Are you unconsciously competent?

You know how it is you start a new job, excited, nervous and ready to learn. You make copious notes and lists, learn new systems and get on board with office protocols. As the months pass by, you become more confident, feel more at home in your new environment and you start to really excel at the job.

When you have made a huge leap out of your comfort zone into a new job it’s always a great feeling when you are totally relaxed in your new environment, knowing that you have made a really good career move. At that point, it is likely that you have reached a state of ‘Unconscious Competence’ – “you have had so much practice with a skill that it becomes “second nature” and can be performed easily (often without concentrating too deeply). This is the stage where you can do it without thinking – you just know what to do”.

Have you ever arrived at work and not really remembered how you got there? You have no doubt driven that route so many times that you don’t need to consciously think about where you need to go and what turns you need to take. And that also can be related to the actual driving of the car, which I can use as an example of the four stages of competence:

Unconscious Incompetence – You have never driven a car, and are completely unaware of the skill required to do so.

Conscious Incompetence – You have sat in the car with a driving instructor and they have explained the basic skills required to drive. You now know what to do, but are yet to master it.

Conscious Competence – You have had several driving lessons, you have mastered the skills and you can drive a car competently, but each time you get in the car, it requires thought and effort to succeed.

Unconscious Competence – Driving is now a straight forward task that requires little effort and is something that you do automatically without much thought.

I was recently given a hire vehicle whilst my own car went in for repairs. I’ve been driving for over 20 years, the last 10 of which have been in an automatic car – I was 100% driving my car in a state of unconscious competence. The hire car was a manual and that certainly changed things for me. I had to re learn how to drive it and was far more aware of the driving process, which ultimately made me a safer driver as I was taking far more care in what I was doing.

Here at RightClick we have used the competence matrix to look at how we work, using it to improve our working practices and client/customer service. We found that people can often take shortcuts when they are unconsciously competent, and maybe overlook some of the detail and protocols that we learnt when we were starting out. We are lucky to have a very open and honest culture here that encourages feedback from colleagues, no matter what their position in the business is. We are all receptive to finding ways of improving ourselves and ultimately helping build a fantastic business that doesn’t stand still being unconsciously competent, but always improving.

This matrix can easily be transferred to all different aspects of life and is something that we can use to help our candidates. They may have been for numerous interviews and feel confident that their approach is ticking every box, but it is likely that as each interview passes, the process is becoming less of an effort and they become unconsciously competent. That is why we always go back to basics with our interview preparation for candidates, it may sound like we are telling them things they probably already know, but it really doesn’t do any harm to put basic principles to the forefront of their mind.