Second Nature Mentality

Imagine the lifestyle of history’s Great Philosophers . . .

Spending the day on the mountain top with a group of your peers . . . breathing in the fresh air, dressed in super comfortable clothing . . . sharing wisdom and insight related to aspects of human behavior and society. Oh, what life would be like . . .

Come to think of it, kind of reminds me of my daily routine during Quarantine . . . except for the presence of peers, you know, due to Social Distancing . . . perhaps a couple of rungs lower on the ladder of wisdom and insight, too . . . I do the best I can.

Even more amazing than their envious lifestyle is the presence of those Great Thinkers within today’s discussions of human behavior.  We frequently call upon their insight to lend credence to our actions and thoughts. Of the more popular is the great Aristotle, who theorized “We are what we repeatedly do” when exploring habits as they relate to our daily routines.

It just so happens that habits are foundational to one of the Infinity Point Leadership – Blue Sky Simplicities: Second Nature Mentality, our topic for this week.

Second Nature Mentality is more than instinct, more than trusting your intuition or a “gut feeling”. It is disciplined behavior enhanced through repetition and reinforced through great coaching. The approach is predicated on habits – what we repeatedly do – to eliminate cogitating in the moment of truth. Enabling vision beyond the expected, one can immediately assess the best course of action, given the situation and resources at hand.

Second Nature Mentality – Protocol

There is a specific protocol of “Proficiency, Perfection, Past Perfection” to consider as you build toward this level of performance:


Consistent and proper training will form habits that guide natural reactions. Building Proficiency is an organic process. You know the standards and performance thresholds for your team, along with the time, tools and techniques available to create engaging development activities.

I implore you to incorporate Aggressive Accountability from Day One. There may be a grand total of three people on the planet who would not want to improve proficiency in their jobs. Trust that your team will embrace a structured approach.

Proper execution must become a habit from the beginning, or your team will never perform to its true potential. Period. It is your responsibility to hold your team accountable.


Disciplined behavior enhanced through repetition and reinforced through great coaching. Its easy to buy into the approach “if it wasn’t done right, do it again”. Where we stop short is the approach of “if it was done right, do it again”.

Athletes will perform a technique hundreds of times to create Muscle Memory. The proper technique, that is.

A similar repetitive approach will improve Cognitive Memory, taking performance beyond awareness and driving it into the subconscious where we need it to be. Again, be maniacal about proper technique and execution.    

Past Perfection

Assess the best course of action, given the situation and resources at hand. This is when we, as Learning Leaders, earn our money. Perfecting skills through repetition builds instinct -we’re looking for Instinct 2.0, something so second nature that you don’t even realize you’re doing it.

Improvisation becomes a product of intense rehearsal and developmental critique.

Once you have perfected performance, take it into the real world where things are seldom perfect. Factor some anxiety into the repetition – better to deal with it in practice, where you are free to cogitate and proactively critique.

I find Role Play activities super relevant and valuable. Expect the occasional sighs and groans. A recent workshop participant excused her struggles with a role play activity by stating “I’m not a very good actress”.

It was magical. The voice of Aristotle seemed to whisper to me, like my personal Obi-Wan: “Excellence is not an act, but a habit”. So, I reminded the group we were learning to perform . . . forming habits, not acting.

Maintain your Simplified Perspective:

You are not telling your teams how to behave. You are building performance behaviors. Big difference.

Second Nature Mentality – Empathic Empowerment

The intrinsic value of Second Nature Mentality is the incremental shift from Empowerment to Empathic Empowerment.

Most empowerment models focus on awareness and authority. A scripted response, or worse, a reaction.

An upgrade to Empathic Empowerment combines a visual and emotional perspective to truly connect with the moment. You are sensing the most appropriate action or response. This clarity is necessary to exceed the expected and become truly engaged.

Consider two customer service-related examples:

#1 – Cold Coffee Cocked

I was in a popular coffee shop (pre-Quarantine) and had been served a 20-ounce cup filled with lukewarm coffee. Not what I paid for. This enterprise has a long-standing practice of replacing a beverage if it does not meet the customer’s expectations. No questions asked.

When I shared with the barista that the coffee was not hot, the cup was taken from my hand and dumped into the trash in full frontal view.

No arc, no backspin, just bring down the thunder.

The barista then turned back to the coffee machines, filled another cup from a separate holding container, and with an outstretched arm handed me my replacement beverage. When gravity indicated I had a firm grip on the cup, the barista let go and returned to her previously scheduled task.

Not that I was looking for an extended mea cuppa, but a little connection to my plight was expected, even at 6:00 am.

Critique: Was the barista empowered? Yes. I was not questioned as to what I considered hot, nor was a Supervisor or Manager required to approve a replacement. Did the barista apply vision beyond the expected that would indicate true engagement in service delivery? Not in the least.

The result was a negative emotional connection that reflected poorly on the Brand.  

#2 – Wine Enhanced Warm Welcome

A guest approached me in the lobby of a full-service hotel, sobbing almost uncontrollably, and mumbling “I love him, I love him” as she passed me on her way to the elevator. Naturally, I went over to the Guest Service Agent and asked if he wanted to share anything with me.

He described that while engaging in welcome conversation, the guest shared what a miserable day it had been. Her plans for the evening were to have a glass of wine, perhaps two, and hope for better returns tomorrow. While confirming details of her reservation, he mentioned that he had applied a $50 Resort Credit to her account so she could enjoy that glass of wine, maybe two, complimentary. Seamless, without batting an eye.

It was at that point the guest burst into tears and began professing her undying affection.

Critique: Was our Guest Service Agent empowered? Yes. He did not have to seek permission to delight the guest. Did the Guest Service Agent apply vision beyond the expected to indicate true engagement in service delivery? Yes! His Empathic Empowerment provided what she needed when she needed it.

Sounds simple, who wouldn’t appreciate a free glass of wine? But realize this guest was moved to tears. The service touched her emotionally. She may have been sobbing “I love him” today, but she carried forward a strengthened relationship with the hotel and Brand.

The Guest Service Agent had epitomized Second Nature Mentality in that his actions seemed improvised, when they were in fact a product of intense rehearsal and repetition. He had applied his best judgement, given the situation and resources at hand, to the full benefit of himself, the guest, and the organization. Powerful.

Second Nature Mentality – Moving Forward

Consider the value of IPL Blue Sky Simplicity – Second Nature Mentality to your work or service environment.

As the Great One said “We are what we repeatedly do”.

Commit to structured training and development to create proper habits. Remember, standards are standards, not suggestions, so apply Aggressive Accountability from the onset. Use repetition to drive Cognitive Memory, implanting those behaviors deep into the sub-conscious. Then coach your team beyond the point of perfection, build Empathic Empowerment to be the bridge to True Engagement.

Their performance will be worthy of discussion on the mountain top . . . even without peers or the super comfortable clothing.

Thanks for spending your Tuesday with Tall Tim Talks!

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