[The Skill / Will Matrix]


Danny Meyer is an iconic New York restauranteur— known for Shake Shack, Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, and Manhatta (a recent fave of mine), among many others.

On the Tim Ferriss Show, he revealed the simple (but brutally effective) 2x2 matrix he uses to manage his team.

It’s the best framework for people managers to decide who to spend their time on.

Danny scores his employees across two things:

Willingness (will / won’t) + Ability (can / can’t):

So, where on this chart does he spend the most time as a manager?

Many people would say the bottom two quadrants (the folks who need motivation or need to move on).

Danny disagrees.

He spends the most time with the top two quadrants (the high performers and those who are untrained).

Why? Let’s go through each one…


1. CAN + WILL (high performers)

It seems easy to just “leave these folks alone.” They’re crushing their jobs!

But without recognition, they can quickly lose motivation…

What they need:

  • Words of praise and gratitude

  • Leadership opportunities to inspire the rest of the team

  • Celebrating what they bring to the culture

2. CAN’T but WILL (untrained):

These might be new hires— folks who are super motivated to learn, but don’t have all the skills yet.

What they need:

  • Coaching

  • Mentorship

  • Weekly check-ins

  • Onboarding

If you invest the time in training them, you’ll have a loyal employee for years.

3. CAN but WON’T (unmotivated)

These folks might have been in the same role for a while and lost interest.

They can easily drag your culture down if they’re doing far less work than everyone else with no consequences.

What they need:

  • A new project that boosts interest

  • A 6-month goal to work towards

  • A performance improvement plan

4. CAN’T + WON’T (need to exit):

The trickiest category. These folks don’t have the skills they need for the job, and aren’t motivated to learn them.

What they need:

  • Clear expectations for their role

  • Honest feedback about where they’re not meeting expectations

  • An action plan to help them find a different role if nothing changes


Danny doesn’t keep this quadrant in his head.

He puts it on the mirror in his employees’ locker room.

He’s 100% transparent in how he manages the team.

And every time his team gets ready… they can decide which quadrant they’re in now, and where they want to be.

(And I highly recommend listening to the full podcast episode. Danny is a phenomenal storyteller.)

Until next week,


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