Stanford GSB: 6 Traits That Build Successful Relationships

·8 min read

Stanford GSB. Courtesy photo

Stanford GSB: 6 Traits That Build Successful Relationships

Relationships are critical to long-term business success.

At the Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB), the researchers behind the most popular MBA course, Interpersonal Dynamics, recently highlighted six important traits that forge strong relationships. David Bradford and Carole Robin, co-authors of “Connect: Building Exceptional Relationships with Family, Friends and Colleagues,” defined what these important traits are and how each contribute to successful relationships in a CNBC article.


‘Spin your image’ — or putting up a false front — can hinder forming strong relationships. When one spins their image, Bradford and Robin say, it in turn leads the other to create their own spin.

“For example, we knew a CEO who had just taken over his father’s company,” Bradford and Robin write. “During his first meeting with the leadership team, he talked about the weight and responsibility he felt to do right by his father’s legacy. He assured them that he was up to the task, but that he wouldn’t be able to succeed without them. In addition to helping the team see him as more human, it inspired them give their all and to rally around him.”


The ability to be vulnerable can be a huge asset for leaders. The fear that many leaders have, however, is that the more vulnerable they are, the less respect they receive. But Bradford and Robin say that vulnerability actually acts as a chain reaction to enforce strong relationships within an organization – and it starts at the leadership level.

“Sure, if the disclosure casts doubt on their competence to do the job, then sharing that information can cause some lost of influence,” Bradford and Rubin write. “But it can also help them be seen as more accessible and trustworthy. And, as we’ve seen time and time again, vulnerability is reciprocal. A leader who isn’t willing to be vulnerable sets a norm that doesn’t encourage others in the organization to do that either.”


There are three zones, or rings, that Bradford and Rubin categorize as the ranges of comfort: Danger, Learning, and Comfort.

The smallest ring, the Zone of Comfort, refers to “what you say that you don’t think twice about, and with which you feel completely safe.”

The outermost ring, the Zone of Danger, refers to “things you wouldn’t consider sharing given the high likelihood that the outcome will be negative.”

In the middle is the Zone of Learning, a space where “you’re unsure about how the other person will respond.”

For those who may be hesitant or afraid of falling into the Zone of Danger, Bradford and Rubin recommend the 15% rule of stepping 15% outside your comfort zone into the Zone of Learning.

“This way, you’re less likely to regret what you share (or the other person can more easily recover if things go sideways),” they write. “You can also wait to see what they do with your disclosure. Once you’ve both had good outcomes after stepping 15% outside your comfort zones, you can experiment with going beyond that.”

Read the full list of traits at CNBC.

Sources: CNBC, Stanford Graduate School of Business

Next Page: Northwestern Kellogg Application Advice.

Global Hub at Kellogg School of Management. File photo

3 Things Kellogg Looks For In Applicants

Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management ranked number five in P&Q’s most recent Top Business Schools ranking. The Kellogg School admits only one in five applicants each year, making it an incredibly competitive program to gain admission into.

Sydney Lake, a writer at Fortune, recently spoke to experts about what Kellogg looks for and how applicants can submit a compelling application.


Kellogg’s Class of 2022 has stellar academic performance. The class holds an average 3.6 undergraduate GPA and 727 GMAT score.

Experts say if you want a chance of getting into the B-school, you’ll need to demonstrate strong academic performance.

“You have to have strong academic excellence,” Donna Bauman, a senior MBA admissions counselor with Stratus Admissions Counseling, tells Fortune. “And if you don’t have it from your test scores or your GPA, then you really have to think about, ‘How can I demonstrate to Kellogg that when I get into the program that I’m not going to be an academic risk?’”


Kellogg requires applicants to submit a video essay answering three questions:

  • Please introduce yourself to the admissions committee.

  • What path are you interested in pursuing, how will you get there, and why is this program right for you?

  • This question will be based on a challenge you’ve faced and what you’ve learned from it.

The goal of the video essay is to give admissions officers a view into who you are outside of the words on your application. Experts say that when it comes to the video essay, it’s best to just be yourself.

“What I don’t like is for people to practice so many times in such a mechanical way that they’ve memorized the whole thing,” David White, founder of Menlo Coaching, tells Fortune. “If the video isn’t perfect, that doesn’t mean they’re not going to admit you.”


Kellogg specifically seeks out students who are not only well-accomplished, but can work together with their peers in leaving a huge impact on campus and beyond.

“We search for leaders who are high-impact, low-ego,” Former Kellogg Dean Sally Blount said in her opening remarks to accepted students in 2018. “We don’t care about whether you’re going to be rich or famous; we care about the impact you’re going to have in the world. We care about status because we know it’s important, but we aren’t trying to solve for status alone.”

Hereford Johnson, a Kellogg Class of 2022 MBA candidate, says the ‘high impact, low ego’ persona is central to the types of applicants that Kellogg attracts.

“For example, you could be grabbing a drink or be in a study group with an Olympic Gold Medalist or successful entrepreneur and never know it (true story). Or, on the opposite end, through deep conversations with classmates, you will uncover stories of someone overcoming unbelievable hardships, and you will wonder why there has not been a Netflix film made about their journey,” Johnson tells P&Q. “No one ever brags or comes across as a know-it-all. They are not afraid to raise their hand and admit that they do have the answer to a question and, at the same time, they are very willing to prioritize their time to support your journey. It is a special community that I feel lucky to be a part of.”

Sources: Fortune, Northwestern Kellogg, Inside Kellogg, P&Q

Next Page: Dartmouth Tuck Application Advice.

Dartmouth Tuck School of Business. File photo

How To Approach Dartmouth Tuck’s 2021-22 MBA Essays

Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business seeks out applicants who are smart, aware, and nice.

The B-school’s admissions officers look beyond grades and test scores to find applicants who embody the community’s genuine and supportive attitude. Amy Hugo, expert coach at Fortuna Admissions, recently discussed Tuck’s 2021-2022 MBA essays and how applicants can convey that they are the right fit for Tuck.


Tucks first required essay asks applicants the following:

Tuck students can articulate how the distinctive Tuck MBA will advance their aspirations. Why are you pursuing an MBA and why Tuck? (300 words)

The first essay prompt is your typical “Why our B-school” essay prompt. But, it’s important to understand what kind of students Tuck is looking for and connect the dots to your own personal goals and ambitions.

“Tuck wants students who are focused and realistic, but they also like applicants with ambition and vision,” Hugo writes. “Aiming for a particular industry or function is a legitimate goal; the key will be to make sure the dots connect coherently with your previous experience and current motivations.”

Hugo recommends breaking this first essay into two sections: the first focusing on why you want to pursue an MBA and the second on how Tuck fits into that picture.

“An effective set-up may mention career goals very briefly (almost as an introduction, or simply a reference to your previously outlined goals),” Hugo writes. “As mentioned, getting straight to the point is vital; 300 words is scant real estate. I would aim for no more than 50 words referencing your goals/vision, then the rest on why an MBA and why Tuck specifically.”


The second Tuck essay asks applicants the following:

Tuck students recognize how their individuality adds to the fabric of Tuck. Tell us who you are. (300 words)

When it comes to essay two, Hugo says, diversity and uniqueness are the main points of conversation.

“It’s important to try and get your true character across here,” Hugo writes. “The school is genuinely interested in who you are and what makes you unique. It will be better to focus on a couple of aspects and illustrate these in some depth, versus trying to cover too much ground, which, given the wordcount, may lead to a superficial essay that fails to offer much insight into who you are as a person.”


The third Tuck essay, and newest, asks applicants the following:

Tuck students are encouraging, collaborative, and empathetic, even when it is not convenient or easy. Describe a meaningful experience in which you exemplified one or more of these attributes. (300 words)

Hugo says that the newest essay borrows from last year, with a slight addition: the ‘encouraging’ trait.

“And, because all three traits are relational ones, the question continues to be an invitation to identify a meaningful experience in which you helped someone else,” Hugo writes. “Your considered introspection is the starting point. In responding, identify a singular example for your response, bearing in mind the limited 300 words.”

To approach this essay, Hugo recommends outlining first and then adding details around your actions and intentions before discussing the impact that those actions had on you and those around you.

“Anything that can highlight your leadership and impact, at the same time as strongly emphasizing your team ethic and putting others first, would be ideal,” Hugo writes.

Sources: Fortuna Admissions, P&Q

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