It took me forever to learn how to ride a bike! I remember skinned knees and frustration and tears. I also remember the joy of riding once I (finally) learned how. It still amazes me that some people can pick up this new skill in a matter of days – or even hours – but for some of the rest of us it takes longer.
Some people say that it’s easier to teach something if it’s something that didn’t come easy to you. It really makes sense, as how can we understand the struggles that other people have learning something if it just feels like second nature.
I was introduced to a learning model a year or so ago that has helped me a great deal as I try to set up learning processes for staff members, board members and even my own virtual staff. Since then, I’ve learned that this is officially know as the four stages of competence. This is helpful information to know whether you are learning a new skill or if you are trying to teach someone something new.
I’ll illustrate this concept with the situation of encouraging board members to become involved in fundraising.
- Unconscious Incompetence – The board member (or someone new to the fundraising role) doesn’t know what they don’t know. They jump in and start moving forward, but at some point they come to the realization that there is more to learn.
- Conscious Incompetence – At some point for most of us, as we’ve entered the workforce and gained expertise in our career, we’ve become used to being much more than competent at what we do. Realizing that we are incompetent at something we’re trying to learn may be enough of a discouragement for us to just walk away. You’ve probably seen this happen – board members are really excited about their fundraising activities at a board meeting, but by the next meeting, they’re a lot less committed. We can address this in a couple of different ways. First is to acknowledge at the beginning of the process that they might run into this feel. A second is to make sure to walk with them as they go through the learning process. This could include meetings, check-in calls and providing additional support.
- This leads into Conscious Competence.We have made the decision to learn how to do the activity (ie being involved in the fundraising process) and learn the steps to be successful. We’re doing well, it just takes a little thinking still.
- Finally, Unconscious Competence. We are starting to know the process well enough that it becomes second nature. We don’t need to think about it anymore to be good at it, we just do it.
Whether you are bringing someone new on your team who needs training, or encouraging your board to get involved in fundraising, or even learning something new yourself, it’s good to have patience with the process. And hopefully too, if you’re teaching something that is already second nature to you, this will help you understand the learning process that your pupil is going through.