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).
|Quadrant||Description||Analysis and Strategy||Examples and Real-World Applications|
|Quadrant 1||High Skill, High Will Individuals in this quadrant possess both the skills and the motivation needed to excel. They require minimal supervision and can take on complex tasks autonomously.||– Analysis: Quadrant 1 members are highly capable and self-motivated. They are valuable assets to the team and organization. – Strategy: Empower and provide opportunities for growth. Encourage leadership roles and autonomy. Recognize and reward achievements. Offer challenges and responsibilities that align with their skills and motivation.||– A software development team with experienced developers who are enthusiastic about tackling complex projects independently. – High-performing sales representatives who consistently meet and exceed targets without close supervision.|
|Quadrant 2||High Skill, Low Will These individuals have the necessary skills but lack motivation. They may need encouragement, recognition, or a change in roles to reignite their enthusiasm.||– Analysis: Quadrant 2 members have the required skills but may be experiencing a lack of engagement or burnout. They have the potential to excel if motivated effectively. – Strategy: Motivate, recognize achievements, or address underlying issues affecting motivation. Understand their interests and career goals. Provide clear goals and a sense of purpose. Consider role adjustments or challenges to reignite their enthusiasm.||– A seasoned marketing manager who, despite having the skills, is demotivated due to repetitive tasks. Motivation and recognition could help rekindle their enthusiasm. – An experienced engineer who is feeling uninspired in their current role. Exploring new project opportunities might reignite their motivation.|
|Quadrant 3||Low Skill, High Will People in this quadrant are motivated but lack the required skills. They benefit from training, guidance, and skill development to become more effective.||– Analysis: Quadrant 3 members are motivated and enthusiastic but lack the necessary skills to perform their roles effectively. They have the potential for growth. – Strategy: Invest in training and skill development. Provide mentorship and guidance. Set clear expectations and goals. Create opportunities for skill acquisition and growth.||– An entry-level marketing coordinator with a strong desire to contribute but lacking the skills for advanced marketing campaigns. Providing training and mentorship can help them grow into the role. – A recent graduate joining an IT team with high motivation but limited technical skills. Investing in training programs can accelerate their development.|
|Quadrant 4||Low Skill, Low Will Individuals in this quadrant have both low skills and motivation. They may require close supervision, coaching, or a reevaluation of their fit within the team.||– Analysis: Quadrant 4 members may present challenges in terms of both skills and motivation. Their contribution may be limited, and their fit within the team should be assessed. – Strategy: Evaluate role fit and alignment with team goals. Provide clear expectations and consequences. Offer coaching and support if there is potential for improvement. Consider reassignment or alternative roles if necessary.||– An employee who consistently underperforms, lacks motivation, and demonstrates a poor fit with the team’s dynamics. A performance improvement plan or role realignment may be needed. – A team member who is disengaged, unskilled, and struggling with tasks. Assessing whether a different role or team might be a better fit is essential.|
Understanding the skill will matrix
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:
Or any ability enabling the subordinate to do something well.
This may be prior experience, training, knowledge, or natural talent.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
1. Software Development:
Problem Articulation: Software teams often comprise members with different experience levels and motivation. Identifying the right approach for each can optimize team productivity and morale.
- Guide (High Will/Low Skill): A recent graduate eager to contribute but unfamiliar with the company’s coding standards. Managers should pair them with a mentor, provide resources to learn, and celebrate their first successful code commits.
- Delegate (High Will/High Skill): A senior developer who has a proven track record and shows initiative. Managers can assign them leadership roles, like leading a new project or mentoring younger team members.
- Direct (Low Will/Low Skill): A junior developer who is struggling with both technical tasks and motivation. Managers should identify the root cause, offer training, and set clear performance expectations.
- Excite (Low Will/High Skill): A seasoned developer, technically adept but showing signs of burnout. Managers might provide them with challenging tasks, offer opportunities for skills enhancement, or even sabbaticals.
2. Retail Management:
Problem Articulation: Retail employees have varying customer service skills and motivation to sell. Tailoring management strategies can enhance sales and customer satisfaction.
- Guide (High Will/Low Skill): A new sales associate eager to help customers but unfamiliar with the products. Managers can provide product training, shadowing experienced associates, and positive reinforcement for initial sales.
- Delegate (High Will/High Skill): An experienced sales associate who consistently meets sales targets and knows the products inside out. Managers can entrust them with leading product launches or training sessions for new hires.
- Direct (Low Will/Low Skill): A sales associate neither familiar with the products nor motivated to sell. Managers should clarify job expectations, offer training, and perhaps set up a performance improvement plan.
- Excite (Low Will/High Skill): A seasoned associate, excellent in sales but lacking enthusiasm lately. Managers could provide them with new challenges, like visual merchandising or even involve them in inventory decisions.
Problem Articulation: Teachers in a school have different teaching skills and motivation levels. Effective school leadership tailors support based on these differences.
- Guide (High Will/Low Skill): A new teacher passionate about teaching but struggling with classroom management. School leadership can pair them with mentor teachers, offer workshops, and celebrate small classroom victories.
- Delegate (High Will/High Skill): A seasoned teacher who excels in both curriculum delivery and student rapport. School leadership can involve them in curriculum design, mentorship programs, or even school committees.
- Direct (Low Will/Low Skill): A teacher who is struggling with both teaching and motivation. School leadership should provide clear feedback, offer professional development opportunities, and set clear expectations.
- Excite (Low Will/High Skill): A veteran teacher, skilled but showing signs of burnout. School leadership might offer them opportunities to lead workshops, sabbaticals, or even research opportunities.
Problem Articulation: Healthcare teams consist of members with different specialties and motivations. Tailoring management strategies can optimize patient care.
- Guide (High Will/Low Skill): A recent medical school graduate eager to help but still gaining practical experience. Senior doctors can supervise their cases, provide hands-on training, and celebrate their successful diagnoses.
- Delegate (High Will/High Skill): A senior nurse or doctor who is highly skilled and takes initiative. Hospital management can involve them in patient care strategy, mentorship programs, or leading specific hospital units.
- Direct (Low Will/Low Skill): A healthcare professional struggling with both technical tasks and motivation. Hospital management should identify the reasons, provide training, and set clear performance goals.
- Excite (Low Will/High Skill): A seasoned doctor or nurse, highly skilled but showing signs of disinterest. Hospital management could provide them with challenging cases, research opportunities, or even administrative roles.
- 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.
- Understanding the Skill Will Matrix:
- Developed by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard, the matrix assesses skill and willingness to perform a task.
- Managers use the matrix to determine the appropriate leadership style to enhance subordinate performance.
- Skill and Will Defined:
- Skill: The ability, knowledge, or talent enabling the employee to perform a task effectively.
- Will: The determination to perform a task despite challenges, influenced by motivation and attitude.
- Four Quadrants of the Skill Will Matrix:
- Guide (High Will/Low Skill): Energetic individuals lacking necessary skills. Managers should provide training, feedback, and support, praising small successes.
- Delegate (High Will/High Skill): Competent and motivated individuals offering the best ROI. Managers should invest in their development and retain their enthusiasm.
- Direct (Low Will/Low Skill): Focus on building both skill and will. Identify reasons for their situation, offer support, feedback, and incentives to improve.
- Excite (Low Will/High Skill): Capable subordinates meeting requirements but displaying negative behaviors. Provide extra responsibility and authority, address lack of motivation if necessary.
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