Coaching to Skill or Will

One of the hardest parts of being a leader is confronting an underperformer. It is difficult because it is uncomfortable. Sometimes it is difficult because you just don’t know what to do to help that person.

When someone is not reaching their potential, it is always a matter either of skill or of will. Our job as leaders is to identify which one that it is so that we can solve the problem.

To understand what someone needs and how to coach someone’s skill or will up, let’s talk about the four categories of people in terms of their skill and will.

  1. The first category of person has high skill and high will.

    This is someone you want on your team. Keep working with them to keep both high.

  2. The second category of person has high will but low skill.

    If they were effective, it was because they were lucky. Luck is not a sustainable strategy. Someone who has the will can be developed; what they need is training, such as books, videos, shadowing, roleplaying, and/or studying.

  3. The third category of person has high skill but low will.

    These people are frustrating. They know what to do, have the capacity, and have all the potential in the world. You need to diagnose why they are lacking motivation. Do they not have goals? Do they not have a vision? Do they understand their purpose? Do they have good self-talk and an abundance mentality? If their motivation keeps waning, then they need accountability with consequences. Each time they miss the mark, there must be a consequence. If they miss the mark three times in a row, they should be asked to be successful somewhere else. If you allow them to stay, it sets a bad example for the organization.

  4. The fourth category of person has low skill and low will.

    This person will be an underperformer. They don’t know what to do and they don’t really want to do it. They are idle and useless to the organization. You have to ask yourself, “Is this person trainable at all?” If you have any doubts, they are probably a candidate to be terminated.

Leadership is about finding out what is holding someone back and then removing that barrier to their success. It makes it easier when you understand it is always a matter of skill or will.

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