business coach conducting a group coaching session

How Use The Skill/Will Matrix For Better Coaching

As a leader, one of your most important responsibilities is coaching and developing your team members. However, not all team members require the same approach, and it can be challenging to determine the most effective way to coach each person. This is where the Skill/Will Matrix comes in handy. In this blog post, we’ll explore what the Skill/Will Matrix is, how it works, and when to use it, to help you become a more effective coach and leader.

What is the Skill/Will Matrix?

The Skill/Will Matrix is a coaching tool that helps leaders identify the most effective coaching style for their team members based on their skill and motivation levels. It was developed by Paul Hersey (a behavioural scientist) and Ken Blanchard (a business consultant) in the 1970s and has since become a popular tool used in various industries. The matrix consists of four quadrants that categorise team members based on their skill and motivation levels.

Understanding the Skill and Will Dimensions

To use the Skill/Will Matrix effectively, it’s essential to understand the two dimensions of the matrix: Skill and Will.

What is the Skills Matrix Used for?

The skill dimension refers to the level of competency a team member has in a specific area. It includes knowledge, technical skills, and experience. High-skill team members can perform tasks effectively, while low-skill team members require more training and guidance.

What is the Will Matrix Used for?

The will dimension refers to the motivation and willingness of team members to perform tasks. It includes their level of commitment, enthusiasm, and confidence. High-will team members are motivated and committed, while low-will team members require more encouragement and support.

How to Use the Skill/Will Matrix

This exercise will initially take not much longer than 3-4 minutes, yet could greatly improve your ability to coach 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

diagram of the skill will matrix

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.

Categorise Your Team Members into the Four Skill Will Matrix Quadrants

Low Skill And Low Will (Lower Left Quadrant)

These employees need you to direct them, and in the worst instances, micro-manage and/or performance-manage them. They need you to tell them what, how, and when tasks are to be done and whom to report after. This is painful and time consuming for both parties. But your job as a leader or coach of someone in this quadrant is to move them up or out.

High Skill/Low Will (Lower Right 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 (Top Left Quadrant)

These people need you to provide them with 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 coaching each employee in accordance with where they are on the Skill/Will matrix.

Skill/Will Matrix Example – How It’s Done

young male executive talking to team in conference room

Now that you understand the four quadrants better, it’s time to look at how everything fits together. Here’s an example of the application of this matrix.

Let’s say Sarah is a team leader responsible for managing a software development team. She recently introduced a new project that requires her team members to learn a new programming language and work on complex algorithms. As Sarah assesses her team using the Skill/Will Matrix, she observes the following:

High Skill, High Will: Mark has extensive experience in programming and demonstrates high motivation. He quickly grasps the new language and eagerly takes on challenging tasks.

High Skill, Low Will: Emily, a talented programmer, appears less motivated to learn the new language due to burnout from previous projects. Sarah recognises the need to provide support and encouragement to reignite her motivation.

Low Skill, High Will: Alex, a junior developer, shows great enthusiasm and willingness to learn. However, due to limited experience, he requires additional training and guidance to develop the required skills.

Low Skill, Low Will: Megan, a team member with minimal programming knowledge, lacks motivation and confidence. Sarah understands that Megan needs a more directive coaching style and close supervision to build both skills and motivation.

By using the Skill/Will Matrix, Sarah gains a clear understanding of her team’s individual needs. She adjusts her coaching style accordingly, providing hands-on guidance to Alex and Megan, boosting motivation for Emily, and giving autonomy to Mark. As a result, Sarah effectively supports her team, maximises their potential, and ensures the successful completion of the project.

What is the Purpose of the Skill/Will Matrix?

As seen in the previous example, the purpose of the Skill/Will Matrix is to assist leaders in determining the most effective coaching style to use with their team members. By understanding the skill and motivation levels of individuals, leaders can adapt their approach to maximise performance and development. Here are the key purposes of using the Skill/Will Matrix:

Individualised Coaching

Every team member is unique, and the Skill/Will Matrix helps leaders recognise this diversity. It enables leaders to tailor their coaching style based on each team member’s specific needs, skills, and motivation levels. This individualised approach promotes personal growth, engagement, and job satisfaction.

Performance Enhancement

male executive coaching two female employees

The Skill/Will Matrix is a performance management tool. It allows leaders to identify areas where team members excel or struggle. By understanding the skill gaps or lack of motivation, leaders can provide appropriate guidance, resources, training, or encouragement to enhance performance and bridge those gaps.

Efficient Resource Allocation

By assessing the skill and will levels of team members, leaders can allocate resources effectively. High-skill, high-will individuals may require minimal supervision, allowing leaders to delegate more tasks to them. On the other hand, low-skill, low-will individuals may need more support and direction. This matrix assists leaders in optimising their time, energy, and resources.

Personal Development

The Skill/Will Matrix fosters personal development among team members. It helps leaders identify individuals who are motivated but lack the necessary skills. By providing appropriate training and development opportunities, leaders can empower team members to grow, improve their skill sets, and fulfill their potential.[H3] Team Engagement and Retention

Team Engagement and Retention

A skilled and motivated team is more likely to be engaged and committed to their work. The Skill/Will Matrix aids leaders in understanding their team members’ motivation levels, allowing them to provide the right support, recognition, and incentives to boost engagement. Engaged team members are more likely to stay with the organisation, reducing turnover rates.

Leadership Adaptability

The Skill/Will Matrix encourages leaders to adapt their coaching style to meet the evolving needs of their team members. It highlights the importance of flexibility and situational leadership. Leaders can adjust their approach as team members develop new skills or experience changes in motivation levels, ensuring continued growth and success.[H2] When to Use the Skill/Will Matrix?

When to Use the Skill/Will Matrix?

The Skill/Will Matrix is most effective when a leader needs to determine the most effective coaching style to use with their team members. It can be useful in various situations, such as:

  1. Introducing a new task or project: The matrix can help leaders determine the appropriate approach to take with each team member to ensure success.
  2. Helping team members who are struggling: The matrix can help leaders identify where team members need more support and guidance.
  3. Developing team members: The matrix can help leaders tailor their coaching style to each team member’s unique needs, enabling them to develop and improve their skills and motivation levels.

The Benefits of Coaching Using The Skill/Will Matrix

Leaders often struggle to find the right method to help their team members grow, and this is where the Skill/Will matrix shines the most. The Skill/Will matrix offers unique benefits beyond surface-level assessments. It enables leaders to tailor their strategies to their team’s individual needs, fostering a personalised coaching experience that leads to lasting results. The matrix promotes adaptability, encouraging leaders to adjust their approach as team members evolve. It also cultivates self-awareness and ownership among individuals, leading to greater engagement and proactive development. Open communication is facilitated, building trust and creating a collaborative environment. All in all, this matrix is an invaluable tool that can be used to drive professional development and long-term success.

Hone Your Leadership Skills with Stride Group

smiling confident young male executive in focus

Effective leadership skills are vital for driving success, developing teams, and achieving organisational goals. That said, the Skill/Will Matrix is a valuable tool that can help leaders navigate the complexities of coaching by identifying the most suitable coaching style for each team member based on their skill and motivation levels. If you’re looking to enhance your leadership abilities and elevate your coaching approach, Stride Group is here to support you. 

As a trusted provider of executive coaching in Melbourne, Australia, Stride Group offers tailored programs and expert guidance to help you unlock your full potential as a leader. Moreover, we also provide business coaching services in Australia for entrepreneurs who want a clear-cut path to success. Visit our website today to learn more about how our coaching services can propel your leadership journey to new heights.