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Competence ladderFor most of us it’s important that our jobs offer opportunities for personal and professional development, and as we grow our knowledge, confidence and skills we hope to see career progression too.

Volunteer managers need to employ a range of leadership skills such as motivating people, inspiring volunteers to buy in to organisational values, and influencing senior managers. This sometimes involves working on our own attitudes and behaviours – by no means easy and often emotionally challenging.

Noel Burch developed the Competence Ladder in the 1970s. It can be a helpful guide through the process of learning new skills.

This model helps us navigate our way through a learning experience. It can be particularly helpful if we find ourselves in the rather uncomfortable phase of learning something new.

And it can also help us to appreciate why things we may take for granted as being easy to do, can be difficult to explain to someone else. This is because the skills that underpin some activities are now below our conscious awareness.

Level 1 – Unconsciously unskilled

You don’t know what you don’t know. Your confidence in how easy or hard something might be doesn’t bear much resemblance to the reality. You may even be blissfully unaware of your lack of skills.

Level 2 – Consciously Unskilled

By this stage you are starting to understand what is involved in learning a new skills, and the gap between where you are now and what you need to learn becomes clearer. This is likely to be an uncomfortable stage, and therefore the one where you are most likely to give up. You need to seek out support and encouragement to help you to stay motivated and on track.

Level 3 – Consciously Skilled

You now have an understanding of the new knowledge and are able to demonstrate the new skill. You will find that you need to concentrate, the skills are not yet automatic.

Level 4 – Unconsciously Skilled

You have integrated new skills and knowledge and can use them without conscious effort. But you still need to keep using them if you are to maintain this level of competence.

How can you apply this model to your learning?

What do you think?

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