The Art of Leading

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner: Say these 3 sentences to address an employee's poor performance

Here's how managers should handle underperforming employees, says LinkedIn...

The most important management lesson LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner has learned has a sports analogy — don't leave the star pitcher in the game for too long.

When a pitcher's arm gets tired and the manager comes out of the dugout to check on him, the pitcher responds, "I'm doing fine, go take a seat," Weiner says. Then the pitcher gives up a home run and the team loses.

"It's really not the pitcher's role to be dictating what the manager does," Weiner says. "It's up to the manager to make that decision and in roughly 20 years of managing people, I've never had anyone come to me and raise their hand and say they can't do their job. Not once."

It's up to managers to recognize when employees can't perform their role. If you're questioning an employee's ability to do their job, you already know the answer to the question, Weiner says. "You don't ask that question of superstars," he says.

In these situations, far too many managers and executives look the other way when they realize an employee is falling behind. Weiner admits he's done it, too.

"You're fearful of the uncertainty of change, of demoralizing the team, of how quickly you're going to be able to recruit a replacement — a whole litany of things and concerns will sometimes not lead to the right outcome," he says.

Over time, he's learned managers should be honest with employees by explaining their gap in skills and then create a plan to close the gap.

He suggests broaching the difficult topic with these three simple sentences. "I'm rooting for you. I'm the reason you're in this role. And I'm going to work with you to do everything within my power to get you up to the bar, if not over it," Weiner says.

Managers should also provide a timetable for employees with goals they can reach. If employees can't improve, their manager should be open about the need for a new position within or outside the company.

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