If You Lead People and Don’t Know What a 9-Box Matrix is…

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One of the biggest mistakes many managers make is neglecting their top performers on the team. It’s a common trap to fall into, assuming that since they are already excelling, they don’t need as much attention or support. However, this mindset can be detrimental, leading to disengagement, missed growth opportunities, and even the loss of valuable talent.

So, why does this happen?

The answer lies in the lack of objective thinking about the team as a whole. Managers who fail to assess their team’s performance and potential in a systematic and unbiased manner often overlook the specific needs of their top performers. They may not recognize the importance of advocating for their advancement, removing obstacles from their path, or providing differentiated treatment that acknowledges their exceptional contributions.

This is where the 9-box matrix comes into play. By utilizing this tool, managers gain valuable insights into their team’s performance on a monthly basis, allowing them to make informed decisions and take appropriate actions. The 9-box matrix is a simple yet effective exercise that provides clear visibility into each team member’s potential (though it may be challenging to judge accurately) and their performance during a specific month.

Imagine having a visual representation of your team, where you can plot each member’s name within the matrix based on their perceived potential and performance. This exercise makes it glaringly obvious what steps you need to take as a manager. The matrix serves as a guide, prompting you to focus your attention and efforts where they are needed the most.

Let’s break down the actions to take based on the placement of team members within the matrix:

  1. Green Category: These are your top performers with significant potential. For those falling in this category, it’s crucial to list out the strategies you can implement to retain their talent. Consider options such as promotions, recognition, financial incentives, increased responsibility, or access to new opportunities. These individuals deserve to be rewarded for their exceptional contributions and should be given clear pathways for growth.

  2. Yellow Category: Members in this category exhibit potential but may have some skill deficits or areas for improvement. Identify their top two skill deficiencies and develop a plan to address them. This could involve providing targeted training, coaching, or mentoring to help them bridge the gap and reach their full potential. By investing in their development, you not only enhance their skills but also demonstrate your commitment to their growth.

  3. Third Category: This category comprises individuals who consistently underperform or display low potential. It may be necessary to consider removing them from the team. It’s important to note that terminating an employee should always be done in accordance with the appropriate protocols and legal requirements. Familiarize yourself with the guidelines and procedures outlined in the “ultimate guide to PIPs” to ensure a fair and legally compliant process.

By consistently using the 9-box matrix, you can proactively manage your team, nurture top talent, and address performance gaps. This approach ensures that your top performers receive the attention and support they deserve while simultaneously providing opportunities for growth and improvement to those who may need it. Ultimately, this practice helps you cultivate a high-performing team that is driven, engaged, and aligned with the organization’s goals.

In conclusion, neglecting top performers is a common pitfall for managers. However, by adopting a systematic approach such as the 9-box matrix, managers can effectively identify and cater to the unique needs of their top talent. By investing time, resources, and recognition into these individuals, managers can foster an environment that encourages excellence and supports the long-term success of both the team and the organization.

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