The 4 Levels of Competency – Training your Staff and Avoiding Frustration

How to get good at something new

What if you’re not good at something?

I’ve been learning how to juggle, and as you can imagine, it’s been a challenge! I can get three or four in going before I end up dropping them, and it got me thinking about Competency, and the path to getting good at something.

There are just four levels of Competency – a combination of Competence and Consciousness. Here’s how it works: (and then we’ll apply this to business)

Level 1:

Think of something new that you’ve tried, like learning guitar. “Hey how hard could it be?” You see guys on TV and YouTube rockin’ out and think “I’m going to do that too!” The level you’re at is Unconscious Incompetence: you don’t YET know that you suck at it.

Level 2:

And then you pick your guitar up and try to make some sound, and it’s awful. Cats are crying, people are complaining, your family is moving out etc, and you’re Consciously Incompetent: you KNOW that you suck.

Level 3:

You’ve decided it’s important to you, so you practice, maybe you take lessons, and you work away it and learn. And you’ll reach a point of Conscious Competence: you can play. You may not be as fluid as you would like, and you have to really focus on each motion, but you CAN actually do it!

Level 4:

You keep learning, you keep pushing, and you move up to the stage of Unconscious Competence: you’re REALLY good. You don’t have to look where you’re putting your hands and you can play all the different complicated chords quickly and you are indeed rockin’.

The interesting thing about being at Level 4 – Unconscious Competence, is that you can take for granted how good you are! It’s easy to forget what it felt like to be a beginner. You’ve practiced a lot, you’ve found help, and now you’ve achieved a high level of skill.

As a business owner, you’re going through these four stages all. the. time.

For example, let’s say that you’ve got someone on your team that putting into a new role, and because I’m a business coach, I’m going to suggest that you’re delegating to them something that you normally do, and want to take off your plate.

That person may think “How hard could it be?” Unconsciously Incompetent.

And then they try it, and become Consciously Incompetent. And guess what? You’re VERY Conscious of their Incompetence too, right?

This is where business owners get stuck:
You say to yourself “Oh man, they’re not very good at this.
Maybe I’ve made a mistake.
Maybe I’d better just take it back and do it (say it with me)…myself.”

And you do, because you *believe* nobody else can do it.

What kinds of things? Sales, marketing, client care, quoting, project management, or some of the actual service or product delivery.

You have to have to have some patience with your own self, and with your team when delegating. Because, guess what, you might be in the Consciously Incompetent stage of delegating! And instead of training that person carefully, you might actually be abdicating and saying “just go do it!” And of course, they don’t do it the way you want, and everyone is frustrated.

Remember, when you’re delegating and getting someone to do a new task, they’re going to go through this whole cycle as well. Have some patience with them and realize that this is the point where you can’t get stuck! If they’re having trouble, ask yourself what support do they need? What training? How much time? How many iterations of learning do they need? Do they need a system documented?

If you don’t get stuck, they will have the possibility of becoming Consciously Competent at that task. Which means you’ve got leverage  and freedom from that task so you don’t have to do it. You can do something of even higher value, (or take the afternoon off or whatever it is that you want to do!)

As for you and your skills, be honest with yourself and identify in your business, where you are with your team, your leadership, your management, sales, marketing, and your customer service delivery. Are there any areas where you’re in the incompetent stage?.

Let me know in the comments (or shoot me an email) I’d love to hear about what you’re working through, and what you’ve found has been an area of Conscious Incompetence. If you’d like, let’s have a conversation about how I might help you get you to Conscious Competence, and then to the Holy Grail of Unconscious Competence, where you’re just a total master.

If you’d like to have an exploration call with me to discuss your unique business, reach out:

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