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Contrary to what some people think, incompetence is not a bad thing. It’s merely a phase one goes through on the way to being competent in a new skill; enter the competency model…. Personally I love this model. It’s simple, has many applications but most of all it just makes sense.

  • The competency model

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “Confidence is the feeling you have before you truly understand the situation”, so consider this phase 1 of the competency cycle; a blissful state of ignorance.

For brevity I’ve defined this cycle in the table below and I’m sure in a few moments you’ll see what I mean.

Applies when...
Which means...
So you should...
Unconscious Incompetence

You start a:

  • new role
  • new project
  • new job
  • new challenge
You don't know what you don't know.

Look around; Talk to people; Research; Find out what's going on.

Conscious Incompetence
You realise what you need to do but have no idea how. You start to 'loose cabin pressure' in your mind. You need to learn or do something about it.

Apply yourself; Ask more questions; Dig in.

Conscious Competence
You know what to do but really need to think about it. Keep going! Practice, apply yourself grow and be confident.

Keep practicing; Extend yourself, own the role, project or challenge.

Unconscious Competence
You do the job well, without even thinking about it. You should feel suitably proud and confident in the role. You're ready for a new challenge.

Train-up someone else so you can move on. Seek out new challenges; Build on what you've done; Seek further fulfillment through coaching or broadening the original scope.

Again, it seems simple, but I’ve found this to be a great framework for pep talks to friends and colleagues alike that are going through change; either personally or professionally.

Just knowing your feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy (conscious incompetence phase) are not only normal, but most likely to be temporary, can give people the strength to push through and achieve goals they never dreamed possible.

Whether you manage people or not, this is great little framework to have in your back pocket.

So go on, challenge yourself, give “incompetence” a go!!!!