The 5 Steps of Incompetence to Excellence

Each of us aspires for greatness, a level of excellence that sets us well ahead of the pack. Consider for a moment your favorite athletes, or a person who perhaps in your industry is considered something of a rock star. When we see someone who is excellent at what they do we cannot help but want to follow in his or her footsteps.

The thing we often overlook is the journey of becoming excellent. When we see people accomplish greatness we often think of the highlight reel, and we tend to forget all the hard work and mistakes that are made on the way to greatness. To learn from those who went before you look at everything they did – not just the highlight reel & the blooper reel. (Click to tweet)

A number of months ago a friend of mine passed along an article, which talked about the 5 levels of excellence. Each of these steps is part of the journey as we go from being a novice to an expert. What I find most helpful is the reality that these 5 steps apply in our work world, they apply wherever we volunteer our time and energy, and they apply in our efforts to invest in and develop our families.

Here is the 5 step journey from incompetence to excellence:

  1. Unconscious Incompetence – The comfortable place where you think you know everything. There are questions you have not even thought to ask, and therefor you miss the answers that you need to get better. You can linger here forever.
  1. Conscious Incompetence – It’s like discovering you have bad breath – yes now you know there is some work to do but you felt better before you knew what you now know. The good thing is you are now motivated to improve. This is where we learn the various steps required to do something well.
  1. Conscious Competence – Like a baby that finally learned to walk – your doing it, but it takes all your energy to make it happen. You now know how to do a something well but it requires great focus to do it.
  1. Unconscious Excellence You are no longer focusing to make things happen. You have figured out walking and chewing gum at the same time. It takes time to get here, and when you finally do you might not even realize it (because again, it is unconscious).
  1. Conscious Excellence – At this top level you are able to deconstruct and reconstruct the elements of your performance. This is valuable because it makes you able to explain it to others.  Seek to be consciously excellent – so aware of what you do to excel that you can actually teach it to others. (Click to tweet)

As you consider the 5 levels of excellence ask yourself 2 questions:

  • On which level do I currently reside?
  • What do I need to do today to rise to the next level?

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