The Great Awakening – Unconsciously Incompetent

When Zach meandered into Starbucks, he was finishing up a text on his iPhone. In the other hand was his well-used sport coffee cup. Zach was late but hey… who was counting minutes. He spotted me at the table, waved and got in line to refresh his drink. Zach was to be my newest client. His employer had engaged me to get Zach up to speed on his time and priority management. Great AwakeningHe was not making the grade and something needed to change.

I asked Zach about how things were going at work and how he was feeling about his assignments. He was pretty non-committal about it all and said that he thought things would come together the more he worked it over in his brain. I asked him how he was keeping track of it all and he tapped his head with the Android.

Zach was normal. Most of his priorities were swimming around in his head with a few notes here and there on his phone. He didn’t really have a system but would never admit it. He was about to make a mental transition from being unconsciously incompetent to consciously incompetent just by the stroke of a pen. But it’s where we had to start!

I pulled out my one page, Priority Management Assessment. It was short, sweet and covered 6 typical areas in 18 questions.

  1. Strategic Planning / Goals – Where are you taking yourself or your team
  2. Time Efficiency – Being conscious of the clock and the calendar
  3. Strategic Priorities – Clarity on what your are putting first, second or last
  4. Distractions – Recognizing and dealing with what’s pulling you away from priorities
  5. Task List Action Plan – What steps are moving your from point A to point B
  6. Stress – The result of poor priority management and the toll it takes

Zach borrowed my pencil and was done in 5 minutes. He smiled as he went through the score sheet, “Well I guess I need some help in a few areas!” It’s exactly the response I get most of the time. Most importantly, it was a conclusion he came to on his own.

The Great Awakening

Every one of us has areas in our professional and personal lives that we grossly over estimate our skill-set. We know a little about something but we’re convinced we know a lot more about it than we actually do. It’s called unconsciously incompetent.

It’s a Continuum

  1. Unconsciously Incompetent – we don’t know that we don’t have this skill, or that we need to learn it.
  2. Consciously Incompetent – we know that we don’t have this skill.
  3. Consciously Competent– we know that we have this skill.
  4. Unconsciously Competent – we don’t know that we have this skill (it just seems easy).

It’s amazing how many people are oblivious to the concepts and tools of managing their daily priorities. Life comes and life goes and they are no better or worse from their perspective. But the moment you open a book or listen to a lecture or hear an audio book on self-help, your consciousness is awakened. And the more you hear the more you become consciously incompetent. Before, you never knew how bad you were. But now it’s glaring in your face.

Zach scored pretty low on the assessment and it was the first time he had a genuine “ah ha” moment of clarity. Now I had his attention. Now he would be willing to listen and get help.

We are all a product of our habits. Priority management is no exception.

I Can Change Your Life

I am your constant companion.  I am your greatest helper or your heaviest burden. I will push you onward or drag you down to failure.  I am completely at your command. Half the things you do you might just as well turn over to me and I will be able to do them quickly and correctly.

I am easily managed – You must merely be FIRM with me.  Show me exactly how you want something done and after a few lessons I will do them automatically.  I am the servant of all great individuals and, alas of all failure as well.

I am not a machine, though I work with all the precision of a machine plus the intelligence of a human.  You may run me for a profit or run me for ruin – it makes no difference to me.

Take me, train me, be FIRM with me, and I will place the world at your feet.

Be easy with me and I will destroy you.

Who am I?

(7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen Covey)

What’s the answer? Habit.

Priority Management Coaching

The purpose of coaching and training is to install a new system of habits into your mind-set and work pattern to move you to consciously competent. And eventually transition you to unconsciously competent where it becomes your second nature.

Is what you are doing working for you now? Will it take you where you want to go? Are you willing to make CHANGE your mantra for the next 8-12 weeks?

By the end of his fourth month of coaching, Zach was standing on his own two feet. We had turned that Android and his head into powerful tools that lurched his productivity noticeably forward. Zach was doing great!   He was getting so much more accomplished and had become dependable. He was well on his way to becoming unconsciously competent!

Good luck!


Mirror Note: Consciously Competent

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