Since becoming CEO in 2009, Jeff Weiner has led LinkedIn to become a network of 364 million registered users with offices in 30 countries and a market cap of $US26 billion.
Earlier this year, Weiner spoke at the Wisdom 2.0 conference in San Francisco, where he explained that his “first principle of leadership” is what he calls “compassionate management.” It’s the simple-to-learn but difficult-to-master idea of using empathy to yield efficiency.
He used the example of a manager sitting down with an employee who’s frazzled.
From the manager’s side, “anyone’s knee-jerk reaction is to become defensive or equally frustrated or angry, maybe anxious, as opposed to taking a moment to understand where that person’s coming from,” Weiner said. “And more often than not, if we can become spectators to our own thoughts in those moments, especially as we become emotional, we’ll recognise that they may be triggering something in us.”
If you let that trigger take hold of you, he continued, “then you get involved in this very vicious cycle, where they’re angry, you’re angry, and you’re not being rational per se, you’re not being logical, you’re not trying to win, you’re not trying to achieve a shared sense of purpose. It’s just about being right and getting your point across.”
Before getting to this point, Weiner said, it’s necessary to take a moment to try to understand where the employee is coming from.
It can be that they “don’t have any nefarious intention whatsoever,” he said. It could be driven by something happening in their personal life or a misunderstanding of what’s required of them. That’s why it’s important to provide room for external factors that may be influencing them, and then have a discussion about the root of the problem.
“You can connect with that person in a way where you are going to achieve the right outcome,” he said. “And I think that’s an essential part of the way we manage at the company. It’s managing compassionately.”
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