Skill Will Matrix: A Guide for Managers (+Free Template)

skill will matrix

There is no one-size fits all approach to leadership. Some employees require more guidance, others require more incentive, while others do just fine when allowed to work independently. This can make managing a team of unique employees challenging. 

In today’s dynamic business landscape, effective leadership and management require a keen understanding of team members’ skills, abilities, and willingness to take on challenges. 

The skill will matrix is a powerful skills matrix tool widely utilized in talent management and employee development that offers a structured approach to assess and classify individuals based on their skill levels and willingness to perform specific tasks. This article delves into the concept of the skill will matrix, exploring its purpose, use cases, and practical applications.

What Is a Skill Will Matrix?

The skill will matrix is a tried and true employee development and performance benchmarking tool that managers use to determine the appropriate management style for a given employee based on that employee’s ability to complete a task, as well as their willingness to complete it. It comes from a situational leadership model conceived by author and leadership experts Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey in 1970.  In 1996, it was adapted by leadership expert Max Landsberg in his book, The Tao of Coaching.

The skill will matrix is a 2×2 matrix with the degree of will on the vertical axis and skill on the horizontal. In this system, will encompasses motivation, willingness, and enthusiasm, while skill includes capability and competency.  With this tool, managers assess the combination of will and skill that a given employee possesses and choose a strategy accordingly.

skill-will matrix

Four Quadrants of the Skill Will Matrix

Each quadrant on the skill will matrix represents different combinations of employee skill and will. By determining which of these quadrants an employee fits into, managers can use the matrix to determine which coaching styles may work best for that individual.

Delegate: High Skill, High Motivation

Employees with high levels of both skill and will are high performers, often up for a challenge. These team members can handle a more hands-off leadership style and can be delegated tasks without worry. Employees in this quadrant can complete their tasks in a timely manner without prodding and can serve as effective employee mentors and trainers as well. Managers should empower these employees with additional responsibilities and task ownership, and look at them to be future leaders.

Guide: High Will, Low Skill

Some employees are eager to get working but lack the knowledge or technical ability necessary to complete tasks independently. Given the proper guidance, these team members can be incredibly productive and successful. These employees benefit from various types of employee training programs to help them build the skillsets they need to become future leaders in the workplace. 

Excite: High Skill, Low Motivation

Employees that fall into this category possess plenty of skill but lack the motivation to perform at their highest capabilities. These employees can benefit from improved employee experience, incentivization, and close attention to their needs. 

Direct: Low Skill, Low Will

Employees that lack both the skill and will to perform require close guidance and attention. These team members may not start out as great fits for their roles but can become more productive employees if given the direction and motivation they need.

Skill vs Will: What’s the Difference?

To implement the skill will matrix, managers must understand the definition of skill and will in a business context. 


Skills are the particular creative, intellectual, and practical abilities employees possess that allow them to perform a particular task. Employees acquire different skills through on-the-job experience, shadowing, and training and may have different levels of skill proficiency depending on their experience and aptitude.


Will, on the other hand, is the motivation an employee has for performing a given task or function of their role. An employee’s will may be determined by their professional experience, incentives, and professional goals. It may also fluctuate based on an employee’s personal life and confidence. 

Use Cases of the Skill Will Matrix

Here are some use cases of the Skill Will Matrix in an organization.

1. Organizational restructuring

When a business restructures, employee roles may shift. The skill will Matrix helps team members adapt and realign their work with new objectives. Managers can use the matrix to reassign responsibilities and maximize efficiency within their newly restructured departments. 

2. New team members

As new employees settle into their roles, managers observe their working styles and determine which quadrant of the skill will matrix they fall into. This way, managers can be certain they are leading their team members effectively from their start with the department or organization. However, is important to reassess leadership styles periodically as employees grow. 

3. Improving leadership

The skill will matrix helps leaders improve their relationships with their employees and facilitate the growth and success of their teams. To get started, managers can schedule one-on-one meetings with team members to set a baseline and gather information to determine which quadrant fits best with their needs. Employees and their managers will benefit from leaders shifting into a more versatile approach to leadership that considers the needs of individuals within their workforce. 

4. Building agile teams

When leaders are tasked with assembling agile teams for cross-functional projects, the skill will matrix can be used in several ways – to select the most fitting employees for the needs of the project, whether it requires all self-starters with plenty of skill or if there is room for employees looking to build on their skill sets. Once the team is set, leaders can use the matrix to assess the needs of contributors and lead them to success. 

Create personalized learning & training flows for your employees with Whatfix

Examples of the Skill Will Matrix in Action

Let’s look at some examples of the Skill Will matrix in action.

Scenario 1: High Will, Low Skill

Employees that are willing to put in the work but lack the skill to meet responsibilities on their own need leaders that can keep them motivated while providing opportunities for growth through training and shadowing. Managers must offer constructive feedback as employees work through their tasks, develop clear goals for employee growth, and schedule regular check-ins to keep things on track. These efforts demonstrate commitment to their growth and help transform them into high performers.

Scenario 2: High Will, High Skill

High performers may not require much oversight, these employees benefit from leadership styles aimed at maintaining high performance and meeting their needs. Leaders must stay connected to these team members so they feel comfortable reaching out if issues arise, affecting their motivation or ability to stay productive in their roles. Leaders should provide them with opportunities relevant to their goals, let them know their work is appreciated, and consider them for promotions when they fit the bill.

Scenario 3: Low Will, High Skill

When employees have the skills they need but lack motivation, leaders must encourage productivity by improving employee engagement and setting expectations for performance. Managers should stay in close communication with these employees and try to understand their professional goals and factors affecting their engagement. Work together with these team members to identify opportunities that might spark their motivation and build trust to improve their experience and increase their will. 

Scenario 4: Low Will, Low Skill

Employees with low levels of both skill and will might not start out as good fits for their roles but could have the potential to grow given the right attention and opportunities. Managers must communicate clearly with these team members and ensure they understand the root causes of any shortcomings. From there, lay out performance and training plans for these employees, and provide close guidance as they complete tasks and projects. In the end, if none of these efforts improve performance, moving them into a new position or removing them from the organization might make the most sense. 

All in all, the skill will matrix is a simple and versatile tool that business leaders can use to assess their employees’ performance, training needs, and develop more successful teams overall. Use this Skill Will Matrix Template to begin building the most effective leadership strategies for your team. 

Get a customizable copy of your Skill Will Matrix template now!

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Empower your employees with contextual in-app guidance and on-demand self-help with Whatfix

A skill will matrix is a powerful tool for evaluating the competencies of your team members. It uncovers skill gaps, highlights strengths, improves organizational planning, and guides the hiring processes.

Once you understand your employee training needs via the skill will matrix, the next step is to implement a digital adoption platform such as Whatfix to get the maximum ROI on your employee learning and development programs. 

Using a DAP as your training software empowers employees to upskill themselves on the latest tools, applications, and digital processes without disrupting their workflow and productivity. It’s the best resource to make your employee development plans future-ready and valuable.

With Whatfix, L&D teams are empowered with no-code tools to create in-app guided content, such as step-by-step flows, interactive walkthroughs, task lists, smart tips, and self-help knowledge bases that overlay on your digital applications and processes. Organizations are able to capture employee event data to understand how their workforce is engaging with their digital applications, allowing L&D teams to understand the levels of software adoption, feature adoption, digital skill gaps, and more – and to refine their onboarding, training, and development programs.

Intrigued to learn more about Whatfix training? Schedule a free demo with us today!

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