When Your Employee Doesn’t Get It (and how to fix it).

When Your Employee Doesn’t Get It (and how to fix it).
Thomas Thompson
April 12, 2022
min read

“I’m frustrated.” 

This business owner was talking about a manager that she had given a big project to–the opening of a new location.  Her frustration stemmed from the fact that even though the project had been handed off, she felt like she had to stay hands on.  

  • Deadlines were being missed.
  • Details were getting dropped.
  • Priorities were getting mixed up–he was majoring on the minors and minoring on what should have been the majors.

And worse, her manager didn’t seem to be aware.  When she would check in for a progress update, he would always give the thumbs up and “I got it.”

But he didn’t have it.

I asked her, “What do you really want from this manager?”

Without pause, she said, “I want him to Own the Location.”

Follow up:  “If that manager was here right now, would he be able to explain what Own the Location means?”


Somehow, the clarity of what she wanted from the manager had not translated into clarity for the manager.  She intuitively knew what it meant to Own the Location; he did not.

She and her manager were at different levels of the Stages of Learning.

The Stages of Learning work like this: When we tackle something new, we walk through four stages, from the bottom up.

  • Unconscious Incompetence–We don’t know how to do it we don’t know.
  • Conscious Incompetence–We know what we don’t know, so we seek help.
  • Conscious Competence–We know what we know, but have to think about it when we do it.
  • Unconscious Competence–We know what we know, and can do it almost without thinking because it has become routine.

Her manager was at the bottom level, Unconscious Incompetence.  He didn’t know what he didn’t know about Owning the Location

On the other hand, she was at the top level, Unconscious Competence.  Her years of experience in running locations had given her muscle memory.  Owning the Location just made sense and she didn’t have to think about it.

But he DID have to think about it.

They were operating at two different levels.

(By the way, this is why so many leaders get stuck doing what they should not be doing.  Because doing it themselves is easier/faster than explaining it.)


So what was her solution?

She needed to step down a level, to take what had become intuitive to her, and describe in detail what it looked like to “Own the Location.”

For her, this looked like downloading her expectations, procedures, and steps into document she could share with her manager.

(BTW, this download would not only bring clarity to that manager today, but also clarity to future mangers tomorrow.)

I experienced this as a Lead Pastor when I would have other staff teach our weekend messages. I would ask them to, “Simplify your Big Idea,” or “Show your work.”  After decades of teaching, I knew instinctively how to do those things.  But they meant little to teachers just getting started. 

So I had to step down a level.  I had to download my experience into a series of trainings with my teaching team where we defined what it looked like..

Where are you frustrated with an employee who doesn’t seem to get it?

Could the culprit be you are asking someone do to something that is instinctive and clear to you, but not to them?  Something you have done for so long, you’ve forgotten what it is like to have never done it?

What would it look like for you to step down a level, to take what is unconscious for you and get conscious about it?  Download this into some document that you can then review with the team and say, “When I say I want X to happen, THIS is what that means.”

And, check out this resource for more help on How To Avoid Fumbling The Delegation Handoff.

Thomas helps leaders navigate what’s next.  If he can serve you in this, reach out to him HERE.

I founded Thompson Leadership to come alongside leaders like you. Together, we will unpack your unique leadership, unearth your biggest challenge, and create an action plan to close the gap between where you are and where you want to be.
Connect with Thomas
© 2022-2023 Thompson Leadership. All right reserved.
Privacy Policy