Learning Differently

In my various roles in life, I often find myself in a teaching scenario. From coaching my employees or explaining new tools or ways of working to clients or helping my daughters build a tower, the teacher hat is worn a lot these days. I enjoy wearing this hat. That is, until I don’t and then it’s painfully obvious that I’m frustrated. I have come to the realization that I’m not a particularly patient teacher and I would like to change this. As I have tried to understand why, I discovered two roadblocks for me:
  1. While I take great pride in watching people learn from me, I lose patience if I have to try more than 2 training tactics
  2. I tend to assume a level playing field at the onset of my training and then find myself frustrated when people can’t keep up
In doing a little research on ways to breakthrough these two roadblocks, I stumbled upon the hierarchy of competence, sometimes known as the “stages of learning”, and it has been a major pivot in not only my understanding of why I have not enjoyed training but in how much there is for me to learn.
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Find out more here!
The simple realization that there are four types of trainees that could be present at any given teaching opportunity offered me a literal lightbulb moment. It’s perfectly reasonable for someone to be at any given stage of competence and in order for me to empower them to move through the stages efficiently, I must first understand where they are when we start. Yes! If I know where they are, then I can better gauge the appropriate training tactic to catapult them into conscious competence or better yet unconscious competence.
Let’s start with a simple example: I recently worked with a few of my colleagues on the relationship building aspect of project management (*new blog post soon!*). Rather than solely focusing on managing the tasks, budget and deliverables of a given project, it seems intuitive (to me) that if you are spending a significant amount of time with a group of people that you would want to learn more about them. I wasn’t quite sure why this seemed more difficult for some than others. As I read up on the 4 stages of competence, it occurred to me that I am potentially moving people from unconscious to conscious incompetence (lightbulb!). I have made them aware of a previously unrealized, but now necessary, skill set for them to be successful in their jobs. They may not currently possess the ability to engage on a personal level in a professional setting or may not feel confident in their ability to do it well. This discomfort can paralyze a person if it is not handled appropriately. By knowing this, I am now able to sympathize and adjust my attitude towards the learning curve required to move into conscious competence, which is where I assumed everyone was starting.
I am excited about this newfound knowledge. While there are some skill sets I wish to move to the top of the pyramid and achieve unconscious competence, in the area of training I want to remain conscious of the competence I have to offer others.

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