Jeff Weiner’s Five Essential Hires

Jeff Weiner W’92, CEO of LinkedIn, recently received the Wharton Entrepreneurship Alumni Achievement Award. As part of the award ceremony, Jeff engaged in a fireside chat with his friend and Wharton classmate Andrew Trader W’91/WG’99, during which he shared some of his entrepreneurial wisdom and described the skill sets of the five people he’s always looking to hire, and who are essential to the success of any business. In his own words, they are:

Jeff Weiner fireside chat
Jeff Weiner W’92 during his fireside chat.

Technology vision

Today’s world is increasingly driven by technology, so it’s invaluable to have someone on the team who understands how technology is evolving and the way in which it’s going to be shaping society. The ability to get in front of those trends can unlock enormous value. Two examples of people who showed this ability are Bill Gates, for recognizing that the cost of computing would continue to drop such that there would be a computer on every desk top, and Elon Musk, who did something very similar with regard to the cost curve on sustainable capital electricity, specifically, what that did for Tesla.

Product sensibility

If you only have technology vision it will make for an interesting white paper, or maybe a patent, but that’s as far as it goes. I think it’s also critical that you have product sensibility. By this I’m talking about an ability to understand unmet needs of the marketplace and how the technology can be leveraged to meet those unmet needs. Steve Jobs was as good as it gets when it comes to product sensibility.

Business acumen

You can know how technology is evolving and have fantastic product sensibility, but if you don’t have a sustainable business model your product and company are not going to be around for very long. We saw this in the late ‘90s: some very interesting ideas, but the business models weren’t there. What these companies needed is what all companies need—business acumen and an understanding of how to balance the creative side with how businesses really work.


A trait I look for in a good leader is the ability to inspire others to share objectives. You’re going to have to be able to clearly communicate your vision in a way that inspires others to follow. This is true for the two-person startup trying to get financing, and it still holds true when you’re leading thousands of people at a multinational organization.


The fifth skill or tool is what I consider to be most important: it’s resourcefulness. If you’re going to lead you’re going to need resourcefulness because you’re always going to run into walls. The secret of being resourceful is recognizing when you need greater support in the other four skills previously mentioned, so you hire the right people with those skillsets. Resourcefulness will help support the overarching goal of the company.

At the end of the day, if you find anyone superlative at any one of those skills, you’ve got your talent. Two skills: fantastic. Five skills? Good luck hiring them, because these are the people who will be in the highest demand. These are the future Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Steve Jobs.

Editor’s Note: We can’t resist also including Jeff’s recollection of his experience in Management 251: Consulting to Growth Companies, a course he took at Wharton:

I took a management class at Penn that really changed my entire career path. It was the Fall of 1991, and we were doing consulting for businesses in Philadelphia. I consulted with three engineers from DuPont. They decided they were going to leverage this new emerging technology called “the internet” to create a desktop video teleconferencing system. They described the internet, and they said, “You won’t be able to commercialize it.” Needless to say, it didn’t go very far with that kind of vision. But it was my first introduction to the technology and it led to where I am today so I will be forever grateful for that.

Jeff WeinerBio: Jeff Weiner, W’92, is CEO of LinkedIn, the world’s largest and most powerful network of professionals. He joined the company in December 2008, and under his leadership, LinkedIn has rapidly expanded its global platform to 19 languages and 26 offices around the world, grown its membership base from 33 million to 238 million members and increased its revenue more than tenfold to $972 million in 2012.

The Highest ROI Management Tool in Business

Editor’s Note: Wharton Entrepreneurship is proud to today present Jeff Weiner W’92 with the Wharton Entrepreneurship Alumni Achievement Award at the Wharton Entrepreneurship Alumni Dinner in San Francisco. In honor of this event, we are sharing some of Jeff’s excellent advice to entrepreneurs, from his blog.

By Jeff Weiner W’92, CEO at LinkedIn

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn. Follow Jeff Weiner here.

imageThis image was recently emailed to one of the senior-most technology executives at LinkedIn. In case you can’t read it, the text says:

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”

Contrary to what you might be thinking, the email didn’t come from an eternally optimistic employee who cheerleads regardless of outcomes or a feel-good management coach whose office is plastered with posters defining “persistence,” “teamwork,” or “dedication.”

It came from an engineer whose team has worked tirelessly over a period of years to develop and maintain an important back-end technology for the company. It’s the kind of technology that just works, and subsequently, makes LinkedIn work. It’s also the kind of technology that is so fundamental to what we do that it becomes easy to overlook — unless, of course, it’s not operating as expected. Then the team is inundated with questions about what’s wrong, when it will be fixed, and how they can put measures in place to ensure it doesn’t break again.

The engineer who sent the image to the executive added his own short message:

“This is what I feel after reading [your] email.”

Other members of the engineer’s team sent emails with similarly effusive sentiments. If you’ve ever worked closely with a team of highly talented, hardcore engineers you know that this show of unbridled happiness can be a bit unusual (to put it mildly.) So what had gotten them so enthused? An email written by the executive explaining how important the team was, how much value they had created, and his appreciation for their consistent diligence, perseverance, and excellence. Essentially, they were responding to a simple “Thank you.”

The highest ROI management tool I know is one that is available to everyone, costs essentially nothing, and is a proven driver of workplace productivity. That tool is gratitude.

As obvious as this may sound to some, it is oftentimes overlooked, particularly in companies and among teams for whom seemingly no results are good enough and no bar is ever set high enough. Yet, developing a high-performance culture and one that encourages the expression of gratitude shouldn’t be at odds. To the contrary, recognition can be an invaluable source of motivation and subsequently inspire people to do their best work. Looking back on my career, I’ve seen and experienced this dynamic more times than I can count, and conversely, have witnessed the negative repercussions of managers who take their teams for granted.

Here are a few things to consider the next time you’re inclined to show your appreciation for a job well done:

1. Be thoughtful

Not all thank yous are created equal. Be thoughtful about the how. Sometimes it’s best to do it in person, in the moment. Other times, an email or call might make sense, especially if the person is remote. Some of the most memorable thank yous I’ve received were handwritten notes (a few of which I still keep on a table behind my desk in the office).

Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, has elevated this kind of recognition to an art form. For example, mention offhandedly to him that you like dark chocolate, and don’t be surprised if several months later, he returns back from his latest trip to Europe with a few specialty bars he purchased for you, inevitably delivered with a resounding thanks for the positive difference you’re making to the company.

2. Be genuine

More often than not, the words you communicate are not nearly as important as the thought and energy behind them. The person on the receiving end can tell the difference between someone going through the motions and deeply heartfelt appreciation. When it comes to expressing gratitude, always be 100% genuine.

For example, the next time an email thread starts up congratulating a team on their most recent win, try to refrain from adding the fifth or sixth “Great job!” and give some thought to why you’re appreciative for their specific accomplishment. Conveying the latter will make all the difference.

Recently, I was asked to join one of our teams in celebrating their recent launch of a major product initiative. In addition to the standard t-shirts, cupcakes, and group photo, the team member who organized the event also asked another exec and me to share the best compliment we had heard about the product, and some of the key learnings we took away from the launch. The team was so appreciative of the positive feedback that we ended up receiving thank-yous for our thank-yous.

3. Pick your spots

When thinking about when to give thanks, make sure to apply The Goldilocks Principle: Compliment someone too often and your words will ultimately ring hollow; don’t say thank-you enough and your top talent will ultimately feel so under-appreciated you’ll potentially face retention issues. However, express appreciation at just the right time and you’ll make a huge difference in the way that person thinks about their role and what it means to be a part of your team.

For those more quantitatively inclined, there has actually been research done on the optimal ratio to achieve when communicating positive vs. negative feedback. It’s called the Losada Ratio (and the answer is 2.9x.)

4. Solicit suggestions

When your organization is smaller, and everyone is located in one place, it’s fairly easy to be aware of who is doing what and is most deserving of praise. However, as a successful organization inevitably scales to larger numbers of employees and multiple offices around the world, it can become more challenging to stay on top of the day-to-day progress of the team. One way of overcoming this dynamic is by making sure you remain in the flow of information regarding their wins, e.g. dashboards, wikis, weekly updates, etc. At LinkedIn, we conduct a global all-hands every other week which provides a natural channel to identify and recognize some of the team’s most important accomplishments.

Another effective technique is to just ask. From time to time, remind your directs to mention individuals or teams you may have less direct exposure to, but who they feel are deserving of a special call-out. The further away from headquarters they sit, and the more junior they are, the better. You’ll be amazed at how appreciative the people on the receiving end of those calls and emails will be.

5. Learn how to take a compliment

The better you are at receiving a compliment, the more effective you’ll be at giving one. Many people struggle when on the receiving end of a kind word, inevitably looking down at their shoes, shuffling uncomfortably, and mumbling something about how it was truly a team effort. While humility is a highly valued trait, disconnection is not, yet the latter is typically what happens when these scenarios play out.

The next time someone compliments you on a job well done, try grounding yourself from the feet up, look the person straight in the eye, and let them know how much it means to you. That sense of recognition and connection is what we’re all trying to achieve. It’s also what ultimately makes the difference between a perfunctory thank you and an expression of gratitude the recipient won’t soon forget.

One last note: Every now and again, the same senior tech executive I mentioned earlier will remind me of the first time I shared my views with him on the importance of gratitude. Despite the fact that conversation took place nearly eight years ago, he thanks me every time. The most recent example occurred just a couple of weeks ago. It was ultimately the reason I wrote this post.

Jeff’s Recent Posts:

7 Ways to Manage Email So It Doesn’t Manage You, August 5, 2013

How to Solve the Other Unemployment Crisis, July 22, 2013

Jeff Weiner

Bio: Jeff Weiner, W’92, is CEO of LinkedIn, the world’s largest and most powerful network of professionals. He joined the company in December 2008, and under his leadership, LinkedIn has rapidly expanded its global platform to 19 languages and 26 offices around the world, grown its membership base from 33 million to more than 200 million members and increased its revenue more than tenfold to $972 million in 2012.