The Skill vs. Will matrix is a tool to help you identify the best management approach to use with a certain team member. It can be a powerful tool and this power comes from its simplicity, it’s based on only two metrics: their “skill” and their “will” levels.


what is skill versus will matrix


The skill vs will matrix will force you to focus to answer two simple but powerful questions that are of key importance:

  1. Does the person have the required skills to successfully complete his/her task?
  2. Do they really want to complete the task?


The answers to these two questions are the key determinant of the most suitable management approach to use with the person.


Understanding how the skill vs will matrix works and how to apply it:


how to apply skill vs will matrix


In case of Low Skill – Low Will

Recommended actions: Direct, excite and motivate

Having both low skill and will is the worst-case scenario. The manager’s role is crucial in such situations and will consist in both taking charge and inspiring. Direction implies solid guidelines, control and decision-making, is time-consuming and should ideally be viewed as only temporary. It’s important to set clear goals, objectives and action plans which the individual knows you’ll follow up on.


In case of High Skill – Low Will

Recommended actions: Coach and motivate

Coaching here needs to focus on motivation: the skills are there, and a manager must now instill confidence and enthusiasm in the worker. Decision-making is still very much the coach’s responsibility, but communication will be the key. A coach should aspire to have the employee take responsibility for themselves eventually. Coaching emphasizes the importance of the learner taking responsibility for their learning. The coach focuses on asking questions to encourage the learner to think for themselves rather than being told what to do.


In case of Low Skill – High Will

Recommended actions: Support

For example, when a new recruit is excited about starting and motivated to get off to a good start and make a good impression. The coaching style is mostly aimed at encouraging the learner to explore ideas and courses of action, and directing and channeling the worker’s actions and supporting him/her in his/her decisions.


In case of High Skill – High Will

Recommended actions: Delegate

This is obviously the best-case scenario and the easiest to handle, the manager gives a lot of leeway and responsibilities to his or her employee, and gets involved when called upon. It is an opportunity for the worker to develop and work his way up. For that reason, the manager should still follow closely the evolution of the employee, in order to set challenging goals and make sure to maintain a high level of motivation.

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