In the last two blogs we looked at how to motivate a person to achieve the tasks or to manage others.  In this blog we look at are they up for the task. When a person is promoted to a new position or given a new task that they have never done before, they are effectively a novice and they may not know what they are doing and may need support.

I have always been amazed at the magical properties that there must be in a night’s sleep, as someone who gets promoted to a position of leadership, or management, goes home, has a sleep, and then comes in knowing everything.  Don’t they?   Surely, they must, because so many times a person who is trying something new is left to fend for themselves and does not get the support or training they need. As a result, their only option is trial and error and learning from their mistakes.  Which is usually a painful process.

It is known that we go through four stages of learning during which we will need support, and to illustrate I will link the stages to that of learning to drive.

The Four Stages of Learning:

  1. Unconscious incompetence – I don’t know what I don’t know

When we were learning to drive do you remember “mirror, signal, manoeuvre”? I certainly do and I remember that suddenly all my confidence that I would be a great driver faded away as I went to pull out for the first time and promptly stalled the car, and not just once!

By the end of the first few lessons I began to realise that there was more to this than I thought, and my parents made driving look so easy.  I remember managers that I promoted coming to me after several months in the job and telling me that I had made the job look so easy.  I reminded them it is easier when you have been doing it for several years, not months.

  1. Conscious incompetence – I now know what I don’t know

Just when I had mastered pulling out safely, they added in parking, going around roundabouts, hill starts, emergency stops, and that’s not all.  At this point my motivation was through the floor and I felt I would never pass my test.

This is a very difficult stage and many a person has given up on the task or even quit their job because they did not believe they could ever achieve it. They now knew what they didn’t know, and the task of learning seemed too daunting.  It is essential that anyone who is managing these people is there for them to support and coach them through this stage.

If you are driving you know you passed this stage, but it was undoubtedly with the support of the driving instructor.  In management, you are their driving instructor, be there for your people. They will reward you when they learn to do it and can be given more tasks to undertake.

  1. Conscious competence – I now know how to do it.

I sat my driving test and passed!!  I was now deemed to be doing it well enough to be risked on the roads of Britain.   I now knew how to do it.

That feeling of euphoria does not last forever and after a while it may not be enough to sustain the motivation, especially of a manger or leader.  When we have reached a point where we can do the job and do it well, we may become bored and lacking in challenge.  This is common in organisations where there is no real progression.

However, the cure for this is for you to delegate more tasks to them, and free yourself up for other work.  In our driving analogy you could ask them to get an enhanced driving licence.

  1. Unconscious Competence – I do not even need to think about doing it.

When was the last time you thought “mirror, signal, manoeuvre”?  You just don’t have to.  Equally this is the stage where a person will be spotting work to do and can be trusted and empowered to run projects where they take control and run it without a huge amount of input from you.  Definitely the reward for all your efforts.

One word of warning, you would not let your son or daughter take their first couple of driving lessons and then drive their brothers and sisters to school.  First it would be illegal and secondly it would be crazy and dangerous.  Why, because we know they still have to learn to do drive properly.  The same applies to a person who is in their training phase. Give them time to learn the job before you add too much more to their job.

To read the previous blog click here

To read from the beginning of this leadership series click here