The Balance and Impact of Will and Skill

Author: James Western

Personnel Performance is one of the most important phrases to assess for each player on a team, whether this team is for a business or sport – the outcome is the same. It all starts with understanding the balance between a player’s effort (will) and their ability (skill)? Do the outcomes associated with this balance or imbalance play out for all to see? Let’s look at four NFL athletes to demonstrate the differences, knowing that this is to help us understand why both matter, rather than definitively proving that these scores are precise. Let’s begin with a simple system that measures both will and skill on a scale from 0 to 10, with zero representing no effort or ability at all, and ten representing each person’s best efforts and outstanding abilities.

As can be seen in the graph, Johnny Manziel’s short-term professional career reflects a will score of 3 and a skill score of 4, manifesting itself in a lack of playing time, professional success and ultimately team success. His personal interest trumped his professional commitment, earning him a low will score. Moreover, his lack of effort prevented him from improving his capabilities, resulting in him being released from the Cleveland Browns. Conversely, Terry Bradshaw’s will score is a 9 and his skill score is a 7, manifesting itself in him being a first string quarterback, being a member of the NFL Hall of Fame and winning four Super Bowls. The interesting element here is that his skill score is not light years ahead of Johnny’s. The point here is that having a strong will significantly helps drive impactful and positive outcomes even if the skill is not at 10.

On the other hand, some athletes have talent yet don’t have the desire and drive to perform at the level of which they are capable. Randy Moss is one of the greatest wide receivers in the history of the NFL as validated by statistical data. Near the end of his stint with the New England Patriots, however, he began to stop giving his all, which manifested in him catching fewer passes, playing less time and not contributing significantly to the team in the playoffs. His skill was most likely still present at a 9 but his will dropped down to 3 as could be seen many times as he wouldn’t even run routes when he wasn’t going to have the ball thrown to him.

Jerry Rice, on the other hand, has high scores in both areas. His will and skill are shown above as both being 9 (one could easily argue 10, but how do we ever know if any of us have reached our full potential)? He was an amazing player during his NFL career, is a member of the NFL Hall of Fame and helped the San Francisco 49ers win four Super Bowls. Thus, one can see that the overall personal and team success was manifested by him scoring high in both areas.

How to we digest this? Is the assessment as simple and irrefutable as outlined by the scenario above? No! Karl Malone and John Stockton never won NBA championships yet would both score high in will and skill. What we are looking for are fundamental trends rather than absolutes. When we consider the various employees (players) with whom we work (team), we can most likely correlate their overall impact to the organization by assessing their will and skill. Start by looking in the mirror and assessing your own will and skill while having your teammates anonymously do the same on your behalf. Every player should commit themselves to continuous improvement in both areas. That will establish us as All-Star players who hopefully make the championship game with our organization!

Bryan Ritchie and James Western are co-founders of GrowthSPORT, a successful consulting company whose mission is to improve SCORES (Stimulate Culture, Optimize Results and Engage Staff) for Teams, Divisions, Departments and Organizations through the SPORT model (Strategic Alignment, Personnel Performance, Operational Execution, Results Accountability and Team Strength), which are the Five Core Elements of Success.

GrowthSPORT provides resources, tools and experienced consultants to effectively implement the SPORT performance model from companies ranging from Startups to Fortune 500 companies.

Feel free to reach out to GrowthSPORT at (801) 676-2500 or at


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