Recognizing the Difference Between Skill and Will: An Essential Task of Leadership

The Management Training Program at NCG, Inc provides hands-on training and leadership experience to all of its participants. In learning how to manage a group of people, whether small or large, there are common obstacles that all leaders face. For this week’s blog post, we decided to delve into an interesting topic of leadership.

Bizior Photography -
Credit: Bizior Photography

If you’ve ever led a team, the following scenario will likely look familiar to you: You’ve got a team member with loads of potential. Let’s call him Ed. He seems bright, he’s got a solid education, he comes from a great family, he dresses sharp, he’s got tons of charisma… BUT… he doesn’t perform. You monitor his progress and he seems to be consistently dropping the ball. You wonder to yourself: “How can this be? Suzie, who doesn’t have half of his attributes or advantages, is totally kicking his butt!” Now it’s time to play doctor and diagnose Ed. Why is this apparent stud not getting the job done?

Our natural instinct, more than likely, is to assume that he lacks motivation. He’s sharp, he’s been successful before, so he’s simply failing because he isn’t bringing a strong work ethic to his current role. Right??…

NO! Not necessarily!

What we’re less likely to consider is that Ed is struggling with his new responsibilities because he lacks the essential knowledge to perform. He’s outside of his comfort zone and doesn’t know what he’s doing. What Ed needs, in this scenario, is most definitely not a pep talk. What he needs is actually a lesson. He needs the information and the practice necessary to perform at a higher level.

The ability to correctly distinguish between “skill” and “will” when it comes to the Eds of the world is a trait that all successful leaders possess. It’s easy to get frustrated with the members of our team for not carrying their weight, simply because we forget to verify that their toolboxes are filled with what’s needed to complete the job.

What are the consequences of failing to coach Ed correctly? This part should be obvious! We miss out on getting to work with them in their full glory. Not only do we fail to unleash their potential, but we often lose them as team members altogether. This is a lose lose situation that is easily avoided by an accurate diagnosis.

This is a phenomenon expertly addressed by Ken Blanchard’s Situational Leadership theory. Here at NCG, Inc we are big fans of this framework, and we highly suggest it to anyone looking to improve his or her leadership abilities.

As we head into the new week and the final week of May, we encourage you to think about this concept in regard to the people you manage. Our Trumbull-based team wishes you a successful week and we can’t wait to hear your feedback about how an awareness of “skill” versus “will” affects your coaching style.

Follow NCG, Inc on Instagram @NCGinc (easy to remember, right!)


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