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From ignorance to Mastery: The 4 steps of adult learning journey

The purpose of coaching is to help you to change who you are by learning new skills or adopting new behaviors. This article explains you the 4 stages of adult learning journey.


Conscious Competence learning Model
Conscious competence learning Model

The Conscious Competence Learning Model define the 4 stages of the adult learning journey:

  • Stage 1: Unconscious incompetence: You don’t know what you don’t know. This is the blind spot phase. You may have received feedback from your manager on a lack of a certain skills but you don’t understand or you may even deny the relevance or usefulness of the skills. You may have been promoted to a new role and you feel incompetent but you don’t know what to do. This is usually where you realize you need the help of a coach. Performance review, 360 or personal type assessment are useful tools you can use at this stage.

Business example: You have been very successful in your career. You delivered your objectives above expectations in all your previous positions. One day, your manager tells you that your management style is too direct and that you should use a more empowering approach with your team. He tells you that your team feels that you are micromanaging them and they complain regularly. Your manager tells you that you should coach them instead of giving them orders. You don’t understand this feedback. Everything is working well and you don’t see why you should change your management style. That night, you have a drink with one of your friends and he actually confirms the feedback from your boss adding. You like to do things your own way.

  • Stage 2: Conscious incompetence: You know what you don’t know. The is the weakness phase. This is the early step of the learning process when you become aware of your area of improvement. You realize the skills or behavior you miss and you will need to make a conscious decision to transform, to put learning into practice. The journey to acquire new competencies will not go in straight lines, you will tack and it will take some time. You may even give up. In order to maximize your chance of success, a coach will help you to define a Well Form Goal and an action plan

Business example: You are now aware that if you want to progress, you will need to change your management style. You attend training, read books watch videos and listen to podcasts.

  • Stage 3: Conscious competence: You know you know: This is the ability phase. You have regularly worked hard to learn a skill and you are now able to adopt it consciously, without assistance. You still need to concentrate to perform the skill. The skill is not automatic.

Business example: You know how to empower your team better. During your all you one on one, you consciously ask questions instead of providing answers. This is still hard and you need to focus to make it happen but the more you do it, the easier it is. During an informal discussion with your manager, he tells you that you are improving.

  • Stage 4: Unconscious competence: You don’t know you know, it seems easy. Eventually, you will make habits of your new skills or behaviors which will become your new reality.

Business case: Finally, you made it. Your coaching management style is now part of your daily routines and you do it without thinking about it. From a leadership perspective, the 5th stage, the one that really allows a lasting change, is to share the skills you learnt with others. Mentoring can be a great option to achieve this.


Did you know?

Andrology comes from the Greek andr-, meaning "man", and agogos, meaning "guide"; it literally means "guiding man", whereas "pedagogy" literally means "guiding children. Andragogy is the art and science of Adult learning.

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