Moving from Judgement to Coaching: The Four Quadrants Tool

Moving from Judgement to Coaching: The Four Quadrants Tool 150 150

Is it a good idea to judge others?  The Bible says no.  “Do not judge, or you will be judged…For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”[1]  “Do not judge, you will not be judged.  Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.  Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”[2]

These thoughts fly in the face of one of the most popular organizational performance management policy, the typical performance appraisal.  They negate the very foundation upon which the policy is based, i.e. the manager will judge the performance of each employee and provide a grade or rating to improve that individual’s performance.

The judgement of employee performance by managers is well intended but creates unintended negative consequences.  The most damaging consequence is the damage to trust, optimum communication and optimum relationships between the judge (manage) and the judged (employee).  Trust and optimum relationships are corner stones of the foundation of optimum performance.  Therefore, the typical appraisal causes an outcome that is the opposite of its intended purpose.

An employee’s behavior is a root cause of a problem is one of the most common and flawed assumptions upon which the typical performance appraisal is based.  Employee behavior is rarely a root cause.  It is most often a symptom of a dysfunctional process or policy.

So, what do we do if we want to avoid judgement while protecting trust and relationships.  We need the Four Quadrants tool.  This tool uses two key dimensions of performance and creates insight and guidance for optimum coaching and feedback.  The two dimensions are the ability to keep agreements and the ability to manage variation in processes.

This provides four different situations for the manager to decide the best coaching approach with that individual.  If a manager reviews these two dimensions prior to a coaching session, he/she will be able to be more productive and address root causes of performance issues instead of only addressing symptoms.

Does the employee keep their agreements, for example, do they come to work on time, do they treat others with respect, do they follow policy? These are observable behaviors.  It’s data.  It’s the manager’s job to uncover the root causes of these poor behaviors and ask the employee to correct them.

Is there too much variation in processes within the employee scope of responsibility?  This also requires data.  To judge this situation a manager must have data that shows the variation in the individual processes within the employee’s scope of responsibility.

Instead of evaluating the individual employee, the manager can now have a dialogue with the employee about the root causes of the broken agreements and the root causes of the variation.  In this coaching model, the employee and manager become partners to uncover root causes.  They are no longer “judge” and “judged”.  They are looking at the data not the person. 

The Four Major Situations



The employee is keeping their agreements but there is also too much variation in their processes.  Something needs to change to reduce the variation.


The employee is keeping their agreements and there is low variation in their processes.



The employee is not keeping their agreements and there is also too much variation in their processes.


The employee is not keeping their agreements and there is low variation in their processes.


Ability to manage variation in process

In this model, it’s the employee’s responsibility to keep agreements and to ask for help to manage the variation in their processes.  It’s a manager’s job to assist them to uncover barriers that prevent them from keeping agreements or managing variation.  It’s their job together to find the root causes of poor performance.

Judgement of an individual is no longer necessary to improve performance.  If you set up observable standards of behavior, and ask these two questions you can partner with an employee to make positive change:

  1. Is the employee keeping agreements?
  2. Is there too much variation in the processes within their scope of responsibility?

You can then partner with employees to look for the real root causes.  Two brains working on root causes will improve performance faster than just one judge and one who is judged.

Check out the interview on C-Suite Best Seller TV to learn more about how to stop leadership malpractice and replace the typical performance review:

Wally Hauck, PhD has a cure for the “deadly disease” known as the typical performance appraisal.  Wally holds a doctorate in organizational leadership from Warren National University, a Master of Business Administration in finance from Iona College, and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania.  Wally is a Certified Speaking Professional or CSP.  Wally has a passion for helping leaders let go of the old and embrace new thinking to improve leadership skills, employee engagement, and performance.


[1] Bible: New International Version Matthew 7:2

[2] Bible: New International Version Luke 6:37