Is it a question of Willingness or Ability?

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Willingness v Ability
Willingness v Ability

How would you approach coaching these characters?

John is something of an excited puppy. He works with great enthusiasm but often gives clients wrong information because he does not understand how fees are worked out. Several clients have registered complaints which makes John quite upset and you worry that his motivation and enthusiasm may wane

Ringo is a management graduate with a wide knowledge of business processes. However he is reluctant to delegate tasks and when he does he worries over his staff while they do it for him.

Georgina consistently uses inappropriate humour with customers, often coming across as sarcastic and disrespectful. She was scheduled to attend a customer care seminar but did not show up on the day.

Paul is suddenly and surprisingly becoming cynical and negative. He was once the first to embrace any new initiative, and still does, though not with the same enthusiasm. He has completed the required company training and recently passed a college diploma course however he has just told you that he does not feel his actions have any effect on how the department operates.

John is ‘Not able, but willing’. He has the motivation but not the skills. Use coaching to harness his motivation and create an environment where he is more willing to ask questions and seek explanations. You may need to be tolerant of his early mistakes.

Ringo is ‘Able, but not willing’. It is not that he doesn’t know how to delegate; it’s that he doesn’t put it into practice. He does not need more training (which may just frustrate him); he needs coaching through his interferences and to find his performance, learning and enjoyment through delegation.

Georgina is ‘Not able or willing’. If you consider it is worth investing more time in her, I would suggest you start on Willingness. You can use coaching to try to restore motivation, but will also need to monitor her performance quite closely and provide detailed feedback. After that, it’s up to her.

Paul is ‘Able and Willing’, but may not remain so unless we provide opportunities to take responsibility, to do so with our trust and encourage his awareness by seeking feedback and asking for this thoughts and suggestions.

The four combinations can be arranged on a graph as above.

Problems of ability are best solved with a dose of good old fashioned training and development. Problems with willingness are best dealt with through coaching. For far too long we have tried to solve problems of willingness as if they were problems of ability but this approach tends to make matters worse. Sending a highly capable but miserable sales person on some more sales training for example, will not solve the problem.

Matt Somers

Matt Somers

Matt Somers is the UK’s leading trainer of managers as coaches. His coaching skills training programmes, books, articles and seminars have helped thousands of managers achieve outstanding results through their people.

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