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When you don’t know what you don’t know, who is going to show you that you need to know what you need to know?!
Over the years that I have spent mentoring and working with business owners to help them accelerate their business, income and sales growth, one thing has really stood out to me as often being the primary challenge that they have: they simply don’t know what they don’t know…
The Conscious-Competence Ladder
This situation of not knowing what you don’t know is actually a very natural place for people to begin and is well known as being the “bottom rung” of the Conscious-Competence ladder.
The Conscious-Competence Ladder is a model of learning that was first developed in the 1970’s. It shows how we all move through 4 stages of learning a new skill from a state of not knowing that we don’t know how to do something right, through to not knowing that we do know it! The model describes the process of skill development and awareness and is a valuable tool in understanding the stages an individual is at in their learning and how to adjust your training or instruction to take this into account.
The first step of this ladder, as you can see, is Unconscious Incompetence – as I said, we don’t know that we don’t know! I like to term this stage “Blissful Ignorance”
At this stage, you have a complete lack of knowledge and skills in the subject in question. On top of this, you are unaware of this lack of skill, and your confidence may therefore far exceed your abilities.
Many business owners are at this stage when I first talk to them. They have not yet been shown the gaps in their knowledge about how to run a business and how much they have to learn.
Don’t get me wrong, it is not that they don’t know what they are doing completely – they have amazing levels of expertise in their area of speciality – it is just that they have not been shown how to monetise that expertise and build a high-income business that works around their area of expertise. (See my earlier blog article: “Business Owners are Amazing!”)
Not everyone who starts a business is an entrepreneur
As Michael Gerber set out in his book “The E-Myth Revisted”, most people who start their business do not do so because they are “entrepreneurs”.
I have discussed in previous articles how many people fall “accidentally” into running their own business due to circumstances or necessity.
Some become self-employed because someone tells them “You are really good at that, you should start your own business”, or they get fed up seeing all the money that they are making for their bosses and the company that they work for and they want a bigger slice of the pie. Or they may not have the creative freedom that they want in a job or feel restrained by the direction that their employer is focusing them – they may want to be in control of that themselves, so they take the plunge and go it alone.
Or they may have an interest or a hobby that they are passionate about and they want to earn a living doing something that they love. This may often start as a part-time additional income stream and they are confident that they can expand it and make it a full-time income.
Perhaps they are fed up with the long hours and low pay of a job and want to have a better work-life balance and work less days for more money. The dream of many business owners is to work 2 or 3 days for a full week’s income – it is perhaps sad and ironic that so many end up working a full 7-day week (plus evenings!) for 2- or 3-days’ income!
And then there are those who are “pushed” – they are made redundant from a job and they no longer want to trust their future and their fortune to the whims and ebb and flow of the job market so they take the decision to forge their own path.
So, many people end up self-employed without actually looking carefully at what they need to do to make a success of it – without finding out the necessary steps to build a business that really works.
And this comes back to the fact that they have not sought out the advice of someone who can tell them what they need to know – because they do not know that there is stuff that they do not know!
Why would they ask advice about something when they don’t know that there is something that they need to ask advice about! It stands to reason!
Climbing the ladder
So, it is essential for business owners to seek help and find out what they don’t know that they don’t know so that they can climb the ladder from Unconscious-Incompetence to Conscious-Incompetence, i.e. knowing what they don’t know.
As Gerber said:
“People who are exceptionally good in business aren’t so because of what they know but because of their insatiable need to know more.”
And part of that is “taking up the gauntlet” and seeking out the knowledge of what they don’t know but need to know in order to run a successful high-income business.
They need to seek out a guide, a mentor, with knowledge and experience of running successful businesses who can help them travel upwards on the ladder so that they know what they need to know and onwards to Conscious-Competence where they are operating at a high level in areas that they fully understand.
Eventually a level of Unconscious-Competence can be reached, when “we don’t know what we know” – i.e. things have become so natural to us that we just go about it and it has become part of who we are, a “second nature”. This can actually be a danger in itself when running a business and part of my job as a Business Mentor is to help established business owners to flick their thinking back into Step 3 of the ladder, Conscious-Competence and regularly remind themselves why they do what they do in their businesses.
But it all starts with having an open mind and seeking out the guidance to understand what you don’t know and “plugging the gaps” of the areas of knowledge that are fundamental to running a successful business that works.
If you would like to talk to Toby about your business, how he could help and his training, contact him directly through his Sales Masters Guild Mentor page.
Toby Acton is a Sales Masters Guild Personal Business Mentor.
For more than two decades, Toby has been running his own businesses, with interests in a variety of diverse sectors including IT, market research and property. He has also mentored and trained many hundreds of people on how to build their networking marketing businesses and to develop their personal brand.
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