The AdvantEDGE development process or framework evolved from my doctoral research into the best way to develop managerial and leadership competence.

The way we develop competence, our ability to do something effectively goes through four key stages.

And we can plot these four stages on a simple 2 x 2 matrix

The vertical axis is our competence in something, and the horizontal axis is our consciousness of being able to that thing.

Essentially, it’s about how well we know how we do something.

At the beginning of developing any competence, we begin as unconsciously incompetent. That is we don’t know that we don’t know how to do something. We may be blissfully ignorant

As we become aware that we need to develop a skill, we become consciously incompetent.

LeverageTalent-EDGE-300x229.png If you want to leverage talent well and guarantee an impact on your business and a substantial ROI, you need EDGE in your Learning and Development process

As we develop a particular skill, we develop the competence, we become consciously competent and as we practice and gain mastery, eventually, we become unconsciously competent. That is we don’t know how we do it consciously anymore, we just do it with great skill, or talent.


Another way of looking at these four quadrants is that we begin as enthusiastic beginners, and start to learn, often becoming frustrated as we want to develop the skills faster and more effortlessly.
After a while, we begin to Gain Mastery and continue to practice until it truly does become effortless and we are a talented performer.
All of this takes time.
What we want to do is skip all the hard work and practice and all that learning, and jump straight from beginning to talented performer - where you do things exceptionally well effortlessly.

Many people try to do this by avoiding the two in-between stages.

A very very few who are “naturals” or “gifted” can seemingly do this. Mozart could play the piano supremely well at 4 years old.

But there are no Mozart Leaders.

Leadership development takes time.

Done the right way, it can take less time. and it needs four different approaches through the development cycle.,

You need the EDGE key.

  • Encourage
  • Develop
  • Guide and 
  • Empower

Right at the beginning, enthusiastic beginners need to be encouraged. For the beginner is being asked to change and move out of their comfort zone.

Then they need to learn what they do not know. This is a development process, where a good developer shares knowledge of the skill and how it is done best.

As the beginner becomes aware of their current behaviour and the changes that are necessary, they need encouraging again. Being able to lean on strengths in other areas and finding the supportive environment goes a long way to making the development phase easier and less frustrating.

Once they know the skills and how to do them, then they need guiding. Less teaching and more coaching. Being gently nudged in the right direction in a safe environment and encouraged again to break through to gaining mastery. Then layering more skills and knowledge through sharing and teaching until they have gained sufficient skills to be guided through practice in real life.

And encouraged again to continue practising and gaining mastery, empowered with all the resources, reminders, templates, props that they need to continue their own development.

Through the AdvantEDGE development framework, you can take someone from being an enthusiastic beginner to talented performer.

What happens without EDGE in your development process?

If you have encouragement only, say a motivational speaker at a conference, for example:
  • Then brilliantly you have encouraged your people to make a change… only they don’t know what they need to know nor how to do it. So they get all fired up and excited followed by bitter disappointment as things actually remain the same.
If you have development only, say a classroom training event to teach people what they need to know and how they should do it.
  • That’s great but they need to practice, firstly in a safe environment and be encouraged to try something new and different. Both senior leaders and high potentials like this type of training (43-44%), but it would be better to be experiential (29-39%) in nature or blended (41-44%) with practice.
What about guiding them only? Say a coach or mentor who asks great questions and offers support.
  • This is tremendous, and most executives and high potentials want to be coached. Only, they may not know what they need to know and be unsure how this skill should be done and now it’s just a little embarrassing because the coach os asking them something that they really don’t have an answer. Senior leaders and high potentials both much prefer coaching (56-66%) but they also want project-based learning (29-26%) to practice in real life as well as blended (41-44%) to practice in a safe environment.
All will be well if they were just empowered then surely?
  • Not really. Empowering someone without teaching them, guiding them in a safe environment and guiding them in real life is like giving the keys of your BMW coupe to your kid who has yet to learn how to drive, filling the tank with fuel and sending them off across country without a map or seatbelt.

Many organisations “empower” (yes that is deliberately in quotes) by providing online-only learning. It’s the in-thing to embrace going digital, but most organisations (and most learning providers) are trying to do so to save the cost of delivering the learning.

  • This is a huge mistake. You will save money in things like travel and venue costs but your costs of delivering, that is the time it takes to create and support online learning is as high or higher than more traditional methods. Sure you can use it many times, but just watch a fabulous training video from John Cleese’s VideoArts and tell me how relevant it is to today’s younger leaders.

The other mistake is that empowerment comes from making the learning is available and hopefully some great resources to put these skills into practice, but senior leaders and high potentials don’t like this type of format to develop their skills. In fact, less than 12% want to use online learning. But that’s because most online learning is done very badly and forgets it is about the development of skills, attitudes and behaviours, not just knowledge.

We need to be encouraged to learn and try new things.

But we also need to learn the necessary knowledge and how the skills are done.

We need to be guided in a safe environment, supported by implementation in the real world and empowered with the resources to help us sustain the skills and continue to develop them in the future without always having a guide on standby.

We need an EDGE in our development.

Has your development got EDGE?