As the SVP of Global Solutions, Mike Gamson is one of LinkedIn’s top executives, overseeing roughly half of the company’s 10,000 employees.
He reports directly to the CEO, Jeff Weiner, and he says this relationship has taught him how to “manage up.”
For the last nine years, the two executives have worked closely together.
The lessons Gamson shared with Business Insider from this experience can apply to all employees looking to develop a better relationship with their boss.
Establish expectations from the start.
Gamson joined LinkedIn in 2007 as the only executive not working out of LinkedIn’s Mountain View, California headquarters. His role would develop so that he would continue to travel more frequently, but he wanted to remain in Chicago with his young family.
In his first meeting with Weiner, who took the CEO job in late 2008, Weiner asked Gamson when he was moving to California. Gamson replied “never.”
Knowing that Gamson wouldn’t come to Mountain View, Weiner determined Gamson would be able to fulfil his duties without a constant presence in HQ — and Gamson said he was never asked the question again.
He and Weiner decided that they could agree on goals and that Gamson would have significant freedom to accomplish them. “Jeff always gave me a lot of autonomy in pursuing the growth of our customer business,” Gamson said. “And I also try to give my direct reports autonomy. But that autonomy is tempered by accountability.”
“If there’s anything that I’m working on that is out of alignment with my manager’s goals, I want to surface those things,” Gamson said.
Consider what works best for your boss.
As Weiner’s only direct report not in California, Gamson had to determine a way to be the best employee he could be from afar.
It started with the philosophy of “compassionate management” that Weiner taught Gamson in their first meeting.
The lesson boils down to determining the difference between empathy and compassion.
Empathy is feeling someone’s state as if it were your own, manifested emotionally; compassion is understanding someone’s state as if it were your own, but with a layer of detachment. Weiner borrowed from the Dalai Lama in telling Gamson that it is better to go through the world as a compassionate person, able to confront the plights of others without being crippled by their weight. And it is better to lead with compassion, not empathy.
“And so he decided that when I texted him — we text a lot — when I texted him he was going to treat that more like a knock on the office door, where you walk by and say ‘Hey, can I interrupt you for a minute? I’ve got a quick question about something,” Gamson said.
The two then learned each other’s schedules in detail. Because there’s a two-hour time difference between them and because Weiner is an early riser, Gamson knows that he can reach out to Weiner as soon as his day starts. Likewise, Weiner knows when Gamson’s three kids go to bed, meaning that Gamson has another chance to communicate before going to bed himself.
“It’s a two-way street is the headline here for me,” Gamson said. “That the responsibility is both of ours and I’ve just been really grateful that he has accepted it that way.”
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