Professional Development via the learning pyramid

Learning Pyramid

Great managers create a culture of professional and personal development

A great manager should create a culture of professional and personal development within their team. A culture within which each team member strives to be the very best version of themselves. One where sharpening their saw each and everyday becomes a habit. However when pushing oneself forward it is also important to know where you are at, i.e. knowing in which micro skill or ability area you need to work on most.

It is important to know in which micro skill areas you need to develop.

A very useful way to analyse quickly where you (and your team members) are at and how much development work you and they still have to do, is using the learning pyramid. The first important thing to bear in mind, when using the learning pyramid on yourself or applying it in feedback given to others, is to use it applied to micro skills or attitudes over applying it to the macro. For example, “being a great teacher” is a macro outcome but: “classroom control”, “effective board work”, “use of awards and incentives” are all micro skills that determine whether you are successful in the macro goal of being a great teacher.

learning pyramid

The pyramid is broken up into 4 stages each of which forms a learning stage – moment – in which someone is in a micro skill.  Those in stage 1 “Unconscious incompetence” have no awareness of the fact they do not have, or are not utilizing, a certain skill. So for example in the case of “awards and incentives”, this would be a teacher who has not yet connected the importance of rewarding students has to ensuring a good learner attitude in the classroom. As a result of this, their students are less motivated and participate less and most likely the teacher has less effective classroom control. A great manager’s role in stage 1 is to first identify this “ignorance” and then find an effective acceptable way of bringing this up in feedback with their staff member.

Stage 1 is when you don’t know you don’t know and a manger’s job is to make them aware.

Stage 2 “Conscious Incompetence” is when you are aware of your lack of skill or effective knowledge in a certain area but do not yet know how to gain or implement this skill. For me this is “the learning stage” one where gaining additional knowledge is critical to improving one’s performance in the set skills set. So taking our example of “rewards and incentives”, this would be the teacher researching effective classroom rewards and incentives for their teaching environment and then learning how to use them to motivate and gain greater classroom control. The great manager’s role in stage 2 is to be educator or enabler i.e. the person who provides the framework for the staff member to learn the things needed, either through teaching them or through enabling them development time so they can self-learn.

Stage 2 is when you know you don’t know and a manager’s job here is to provide this knowledge.

Stage 3: “Conscious Competence” is when the person understands the components of the skill set and is using the skill but they have to think about it each time and hence are not yet applying it instinctively. So in the case of our example, this is a teacher using their star charts with younger children and applying them correctly to motivate the class but they do it through a structured pre-set way, not one yet happening with free synergy. It is probable in this case that the teacher is not yet able to distinguish the difference between the “means”, the use of the star chart”, from the “ends”, motivation and control, and hence may have less instinct for whether the “means” stops achieving the “ends” which can happen.  It is the great manager’s job here to remind the staff member there is a further stage to seek.

Stage 3 is when you know but you have to think about it and managers here need to remind that mastery is when you do it instinctively.

Stage 4: “Un-conscious Competence” is when you know what you need to know and know how to implement it but no longer need to think about how to do it.  In a simple sense this is process of a great speech being delivered without the speaker needing to look at paper, nor setting specifically what they will say. The words no longer need to be “thought about”, they exist by themselves. In our example this would be a teacher who identifies with the “ends”, motivation and control, and can implement multiple means to get there, adjusting to moods and moments, and doesn’t need to think about the process of doing it, they just know how and when to do it. A great manager’s role in stage 4 is encouraging as much ussage of this skill as possible but it also important to remind the staff member that “mastery” is never fixed, it is always transitory, and will only ever be maintained by continuous sharpening of the saw.

Stage 4: is when you know but no longer need to think about it and a great manager harnesses the usage of this mastery to the benefit of the whole team.

So when working towards being the very best manager you can be, remember that cause macro goals are achieved by micro skills and attitudes, it is critical to have some form of identifying both where you and your team are in those micro skills. The learning pyramid is a great way of doing this as when you see things in stages you can correctly identify the action needed to push to the next level. So from now when you sense you or you staff need to improve, think in what skill areas and then break down that individual skill into stages and then provide the support and management that specific stage needs.

Great managers know where they and their staff are on the learning pyramid.

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