90 Degree North Subordinate Matrix©:
Perception is Reality when Developing
High Performance Leaders
W. Michael Phibbs, MHR, PHR

When looking to create a high performance culture, one must look to the overall effectiveness of the individual supervisors who are responsible to get their teams to perform. The true effectiveness of a supervisor does not come from the top down approach to management but rather pulling from the bottom up. Perception is reality in the eyes of team members and that fact directly relates to the supervisors effectiveness overall. Truly strong leaders understand their success is dependent on those who allow them to lead; an exceptional team leader can create an enormous amount of synergy in a team that collectively exerts its energy, effort, and enthusiasm to surpass expected goals. But sometimes these leaders are underappreciated because of shortcomings in the evaluation tool. Yes, the yearly performance evaluation can be an invaluable tool to reconnect the goals of the organization with the aspirations of the individual team member.  However, simply stated, major problems with evaluations start when people don’t want to invest their time on them and the tools used to complete them don’t reflect actual performance.

With the development of modern electronic based evaluation tools new insights on performance can be found and overall effectiveness accelerated. These tools allow for custom made training programs that enhance strengths, overcome weaknesses, and create a higher rate of return on your training investment.  The new electronically based tools can provide greater insight into a supervisor’s perceived ability to manage processes, lead teams and can be transformational to help anyone to be truly effective in their organizations.

First, a little background information is needed on the problem and the need for changes. Everywhere, organizations face the same problems hampering their crossing over from average to exceptional, including the effectiveness of their supervisors. If you ask, most team leaders will define themselves in terms of leadership abilities; however, in practice, they most often utilize management techniques in their organizational roles. To be honest, most books on leadership coming out today are actually studies of management techniques. To be a truly effective leader you must know how to both lead and manage. Anyone can be an outstanding manager and have absolutely no leadership skills. Some occupations only require management skills while leadership skills are not necessary, such as running an automated manufacturing system where few people are involved. But supervisors who direct a number of people need to positively connect with their team members to get tasks accomplished. This is especially true in organizations depended upon the effectiveness of small units, such as those in public safety.

Now let’s start from the bottom and work our way up to build high performance leaders. The ability to manage is the granite cornerstone on which you build your reputation of effectiveness. Now we start breaking the principles down.  Being an effective supervisor is the culmination of knowing your job, along with those of your subordinates, and having the ability to apply that knowledge in any situation. Subordinates look to the supervisor’s knowledge and abilities when they form a judgment of the boss’s management effectiveness.  Using this management foundation, supervisors begin to build their leadership skills by creating and transmitting a vision intimately describing where they wish to take the team and demonstrating the qualities that inspire their teams to meet and surpass that vision. When a supervisor has a strong management foundation and then builds a sturdy leadership structure he / she creates an atmosphere conducive to the development of high performance teams. Luckily, today in the 21st century, new and better techniques are being developed to gauge performance of supervisors. Some of these techniques also incorporate the views of subordinate team members on overall supervisor performance, showing the leader different ways to be more effective, in turn increasing everyone’s overall performance.  These new electronic based technologies provide faster more accurate results that do not drain valuable time, resources, and are adaptable to the needs of different organizations.

Providing subordinates the avenue to record their opinions through the evaluation process only brings their views to light.  It does not change them. To gather this invaluable information, Integritas Leadership Solutions, LLC developed the 90 Degree North Subordinate Matrix© as a simple, yet practical, method to have team members assess the effectiveness of an individuals leadership and management abilities. The tool is versatile enough to be used by a single individual, combined with other tools such as the Myers Brigg, or with a team for a 360degree evaluation to gain even greater insights into performance.  

Utilizing the 90 Degree North Subordinate Matrix ©, individuals are scored on number of questions on a scale of zero to five. The choice of range for the scale is not arbitrary. It is narrow enough to make evaluation easy, yet retains a wide enough spread for distinction beyond poor, average and excellent.  The tool is designed to rate an individual on the perception of effectiveness as viewed by the subordinates’ level in management and leadership skills.  We describe the attributes of leadership and management on the matrix:

  •      •  Management Skill is defined as the sum of (Ability + Knowledge)
  •      •  Leadership Skill is defined as  the sum of (Vision + Influence)

We, first, look to the total of the scores on each individual question to determine if it reflects a strength or weakness, highlighting areas to maintain as strengths and areas needing improvement. Then, a graphic is created using all of the individual evaluations to display patterns of perceived effectiveness in terms of management and leadership skills and abilities.  Overall, clusters on the graphic show respondent agreement; the absence of clusters would indicate a lack of agreement and may point to inadequate interaction with subordinate and / or deficiencies. Positive scores on all variables indicate an overall higher performance rating.  In the case of lower scores in either management or leadership the clusters will plot at the lower end of effectiveness. The team leader may have a balanced score as a manager and as a leader, with a close cluster of responses, but still show an overall rating as an “Unsuccessful Performer”.

The overall score should not be viewed through the lens of likeability, but rather always as a tool to be used as a guide to increase effectiveness and performance. For a person perceived as unsatisfactory in either the leadership or management range, a goal driven training program can be tailored to target improvements necessary to move up in the specific range.   Evaluation as an "Ideal Performer", from the perspective of the subordinates, identifies the individual as having demonstrated the ability to create synergy in developing a team with great potential, an example to be recognized as a beacon for other to emulate and follow.


New electronic evaluation tools provide greater insights into supervisor performance and allow targeted training to increase overall effectiveness for the individual, ultimately increasing overall organizational performance.  It is time to look beyond old and possibly outdated tools to measure individual performance. To have a competitive edge in the fast paced business world, we all need to utilize the next generation of electronic performance evaluations techniques that can integrate a number of perspectives to rate an individual’s effectiveness.  Integritas Leadership Solutions developed the 90 Degree North Subordinate Matrix© as such a tool, simple to use while providing immediate feedback. This innovative tool is now use by individuals in various industries who wish to improve their ability to lead and manage, to place their teams on the cutting edge of performance. Take the challenge, and try it yourself, to see where you score: www.integritasleadership.net/matrix