Jeff Weiner - you could be forgiven for not really recognising the name. As the CEO of LinkedIn, he keeps a relatively low profile, while the Cooks, Nadellas and Zuckerbergs of the world happily grab as many headlines as possible.
Asked about how he deals with underperforming employees, Weiner turned to a baseball analogy, saying: "Leaving the pitcher in the game is less about the pitcher missing the strike zone. It's more about the arm tiring and the other team teeing off. If you remember the American League World Championship with the Red Sox — Pedro was up to the mound and it was very obvious his arm was tiring. And the Yankees were starting to get around on his fastball, and then the manager comes out and says, 'Are you OK?' and he says, 'Of course I'm OK.' It's Pedro Martinez, one of the greatest pitchers in the modern era. And hit after hit, the Red Sox lost the game.
"I've been in business for roughly 20 years, and the entire time I've been managing people, not a single person has ever approached me and said, 'I can't do my job.' Not once.
"So the key is knowing what to do proactively. I think this is one we all learn the hard way, because we have the best interest of people at heart. We're always rooting for people on our team. We also sometimes act, or don't act, out of fear. We're fearful over what people will think if we let that person go. We're fearful of the morale hit. We're fearful of the unknown. So we all just look away. And it will come back and bite you virtually every time.
"And so when you have to ask yourself whether or not someone's doing the job the way you hope they're going to do the job, you already know the answer. And it's been my experience that at that moment you actually put them on the clock. You do it in the most compassionate and most constructive way you know how. But you give yourself and you give that person some kind of timeline where you say: 'I'm going all in with you; I'm going all in. Here is where I've observed the gap exists between your current performance and what we need from you. And I'm going to be transparent with you all the way. And if it doesn't work out, we're gonna figure out another role for you here hopefully, and if that doesn't make sense, I'll do everything I can to make sure you're successful elsewhere.'"
He also talked up the importance of keeping free slots in your calendar for sorting out business issues, as well as the differences between being a good company leader and being a good boss.
"[I set aside] up to two hours [per day to think], yes. If you were to see my calendar printed out you would see these grey blocks, and it's not a mistake. It's done very much by design.
"It says buffer. I think as we evolve, there are two continuums that it's very important we all navigate successfully in order to help scale the business. One is the difference between problem solving and coaching. Problem solving is much easier than coaching. Coaching takes a lot of energy. It's exhausting, because you need to understand what the person's about, their strengths and weaknesses, their hopes, dreams, and fears. And then you have to deliver messages in such a way that's tailor-made for them so they can internalise it, and most importantly — this is where true scale begins to happen — they can start coaching people on their team to do it.
"The other continuum is tactical execution vs proactive, strategic thinking. And again, you're a smaller startup, it's all about building, it's all about getting it done. Your competitors are going to be waiting for a misstep; they're waiting for you to become defocused. Thinking proactively and thinking strategically and starting to revise or refine your vision, your mission, your strategic objectives, that takes a lot of time. So that's where a lot of my buffer time goes."
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