This exercise will initially take not much longer than 3-4 minutes, yet could greatly improve your ability in coaching your team.
One of the great ways to become a better leader is to coach each of your direct reports more effectively. But coaching staff, as with leadership, is not a ‘one size fits all’ venture. We have to do a ‘stocktake’ of the various individuals that report to us-only after that can we tailor our leadership and coaching towards them right.
Do a ‘Stocktake’ of Your Direct Reports
So how can we do such a ‘stocktake’? An effective yet simple tool is to quietly and honestly plot where each of your direct reports sits on the Skill/Will Matrix. That is, rate their current overall skill or job performance out of 10. Then rate the overall Will or attitude out of 10. This will place them in one of four matrices (see accompanying diagram). Then, once you know where your staff respectively sit, you can tailor your leadership and coaching conversations with them accordingly.
Low Skill and Low Will (lower left quadrant)
These employees need you to direct them and in the worst instances micro mange and/or performance manage them. They need you to tell them what, how, who, when tasks are to be done. This is painful and time-consuming for both parties. Your job as a leader or coach of someone in this quadrant is to move them up or out.
High Skill/Low Will (upper left quadrant):
These people need to be motivated-you almost need to cheerlead them. It’s about lifting their engagement and enthusiasm rather than teaching or training them in hard or technical skills. This is often the domain of the long-term, experienced, competent yet negative and jaded employee.
Low Skill/High Will (lower right quadrant):
These people need you to provide them adequate teaching and training in the harder skills and technical aspects of the role. They are hungry and willing to learn. This is often where younger, less experienced but eager employees reside.
High Skill/High Will (top right quadrant):
These are your stars and better performing employees-they are competent and have a good attitude to boot. It’s easy for us to think we can ignore these people and let them take care of themselves. As leaders we must still coach and lead them-just in a different way. They can be given extra responsibilities, greater collaboration experiences and they still would like your praise and endorsement from time-to-time. These are often also your biggest ‘flight risks’…ignore them at your peril.
Plot where each of your staff sits currently. Then commit yourself to coach each employee in accordance with where they are on the Skill/Will matrix.