In several occasions, I ask people; once they complain about the performance of a colleague, subordinate or even a manager, “Is he unable or unwilling”?. The answer I; most often, receive is: “what! I do not know”. Many perceived my question to be so theoretical and unrealistic. Their argument is that he or she has a job to do and they have to do it, no matter what!; They simply care nothing about their ability or willingness. So often, I tried to explain the difference, and how important it is for us to realize the difference. Is it really unclear to see the difference!

To show the difference, let’s try this example. While driving your car with a friend (who supposedly turned to be an engineer) in a highway, in a middle of rainy weather, after midnight; your car suddenly stopped functioning. You tried to turn on, it simply failed to work. Immediately, you looked to your presumably savior; your friend; the engineer. Your initial expectation is that he would promptly jump in to fix the car and get it rolling. However, he just froze in there; doing absolutely nothing!

If, at this critical point of time; you realize that he is unable, incapable of fixing your car, because simply he is not a car mechanics or whatever reason; you will simply save time; call emergency and get help from dedicated able persons. If, instead, you kept pushing him to fix it; while he does not know, assuming he is able but unwilling, and convincing yourself he does; then, most probably, you will have your night under rain; in the middle of nowhere!

Imagine that we practice this in-differentiation in complex business issues. Imagine you assign a manager to lead a transformational enterprise project, which costs hundred of millions US dollars, and would impact the lives of many employees, their families and local communities; without evidently recognizing that this person is simply unable to do it; he lacks the skills and competencies to lead it. Though he might be willing (for whatever reasons; good pay, exposure…etc), nonetheless this doesn’t hide the truth that he is unable. What would be the impact? incredibly catastrophic!

Once a manager or leader realizes the capabilities of their teams, understands their levels of willingness and abilities, and acts accordingly; we will see better results; successful projects, stable organizations, and less layoffs. We will see better utilization of resources, and more efficient training and self development programs.

For your unable resources, train them, get them into the right track of development and training and you should; or fix your hiring process to get the right resources at the first place.

In all cases, you must acknowledge their inability and give them a chance to develop.

For able, yet unwilling resources, you better show them the door! immediately!