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. though I have come to the realization that I’m not always a patient teacher and I would like to change this. As I have tried to understand why, I discovered two roadblocks for me:
- While I take great pride in watching people learn from me, I start lose patience if my “tried and true” training tactics don’t work
- I tend to assume a level playing field at the onset of my training and 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 training can be frustrating, but in how much there is for me to learn.
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.