Letters of Intent - The Skill Will Matrix
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A Powerful Management Tool
About a decade ago, I had the privilege of working with an executive coach who introduced me to a game-changing management tool that I've since used consistently, not only in professional settings but also with my own children. This tool, known as the Skill Will Matrix, was also embraced by the late, great Andy Grove, co-founder of Intel, who included a version of it in his influential book, High Output Management. The concept traces its roots back to the 1970s, when Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard developed it based on their earlier model of situational leadership.
The Skill Will Matrix: Unleashing Potential
The genius behind the Skill Will Matrix lies in its simplicity. Managers can use this framework to assess a team member's performance and pinpoint the management approach that will be most effective in unlocking their full potential. The matrix consists of two axes: Will (motivation) and Skill (capabilities), which intersect to form four quadrants: Low Skill, Low Will; Low Skill, High Will; High Skill, Low Will; and High Skill, High Will.
By quickly assessing an individual's performance and placing them in one of these quadrants, managers gain valuable insights into the management style that will best serve that person.
The Four Quadrants: A Roadmap to Success
Different practitioners use different labels for each quadrant, but they all essentially describe the type of approach a manager should adopt with people in each category. Let's explore them one by one.
Low Skill, Low Will
Imagine a new employee who's struggling to find their footing in their role or one who has recently, but consistently, begun to underperform in their duties. They lack both the skills and motivation to excel. In this case, a manager should take a prescriptive or directive approach, which may be perceived as micro-managing. By assigning clear, specific actions and creating a well-defined development plan, the manager can help the employee improve and transition to another role or quadrant, or, if necessary, out of the organization.
Low Skill, High Will
Picture a team member brimming with enthusiasm but lacking the competency to excel in their role. A manager working with someone in this quadrant should focus on coaching, training, mentorship, and other forms of skill-building to elevate the employee's abilities. Providing examples and feedback on what "great looks like" can also help communicate expectations and aid the employee in developing the necessary capabilities for their role.
High Skill, Low Will
Consider an employee who possesses the skills to be a valuable team member but lacks the motivation to consistently perform their duties. A manager must help the worker embark on a journey of self-discovery to identify a source of energy that can reignite their passion for their job. This could be anything from a promotion opportunity, the chance for a raise or bonus, to taking on new responsibilities.
High Skill, High Will
Managing highly skilled and motivated employees may seem easy, but it comes with its own set of challenges. Managers must ensure they provide sufficient challenges and growth opportunities to keep these individuals engaged and motivated. Recognizing and rewarding their contributions is also crucial to maintaining their sense of value within the organization.
Embarking on the Skill Will Matrix Journey
While there's a wealth of information available online about the Skill Will Matrix, getting started is as simple as assessing a team member's current position within the matrix and determining the most effective management approach. Practice makes perfect, so keep honing this skill to see improvements in your team's results.
A Call To Action
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