One of the hallmarks of a great leader is the innate desire to keep learning and growing. Ongoing leadership development is the name of the game. If you want your team members to continually develop and get better at both what they do and how they show up, you need to be willing to do the same thing, right?
Here’s the rub: we’ve been conditioned, based on the way we have been brought up and rewarded over time, to celebrate the end game – being good at it, whatever it is. Getting to that point, though, we often beat ourselves up & judge the learning process of others – because we, or they, haven’t gotten all the way to bright yet. What does that do to our enthusiasm about learning something new? What does it do to our self-confidence and the collective energy level?
How inspiring would you be as a leader, if you could set a realistic context for your team members’ development and celebrate all the stages of learning with them? What would it be like if your team could build compassion and demonstrate encouragement for themselves and each other while they learn and grow?
This article contains insight on stages of learning and cues about the learner’s experience while they are in each stage. Use the information first with yourself, and imagine an example or two from your own learning inventory. Stories go a long way to help others understand. And when you are ready, share this insight with your team members so they understand what it can feel like to step into a new set of skills. Let them be inspired by the potential of the end game, and generous with themselves as they arrive there. Include regular learning reflections in your 1:1 conversations to honor progress, acknowledge your vulnerability & humanness, and cultivate the resilience to keep going.
You. Can. Do. This.
THE STAGES OF LEARNING
Stage One: Unconscious Incompetence
I don’t know what I don’t know. We’re incompetent but we don’t care — we don’t even know we’re incompetent because the activity means nothing to us. The skills or techniques for achievement don’t even matter; the thing itself doesn’t show up on our radar.
Stage Two: Conscious Incompetence
Now I know what I don’t know. When we first start learning a new skill or way of being in the world, it can be overwhelming to realize how much we don’t know. It can even be scary. Let’s face it: we don’t get outwardly rewarded for being in this stage, so some people stop learning here and give up. If we can be with ourselves in this stage, it is awkward: we are focused so intently on every detail of every action or component of the thing we are learning. It can feel effort-full and uncomfortable, and we have to go through it to progress in the learning curve.
Stage Three: Conscious Competence
I know that I know. What a relief. At some point we begin to realize we have achieved a certain level of mastery — at least over some aspects of the challenge at hand. We may not be experts but we have some expertise. We are aware of knowing a bunch of stuff. It’s quite satisfying — right up until the moment we run into the next thing we don’t know how to do. Then bang, we’re back into conscious incompetence: another area to master. As we are becoming capable with this new thing, we often cycle between stages 2 & 3 – learning, after all, is a process, not an event. This stage can seem mental: you know how to do the thing, and, you have to be mindful and attentive to do it.
Stage Four: Unconscious Competence
I know, and I don’t have to think about it. This is sometimes called the “flow state.” We are so in tune with the knowing we are on a different plane of being with it. Which sounds mysterious or transcendental — which it is in a way. We’ve all experienced it, even on a relatively elementary level. Think about driving a car or doing any activity you have mastered. Do you ever arrive home from an errand and question whether you stopped at all the stop signs? You did, of course; this is an example of being so competent at a task that it does not take much of your conscious attention to do it well. AND… I support you in driving consciously, always! : )