The Difference between Willing and Able

August 31, 2009

At a time when organisations are increasingly focussing on performance, it is important for managers to pick the correct strategy for managing their employees.  One size definitely does not fit all. For example, it important for managers to understand the difference between those who are willing and those who are able.  The impact of this difference will influence how an employee should be managed.

Ability is what I am capable of doing – do I have the skills, competency and experience to successfully do the job (assuming I have the correct direction from my manager).  Willingness is based on my motivation, satisfaction and my engagement with my job, my boss and the company.  It is an easy mistake to mix up the two; if you do you may end up mismanaging your employees.

If I have the ability but am demotivated (i.e. I have low willingness), my manager needs to focus on my motivation.  Training or developing will not fix the problem.  If I am willing but do not yet have the ability, development is the most appropriate starting point.  The optimum is employees who have a high ability and willingness; these employees should be empowered to achieve their full potential.