Unlock Your Team’s Potential: How to Manage Different Skill and Will Levels

Unlock Your Team’s Potential: How to Manage Different Skill and Will Levels

Mick Holly: *Welcome to Change and Sustain the podcast where we take you on a journey of organizational transformation, exploring the power of people, process, systems, and technology. I’m your host, Mick Holly, and today we are discussing the topic of skill versus will. How to apply differing approaches to different parts of your organization in order to give *everyone *what they need to work in concert. With me to discuss this topic is our resident partner with the skill, the will, and usually lands with the bill Brian Smith.*

Brian Smith: * Good afternoon , are you?*

Mick Holly: * *Marvelous. Marvelous. I’m super motivated today.

Brian Smith: As usual, you’re the most motivated guy in the room. What are we talking about today? It’s not matrices, is it?

Mick Holly: Oh it’s A tricky one. We’re gonna have to do a little bit of a mental imagination, but it will not be beyond the power of our audience. Here. We want you to imagine a two by two matrix, so on the left hand side. Of the matrix, we have the will or motivation. So as you move up that y axis, the level of motivation, the level of will increases.

And then on the X axis we’ve got skill. So we have low skill on the left side and high skill. On the right side. And what that gives us a four simple quadrants. So you, we’ve got the lower left quadrant, low will, low skill. As we rise up, we get high will. Low skill. And then on the right hand side we have high skill, but low will and then high skill and high will.

So we’re gonna bring each of those quadrants to life. So hopefully I haven’t lost either myself or you Brian, with that description, we got a picture in your head.

Brian Smith: As, as long as you continue to talk slowly. Mick, I think I can hold this matrix in my mind.

Mick Holly: Okay. What would we do with that? The good old two by two matrix. Anyway, the issue we’re dealing with Brian, is that our clients say they can’t hire good people or they don’t have the right people, or they don’t, they’re not motivated. These people today, they’re not motivated enough or they’re not engaged.

We hear these laments so many times but. Not everybody is in the same level of skill or same level of will. so we are not a vanilla coaching organization. We recognize to unlock potential and to turn that into reality, we have to apply ourselves slightly differently for different people. So thinking about those four quadrants. Who are we talking about so the audience can picture maybe some of those people in their enterprise?

Brian Smith: Yeah these are maybe new folks to your organization. They may be folks who have decreased in motivation over time. But these are folks that you need to identify specifically because they’re not necessarily providing everything that you need for your company to function well.

Mick Holly: Not everybody is gonna be, wanting to be the next superstar, right? Some people just come to work to do their job and they do it. Relatively effectively, but they’re not aiming to be the c e o or the vp. They just want to do, a basic job.

So the people with low will and low skill, they’re not self-starters. Then the management style, the coaching style we have to use with those people is that we’ve got to be a little bit more direct. We’ve got to supervise them more closely. We have to have a shorter interval controls so that they don’t get out of.

Out of whack with what we’re trying to do or the tasks that we assign them to are. Functional for the organization, but that might not be mission critical. So they play a very valuable role. I’m not saying these people are to be ejected, jettisoned or pilled, it’s just recognizing that.

They have a different appetite for doing things. And in order for us to utilize these people and to realize as much potential for them, we have to have a more direct supervisory input. And we Work with a lot of those people and they’re very capable.

Brian Smith: Absolutely. Yeah. It’s, but it is something that we need to deal with. It’s a harsh reality, but the fact of the matter is those with low motivation can spread that low motivation through. Others rather quickly. Those kind of break room conversations of, I don’t wanna do this and I dunno why we’re doing that, et cetera, et cetera, that can propagate relatively quickly.

So we need to deal with that stuff and we can deal with that stuff by using active supervision and what we call short interval control, which is making sure that we tell people exactly what to do and exactly how to do it, and then do frequent follow up. If you like and have high contact supervision.

So folks are not just wandering around the plant doing what they want to do and when they want to do it, they are actively supervised and we make sure we give them meaningful tasks and check that they’re doing them on a frequent basis. If we don’t do that they’re gonna suffer because of it. They won’t be as productive as they potentially could be.

Mick Holly: And again, Brian, you always bring out the most profound observations there. Getting the best out of this type of person is you. You’ve gotta have absolute clarity on what you want them to do, because they’re not gonna think around the problem. They’re not gonna make it up, they’re not going to do research.

You’ve gotta be crystal clear on what. You want them to do when you need them to do it. And the fact that you’re gonna report back on it, and they, you give them the right resources to be able to do it and let them execute. But if you give them confusion, lack of clarity, ask them to work their way through it, you, you’re just not gonna get to an outcome.

And so the consulting approach there that we use is that, Accountability action log, follow up and review. Very powerful mechanism to get real value and to take these people to another level of performance, which sometimes even surprises them.

Brian Smith: Absolutely. It’s crucial to put the right sort of metrics and measures and systems around those folks to make sure. you’ve got ’em on the boat.

Mick Holly: Let’s move up to the next quadrant. We’re gonna go up with higher levels of will, so we’ve got high level of motivation, but there’s still. Pretty low in their skill level. It may be a new recruit in your organization. They’re full of vim and vigor. They wanna go and knock down walls, but they can be a little bit dangerous ’cause they don’t have the skills, they don’t have the knowledge.

*What do we do to coach those people to success?*

Brian Smith: Sure. Obviously this is a different group of folks. You have to treat them somewhat differently. High motivation is something which can be lost pretty quickly unless you I. Promote it and recognize it. So what these folks need Is supervisory contact of a different nature. They don’t need to be asked in the last hour, how many widgets did you make?

But they’ve got the motivation to do what you are asking them to do. They require perhaps more academic coaching if you like. They require somebody who can be around them on a frequent basis and answer the questions that they’ve got. Why are we doing it this way? Why do I do this? How does that work?

All these kinds of things that people are in a high learning mode are likely to ask, you need to be able to respond to. So they need the right kind of supervision, people who’ve maybe been around the block and can act as a mentor. And in addition to that, you need the right training materials. If you’re gonna, if you’re going to get these folks to be self-starters and you’re gonna meet their them where they have a need, you have to give them the right training materials.

You have to expose them to the right kinds of training such that they can learn by themselves and cross the barrier into a higher skill level and be a boon for the organization.

Mick Holly: Yeah. And having them on we, when we do our improvement projects in the la in the previous episode, we were talking about internal improvement teams and how can you use these people to, greatest effect is give them a, like a little education, put them on a work stream in a project so that they’re next to either illuminary in your organization, or it might be a consultant who has a lot of expertise and they’re like sponges.

They absorb it ’cause they’re thirsty, they’re excited, they’re motivated, they want to learn as much as possible. So you want to put them in areas where they’re going to grow. They’re gonna be your future, they’re gonna be your future leaders. So you want to grow those people as, as well as you can.

Brian Smith: Ab, absolutely. And you have to be ahead of the game there. You cannot slow them down or else they’ll become demotivated. So provide them everything that they need and that’ll work just fine.

Mick Holly: All right. Now let’s go to our problem quadrant, which is we have high skill, but low will and. We often think about this quadrant of people being passengers. The journey in the business journey, right? They’ve got a high level of capability. And sometimes these people have been in the enterprise a long time and once we’re rainmakers or big change, they did something really successful and they’re living on their laurels and they sometimes feel you have these people in your organization, you’ll recognize them.

They have a sense of entitlement. I’ve already proven myself. I don’t need to. Improve myself so some more. And so they take their foot off the accelerator and get a little bit complacent, a little bit too comfortable. You’ve met these people, Brian, right?

Brian Smith: Absolutely, and I’m really glad that we’re talking about this group. This is perhaps one of the key groups that leaders need to be concerned about because these are the folks potentially who’ve been in the organization quite some time and they have a lot of tacit or tribal knowledge.

This is the guy who knows which bolts go at the top of that machine and what the talk setting is for those bolts. But that isn’t written down anywhere. So if that person leaves, that knowledge exits with them. So they can be crucial to the way in which the organization functions. They’ve got lots and lots of knowledge that they’ve acquired over years, and if those folks are running around in a sort of demotivated state, if they’re.

Spreading that to others in the organization. Number one, you’re not getting the best out of them. And number two, because they’re the old guard folks who’ve been there a long time, they’ll be listened to by the newbies and they could potentially bring a lot of people down with them too. So you’ve got to go after these folks directly.

It’s really important.

Mick Holly: Yeah. It’s a it’s an, it is an interesting group and sometimes it’s hard to think about how do I address performance? How do I have a performance discussion with some of these talented people? I don’t want, I don’t want, I don’t want to criticize them because they’ve been, they have a lot of skill, but it you can actually now.

Break the conversation down into skill and will and say, look, you are one of our most talented people. You are the leading expert in this area. We re we rely on you. But I’ve noticed lately that you’ve been a little bit disengaged. What’s behind that? And it allows you to have a human discussion, right?

As leaders, as managers, we have to recognize people are human beings. They have issues. They have issues at home. They have issues in their relationships within their. In a financial situation and sometimes those things can overpower them. And our job is to try and create the conditions for people to be success.

They want to be listened to. And if you can help them get into a better frame, address any issues, might be some barriers they’ve got internally we can then reinvigorate this critical population. You don’t wanna waste that talent.

Brian Smith: I’m always amazed at how much we can achieve by reaching out to people individually and treating them like. Humans rather than part of the workforce. It’s an amazing trick that almost always works. We get to reach out to folks individually and deal with them where they are with the problems that they have, such that we can individually craft a method to get them back on, on the team, as it were now.

If you’ve got lots of these folks that might require lots and lots of individual coaching if you like, but given that’s where all the knowledge or most of the knowledge is in your organization it’s really important to get that done and get those folks back on the team.

Mick Holly: Yeah, it’s an area we focus on when we come in and even just asking them questions and asking for their ideas gets them reengaged. It perks them up and they say, nobody else is asking me this. And they feel a little ostracized. They become a little marooned in their area.

Everybody thinks everything’s hunky dory with them because, They’re, they’ve been this great, prestigious talent. They don’t need any help. But yeah, those people need to help in getting to the next level in, staying present. All right, let’s turn to our final quadrant. These are the stars, right?

They have a high level of motivation and they have a high level of skill. What do we do with them, Brian? We just leave them alone.

Brian Smith: It’s a great problem to have, isn’t it? These are folks who are almost always a pleasure to work with. It’s not, that’s not exclusively true, but most of the time these folks are great to work with. You can regard these guys definitely as future leaders and quite s Honestly, the best thing to do with your high skill, high will employees is to give them.

Hairy audacious goals straight out of the book and get out of their way while they go take the hill. That’s the way to motivate them, give them something meaty to chew on, and don’t get too picky about how they go about doing. That task or achieving that task or goal. If you don’t challenge these folks, these highly made motivated folks, you’re gonna lose them.

You’re gonna lose the, they will lose their motivation because they don’t feel like they’ve got something to chew on. And the risk is they’ll leave of their own accord. They’ll say, you know what, I’m not valued here. They’re not giving me anything that’s important to do, so I’m just gonna go find something important to do in a different organization.

And that is a huge loss. For your organization. Of course, the key word I would I would add here, Mick, is empowerment. We need to empower these folks. We can call ’em stars to go do difficult things that benefit the entire organization. Now, getting out of the way of folks like that, by the way, is sometimes really difficult for a leader to do, to release control.

It’s counterintuitive, if you like, but the best leaders that. I think we’ve ever come across are great because they empower and motivate folks and teams, and then they ride that crest of achievement driven by the people that they have empowered. That’s how to get the most done and to be the best leader you can.

Mick Holly: To that point, they need to be celebrated when they when they win they need to be held up. They like that recognition. You don’t have to pay these and put them on a bonus plan or anything like that. People want to achieve and accomplish those high motivated people.

They want to Exceed their goals. And the getting the recognition is powerful for them, but also for the rest of the organization, you are saying, here’s somebody we would like you to emulate. This is the kind of behavior that will lead you to success in our organization. Don’t be shy about calling them out, putting them on a pedestal a little bit.

They’ll enjoy your organization. We’ll also enjoy it, and if we get to work with you, we’d like some of those people on our.

Brian Smith: Of course, just 12 or 13.

Mick Holly: All right, so we’ve talked about the four quadrants. It’s a simple device. You can just put, do a little piece of paper and you could plot people in your organization and just think about the different ways you might engage those different populations, even in your. As you go about your day-to-day, it’s a fun little exercise to do, and it gets you to think a little bit about, is somebody losing their way?

Is somebody’s enthusiasm dying? What can I do to intervene, et cetera. Brian, once again, your your comments were in insightful. Any closing thoughts from you?

Brian Smith: Just to reiterate that if you’ve got a huge problem like this, a peanut butter approach is not gonna work for you. Just divide the problem up into pieces and tackle the pieces differently. Always works.

Mick Holly: That was a, that was crunchy peanut butter or smooth, more crunchy peanut butter there. I thought

Brian Smith: Crunchy peanut butter is the only peanut butter. I will not be challenged on this, Mick.

Mick Holly: I’ll remember that when I’m organizing the catering for our next event,

Brian Smith: Very good.

Mick Holly: All right. We’ve come to the end of the show. Thank you to our listeners for joining us on this episode of Change and Sustain. Hit that subscribe button to be alerted for more stories of organizational change and insights into driving sustainable success.

See you next time.

Related Posts