In business, difficult decisions sometimes have to be made. Like any executive, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner has been one to make these tough calls, particularly when it comes to staffing issues ― and in his experience, Weiner has come to realize that there’s a certain level of compassion involved in letting someone go.
As Weiner believes, one of the biggest mistakes a manager can make is leaving people in positions for which they’re no longer suited. He uses a sports metaphor to explain his perspective during an interview for OWN’s “SuperSoul Sunday.”
“The most important lesson I’ve learned in the role of CEO is to not leave the pitcher in the game for too long,” Weiner says. “You know, when you’re watching a baseball game, sometimes you’ll see a star pitcher on the mound, they’re having a great game and as the game continues to go on, you can see their arm starting to tire and you can see the opposing team start to hit the ball a little bit harder.”
Whenever this happens in baseball, the manager approaches the mound to check on the pitcher, who inevitably says some variation of: “I’m fine. I got this.” Weiner says the same thing happens in business.
“In 20 years of managing people, not once has anyone ever come to me and said they couldn’t do their job. Not a single time,” he says. “It’s not their job. That’s the role of a manager.”
The least compassionate thing you can do when someone is not equipped to be doing what they're doing is to leave them in that role.
With Weiner’s corporate philosophy relying so much on managing compassionately, it may seem unusual to suggest letting go of an employee who is no longer cutting it. But, as he explains, it’s not.
“People just assume ‘compassion’ means not making hard decisions, not making hard choices, not transitioning people out of roles,” Weiner says. “It’s the exact opposite: The least compassionate thing you can do when someone is not equipped to be doing what they’re doing is to leave them in that role.”
When those employees are left in their roles, Weiner continues, it takes a toll on them.
“They lose confidence. They’re losing self-esteem by the day. They’re taking that back to their teams, people are seeing that you’re leaving them in the role ― which is undermining your ability to lead ― and the worst of all is that individual that no longer believes in themselves, that’s losing their sense of self, they take that energy home,” Weiner points out. “They’re taking that energy home to their families.”
There’s only one way to stop this vicious cycle, he says.
“The most compassionate thing you can do in that situation is take that person aside and say, ‘This isn’t working out right now. Here’s where the bar is set. I’m going to do everything I can to get you to the bar or above the bar. And we’re going to set a timetable,’” Weiner says.
In some cases, the employee may need to be transitioned out of the role, but that’s not a foregone conclusion.
“There’s probably a reason you put them in that role, so there may be the potential for them to be able to take coaching and learn how to do the job more effectively,” Weiner says. “It’s a question of how much time you’re going to give them and how much work you’re willing to put in.”
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