBA Distinguished Teaching Award, is retiring early. She is doing so before she can fully transition the Arbuckle Fellows Program and solidify the Interpersonal Dynamics (i.e. “Touchy Feely”) Program leadership. Carole has been affiliated with Stanford since 1998, and became a lecturer in 2002.

(1) It appears this happened over email. Making a final decision to end a nineteen year working relationship with a star professor who leads a crucial program — in this manner and without a single conversation with the GSB Dean — begs two questions: How can an institution built on management be managed this way? How can a school for leaders be led by leaders who show up like this?

(2) Carole is the heart and soul of Interpersonal Dynamics, a program that is a cornerstone at the GSB. Allowing its matriarch to leave without deep dialogue raises questions. If we say this program is a priority, why is it not a priority to keep the student-distinguished woman who leads it?

(3) Let’s say she was wanted gone. If so, why? If this was a desired outcome, why do it this way? What is wise to — even if unwittingly — dishonor a loyal and loved professor on her way out the door?

(4) Touchy Feely and the Arbuckle Fellows Program are unique to Stanford and confer significant competitive advantage to the school. What is the cost in the market of Carole walking out the door?

(5) While this isn’t a movie, it feels like one. The leader of Interpersonal Dynamics is leaving without close care paid to the, er, interpersonal dynamics. What does this imply about how the school values the program, its shepherd, and its lessons?

(6) Carole has an incredible following of thousands of alums. To underestimate her political capital invites speculation, suspicion, and concern. Was her clout factored into the calculus of how this was handled? Were the leadership even aware of the popularity and veneration of this teacher, and the impact to culture and the community? If not, why not?

(7) While we cannot be sure of the specific plans, it appears that Carole might be replaced by a curriculum leader with no T-Group experience. How does this not enhance a narrative of de-prioritizing and delegitimizing the program? How does it not make us further wonder if our leaders are committed to keeping in place its high standards?

To Carole: thank you. You are a light to leadership. Your integrity, authenticity and dignity inspires. Your teaching gave us not just knowledge, but wisdom. You served us, and we are now in service to your ideas, and your legacy. You built not just a class, nor just a program, but a movement. It is bedrock to the GSB. When it shakes, everything built on it shakes.

We feel sad today Carole, and angry on your behalf. We feel protective of both you and of our school. We feel hurt by how this went down. We feel disappointed in our school’s leadership. We feel nervous and inspired to challenge authority, to discover the truth, and to debate what matters to us most and why. We feel optimistic that this discussion might make us all better. Most of all, we feel grateful to you, Carole, for knowing you, and as a result knowing what it even means to show up.

Final exam.

Reunions are around the corner. A Town Hall will be called. Two questions:

  • Is Carole’s departure good for the school?
  • Why does it appear there remain stark philosophical differences on the value of the curriculum Carole shepherded?

Our asks:

  • A good faith effort to re-recruit her, including an additional appointment as Director of the Interpersonal Dynamics program, whether she accepts or not.
  • In the event that she does not accept, student and alumni input on a committee around Touchy Feely’s status as class versus program, and its go-forward leadership.

This note comes from a place of love — for a great community, a great institution, a world-class faculty, and a revered leader in our community.

Gratefully yours,

Andy Dunn, ‘07
Jason Torres, ‘07
Jane Norton, ‘07
Zach Goldstein, ‘11
Adi Bittan, ‘08
Tanya Melillo, ‘07
Sancho Atienza, ‘08
Ashley Evans Graglia, ‘10
Umed Latifov, ‘08
Lisa Kohara
Naama Stauber Breckler, ‘11
Erantzeri Corona, ‘07
Ash Upadhyaya, ‘08
Igor Marchesini, ‘11
Oso Trava, ‘08
Tiy Goddard, ‘07
Katherine Williams Brinkman, ‘10
Amal Alibair, ‘10
Corey Ford, ‘08
Peter Sims, ‘08
Michelle Olenoski, ‘08
Marcella Kanfer Rolnick, ‘04
Joel Washington, ‘13
Andrew Cantor, ‘08
Joia Pardo-Matthews, ‘08
Melissa Miranda, ‘08
Eric Wong, ‘08
Dick Brouwer, ‘08
Bryan Wolff, ‘07
Neerali Kothari, ‘08
Vanessa Tapia Hartigan, ‘00
Rugaba Kanani, ‘10
Lela Djakovic, ‘08
Tom Hennenberg, ‘08
Pepe Rodriguez, ‘08
Tatiana Meija, ‘07
Jason Kaminsky, ‘08
Rachel Zimet Strick, ‘08
Wei-Lin Kwee, ‘08
Betsy Bradford, ‘12
Sabah Oney, ‘12
Kevin Diestel, ‘12
Jax Ferguson, ‘12
Michelle Paratore, ‘12
Katie Hill, ‘12
Mark McLaughlin, ‘12
Jimmy Crain, ‘12
Philip Ziegler, ‘12
Abhishek Gupta, ‘10
Henry Davis, ‘12
Fernando Garcia Benavides, ‘08
Valeria Villarreal, ‘12
Lindsay Russell, ‘12
Monica Lewis, ‘12
Mary Ellen Player, ‘11
Dan Kessler 
Katriona MacIver, ‘08
Ari Friedland, ‘12
Fuyen Lim, ‘08
Kanye Burk, ‘08
Lou Manilla, ‘11
Jack Turner, ‘11
Purvi Mody-Lain, ‘04
Michael Moshe Ovadia, ‘10
Bastiaan Janmaat, ‘10
Kevin Zhang, ‘15
Kelun Zhang, ‘09
Soniya Sapre, ‘09
Marina Hristova, ‘09
Lloyd Nimetz, ‘08
Ilana Stern Enquist, ‘10
Jennifer Bolston Meer, ‘08
Diana Barone 
Sarah Chandler, ‘07
Katharina Schmitt, ‘12
Katriona MacIver, ‘08
Naomi Chow Weber, ‘08
Michal Bortnik, ‘08
Annie Adams, ‘08
Alex Moskowitz, ‘08
Sancho Atienza, ‘08
Karina Enikeeva, ‘08
Claire Hunt, ‘12
Carrie Simonds, ‘10
Pierre Pont, ‘10
Kavita Khurana, ‘10
Joel Resnicow, ‘10
Ngabire Bonheur Buconyori, ‘10
Mike Mortensen, ‘08
Edward Castano, ‘10
Brendon Merkley, ‘10
Zachary Levine, ‘10
David Rohrsheim, ‘12
Dror Oren, ‘10
Kate Jackson Hobbs, ‘09
Ben Levick, ‘12
Katy Roth, ‘09
Kate Kennedy Reinemund, ‘09
Allison Anne Conrad, ‘10
Linda Forssell Wells, ‘93
Vasily Starostenko, ‘10
Tarunya Govindarajan, ‘11
Kate Yee Gronso, ‘11
Jonathan Beekman, ‘09
Eric Shiung, ‘07
Joshua Taylor, ‘10
Prashant Paroda, ‘10
Jaidev Dayal, ‘10
Sunita Mohanty, ‘12
Neha Jogani, ‘10
Courtney Garcia, ‘07
Cathy Vigrass, ‘10
Yasin Turkcan, ‘10
Sandrine Dury, ‘10
Tazeen Chaudhry, ‘10
Jared Stein, ‘10
Natalie Guillen, ‘09
Amal Dorai, ‘10
Christoph Dankert, ‘10
Jesicca Semaan, ‘11
Christine Su, ‘14
Saqib Awan, ‘10
Tomas Pueyo, ‘10
Daniella Raffo, ‘10
Ajay Prakash, ‘10
Kevon Saber ‘10
Jen Clarke, ‘07
Lily Lyman, ‘14
Erin Sprague, ‘12
Kim Martinez, ‘07
Vanessa Loder, ‘07

Disclosure: Carole did not approve this message.