I took part in a webinar (a seminar conducted online) by the Association for Coaching, which was entitled ‘What’s so Super about Supervision?’ and one of the highlights for me was the explanation of the Competence Framework, when we are learning a new skill.

The theory was apparently developed at Gordon Training International in the US, by its employee Noel Burch in the 1970s and envisages four stages of consciousness when go through a new learning experience:

  • Unconscious Incompetence: When we don’t know we don’t know something or how to do something.

  • Conscious Incompetence: The moment we become aware that we don’t know something or how to do something.

  • Conscious Competence: Through knowledge, practice and improved performance we become consciously aware of an improved competence.

  • Unconscious Competence: Through repetition, we carry out this improved competence with confidence, without being conscious of doing so.

Unconscious competence may seem like the place that we all want to be in when carrying out everyday activity. It would be inefficient use of our energy to remain conscious of how and why we are successfully performing every single skill we have, from something as simple as walking, to conducting complicated tasks at home or work.

However, there is an argument that there are some circumstances where we should be maintaining a consciousness of our competence regularly to ensure that we haven’t developed any unconscious incompetence.

In my past experience, the detriment of allowing myself to linger in a state of unconscious competence has been when I’ve suddenly had to prepare for a job interview, having gone for many years in the same job with no review or feedback from my manager. Job interview preparation involves having to force yourself into that state of conscious competence and then sell this competence in 45 excruciating minutes of interview where being completely present mentally the whole time is essential. If you haven’t maintained conscious competence recently, then this can be extremely painful.

Just as painful is when you start a new job or are promoted into one, and your lack of experience exposes a sudden and debilitating conscious incompetence. If you are unaware that this is completely natural and there are ways to manage it then this can be a very destabilising experience.

In order to raise your competence or incompetence consciousness regularly, it requires you to seek out other people with whom you can reflect and review your work. For Life Coaches, this would be a Supervisor. For other work, it may be through regular feedback sessions and reviews with your line manager and maybe even your peers or employees, so that you can understand what you are doing well, and where there are development opportunities.

It is argued that this cannot be done alone and requires another person, and importantly someone who is not a personal friend or family member so they can remain objective. It is this extra set of eyes that can provide you with an extra (and sometimes higher) perspective, which is why they call it 'super’-vision – geddit? ;)

Essentially, Life Coaching is 'Super’-vision, because you are asking someone else, who is not in your life, to look at your life and reflect to you what they are seeing, without the emotional attachment or ego that may be clouding your vision.

As I develop my Coaching practice, I am going to start taking part in Group Supervision sessions to begin with, and then with more experience, seek out a dedicated Supervisor, so that I ensure that I remain conscious of how I am employing my skills and technique and identify opportunities for refinement as soon as possible, so that I don’t develop bad habits. I want to feel as competent as possible for my clients.

The challenge with coaching, and this can apply to other jobs as well, is remaining fully present and attentive to the client while remaining conscious of what you are doing technically to deliver the best service in a session. A challenge I feel excited to take on.


If you feel like you require some 'Super’-vision in your life, then why not get in contact to find out what Life Coaching can do for you!

Take care,


Like this blog? Spread the love and share on your favourite social media!