skill-will-matrix

What Is The Skill Will Matrix? The Skill Will Matrix In A Nutshell

The skill will matrix was created by behavioral scientist Paul Hersey and business consultant Ken Blanchard in the 1970s. The skill will matrix is a tool used to assess the skill level and willingness of an individual to perform a specific task based on four key profiles: Guide (high will/low skill), Delegate (high will/high skill), Direct (low will/low skill), Excite (low will/high skill).

Understanding the skill will matrix

The matrix, which is based on a situational leadership model, is used by managers to assess the skill and willingness of a subordinate to complete a specific task. The manager then uses feedback from the assessment to determine a style of leadership most likely to increase subordinate performance. 

Before moving to the next section, it may be helpful to first define skill and will:

  • Skill – or any ability enabling the subordinate to do something well. This may be prior experience, training, knowledge, or natural talent.
  • Will – or the determination to do something despite difficulties or opposition. How motivated is the subordinate in performing a task? What is their attitude? Will is typically influenced by organizational culture, professional aspirations, and the personal life of the employee.

The four quadrants of the skill will matrix

Varying degrees of skill and will can be represented on a 2×2 matrix with four quadrants. Though individuals rarely occupy a single quadrant the majority of the time, managers can use each quadrant to define a coaching style most likely to result in subordinate success.

Let’s now take a look at each of the four coaching styles/quadrants below:

  1. Guide (high will/low skill) – these individuals are enthusiastic and energetic but lack the necessary skills to do a good job. The manager should discuss and establish methods, provide training and feedback, and accept beginner mistakes as a tool for growth. Tasks should also be structured to minimize possible risks to the company and any small successes should be praised or rewarded.
  2. Delegate (high will/high skill) – individuals who are highly competent and motivated represent the best return on investment for the organization. Managers need to invest in enabling these individuals to reach their full potential. This may involve extra delegation, responsibility, or a role in the development of other team members. Given their value to a company, strategies should focus on retention by maintaining enthusiasm.
  3. Direct (low will/low skill) – here, the focus must be on building both skill and will. This starts with the manager identifying the reason a subordinate is in this situation. They may have an underlying attitude problem or simply be in the wrong role. It’s important management resist the urge to discipline the subordinate or consign them to the too hard basket. In many cases, competence and motivation can be increased by giving individuals the chance to improve with highly directed action, feedback, and incentivization.
  4. Excite (low will/high skill) – these are capable subordinates who are most likely meeting performance targets and otherwise satisfying the requirements of their role. However, individuals in this quadrant are sometimes called “grumpy experts” because they may demonstrate behaviors or attitudes that negatively impact others. This is particularly true for stalwarts, or long-term members of an organization who have become comfortable in their roles and may be looking for a promotion. To counter this, management should give extra responsibility and authority to the subordinate in line with their competence or skill level. In the event this strategy fails, the underlying reasons for the lack of motivation should be identified and addressed.

Key takeaways:

  • The skill will matrix is a tool used to assess the skill level and willingness of an individual to perform a specific task. It was developed in the 1970s by behavioral scientist Paul Hersey and business consultant Ken Blanchard.
  • The skill will matrix measures the skill and will level of an employee. Skill can be defined as any knowledge, talent, or ability enabling the employee to do something well. Will is the ability to perform a task despite difficulties and is influenced by motivation, culture, and personal attitude.
  • The skill will matrix defines four quadrants, with each quadrant defining a coaching style most likely to result in subordinate success. The four quadrants are guide, delegate, direct, and excite.

Other Business Matrices

SFA Matrix

sfa-matrix
The SFA matrix is a framework that helps businesses evaluate strategic options. Gerry Johnson and Kevan Scholes created the SFA matrix to help businesses evaluate their strategic options before committing. Evaluation of strategic opportunities is performed by considering three criteria that make up the SFA acronym: suitability, feasibility, and acceptability.

Hoshin Kanri X-Matrix

hoshin-kanri-x-matrix
The Hoshin Kanri X-Matrix is a strategy deployment tool that helps businesses achieve goals over the short and long term. Hoshin Kanri is a method that seeks to bridge the gap between strategy and execution. Strategic objectives are clearly defined and the goals of every level of the organization are aligned. With everyone moving in the same direction, process coordination and decision-making ability are strengthened.

Kepner-Tregoe Matrix

kepner-tregoe-matrix
The Kepner-Tregoe matrix was created by management consultants Charles H. Kepner and Benjamin B. Tregoe in the 1960s, developed to help businesses navigate the decisions they make daily, the Kepner-Tregoe matrix is a root cause analysis used in organizational decision making.

Eisenhower Matrix

eisenhower-matrix
The Eisenhower Matrix is a tool that helps businesses prioritize tasks based on their urgency and importance, named after Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of the United States from 1953 to 1961, the matrix helps businesses and individuals differentiate between the urgent and important to prevent urgent things (seemingly useful in the short-term) cannibalize important things (critical for long-term success).

Decision Matrix

decision-matrix
A decision matrix is a decision-making tool that evaluates and prioritizes a list of options. Decision matrices are useful when: A list of options must be trimmed to a single choice. A decision must be made based on several criteria. A list of criteria has been made manageable through the process of elimination.

Action Priority Matrix

action-priority-matrix
An action priority matrix is a productivity tool that helps businesses prioritize certain tasks and objectives over others. The matrix itself is represented by four quadrants on a typical cartesian graph. These quadrants are plotted against the effort required to complete a task (x-axis) and the impact (benefit) that each task brings once completed (y-axis). This matrix helps assess what projects need to be undertaken and the potential impact for each.

TOWS Matrix

tows-matrix
The TOWS Matrix is an acronym for Threats, Opportunities, Weaknesses, and Strengths. The matrix is a variation on the SWOT Analysis, and it seeks to address criticisms of the SWOT Analysis regarding its inability to show relationships between the various categories.

GE McKinsey Matrix

ge-mckinsey-matrix
The GE McKinsey Matrix was developed in the 1970s after General Electric asked its consultant McKinsey to develop a portfolio management model. This matrix is a strategy tool that provides guidance on how a corporation should prioritize its investments among its business units, leading to three possible scenarios: invest, protect, harvest, and divest.

BCG Matrix

bcg-matrix
In the 1970s, Bruce D. Henderson, founder of the Boston Consulting Group, came up with The Product Portfolio (aka BCG Matrix, or Growth-share Matrix), which would look at a successful business product portfolio based on potential growth and market shares. It divided products into four main categories: cash cows, pets (dogs), question marks, and stars.

Growth Matrix

growth-strategies
In the FourWeekMBA growth matrix, you can apply growth for existing customers by tackling the same problems (gain mode). Or by tackling existing problems, for new customers (expand mode). Or by tackling new problems for existing customers (extend mode). Or perhaps by tackling whole new problems for new customers (reinvent mode).

Ansoff Matrix

ansoff-matrix
You can use the Ansoff Matrix as a strategic framework to understand what growth strategy is more suited based on the market context. Developed by mathematician and business manager Igor Ansoff, it assumes a growth strategy can be derived by whether the market is new or existing, and the product is new or existing.

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Gennaro Cuofano

Gennaro is the creator of FourWeekMBA which reached over a million business students, executives, and aspiring entrepreneurs in 2020 alone | He is also Head of Business Development for a high-tech startup, which he helped grow at double-digit rate | Gennaro earned an International MBA with emphasis on Corporate Finance and Business Strategy | Visit The FourWeekMBA BizSchool | Or Get The FourWeekMBA Flagship Book "100+ Business Models"