In an earlier article (click here) I talked about the importance of practice to develop skills. There is another dimension to performance in addition to skill and knowledge…WILL. Max Landsberg presented the Skill/Will Matrix in his book The Tao of Coaching. In a future article I will discuss the broader application of his matrix. The purpose of this article is to stimulate thinking on how to deal with an employee whose low will is a constraint to improved performance.
How often do we see the performance of a professional athlete in the early stages of their career fall off dramatically when there has been no reason for their skill to have decreased? The will to perform is the dimension at play in these situations. It may be having signed a lucrative contract that impacts the will of a professional athlete. In business environments it may be distractions in an employee’s personal life or circumstances at work that dilute the will to perform a particular function.
If the cause is found to be in their personal life, empathy may be effective in helping them share their burden. Once they have found support for their personal issue, focusing on a work task may be an effective way to distract them from their personal issue. This is not the time to be tough on an employee you wish to retain.
When the cause is work related, here are some questions that can help you identify the source of impaired will:
Does the employee feel appreciated? Have they been recognized when they have done outstanding work?
Do they understand the importance of their job to the company’s mission?
Do they have access to the people and other resources they need to perform at a high level?
Is the employee’s workload reasonable? Too often we keep throwing responsibilities at our top performers until we may have unknowingly broken their will.
Is the employee receiving feedback on their performance? Is it given in the spirit of helping the person improve?
Are the metrics being used to measure performance appropriate? Most employee evaluations are a combination of objective metrics and subjective judgement. If they are telling different stories the employee will be confused and demotivated.
If you are not their direct supervisor, is their supervisor taking a genuine interest in them and not just their work?
Does there seem to be a systemic lack of will among your employees? If so, you will need to address your organizational culture.
Most employees join an organization with their will at a high level (if this is not the case, your hiring practices have serious flaws). If you cannot identify a source of impaired will it may be as simple as boredom. In this instance motivation must come in the form of exciting the employee. Find ways to make the job fun and meaningful, show them an appealing career path. Tailor the motivation to the individual employee’s needs and desires. Be a cheerleader if need be.
Some people are self-motivated and you will rarely see their will flag. Others may need frequent encouragement in various forms. We all experience dilution of will at some point. Sometimes we can’t even identify the cause in ourselves without serious thought and reflection. Be prepared for a deep conversation with an employee when identifying the cause of their loss of will.
The good news is that a lack of will can often be addressed more quickly than a lack of skill. Skill takes time to develop. Will is a state of mind and can be impacted immediately in many instances.
For more thoughts on how you can build a high-performance business visit