Interview with Kevin Delaney, LinkedIn

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Kevin Delaney

Kevin Delaney is Head of Learning and Development and Product HR at LinkedIn, and he has previously held several key executive roles at various companies. We recently asked Kevin to share how 5 Dynamics is being used in LinkedIn, one of our flagship Enterprise customers. Listen to the full interview below.

What challenge were you looking to solve by using 5 Dynamics?

Kevin: I was aware of 5 Dynamics from a previous role where the company was exploring 5 Dynamics as an option. Personally, I found it to be really useful in three ways:

  1. The assessment is fast, so there is low “pain,” if you will, on the front-end,
  2. The reports are very accurate and people like them, and
  3. you can use it in a team setting to talk about work flow.

When I moved to LinkedIn, the specific problem I was trying to solve as an HR Business Partner was for a hyper-growth company. When I joined, we were at about 3,000 employees; we’re at 10,000 employees now, so you have a lot of people in the biggest jobs of their career, a lot of managers stepping into management roles having never done it before, a lot of millennials who have never had any professional career before.

So the first application was working with one of the VP’s saying, “You’ve never actually brought your management team together; that’s the next step and a valuable piece that would really allow us to begin fundamentally defining the expectations we have for the role of manager. If you just let me take a day, I’ll set the table so that we have a roadmap of what we can do to make this a more effective management team.”

Fortunately, I had a great relationship with that VP, and I used the first 2½ hours of that first management team offsite to introduce 5 Dynamics as the foundational piece. 5 Dynamics is engaging for people, and it is a great hook because it is interesting on a personal level, and it is interesting on a team level. It was a great start to the offsite, and I recommended building other components on top of 5 Dynamics to thread the offsite together with a consistency in themes. People walked away with a framework we could then bring into the organization.

Having done that, the usual uptake I’ve found is that if a session is done well, every manager then says, “How do I get that for my team?” And that’s exactly the experience I had—it organically grew from there to other parts of the organization. When executives would ask what we were doing, we’d say, “The easiest way is just to take this assessment, and I’ll walk you through it.”

And that’s how we ended up moving it into LinkedIn.

How have you implemented our methodology as your solution?

When you talk about any psychometric tools, you always have a number of solutions in the pipeline already for a large company, and people have an affinity towards something they are familiar with and have used.

So within LinkedIn, we had a pretty sizeable population that had already used other tools. So I came in and instantly there were some questions that always come up when you bring something else in: “Why are you bringing in another solution? You’re going to confuse things.”

So one of the situations we had to solve for was to address questions of if 5 Dynamics was intended to replace or complement the primary solution in place. My perspective is that 5 Dynamics is very different; I wasn’t trying to supplant anything.

At that point, I wasn’t even in the Learning and Development organization; I was the head of HR for the Product organization which was business development, product management, user experience, design and research, and global customer operations, so I was solving for our population and I thought that 5 Dynamics was an easier use and had better stickiness, so that was the solution I preferred.

But when I moved into my head of Learning and Development role, the way I looked at it was that we don’t have to push one solution out to make room for another. 5 Dynamics is truly complimentary in the sense that it is the fastest uptake, least threatening front-end solution.

Whether we have a new team for new hire assimilation or new team assimilation, a new manager stepping into a team, or looking at how a team interacts, we need to solve two particular problems: how we collaborate better together, and how we communicate better as a team. 5 Dynamics makes this really easy.

And then a year later, if the team is continuing to build on that framework, then we can bring in another, more personal solution—it’s about you and your personality. However, up front that can actually be a little more threatening if a team of people who doesn’t know each other is asked to come in and lay down the gauntlet of their personality.

Teams do like to use tools just as a reference point to rally around, so I’ve looked at 5 Dynamics from the complimentary perspective. If I were defining the blank sheet of paper, we’d use 5 Dynamics as the first assessment and solution because I think it’s a framework for how work gets done that can be used over and over, while other personality-driven tools can be something that you do later on, as they are really more about a refresh and “get to know how you interact with each other,” but unlike 5 Dynamics, it’s not about the work flow, so I would say that they can exist in the same ecosystem.

What quantitative results and benefits have you seen as you’ve rolled out the program?

Certainly, it’s the great quandary of learning development: how do you measure ROI? I think there are always a few uptakes.

The first piece is—and it’s somewhat subjective to begin with—what is the virality of the uptake when something is introduced? Is it asked for more? That’s one piece of engagement.

The second is, does the language begin to make its way into the ecosystem—whether it is in conflict resolution or in team dynamics—and that’s the place where you begin to see the stickiness. So, for example, as I took over the Learning and Development org, I didn’t know the team very well, so I had everybody do 5 Dynamics and I used it then to say, “How does this team work together?”

What I’ve noticed, because I refer to it often during reorganization, is that I’ll talk about roles in the context of 5 Dynamics. “This particular role is one that is going to require a fair amount of sustainable detail-orientation because we need to make sure we’re tying off loose ends and we’re building operational excellence. So now let’s talk about that in the context of where you are in your 5 Dynamics; this would suggest that if you are stressed in Examine then this might not be appealing for a long-term sustainable role—let’s just have that conversation.”

And I’ve seen that begin to feed back into other conversations where people will begin to express their frustrations through the medium of 5 Dynamics—which is one of the challenges I always leave with people when I do a session.

I always say, “Now you have a common framework to bring up awkward issues in a non- awkward way. So if you’re in a team dynamic setting where someone is dragging on the ideation forever, if you’re high Execute, it’s hard to interrupt and say, ‘Can we get on with it?’ That would be a poor approach. But now that you have this framework, you can put it back on yourself: ‘Hey, can I remind the group that I’m high in Execute, so these are the three things you’ll remember about me… so I just want to put that on the table.’ So now you can move the meeting along without being a jerk.”

I’ve seen that play out in meetings where people begin to express the hard facts, but they do it through the softer lens of “what I need for my style”; I think that’s been really effective.

So how do we quantify it? The number of people who take the assessment, how we see it begin to move into the ecosystem, and the next thing which we’re really wrestling with is trying to figure out how do we build additional programs to build on the framework with 5 Dynamics as a foundation? How do we begin to extend that through the next layer of our learning development offerings—on communication, on collaboration—just so that the framework stays in the ecosystem? So we’re still relatively new, being about a year into this journey, so that’s where we are today and our intent for the future.

Have you been surprised by the impact on relationships you have since digesting the methodology?

I believe 5 Dynamics can be a valuable tool to further relationships and provide opportunities to strengthen those relationships, particularly in a working sense. I had a meeting just this morning where the conversation turned to the value they found in 5 Dynamics; it really came down to the work part—how we work together better, and not just necessarily, “I’m an introvert; I’m an extrovert. This is your personality.”

So in a work relationship what I believe 5 Dynamics does is to give a framework, particularly in the most relevant setting that is, “We’re here to do great work so that LinkedIn wins.” This is a tool not just about me, but it’s a tool about how we collaboratively work together; when we work together more effectively, then we do better work, and that better work helps LinkedIn be more successful as a company.

When you first took the assessment, were you surprised with your results?

No, it was right in line with how I viewed myself. I’m effortless in Explore, effortless in Execute, and deliberate in the middle, and that’s generally how I feel: I move fast, the ideation never stops. I care about the plan, I care about people, but I do it all in the context of dreaming big and getting stuff done.

So when you look at the outcomes of that, there are actually times I laugh because I think there’s a dynamic of tension that can exist within myself where my own high Explore is in conflict with my own high Execute. My Execute brain is saying, “Let’s get on with it,” but my Explore brain is saying, “Yeah, but I’ve got the next great idea that can change the world, so yes, but let me just dream just a minute longer!” So I think the assessment captured me well.

In light of this week’s news of Microsoft and LinkedIn coming together, is there any initial perspective how that will impact your use of 5 Dynamics moving forward?

Obviously, the news has been big and the build-up has been exciting. Several things: obviously in any acquisition, we’re months away from the close of the deal. So it is lots of frenetic energy this week, only next week to realize, you know, “hurry up and wait”; by the time the regulatory reviews come through, it literally is Q4. People need to get back to business as usual, pretty much now; our business as usual is launching 5 Dynamics across our functions to get greater exposure to what it is.

More importantly for us, a major piece of the acquisition was different from Microsoft’s past, probably, in the sense that we really want to operate independently. We have a 10,000 person strong company, and a partnership has strength because of that perspective, so we really have lots to figure out; let’s explore the leverage and the synergies, but we’re really just trying to focus on maximizing both assets with business as usual, and business as usual for us is using 5 Dynamics as we’ve grown it into the ecosystem. So we continue to plan on doing that.

There are hundreds of synergies, so it will definitely be interesting to see with the massive resources and exploration going on at Microsoft all the time, but we’re excited about looking at those two powerful networks coming together with Microsoft’s cloud power and

our professional networks to see all the things that can exist, so more to come.

Listen to the full interview with Kevin Delaney:

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