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The Performance/Leadership Matrix: A map for staff development

To set your leadership development plan into motion, this tool uses consistent criteria in both demonstrated job performance and demonstrated leadership competencies to produce an accurate map of staff development needs.

Demonstrated job performance is a more-or-less straightforward measure, based in a combination of how well the individual has fulfilled her assigned role, and how well she’s mastered needed job competencies. To measure demonstrated leadership competencies, on the other hand, those qualities must be defined according to organizational values: What best indicates potential for taking a leadership position in your organization? Some examples that might make your list: commitment to the organization, emotional intelligence, strategic thinking, or success developing others.

After defining both the job competencies and leadership competencies required, supervisors use the graph (shown below) to plot their direct reports according to demonstrated job performance (along the horizontal axis) and demonstrated leadership competencies (along the vertical access). The operative word here is demonstrated—that is, what that person has actually done, and the qualities they have already exhibited, as opposed to what you think they could do.

Once a person is plotted on the Matrix, you’re in a position to answer the question, How are we going to move him up the leadership axis? In addition, plotting every employee onto a single graph will give you a picture of the team as a whole, and how people in the organization are trending.

Each of the colored areas in the Matrix pictured below indicates a general assessment for staffers who fall within them, which you can use as a starting point for creating targeted development plans.

Blue: Most of your people will likely fall in the middle of the matrix, which indicates an employee who is doing well, but who has room to develop in both job performance (moving to the right) and leadership competencies (moving up).

Yellow: Those in the bottom right-hand corner are high-performing staffers vital to the organization, but who lack either demonstrated leadership or the desire to advance. The challenge is to keep this employee motivated with growth opportunities, even though a leadership position is not in his future.

Orange: Someone who falls in the upper left-hand corner demonstrates low job performance, but valuable leadership qualities. These employees generally fall into two categories: those who are underutilized, and those ill-suited for the organization. The questions to ask: Would they be more effective performing another function? Could they be in the wrong organization entirely?

Green: Those in the upper right-hand corner demonstrate high job performance and high leadership potential. These folks are ready for a broader leadership role right now. The questions for them: Is there room in the organization to advance this person’s career? If not, how long can we keep her engaged in what she’s doing? Even if you can’t hold on to these employees, says Camp Twin Lakes CEO Eric Robbins, that doesn’t mean you stop investing in them: “Our rule is that, if you can only grow by joining another organization, we want to help you do that.”

Properly plotted, the Matrix enables you to identify challenges and development goals for each individual, as well as prepare talent to take on the leadership positions that will open up in the future.

Employee A: Doing well, but with room to develop in both job performance and leadership competencies. Find stretch assignments that challenge them in both dimensions.

Employee B: Vital performer, but without the potential (and/or desire) to take on a leadership role. Keep this staffer motivated with creative growth opportunities.

Employee C: Low job performance, but high leadership potential. Rethink role, consider organizational fit.

Employee D: Vital performer, demonstrated leader. Expand leadership role and consider promotion, if possible.


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