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Incompetence to competence - The journey and why it matters.
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Incompetence to competence - The journey and why it matters.

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Within this article, you will learn:

  • Breaking the barriers to learning
  • What you don't know, you don't know
  • Comfort and self-growth cannot live together.

This is quite a powerful self-development tool we teach and it shows the journey you go through especially in Trade coaching as there are new challenges to face as you begin your journey of turning your business around.

A good way to explain this concept is in the context of learning to drive a car for the first time. The person gets in all excited and then they have pedals, levers and everything else that goes with driving a car. They have gone from a good excited state to WOW, I didn’t realise it was so complicated and this is not as simple as I first thought and I have a lot to learn.

This is played out in life and in coaching we call this going from:

Stage 1 — Unconscious Incompetence (ignorance)


Stage 2 — Conscious incompetence (awareness).

Then you start to take driving lessons and you start to enjoy the journey of learning as you become more familiar and confident - We call this stage:

Stage 3 — Conscious Competence (learning).

Then you progress, polish up your skills with practice and go for the driving test. You Pass! well done and now think you know everything but over time you really do realise through experience there is a lot more to driving and over time become calmer with everything. We call this stage:

Stage 4 — Unconscious Competence (mastery).

🔄 The Four Stages

So the four stages are:

Stage 1 — Unconscious Incompetence (ignorance).

Stage 2 — Conscious incompetence (awareness).

Stage 3 — Conscious Competence (learning.)

Stage 4 — Unconscious Competence (mastery).

So when we have an apprentice start and it’s all new to them, they are in the first stage, all excited but they are unconsciously incompetent, not that that’s a bad thing, it's just where they are. As you observe you can see as they progress they go through different stages and over time and training can finally go to site on their own and are fine.

The four stages are now complete and we should remember to enjoy the journey. This concept is used as a structure for learning and it's good to refer to it especially as you work with others as you become a better leader.

Why Is this important to you? You have most likely seen and done all of this before, whether in business or personal life.

When people come to us for coaching or business development, in the main, they are doing okay but they are either screaming around everywhere and it's like they are driving fast in first gear and just know that’s not right as the noise and something is going to blow or on the other side is feel they have missed the right turning in life somewhere, they are just lost looking for the next exit sign and have been on this road for ages since the last turn off and are now just going through the motions, month after month.

A working model of this in real time can be for example during the first part of recovery when you join coaching is all of a sudden you are in the middle ground of Stage 1 and Stage 2 = Stage 1 — Unconscious Incompetence (ignorance), Stage 2 — Conscious incompetence (awareness) which we know and expect but the clients sometimes wobble and doubt themselves only because it's all new and facing up to things that need to change is hard sometimes for many reasons.

😪 Why does change bring pain?

"Comfort and self-growth cannot live together."

Now, this stage between awareness and learning can feel painful and our mind steps forward to protect us, to comfort us hence the saying comfort zone. Comfort and self-growth do not really enjoy living together so again, it's not you, it's just something new. I have new things to do all the time and I still get amazingly scared but through good coaching just push on past the fear.

Together we walk as one and reach the next stage which is Stage 3 — Conscious Competence (learning.)

This is where we take things slowly with you so it sticks, if we just do it for you and leave, the habit is not made, we need you there to stop it from happening again and going off course, you're on the ground, you can see it on site or in the office daily so we really are in this together but we need you to learn and police it so we get results quickly.

Then together we get to Stage 4 — Unconscious Competence (mastery) which is you on your way, pushing ahead. Enjoy but there will be new challenges and we have to start to understand there are rules to the game. Have you just ignored learning the rules to date and feel you have just gotten by and that's why so much pain. We need to embrace the proven concept and experience that there will be 20% of major problems a year and that's with a really well-run firm. What does it feel like to you, more 50/50?

This realisation alone that it will never be calm is an immediate advance for you.

Yes, every day is a school day but running a business in the construction industry seems more like Jumanji and you better get smart quick!

The reason for this article is so you realise that there is a process, not to be too hard on yourself, that it's okay to get stuck. Our coaching clients still come back to us years after if they face a challenge which is pushing back a bit hard, it may be a new area of work but combined with very tight margins of time or they need a mindset shift which is required as you grow the business and they can see a bottleneck coming. It’s not a sign of weakness as they now have a much more realistic and confident approach to their business and life balance.

They contact us because it's a good commercial decision at that time, so this helps this issue quickly pass. It’s just being more honest about what’s going on rather than overwhelm or aimlessly drifting.

Can you do it on your own, yes of course. Does an unbiased view which is sometimes a bit cold but needed at times from an outside source help of course it does. Every major business does not hesitate to pull a consultant team in and out as they go through their growth.

Do you think if you were going for funding with a large bank and you said to support your application you have taken the service of business advisors to help the process they would say no, of course it makes more sense so if the big outfits operate like this it must be for a good reason.

Take a moment and chew on that feeling of  "what you don’t know, you don't know" which is painful, mainly doubt based as it appears again and again but especially when leading others, understand the process and how quickly you can move through it and press on to the next stages 3 & 4 we have laid out. It’s a journey, yes, but you can use this tactic over and over in your life so you don't stall when the first pain comes.

Business life is hard and the odds are set against you all the time. The odds are something like 70/30 so buckle up and look for the cheat codes like this.

⚖ Getting the Balance right

Going back to the young apprentice we mentioned earlier, they have started their journey but you know when and what task to give them next. You measure what they are capable of. Something too hard and they will just get their confidence simply smashed.

The idea of Trade coaches is we know the trade and the business side. So when you would look for how well the apprentice is doing before they go to the next stage we look for the same data and information. Just as you would carefully play out the next thing to give to the apprentice that is what Saint does when they work with you, it's called scaffold learning which is not a term we created but fits as we are trade only but starts to show the level we start to work towards as we find out more about the business and how you operate.

This is where Saint differs from the others, we comb and look for the information about how well your company is really doing and where it needs instant help much like an MOT on a car. We analyse what needs to be done but also balance that with what you as a person are capable of changing at that time. Not just in skillset most of the time, it's just something needs to change. Just the same as going through the stages with the apprentice, we just look and see what we can identify, discuss and work on with encouragement together.

If we skipped 10 stages forward and said let’s work on Stage 10 this it would be painful and pointless. We need to simply start at the beginning, get the foundations right, the communications improved and bring in some more control methods with easy viewing.

🤔 “What you do not know, you do not know”

As you go on your journey with Saint coaches you will be drummed with the term “What you do not know, you do not know”. This becomes a mantra to remind you to not be too hard on your staff / apprentice as you know they are on the journey from the Stage 1 to Stage 4 but most of all it is very important you are not too hard on yourself while the changes happen.

Say “What you do not know, you do not know” and smile to yourself often, say it to others, say it to the apprentice, it stops rage and adds time because you know the process is real. It's okay not to know.

You did not go to college to learn how to run a company so do not be so hard on yourself, be honest and start filling in the gaps rather than stick your head in a book to learn management accounts or admin which we know all about but instead learn how your business can perform better first, how are your jobs running, identify to your coach areas you think needs improvement so it all starts coming together like a jigsaw. We know all this when you come in so we just want to get started on turning it around.

If you think of a white A4 page with a flat horizontal line running through it. Above the line would be  Stage 3 — Conscious Competence (learning.)/ Stage 4 — Unconscious Competence (mastery) and below the line would be Stage 1 -Unconscious Incompetence (ignorance).Stage 2 — Conscious incompetence (awareness).

In short, confident at the top of the page and unconfident at the bottom of the page.

Saint are skilled and advanced enough to put you in that middle line on the graph. Not push you too far up above the line so you get discouraged, not too low below the line so it feels like you are getting nowhere. This is where the Saint Trade coaches dominate, they bring you on the journey, talking and including you as a person, when you speak to them the passion for your company's success is evident but they listen and protect you also to keep you in the middle line areas which is the key area for... motivation… success...

Change your mindset that asking for coaching or business development help is a sign of weakness, it's not, if anything it's a well hidden secret the big outfits do not want you to know so you do not reach that life you want, the reason you started, have the toys and bits surrounding you. You may say this is expensive and for big outfits only, it's not, not in real true value, it's more expensive to stay the way you are and remember this is all used to offset against tax.

Are you really making money on that job or living the life you want?  We charge £350 a month for coaching. You are probably losing that if not more just by bad methods and systems so trade that figure alone and you end up getting a better performing business, a better mindset, hope even, what you have got to lose.

Ask yourself this important question over and over “What am I really getting back for all the hard work I am willing to sacrifice in exchange for these goals and life in real terms?

I say this not to annoy you but to shake you from your sleep and stop daydreaming through life and take action. At Saint, we know this narrative already and use this to prod you so we get you through the stages above because most of the time it's not an educational thing that stops you it's an emotional thing and that's where we again step in and help de-tangle that. Saint really are there for you on each level, from mindset to tactical or strategic mapping.

🎉 That's a wrap!

Step forward now and make the change, it may be you just needed a blunt kick by someone outside of your circle or just needed to be more serious and you were just using what we call softeners, little things you blame. Times ticking, so let's go for it, YES it will take work, YES you will have to give it everything because it will take everything you’ve got, YES it will be hard but as the old saying goes “I am not saying it will be easy, I just saying it will be worth it”.

Make contact today by simply getting in touch and started with coaching or business development from people in the trade who are easy to talk to. To try and then fail can happen but to give up is a choice.

All the best!

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Incompetence to competence - The journey and why it matters.

Written by the team at:

Saint Trade Coaches

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