Dan Beverly

When managing the performance of others – where “managing” includes any of managing, leading, instructing, coaching or mentoring – It’s crucial to match our leadership approach to the context.

Many factors play-in to what will prove to be the most effective intervention, including:

  • The relationship between us;
  • the detail and context of the work itself (Important? Urgent? Technical? Political? etc.);
  • The desired outcomes – not just short-term, bottom-line results, but longer term intentions and future learning/development implications.

No style of leadership is neutral: the way we come at a situation is always going to have a fundamental impact on the success (by any measure) of the outcome. So: how to know what leadership tactics to employ, in any given situation?

One simple formula to help us lean towards more helpful leadership behaviours is the Skill/Will matrix where:

  • SKILL relates to someone’s capability, knowledge and experience around the task or goal.
  • WILL relates to someone’s motivation (or “motive-for-action”) for a given task or goal.

from original work by Hershey & Blanchard

Consider where your team member is on the Skill/Will Matrix; and then use the following ideas to help guide your leadership approach …

High Skill. High Will.

Where {High Skill / High Will} … Delegate & Coach

  • Focus on empowering your team member, delegating the task in its entirety.
  • Make the overarching theme of working with this person: freedom.
  • Encourage them to take on the responsibility and do things their way.
  • As a coaching leader: let them know what they do well. Give that focus and attention.

High Skill. Low Will.

Where {High Skill / Low Will} … Motivate & Excite

  • Focus on rekindling motivation, starting with what ordinarily motivates them.
  • Support your charge to learn what can be applied here from their other motivators.
  • Reflect on your impact as a leader on their motivation. What’s your role in this situation?
  • Monitor their progress, with a focus for praising success – however incremental.

Low Skill. High Will.

Where {Low Skill / High Will} … Train & Guide

  • Focus on providing training initially. With a coaching style to follow.
  • Continually create opportunities for Q&A sessions with you and the wider team.
  • Work to create an environment where it’s safe to make mistakes.
  • As your charge makes progress, ease off the monitoring and supervision.

Low Skill. Low Will.

Where {Low Skill / Low Will} … Direct (or Redeploy)

  • Start with the goal. Ensure there’s absolute clarity around the outcomes.
  • Work with them to identify their core talents and natural motivators.
  • Support them to apply the learning (Goal + Talents + Motivators) to this task.
  • Provide training and direction. Monitor progress. Celebrate small wins.
  • BUT: be ready to acknowledge, this person may be in the wrong place for them and their talents.

Good performance as a leader and manager is always going to be a series of judgement calls in the moment. Asking yourself where we are on the Skill/Will Matrix is one simple question to support high-quality decision making.

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Dan Beverly

Dan Beverly is a leadership and performance coach helping women in leadership achieve their highest potential.

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