• What to expect as you learn new skills.

    What to expect as you learn new skills.

    Posted 09/10/2012 By in GETTING THE MOST OUT OF YOUR PEOPLE, MANAGEMENT With | No Comments

    The progression of competence is a model that’s been around for awhile but that doesn’t make it any less relevant today.

    In my work with new and experienced managers in the development of new skills, attitudes and behaviours I use this model to ensure the manager has an appropriate expectation of what’s to come.  I’ve found that unrealistic expectations can really set someone up to be disappointed as they learn the new skill.

    The progression starts with Unconscious Incompetence – I’m not aware I’m no good at this skill.  As they start learning the skill they move to Conscious Incompetence – I’m now aware I’m not very good at this skill.  With further practice the manager moves to Conscious Competence – I’m getting better but it still takes effort and concentration.  The final stage in the progression is Unconscious Competence – I’m now performing the skill automatically, it becomes second nature.

    To illustrate think about learning to drive your car.  At 16 before you get your learners permit you’re not really aware of what it actually takes to drive a car, you’re not competent and not really that aware.  As you start to learn and bunny hop down the street you’re becoming conscious that you’re not very good.  After awhile (how long is different for different people), your skills are improving but you need to concentrate while driving and some things still catch you out, perhaps hills starts or reverse parking with an audience… yes, it’s a fact, people watching you makes it harder ;-)  Finally after some experience and practice you’re driving is almost automatic.  Surely, you’ve had that experience where you pull up at a red light and then realise you’d had got to that point without really paying attention.

    At each of the varying stages a different teaching style is required, using the wrong approach at any given stage is another way to set someone up for failure.  For instance, you can’t delegate a task to someone if you’ve not told them how to do it.  Furthermore, if you try to tell someone how to do it when they’re at any stage other than Unconscious Incompetence then you’re likely to upset them or have them complain of micro-management.

    So, when learning something new, don’t expect to nail it straight away, work through the stages and give yourself the time and space to embed the skill.



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      Sean is an experienced coach, speaker and facilitator who is passionate about improving the relationship between people, their work and the organisations they work for. If you want to get the most out of your managers, supervisors and their teams and think that work can or should be a rewarding and enjoyable component of a productive and meaningful life it might be worth a chat.

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