Unconsciously Incompetent Managers – The Impact of the 4 Stages on Coaching


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How many newly-minted managers are promoted into their managerial roles from individual contributor positions?  And how many of these new managers are provided with training on how to be a manager?
Far too often, managers are promoted and, because they are now managers, it is assumed that they now know how to manage and coach their teams.  Baaaad assumption!  While this clearly impacts all portions of a business, newly-appointed sales and presales managers are often at the greatest risk. 
It seems to be a rarity for new managers to receive training on how to coach their sales and presales teams.  They were often promoted to manager level because they were great sales people or presented the most compelling demos.  However, when asked to characterize the key elements of a great sales person or the key elements of a great demo, they are unable to do so – “I just do it this way and it seems to work…”  They were Unconsciously Competent in their disciplines.
Regarding presales managers and coaching, there are four stages to consider…
Stage 1:  Unconsciously Incompetent:  Managers who are unaware that they should be coaching their teams and are therefore failing to do so.

    Result?  Un-coached teams; coaching for the wrong results.
    Example:  “Do more demos, damn it…!”  [More bad demos is not an improvement…]
Stage 2:  Consciously Incompetent:  Managers who realize they should be coaching their teams, but have no idea how to go about it.

    Result?  Un-coached teams; coaching for the wrong results; apologetic non-coaching; apologetic coaching for the wrong results.
    Example:  “Can you please do better demos?  Try putting more passion into it…”  [Passionate, yet still bad demos are not an improvement…]
Once managers are taught how to coach – what to look for and how to implement change in their teams – then some real improvements can occur:
Stage 3:  Consciously Competent:  Managers who have learned how to coach their teams and are actively practicing what they have learned (and, hopefully, are constantly working to do even better).
    Result?  Good to excellent coaching; results are clear and measurable.
    Example:  “Do you have all six elements for your Situation Slide?  What happens if you are missing one or more of these?  Here are a few questions you can ask the next time you are doing Discovery to uncover the missing elements…”
Stage 4:  Unconsciously Competent:  Managers who have been coaching long enough that they no longer consciously think about what to look for and how to provide guidance.  Occasionally, there are some “naturals” who were never trained on how to coach but have an innate ability to do so.
    Result?  Typically good to excellent coaching; results can be variable, particularly when no measurements are in place to track progress and tune.
    Example:  “This demo preparation looks a little thin; you can get the information you need by asking more questions in Discovery…”  [Results can be improved and variability reduced when the “naturals” include metrics in their tracking and coaching guidance – but it is often hard for these managers to remember to do…]
Some observations:
– Managers who attend and participate in skills and methodology training sessions with their teams are much more likely to be successful coaches for those skills and methodology elements.
– Managers who take courses on how to coach are much more likely to be successful coaches, overall.
– Managers who establish and track meaningful metrics are much more likely to see meaningful change(s) in their teams.
A few more observations:
– Managers who do not attend and participate in skills and methodology training sessions (with or without their teams) are woefully unprepared to coach to those skills and methodology elements.
– Managers who attend skills and methodology training sessions, but who sit in the back doing email are nearly as woefully unprepared to coach for those skills and methodology elements as those above!
For managers of Great Demo! alumni, I have coaching guidelines and key coaching attributes available for your use – let me know if you are interested in receiving these. 

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Peter Cohan
Have you ever seen a bad software demonstration? Peter Cohan is the founder and principal of Great Demo!, focused on helping software organizations improve the success rates of their demos. He authored Great Demo! - how to prepare and deliver surprisingly compelling software demonstrations. Peter has experience as an individual contributor, manager and senior management in marketing, sales, and business development. He has also been, and continues to be, a customer.


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