As a financial coach, it’s important to know how your clients learn. You need to understand what’s going on behind the scenes for them as they take the new information you’re sharing with them and put it to use in their journey.

The Four Stages of Competency comes from psychology and the learning model relates to the psychological state involved in processing from incompetence to competence in a particular skill.

This model serves as a way to show how we evolve our abilities and it offers a structured pathway for those on the adventure of learning something new. Whether you’re a financial coach seeking to enhance your practice or someone eager to master a new skill, understanding these stages not only demystifies the learning process but also provides a clear road map for personal and professional development.

To more clearly understand the stages of learning, take a moment to look at the visual representation created for this episode.

Why the Four Stages of Competency Matter

The Four Stages of Competency are a reflection of the natural progression we all undergo when acquiring new skills. This model is crucial for several reasons:

  • Informing Clients: It helps clients understand that developing new habits and skills may be challenging initially, but with perseverance, these tasks become easier as competence grows.
  • Guiding Growth: Knowing these stages allows us to better navigate and facilitate our own growth and the growth of others, using real-life experiences as milestones.
  • Self-Growth: It’s a roadmap for our personal development, reminding us that growth is a continuous process.
  • Marketing Insights: These stages can be leveraged to create “aha” moments in marketing, making potential clients realize the value of financial coaching.

The Four Stages Explained

Unconscious Incompetence: The Blissfully Unaware Stage

You cannot coach a person who is at this stage because they’re not even aware there’s a problem yet. They aren’t seeking solutions, nor do they even realize there’s a problem that needs solved.

This is likely where you were before you knew financial coaching was a thing, before you realized that you could be a financial coach. Once you knew this, you discovered all the possibilities and a whole new world opened up for you.

Prior to that “aha” moment you were probably in the unconscious incompetence stage because it was this idea that you probably didn’t even know there was a whole world of knowledge out there for you to explore.

Conscious Incompetence: The Awakening

In this stage, you’re fully aware that you don’t know something or cannot do something. This stage often feels really overwhelming because now we realize just how much we don’t know. The question people ask at this stage is “What do I do first?” or “How do I start going down this journey?”

There’s more you don’t know than you do know and you are fully aware of that. This stage is full of a lot of learning and growth. People may feel shame, guilt or embarrassment which can make them doubt their abilities and think they are not cut out for the task at hand. This can lead to giving up prematurely.

Conscious Competence: The Learning Curve

In this stage, you’re competent at the new skill, but you have to think really hard to do it. You are becoming better and more skilled. You feel confident in what you know and what you don’t know doesn’t feel so overwhelming. The things you’ve been practicing are getting easier and you have some systems in place to help succeed at this stage. You’ve figured out some things that work for you and what doesn’t work for you and you’re “getting settled” into what works for you (but not quite settled yet).

At this stage, you still have to “work hard” at your new skill because it doesn’t yet feel effortless, natural or second nature. Focus on not getting too complacent and continuing to learn and grow and expand your knowledge, refine the skills you have, uplevel them, that kind of thing.

Unconscious Competence: Mastery

You’ve been doing it long enough that it’s easy now, it’s a habit, routine. You can do that skill while multitasking. You put on that outfit and you KNOW you look good in it. And the longer you practice your skill in this stage, that’s when true mastery happens.

Mastery requires a lot of things–it takes commitment, dedication, consistency, refinement. It requires all of those things, but it also requires something else: TIME. You cannot master a skill quickly. Mastery comes with time and experience. If you want to master something, anything, start today. Right now because it takes time and that time is passing by right now.

Marketing and the Four Stages of Competency

Back in the first phase we talked about how you go from being blissfully unaware. The “aha” moments you had here would be great to recreate in your marketing.

You, your content, your messaging can sometimes be the thing that creates an ‘aha” moment for someone else. That’s the person who messages you and says “I saw your post. It’s exactly me. I’m not OK with it anymore..”

They just had their aha moment and now they are completely overwhelmed. They’re not sure what to do with all of this information that’s out there, and they really need help sorting through it. And meanwhile, we might be at a much more advanced level of skill and learning when it comes to money.

What you really want to be careful of is that you aren’t talking your language at that level to a client that is not yet at that level of learning. This shows up sometimes by using really technical jargon or overly complex terminology, and the potential client doesn’t understand what you’re saying.

Some people may never experience their “aha” moment and that can be hard to acknowledge. I want to believe in everyone. I truly believe in the potential of people. And also the hard truth is that some people will never experience that because they never “hit rock bottom.”

Personal Reflections and Growth

Reflecting on personal experiences of growth, from the realization of one’s incompetence in a specific area to the journey toward mastery, provides invaluable insights into the learning process for yourself and your clients. At any given moment, there are areas of our lives where we are progressing through these stages, often without conscious recognition. Sharing these personal journeys can inspire you to embrace their learning paths with patience and persistence.

The Four Stages of Competency offer a powerful lens through which we can view our journey of learning and growth. By understanding and embracing these stages, both financial coaches and their clients can navigate the challenges of skill acquisition with greater awareness and effectiveness, ultimately leading to a more competent and confident approach to personal and professional development.

Want to learn more? We cover this and more in the Financial Coach Academy®!