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Life Health > Running Your Business

The 4 stages of competence

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The “Four Stages of Competence,” a psychological model for learning a new skill, has been around for years. The model was developed by Gordon Training International’s Noel Burch in the 1970s.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the four stages, they are:

1. Unconscious incompetence. An individual does not possess a given skill and does not know that he does not possess the skill. He or she may deny that the skill is useful. The individual has to recognize his or her incompetence and acknowledge the value of the skill in order to move to the next stage. An individual will tend to remain in this stage until prompted to learn the skill.

2. Conscious incompetence. While the individual does not possess the skill, he or she does recognize his or her incompetence as well as the value of the new skill. This stage is characterized by the making of mistakes in an effort to acquire the skill.
3. Conscious competence. The individual has acquired the skill but requires a certain amount of mental concentration to demonstrate the skill. Breaking down the skill into steps or conscious actions facilitates performance of the skill.
4. Unconscious competence. The individual has mastered the skill to such a degree that it has become “second nature” and can be easily and swiftly performed. The skill is so engrained that the individual may be able to perform the skill simultaneously with other tasks. The individual can teach the skill to others.

Where are you in these four stages in the practice of your profession?

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Simon Reilly of Leading Advisor Inc. is a financial advisor coach, speaker and writer. Simon writes a daily blog and can be reached at


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