The Four Stages of Competence

The Four Stages of Competence

Over the weekend, I stumbled across a reel on Instagram, and this guy was talking about the Four Stages of Competence. It's a topic that's come up a few times in different classes and conferences I've attended over the years, and I took the time to dig back into it.

This is one of those things that are good to know as you grow in your position to be a leader. First, where did this thing come from? The Four Stages of Competence were developed by Noel Burch from Gordon Training International in the 1970s. It's a model that describes the psychological states involved in progressing from incompetence to competence in a skill.

As a leader, you've probably already used this model without knowing it. As a parent, I know I have. Here's how it roles,

  • "I do, you watch,"
    • Teaching someone to do something for the first time.
  • "I do, you help,"
    • Ensuring that someone assists, giving them hands-on experience.
  • "You do, I help," and,
    • See if they've been able to absorb what you've been teaching.
  • "You do, I cheer."
    • Step back and let them run with the project or activity.

In the academic sense, these four skills align with Mr. Burch's work as such,

"I do, you watch" = Unconscious Incompetence

At this stage, individuals are unaware of their lack of skill or knowledge in a particular area. They may not recognize the deficit or the value of the new skill. The transition to the next stage occurs when they realize their incompetence.

"I do, you help" = Conscious Incompetence

Individuals at this stage recognize their deficit and the value of the new skill, marking the beginning of the learning process. They understand that they lack specific skills and acknowledge the need to learn.

"You do, I help" = Conscious Competence

At this stage, individuals have acquired the necessary knowledge and skills but need to concentrate and possibly break the task down into steps to perform it well. Regular practice may be required to maintain their level of competence.

"You do, I cheer" = Unconscious Competence

This is the final stage, where individuals have had so much practice with a skill that it becomes "second nature" and can be performed quickly, often while executing another task. The skill has been internalized to the point where it has become automatic.

Now you're smarter. Have a great day.


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