Ever wonder why some people are more effective than others? Life just seems to be easier for them, right? The answer to this mystery is likely found in one of the most obvious traits that separates humans from other members of kingdom Animalia: Self-awareness.
Essentially by definition, we’re all self-aware, demonstrating modesty, shame, joy and greed, just to name a few traits from our awareness inventory. But the most self-aware among us are informed by a bigger picture perspective, regarding the impact of their behavior and actions on the world around them, especially interactions with people. As students of Newton’s 3rd Law – for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction – highly effective people are not surprised at how the world reacts to their actions, because they’ve already played at least some level of that response in their minds, like a role play.
Highly effective people have acquired one more skill. They’ve converted self-awareness into a useful tool: self-analysis. This intuitively named practice helps regulate behavior for maximum effectiveness. More on that later.
In 1970, Noel Burch identified a handy four-level explanation of self-awareness, but he used a completely appropriate alternative word: consciousness. Prepare to see yourself and others as you discover these levels.
1. Unconscious Incompetent
The Unconscious Incompetent doesn’t know that he doesn’t know. He’s also called a DK2, which is short for, “don’t know, squared.” He’s not only incapable, but actually clueless about his inability.
In truth everyone is a DK2 from time to time. The challenge is to not live our lives as one because DK2 is a terminal professional condition. But if you’re thinking, “Oh, Great One! Please, stop me before I DK2 again,” don’t fret; we’ll get to that.
2. Unconscious Competent
This person lurches uncontrollably toward success without knowing how it happened. We may call such a person gifted or lucky. Those who work hard for everything call them annoying.
Don’t envy the Unconscious Competent because not knowing how you got where you are is one of the definitions of lost. Any resulting success is also likely to be temporary.
3. Conscious Incompetent
This person is incapable and knows it. There’s no ego about what he thinks he knows and no resistance to your methods and practices. A Conscious Incompetent is an amorphous block of disciple clay – employee – waiting to be molded by you, the mentor sculptor.
Be careful. Sometimes this person wallows in his condition as an excuse for non-performance. Conscious Incompetence should be a temporary condition on the way to the ultimate level of consciousness.
4. Conscious Competent
This person gets the job done and knows why. She can identify what causes success while being fully aware-and taking ownership-of failures.
How do you become a Conscious Competent? Through that practice mentioned earlier: self-analysis. This allows us to see what we do well and capitalize on it, as well as recognize and evaluate what we don’t do well and improve or minimize it.
Conscious Competence isn’t easy because it requires control of our ego. Ego obstructs self-analysis by telling us that any success we have is because we’re so smart, while assuring us that failures couldn’t be our fault. Through self-analysis, the Conscious Competent discovers the enduring benefits of being honest about performance, which is the only path to excellence.
Write this on a rock … Self-awareness begs for analysis, which can’t be successful without honesty – to thine own self be true – producing the Conscious Competence observed in highly effective people.