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The High Low Matrix can help managers overcome one of the more challenging aspects of their role which is understanding what motivates their employees. It's easy to assume that because you are motivated by knowing you did a good job or by making an impact on your environment, that others feel this enthusiasm as well. In the real world, people have many different motivations.

In turn, people also have different levels of skill sets for particular tasks. Their level of skill can often depend on their experience, the level of training they have received, or the type of task itself.

Since most coaching techniques rely on the employees skills and their will to accomplish a goal, it is important to understand how these two aspects work together. This knowledge will help you to better craft your approach with your employees and teams to get the best results possible from each individual.

Let's start by introducing the High Low Matrix.

As you can see, the High Low Matrix coaching model is a punnet square of an employee's will vs. skill and contains some coaching techniques to utilize based on where the associate falls.

Let's get into further detail about how to use this coaching model and discuss each of the coaching techniques to use once we've identified where our employee falls on the High Low Matrix.

First, how do we identify if an employee is exhibiting or feeling a high degree of will? This should be somewhat obvious from how they approach their work. If tasks that are not skill related are still delivered in a less than stellar fashion or their attitude has taken a change recently, you can infer that the associate's motivation has slipped. Utilizing the IGROW Model will help you to determine the root causes for any changes in behavior.

Assessing their skill is typically a much simpler task as it is likely why you are here. You have no doubt seen results from your employee or team that do not meet your expectations and therefore have determined a change must be made. Again, to determine the exact skill that the associate is struggling with that has caused the poor performance, the IGROW Model is recommended.

Now that you have determined both the employee's skill level and their will level, it is time to discuss the coaching techniques that you should apply based on where the employee falls in the High Low Matrix coaching model.

High Low Matrix Coaching Model: Advise

HiLoAdviseAre you faced with an employee that is highly motivated, yet as much as they want it, they just can't seem to deliver the results needed? This is your low skilled, high willed employee. In order to effectively apply coaching techniques to this type of employee, the Advise phase of the High Low Matrix coaching model should be applied. Advising is focused on providing the skills necessary to turn the employee's motivation into success. By focusing on teaching or training the skill, you will leverage the employee's desire and provide them with the necessary tools to improve. Throughout the learning process, it is key that you continually give the employee praise and endorsement for their improvements. Remember, you may be expecting great leaps, but even baby steps deserve some positive reinforcement. Skipping this valuable step could result in a backslide in will and you'll then have a whole other set of challenges to deal with.

High Low Matrix Coaching Model: Motivate

HiLoMotivateAt the other end of the spectrum, you may be faced with an employee who has the necessary skill set to deliver and perhaps has delivered great results in the past, but is experiencing a will issue that is apparent in their performance. Again, utilizing the IGROW Model will help you to identify what has occurred or changed and impacted their level of motivation. This coaching model will also help you determine if your approach should be one of Coaching vs. Counseling. When faced with an employee who lacks the will there are some key areas to focus on while trying to re-engage the employee. Start by determining what the employee's 'hot buttons' or motivators are. This can be done as simply as by asking what they take the most pride in at work or how they like to be recognized for a job well done. Once you have determined their hot buttons, focus on them. Whenever the employee does deliver, use your new found knowledge to show your appreciation. Next you should determine if there are any road blocks or constraints that the employee is experiencing. Often times removing these road blocks or providing options, can alleviate their challenges with motivation.

High Low Matrix Coaching Model: Direct

HiLoDirectFor situations that involve a low skilled and low willed employee, the Direct coaching technique should be utilized. Directing is focused on a combination of the previously discussed coaching techniques applied together. Since this employee is not very skilled and is not very motivated, the two key areas to focus on are training and praising. You will first need to provide the employee with the tools to develop their skills. This does not mean that the tools you provide, such as training, have to be new information to them, but can offer reinforcement to information they have already been presented with. Because the employee is not delivering results there can often be a challenge with their confidence level that is inhibiting their ability to apply new or existing skills. Giving the employee low risk opportunities to practice their skills and to succeed, will give you the ability to provide them with the positive feedback they need, and will result in a confidence building experience for them. This is one of the better coaching techniques to apply with this type of employee.

High Low Matrix Coaching Model: Delegate

HiLoDelegateThe last type of employee is the high skilled, high willed employee. These are typically your top performers that consistently provide results and strive to do a good job. They are a motivating force for themselves and typically for your team. If they are succeeding, you may wonder why we are discussing their development? Many schools of thought tell us to always focus on bringing up our bottom performers, and this often times leaves a lack of focus on our top performers. Since these high skilled, high willed employees are likely your future leaders, utilizing the Delegate coaching technique can help them to develop to the next level. Delegating is often misused in the business world today. Many managers use this technique not for development but as a way to reduce their work load or stress by shoving the work onto their team. This is not always a bad thing, but what most managers don't do is follow up on the opportunities they've delegated to others or provide them with the tools or resources to succeed. Delegation, when used effectively, will often take more time than just doing the task yourself. You should not be using this technique as a means to reduce your workload as you will be working through the task with your high performer, helping them to learn and master it. This is how development through delegation works. Giving your highly motivated top performers the opportunity to be challenged and to continue to learn will ensure they continue to be your highly motivated top performers. While delegating you should also focus on praising and endorsing what they do well as well as offering them opportunities to either make decisions or to collaborate on decisions being made. This will continue to instill a sense of ownership in them.

As we have discussed, each scenario you are faced with requires a different approach or coaching technique to achieve the desired results. To ensure you are successful in your approach, be sure to spend time prior to your coaching session thinking about where the associate falls, what motivates them, and what options you may want to offer. Being prepared for the discussion will make a great difference.

For greater details on how to build skill and motivation, see the article on the Motivational Chain of Events.