Conscious competence and how to move beyond it

conscious competence

Developing unconscious competence

When we learn we start at unconscious incompetence, working through conscious incompetence and conscious competence towards unconscious competence.

Last week I was reviewing progress as a result of some training I’ve been conducting with some managers – helping them get the best from their team, who are all customer facing. I love working with junior managers who lack the experience of managing people, as it is so rewarding when they start to see the results.

In this instance these results just weren’t coming fast enough for their manager! He was expected instant changes. I reminded him Rome wasn’t built in a day!

There were two things we needed to take into consideration to reach the level of unconscious competence:

Having the resources

In this instance the training flushed out a number of resources that were needed for them to do everything they wanted to implement, some of which required time and others needed sign off.

Although you might believe people have everything they need, their perception may be different. And if they believe they don’t have the time, tools or authority to put their new skills or knowledge into practice it becomes a barrier. And the longer it takes to remove that barrier (be it real or imagined) the less likely your training will be put into practice.

So ask them to identify anything that might stand in their way, and resolve any obstacles promptly, otherwise it implies it’s not important.

Moving from ‘conscious incompetence’ to ‘conscious competence’

During training you normally established the standards or process, set expectations, and hopefully people have had a chance to practise their skills in a safe environment.

But, often the only way to really hone these skills and develop true competence is once applied on the job. It simply can’t always happen in the confines of the training room.

When we learn anything new we always begin at stage 1 (‘unconscious incompetence’) on the conscious competence learning model, and end at stage 4 – ‘unconscious competence’, having passed through stage 2 – ‘conscious incompetence’ and – 3 ‘conscious competence’.

At the point people finish a piece of training they are somewhere between consciously incompetent and conscious competence. Unconscious competence will only come later.

At conscious competence they still have to stop and think about how they do something; it doesn’t flow naturally. It takes longer and they’re still learning a little from trial and error. Confidence can be low as they get to grips with it all.

Think of it as you were when you first passed your driving test; you probably took things steady, you had to concentrate really hard, not being distracted by tuning the radio, or chatting to your passengers. And you wouldn’t have rushed out to drive in snow and ice or at full speed on a busy motorway.

So, when your team go through any training, allow time for people to practise, to get feedback on how they are doing, and where it’s OK to ask for help or make a mistake so long as they learn from it. This will help them move from conscious incompetence conscious competence if they’re not get there, and then onto unconscious competence.

It might still be on the job, but don’t expect them to be able to put everything into practice brilliantly straight away. If you do you run the risk of losing their confidence

And when something doesn’t work right first time around it’s all too easy for them to go back to their comfortable old familiar ways, and go back down the competency ladder.

 

Take action

If you only do two things to help people achieve unconscious competence:

  1. Ask people if they are missing any resources they need to implement their training.
  2. Allow time and opportunity for people to build up new skills and habits gradually, giving them plenty of time for practice.

Watch my video on creating Conscious Competence – the critical first step to get people receptive to training

If you’re looking for more ideas to help embed customer service training and get your team from conscious competence to unconscious competence here are 38 activities for you to use https://www.naturallyloyal.com/resources/28activities/


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