As we covered previously in Four Steps to Mastery, to achieve mastery in any difficult skill, the craftsman, artist, athlete, fighter pilot, business owner, parent, and expert must proceed through four phases of learning:
- Unconscious incompetence: they don’t realize how much they have to learn.
- Conscious incompetence: they realize how much more they need to learn.
- Conscious competence: they are skilled, but their performance requires conscious focus and attention.
- Unconscious competence: they are highly skilled and can perform almost unconsciously.
Once you achieve the mastery of unconscious competence, life is good. You are on your game, you have learned to open the window to mastery. People recognize you as a special talent in your field.
But then something inevitably changes… can be rapidly (boom!) or slowly over time (drip, drip, drip).
It can be the external environment — changes in market, new competitors, etc. or it can be internal — change in your role or strategy, product, services, priorities, etc.
Unconsciously competent, skilled leaders who don’t adapt to the change become less and less relevant.
How to adapt? They must go back down to a state of unconscious or conscious incompetence and work their way back up to mastery in the new environment, developing new skills.
It’s not easy. Especially when you’ve been regarded as the ace-of-the-base by your teammates, your boss, your family, your friends, your competitors.
This can be the source of self-denial and a huge resistance to change.
In my current world, I know outstanding older pilots who have been flying a particular model aircraft for many years — “I’m a Gulfstream guy” — and the company or owner is considering purchasing the next jet from another manufacturer, such as Bombardier, Falcon Jet, Cessna, or Embraer. I’ve seen long-time professional pilots panic at the thought of having to learn a new aircraft with different types of systems, different performance characteristics, a different network of technical support, etc.
Their ego can’t handle the thought of becoming a beginner again, albeit with lots of experience.
Are you resisting what is required for you to stay relevant in your world?
Being a beginner again is awkward. Our precious egos hate the thought.
Do you have the courage to adapt and grow new knowledge and skills?
Be a High-Trust Leader: Maintain COMPETENCE through continuous learning, by temporarily accepting conscious incompetence as a necessary step to mastery and sustained relevance amid constant change.