What’s worse than being Consciously Incompetent? Proteus Leadership I Leadership I Programs
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What’s worse than being Consciously Incompetent?


“I can tell you if the definition of vulnerability is uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure, then being new at something is the epitome of vulnerability.” - Brené Brown

As I prepare for the upcoming ‘Face-2-Face’ breakfast series in June on Embracing the Imposter Syndrome it got me thinking…

When I’m coaching various leaders, they often reveal to me that they are suffering from Imposter Syndrome.

Typically, when digging a little deeper, they tell me that they’re now required to perform and deliver on something that’s outside of their current skill set. They are quite frankly terrified of being ‘exposed and vulnerable’.

The reason they are feeling overwhelmed is because they are in the zone of what educational experts call being Consciously Incompetent. Yikes!

This is a brutal reality but also a breakthrough moment.

Generally, what we discover, is that they are not being disingenuous or behaving like a ‘phoney’, but rather, having what I call an ‘imposter syndrome moment’ where they are currently out of their depth.

What’s required is a new set of skills, thinking and behaviours outside of their current comfort zone.

The reality for anyone going through significant change, is that we are making the transition from being ‘comfortably competent’ into being “consciously incompetent”. This by its very nature causes discomfort.

Whether that’s from moving into a new role, a recent promotion, working on a new project (by definition – projects are one-off and unique) or adopting new systems; the list goes on.

When leaders express to me that they feel like they are going to ‘be found out’ by their colleagues and how unpleasant these feelings make them feel, I often reassure them with, “Well it could be worse”. It’s then that I often quip, “Would you rather experience short-term discomfort while you learn, grow and gain some new skills, or be Unconsciously Incompetent?”

The great news is that they now know what they need to develop into, where they can get to work on gaining those newfound skills with direction and confidence.

In the world of disruptive radical change, we are often required to ‘make it up’ as we go, because the new norm is living in unchartered territory. So, for the insightful that means, we are going to experience more and more times of being Consciously Incompetent.
Short term this is tough, but what’s worse – being known as that Unconsciously Incompetent workplace colleague that has no insight. Don’t become that person!

Once you gain those new skills; you move to being Consciously Competent before moving into that beautiful new flow state of being Unconsciously Competent, where you are ‘in the zone’ and producing great work.

It won’t be long though before you discover that you will need to soon change once again, update your skillset and continue to adapt to our changing world.

Have a wonderful week,




Richard Dore
CEO - Director of Partnerships

Proteus Leadership


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