Understanding the Skill/Will Matrix

Understanding the Skill/Will Matrix

The Skill/ Will Matrix is a tool made popular in “The Tao of coaching” by Max Landsberg and is used to determine what the best leadership approach is for a given team member, based on two metrics: their level of Skill (capability and experience) and their level of Will (motivation).

Simply, we categorise team members into one of the 5 core boxes. Effective leaders use the Skill/ Will Matrix to take stock of where individuals in their team are and how they can use this to optimise performance. If you fail to evaluate where individuals are, your leadership approach may not match, which in turn can affect performance.

skill will matrix

Aspiring – Low Skill/ High Will

Eager Novices

Targeted investment. We define individuals in this quadrant as ‘Aspiring’ as they have the desire and motivation for the role but do not yet have the skills to meet the task or behavioural requirements of the role. Leaders need to take a structured Coaching and Guiding approach with team members in this quadrant, ensuring that they have a specific development plan, with regular check-in points and reviews of skills attained and performance results. Investment here should include a full analysis of the individual’s capability to move from where they are currently. If they do not meet skills requirements within the planned timeframe or to the required standard, they should be treated as ‘Low Skill/ High Will’.


Capable – High Skill/ Low Will

Grumpy Experts

We define individuals in this quadrant as ‘Capable’ as they are most likely fulfilling the task requirements of the role and may be achieving performance targets. However, it is important that Leaders keep an eye on motivation levels here – individuals in this quadrant may also be ‘Grumpy Experts’ – i.e. those individuals who are capable, knowledgeable and experienced in their role and performing tasks well but may be demonstrating behaviours which do not support values, or may be demotivated, or having a negative behavioural impact on others.  This is often true of team members who have been in their role for a long time and are very comfortable – they may feel that they are overdue a promotion. Leaders need to take an exciting/supporting approach with individuals in this quadrant to encourage and inspire and ensure that behaviours are managed, and motivation levels are optimised. This could be the backstabber/ smiling assassin!


Excelling – High Skill/ High Will

Shining Stars

Individuals in this quadrant are described as ‘Excelling’, as they exceed expectations. This is where the business is going to get the best return. Invest sufficient time to keep engaged and grow for the future. Leaders need to invest in growing these individuals to achieve their full potential.  This will include delegation, asking them to deputise, giving them extra responsibilities and utilising them in the development of other team members. Leaders should also invest in preparing these individuals for future roles through targeted training and development which will provide the opportunity for promotion and keeping talent in the organisation.  Above all, individuals in this quadrant should be encouraged to own their own development and Leaders should support them in doing so. Keeping these individuals engaged and moving forward and upwards is key.


Doubtful- Low Skill/ Low Will

Can’t Cook, Won’t Cook!

Individuals who display little motivation and perform poorly. They may be in the wrong role. We define individuals in this quadrant as ‘Doubtful’ as there is an element of doubt as to the root cause – i.e. suitability vs ability vs motivation. Whilst it may be the case that they have capability or motivation issues because of underlying issues such as innate ability or attitude, it must also be considered that they may simply be in the wrong role.  The role of Leaders is therefore not to simply ‘write them off’ as problem/ disciplinary cases, but rather to conduct some root cause analysis into what the issues are and give people the chance to improve, with documented improvement expectations and clear feedback and direction, using a highly directive approach. Alternative job roles should be considered. Last resort is a move to exit.


Capable – Medium Skill/ Medium Will

Steady Eddies

Minimal Investment required… but keep a watching brief! We define individuals in this quadrant as ‘Capable’ as they are most likely fulfilling the task requirements of the role and may be achieving performance targets. However, it is important that Leaders keep an eye on motivation levels here. ‘Steady Eddie’ types in this quadrant refer to those members of the team who perform task well but are not motivated to move upwards or sideways.  Generally Steady Eddies will perform well, have positive behaviours, will be regarded as ‘steady’ in role, and may have reached their development potential.  We may therefore wish to keep them in role and maintain their performance.


If you wish to find out more about the Skill/Will Matrix and how to use it as part of your leadership toolkit, contact us

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OMT Global

Established in 1989, OMT works with large organisations to develop the leadership skills of their people managers, from first-time leaders right through to senior-level executives. We provide a range of consultancy, training and development services for organisations that want to further develop and retain their talent. OMT excels in helping organisations move from ad hoc or one-off efforts to a new way of behaving and working.

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