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Autumn Road

The 5 Minute Leader

  • Writer's pictureCarl Blanz

How Skill Building Really Works: Part One

Every leader I know would like more freedom.

Sharing leadership has provided me with more freedom. A large part of sharing leadership is developing leaders to share it with. Learning about the Conscious Competence Theory and a related model called the Situational Leadership Model (to explore in Part Two) have helped me develop other leaders with which to share leadership.

Knowing how to assess yourself and others, and having a model for mapping out the next logical step in skill building, creates clarity when in a performance conversation. Having a model to follow can change those scary performance conversations into a life-affirming dialogue with those in our care.

The Four Stages of Competence was developed by Noel Burch.

The model highlights four stages in the progression of increasing competence.

  1. Unconscious Incompetence (Ignorance)

  2. Conscious Incompetence (Awareness)

  3. Conscious Competence (Learning)

  4. Unconscious Competence (Mastery)

Using myself as the subject here…

Stage One - Ignorance, I have no intuition about the skill, my method for meeting the results of a particular skill are educated and uneducated guesses.

If you were teaching me how to read a P&L, I would not understand the relationship that the words and numbers on the page have to any reality within the organization—I could only guess at their meaning.

Stage Two – Awareness, I know what I need to learn, but I’m not proficient yet.

I am now aware that this P&L is connected to my job tasks and duties, and when you point out that the labor cost is high, I know what that means. But I don’t know how to connect scheduling and labor saving activities with business levels.

Stage Three – Learning, I’m getting good at it.

Now I can equate the words on the P&L to my job tasks and duties. I’m getting consistent with scheduling and proactively saving labor dollars. When we look at the P&L, I can pinpoint where there might be issues and explain why the labor cost is off.

Stage Four – Mastery, I’m teaching others.

My intuition now guides how I connect my leadership to the financial realm of the business. I understand it on a level similar to yours and I'm enthusiastic about others knowing what I know. You’ve guided me through this process effectively! You recognize this too, and because you no longer feel the need to manage me and how I understand the flow of money through the business, you don’t need to meet with me for an hour each week. Because of my newly developed skills, an hour a month will be enough, and you’re seeing new possibilities for how to put my skills to use.


What did you do to support my skill building and create more freedom for yourself?

When I was in Stage One, you directed and decided.

You told me what the words and numbers on the P&L meant. You gave me time to orient myself to this new language. You did the schedule with me. You understood that I couldn’t make any meaningful decisions yet, so you made them.

When I was in Stage Two, you offered me coaching.

You were open now to talking about my newly forming views, and allowed me to explore them with you, but when you saw something intuitively that I did not, you made the decision. You assured me that I was getting it and that our goal was that you ultimately wouldn’t get involved at this level in my part of the business.

In Stage Three, you were there for support.

You saw that I was consistently comprehending it, and you recognized the need for me to feel some responsibility and authority for the P&L, so we talked and you let me decide. I didn’t always make the decisions you would make, but you had confidence that I saw the big picture and you let me make a few mistakes. (I think this was the hardest part for you.)

In Stage Four, you delegated and cleared the way.

Now you have absolute trust in my P&L management skills. You’ve decided to let me run the weekly meetings and you only come in once a month, which is just a formality. Mostly you are there to listen for the obstacles that can only be removed at your level. At my suggestion, you got a line of credit to fund a project. You were delighted to see that I presented a plan including the return on that investment and because you helped develop me to this level, we were able to play together and create something new.


Specifically, in order to give yourself more freedom:

  • First of all, you recognized that I was moving through predictable stages in developing this skill. You adapted your leadership style to fit my situation and level of competence.

  • Second, you were clear about your intentions to share leadership with me by reassuring me that in time, I will make these decisions.

  • Third, you gave me the responsibility to run the meeting and to make my idea real by attaching financial parameters to it. You gave me new responsibilities and the authority to fulfill them powerfully.

In my next post, we’ll incorporate Ken Blanchard’s Situational Leadership Model, (which was the model above that you followed in guiding my skill development,) and I’ll offer up a few experiments for further exploration.

As always, we’re here to support you in skill development!

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