Tag Archives: behaviors

The Competence Cycle

As team members learn how to do new tasks, they will go through four predictable stages related to their confidence and competence.  The leader’s role is to help them progress through the four stages without damaging their self-confidence or causing too much risk to the team or organization.

Stage 1 – Unconscious Incompetence At this stage, the performer has little concept of what the task is actually going to entail.  She is incredibly excited about it and feels enormous confidence that she is up to the task.  The problem is that this confidence is rarely based on reality.  The confidence comes from ignorance of the skills, knowledge and hard work necessary to complete the task.  Often, performers feel that success in previous endeavors will guarantee success in this one.  Sometimes they are right, but most often they are not.  The leader should be very specific with a performer at this stage.  It’s important to tell her exactly what, when, where and how a task should be done.  Make expectations crystal clear, and supervise progress closely. Think about the last time you took up a new sport.  I’ll use golf as an example.  You watched it on TV, saw the pros do their thing and thought, “Hey, I can do that!  How hard could it be to hit a ball with a stick?”  So, you go out to a golf course and mortgage your house to play 18.  (You didn’t know it was going to be so expensive!)  You head to the first hole and watch the party in front of you.  Looks easy enough.  Your turn.  You set your tee, work a little bit to get the ball to balance on top of it, and then you take a swing!  You strain your eyes to see your first hole-in-one.  Wow!  Those balls are really hard to see…oh… wait.  No, they’re not.  They show up nicely against the green color of the grass.  You take another swing… and another… and another… This is getting embarrassing.  The party behind you is starting to laugh… and then complain.  Now they are getting hostile.  You’ve just entered… Stage 2 – Conscious Incompetence This stage is typically a huge letdown for performers.  The high expectations they had have not materialized.  The task is harder, bigger, less glamorous, more work, more expensive…you name it.  They’ve made a big step, though.  Just recognizing that they don’t have the skill set or knowledge for the task is the first step toward getting them.  Now they know what they don’t know.  As long as the performer doesn’t regress to Stage 1 (i.e., go into denial about the skills and knowledge they need), you’ve got them right where you want them.  Now that they know they won’t be the next prodigy, they will typically be much more teachable.  What they need from you is encouragement.  Their confidence has been dealt a blow, and they need to know that this is a normal stage…that all experts were once beginners.  Keep the end result in front of them to motivate them through this stage. Now that you know you aren’t Tiger Woods, you have a few choices.  You can give up – golf must be a hereditary skill that you didn’t get in your gene pool.  Or you can keep plugging (divots, that is).  Get a coach, head to the driving range, practice, practice, practice…  With time, instruction and practice, you’ll reach… Stage 3 – Conscious Competence Progress has been made.  The performer has developed the competence to be able to perform the task.  The problem here is that the performer has to really concentrate on the steps to get it done.  He will typically be hesitant and afraid of making mistakes.  He might over-think the process, leading to avoidable errors and frustration.  Your role as the leader will be to be patient and allow him plenty of practice.  He may need a pep talk from time to time to remind him of how far he has come.  If the performer starts making too many mistakes in a row, his confidence could be seriously damaged.  If you start to see signs of demoralization, give him a break so that he can get his mind off all the steps.  When he relaxes, he will perform better. You are now a golfer, but you’re not enjoying it much.  It takes too much thinking.  Eyes on the ball, legs apart, knees bent, eyes on the ball, pull back, eyes on the ball, elbow straight, eyes on the ball, swing, eyes on the ball, WHACK!  You thought golf was supposed to be fun.  Be patient.  Before you know it, you will cross over to… Stage 4 – Unconscious Competence Eureka!  You’ll rarely recognize the transition from Stage 3 to Stage 4 when it happens, but you’ll be able to see it in retrospect.  One day, you’ll observe the performer, and she will be performing the task without even thinking about it.  Be sure to point it out to her, because she will probably be the last to know.  The beauty of this stage is that the new skills and knowledge have been integrated into the performer’s skill set.  She is now the expert that she originally set out to be! When did it happen?  Who knows?  Overnight, you stopped having to think so much about what you were doing.  Now, you can’t wait to get on the greens.  Everybody wants you to join their group for the upcoming tournament.  Tiger called and asked you for some advice. The Competence Cycle is universal.  All experts were once beginners  – even the Tiger Woods of the world.  While some have natural ability, disciplining it to make it work for them is still a learning process.  Use the Competence Cycle to diagnose your performers.  Then, meet them where they are at to help them move to the next level.


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Filed under Challenges, Change, coaching, comfort zone, commitment, delegation, discipleship, failure, Fathering, feedback, growth, leadership, learning, management, mentoring, motivation, parenting, performance, Persistence, Productivity, Teaching

Fake It Till You Make It

Unless we are compelled to do something, most of us live life doing the things we feel like doing.  Happiness, comfort and pleasure are our main motivators during our non-working hours.  This approach keeps us firmly rooted in our comfort zones.

Unfortunately, the tricky thing about comfort zones is that they tend to shrink if they aren’t stretched regularly.  When we aren’t pushing their boundaries, they start to close in on us, and we find ourselves “comfortable” doing less and less.  Before long, all we feel like doing is renting movies from the local video store.

We won’t grow inside our comfort zones.  Growth is beyond their borders, and we have to push through some ugly discomfort to reach it.  Like a rocket leaving the earth’s atmosphere, we will expend most of our fuel getting out of the lower atmosphere of our habits, but there is a payoff – it gets much, much easier once we have made it through.

What this means is that if we are ever going to introduce some positive change into our lives, we are going to have to do what we don’t feel like doing.  We have to exercise when our body screams, “NO!”  We have to apologize when our pride gives us excuses.  We have to take a leap when the fear (spelled F.E.A.R.) cements our feet to the ground.  We’re going to have to fake it until we make it.

In other words, we are going to have to act like we want to do it even when we absolutely don’t want to do it.  But there is a payoff here, too.  It gets easier.  The feelings will follow after we act.  The want to follows the do.

The American psychologist, Jerome Bruner, says,

We are more likely to act ourselves into a feeling than feel ourselves into an action.

When we use our will to take positive action even though we don’t feel like it, the positive feelings will eventually follow as we start to see the benefits of our new behaviors.  Who hasn’t felt better after a long-procrastinated workout, a pride-swallowing resolution to a family conflict or a a fear-conquering leap of faith?

True, the feelings don’t always come right away.  It may take repeated trips out of the comfort zone.  But before too long, our comfort catches up with our new activity and we feel better about ourselves for doing what was difficult.

When our feelings decide our actions, we retreat into our comfort zones, but when our actions lead our feelings, we grow.  Act before you feel like it.  Fake it until you make it.

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Filed under Challenges, Change, comfort zone, delayed gratification, determination, Goals, growth, habits, Instant Gratification, motivation, overcoming obstacles, Persistence


During parent-teacher conferences yesterday, our youngest son’s teacher gave me an analogy that was a huge help to me.  Our son is somewhat, uh, let’s say…self-centric, and I’ve had difficulty explaining to him how his behaviors impact those around him.  I’ve tried pointing them out in the moment, lecturing, role-playing…nothing works.

But armed with the analogy, I took another run at it.

“You see, son, it’s like this.  (As I draw a picture for him…)  This “X” is you here in the center.  And these other “Xs” represent all the people in your life.  Here’s Mom, and here I am.  Here are your brother and sister, and here are some of your friends at school.

“When you say things and do things, you send off ripples like when a pebble is dropped into a pool of water.  Those ripples go out from you and touch those people around you.  Now, you can send out positive ripples, or you can send out negative ripples.  Positive ripples usually make those around you feel good.  Negative ripples typically make them feel bad.

“What kind of ripples do you want to send out? (‘Good ones.’)  Sure, I knew that.  But sometimes when you say mean things or do hurtful things or even when you aren’t even paying much attention at all, you send out negative ripples.  I know you don’t want to make people feel bad, but what you say and do almost always affects those people around you.

“And even though you don’t always notice, there are more people around you than just the ones we’ve talked about here.  If you are too focused on yourself, you don’t even see them, but they can still get your negative ripples.

“When people get negative ripples from someone, do you know what happens? (‘No.’)  Many times, when someone gets negative ripples from someone, they send out their own negative ripples.  Those ripples go out from them to you and often to others around them – even people who had nothing to do with what happened between the two of you.  That doesn’t seem fair, does it?  (‘No.’)  I agree, but that’s what happens.

“Those negative ripples go out and impact other people, who then sometimes give off their own negative ripples that affect other people around them and cause them to give off even more negative ripples.  Before long, the first negative ripple you sent out could end up impacting lots of people – people you’ve never met.

“But what if you worked harder at always giving off positive ripples?  What would happen then?  (‘The good ripples would go out and make other people want to give off good ripples.  Then those good ripples would make other people want to give off more good ripples to the people around them.’)  Exactly!  That’s it!  That’s what I wanted to help you understand.  You could help a lot of people have a better day just by starting the first good ripple.”

As I shared the diagram with him, I couldn’t help but think about how it applied to my own life and how often I’m guilty of sending off negative ripples – particularly with those I love the most.  My moments of frustration and selfishness and unkindness can ruin an entire evening for my family.  Because of my leadership role, my ripples are sometime more like tsunamis.  All the more reason for me to work harder at sending out positive ones.

Grace, Mercy, Forgiveness, Unconditional Love…Positive ripples.

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