Have you ever observed someone as they are about to do something that could cause them a lot of pain or even endanger their life?  If you have, you’ll be familiar with the skin-crawling and cringing feeling that accompanies these moments.  As a climber, I often observed people doing things at a cliff face, that means they are dancing with death. Usually, this is an indication of their “unconscious incompetence”; in other words, they have no idea of the potential harm they are placing themselves in.  A good leader appreciates that when working with people, often “conscious competence” is more desirable than “unconscious competence”.

Unconscious Competence versus Conscious Competence

By its very definition “unconscious competence” means that a person is operating at a level that they are so well drilled in the task they are performing that they don’t think.  This may be a good thing completing a task but when it comes to leadership, it can be just as much a hindrance as a benefit.

The term “unconscious competence” is used in the “Four stages of competence” learning model.   Summarised briefly a person moves from a state of no idea they are incompetent, to becoming aware of their incompetence.  They then develop their competence at a level where they have to think about a task to be competent at it and finally they reach “unconscious competence” which means that the skill becomes second nature.  Think of the stages you went through learning to ride a bike or tie a knot in a rope.

Applied in Leadership

So how do these stages apply to practical leadership?  How effective are leaders that are operating in an “unconscious competence” manner?  In my own experience, it has meant the difference between growing and achieving better results versus getting stuck in a rut and failing myself and those I was leading.  Below is an essential element to this theory that is often forgotten and 3 tips on how to develop this quickly.

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Developing a Growth Mindset.

Applying growth mindset theory to our lives can be a challenge, but in my opinion, there is no area that it is required more than in young people as they navigate their early experiences of learning and development of their work ethic and self-esteem. Many people with unknown potential limit their education and opportunities due to their mindset being closed. Closed mindsets believe we are only as good as our results. We are capable, only of things “within” our predetermined or established level of competence. In other words, if I’ve been told I’m intelligent, if I’ve been told I’m leadership material and these opinions are the overriding “why” that means I’ll try things, then I am placing a higher level of importance on the views of others about my capabilities rather than my own self-belief, awareness and joy of self-discovery. This is why developing a growth mindset is so important.

Here are three points that are essential for you to introduce more of a growth mindset into your life and those around you.

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In a world where availability of ideas and information isn’t a problem, the skill it seems is keeping the right things in the forefront of your mind rather than suffering or succumbing to, information overload.  Over a day recently, I had 3 meetings.  I was reminded of 4 simple yet powerful bits of wisdom.

Coffee with a colleague and fellow leadership trainer – Multi-tasking is an out-dated concept.  Read more

The greatest thing I learnt whilst working for a commercial printer a few years back was to embrace the chaos as we were implementing change and seeking greater efficiency.

It was only as we were prepared to push “how it was always done” and embrace the chaos as we sort to do things differently, that as a business we changed, evolved and Read more