How to get ‘really’ good at your trade

Now, I’m not saying that you are not already a master of what you do, because I’m pretty sure you are.

Instead, I’m looking at ways that you can improve even further and actually excel in your skillset.

There are ways that you can approach your trade which allow you to become extremely proficient with the task at hand and max out your abilities.

You may be fully confident with a certain set of tools, because you use them every single day. But when it comes to adopting an additional working practice surrounding a new tool or piece of kit, there is a whole new learning process that you go through to achieve the right level of conscious competence as a professional tradesperson.

What is The Conscious Competence ladder?

The Conscious Competence ladder ladder refers to four Stages of Learning.

When we learn new skills, there are different emotions that we experience throughout each stage of the learning process.

The ladder was developed in the 1970s by Noel Burch, an employee with Gordon Training International.

The model focuses on our two main thoughts as we learn a new skill: awareness and competence.

The conscious competence ladder suggests that we move through the following stages as we advance up the ladder:

  1. Unconsciously unskilled – We don’t even know that we have this skill or how bad we are at it.
  2. Consciously unskilled – The point that we realise the skill but understand we are no good at it.
  3. Consciously skilled– We now know that we have the skill and can perform it
  4. Unconsciously skilled – We are so skilled at this point that we don’t even think about the skill, it just comes naturally.

How to Use the Conscious Competence Ladder

Below we discuss each stage of the ladder and how to continue advancing your skills.

Stage 1 – Unconsciously Unskilled

As mentioned, this stage is the initial phase where you don’t even realise the skill or that you need it.

Put simply, you lack any knowledge of skill in a particular area and you don’t even know it.

In order to progress and advance, you could carry out a personal SWOT analysis to help you identify your strengths and weaknesses. This may give you a good idea of where you need to improve and allows you to think about weaknesses in your trade.

Before you can do this effectively, it’s important that you know your long-term goal and aim. What do you want to achieve from your trade and where do you want to end up? This gives you a clear direction when performing a SWOT analysis and helps you keep on track and stay focused.

Stage 2 – Consciously Unskilled

So, after a successful SWOT analysis, you have uncovered some weaknesses in your trade.

You now realise that there are certain skills or areas in your work that need improving.

This can be one of the hardest stages and some traders may find it quite demoralising. It’s important to keep your confidence high during this stage and always remember your long-term goal and why you are doing this.

Stage 3 – Consciously Skilled

After working on your identified weaknesses, you now know that you have acquired a new skill.

The trick is to continue practicing your new learning and performing the skill regularly, this will help you gain more confidence and become more able.

At this stage, you still need to focus whilst performing your new skill as it won’t be perfect just yet, but with practice you will become increasingly competent.

In order to progress into the next stage of the ladder, it’s crucial that you constantly look for opportunities to use your new skill. Doing it on the job makes it more real and gives you really good experience.

Stage 4 – Unconsciously Skilled

You finally made it!

At stage 4, you are that much of an expert at your new learning that you can perform activities and make decisions without any effort.

As a master of your new skillset, you will be able to effortlessly carry out related tasks without any consciousness.

It is key to note that in order to remain at this level of competence, you need to be using your new skill regularly.

The 4 stages of competence are really useful for tradespeople who want to progress and excel in their area of expertise. You can also use it to teach your employees too, guiding them through the emotional ups and downs, but you can also use it when you are teaching or coaching others, to guide them through the emotions of acquiring a new skillset.

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