Years ago, when I worked in the leadership development field, I came across a 2×2 matrix representing levels of skill. One dimension has to do with how skilled we are at something (competent), and the other dimension concerns how conscious we are about a given skill level.
For example, think about riding a bike. Most of us would consider ourselves “consciously competent” when it comes to bicycle riding. We know how to ride a bike, and we know that we know how to ride a bike. On the other hand, consider brain surgery. Most of us do not know how to perform brain surgery, and we know full well that given a scalpel and an exposed brain on an operating table, we’d be clueless. In this case, we are “conscious incompetents.”
When it comes to redefining ourselves, and harvesting gifts from within, I like to explore the “unconscious” half of this model. In other words, what gifts or talents do we have that seem so effortless to us that we’re “unconsciously competent”? This is where friends and family members can provide some insight.
Think about asking three close friends or family members one or more of the following questions:
- What do you think I’m especially good at?
- What do I do that looks easy but you know isn’t?
- What hidden talents do you think I have?
Their answers may surprise you! And they can offer some avenues to develop further.
For example, my friend Meredith tried this approach, and was surprised to learn that she often made newcomers or outsiders feel welcome. She had a gift for making people feel at home, and didn’t realize it until several friends pointed it out to her. Taking this a step further, Meredith did a little homework and developed a New Member Orientation at her church, which in turn led to the start of a part-time consulting practice. Today Meredith designs and develops New Employee Orientation for small businesses and non-profits.
Another area rich with possibility for redefining oneself concerns the “unconscious incompetent.” That’s where we do not know something, but we are unaware that we are not skilled.
We can pick up clues about our unconscious incompetence by noticing patterns…are we chronically late? Maybe we’re unskilled at time management. Do we regularly experience periods when we are burned out? Maybe we haven’t yet learned how to fully care for ourselves. Are we carrying extra weight? Could be that we haven’t quite mastered the necessary skills for a healthy lifestyle. Stuck in expanding our business? Perhaps we haven’t developed our skills in marketing, branding and networking.
Pausing to reflect on the “problem” areas of our lives can provide some insight as to where our “unconscious incompetence” might be playing a role….and can give us a different perspective on how to get unstuck and moving forward.
If it’s time to redefine yourself, shine a light on that hidden, unconscious part. It’s fascinating, it’s rich with possibility, and it will always be there for you. Happy harvesting!