Service Secret #11: Viva la Vital Behaviors

“Tall Tim, my team has no energy, no life.”

No one’s smiling. There’s no sense of urgency. I mean, people who were willing to do something extra now just stay in their circle. Even worse, our Customer Scores are way down. What happened?

We need a Team Building activity or some sort of Bootcamp. Can you do it next week?”

Sound familiar?

What has taken an individual or group, once filled with such energy and promise, and removed the will to live, grow, and develop?

A medical professional would begin assessing general health with clinical measurements of vital signs, such as pulse rate, temperature, respiration, etc.

As a business professional, we’ll begin with assessing Vital Behaviors.   

We know from observation that something is inhibiting a behavioral connection to our overall purpose and negatively impacting performance. While Team Building activities and Bootcamps have value, they may stop short in determining causal factors or discovering what’s missing.

Borrowing on the wisdom of Plato, Vital Behaviors simplify our perspective by identifying three main sources of human behavior: Knowledge, Emotion, and Desire.

Narrowing intention will open the door to more impactful, creative solutions that will boost vitality among your team, and foster a return to the level of execution they’re capable of . . . and you don’t have to wait until next week to begin.

VB I: Knowledge

Does your team possess the Knowledge necessary to perform to their potential?

Many leaders will confuse the intent of this question and respond: Yes, I have trained my team.

Training, for the sole purpose of communicating information and responsibility, does not infer knowledge.

Knowledge is awareness and familiarity. It defines a team’s connection with your culture, an intuitive comprehension of both the process and purpose identified within your product, brand, or overall organization. While it may not generate a depth of emotion, understanding the “why” behind a task builds confidence and contributes to successful execution.

Invest a moment to trace the steps that influence Knowledge and Enable performance:

Talent Selection

There is a reason why you selected the talent on your team, and a reason why they were attracted to work with you. What was the initial appeal?

This insight represents the values or innate qualities employees share with your organization, why they made the choice. What were they expecting? The answer is your first step toward enabling potential.


Knowledge is transferred via education and experience, and most people benefit from a combination of the two.

Time is always a consideration, but the more exposure to new learnings during On-Boarding, new product launches, process changes, etc., the better chances are for the learning to stick. Pace and patience are key . . . learning is something totally unique to the individual.

After initial introduction, take learning into the Real World to build relevance. Continue reinforcing the purpose behind the performance to avoid bad habits or inconsistencies.


Knowledge is strengthened through Coaching and repetition.

Coaching justifies the energy invested on the part of your team. Trust that people want feedback on their performance and improvement. Repetition and Practice, under the watchful eye of a good Coach, reinforces disciplined judgement through application of experience and strategic vision. Good habits translate into expected performance and beyond.


It’s basic human nature to ask, “What’s in it for me?” Continued development of personal and professional skills helps to answer that question.

Work through a roster of your team to determine current state of Performance Readiness: Competency, Proficiency, Mastery. Again, this is an individual assessment, with unique and personal considerations.

When evaluating Knowledge as a performance inhibitor, consider how many of your team have “topped-out” in their current Performance Readiness. They may need a push, or the reassurance of opportunities available.

Know that there is a world beyond skill development that your team may be thirsting for, with the potential to renew vigor and rediscover the passion for doing what you do. Tracing these steps is a great place to begin.

VB II: Emotion

Is your team Emotionally Invested in the outcome of their performance?

Empathic Empowerment serves as a barometer for the level of emotion invested in executing daily tasks and their corresponding results. It’s absence can be a chief deterrent to the energy level and overall vitality of your team.

It’s a matter of trust. If you have determined that your team has the Knowledge to perform, let them do it. Remove yourself as a hindrance to creativity and expression. Nothing will sap the life energy from a group faster than preventing bubbles from floating to the surface.

Tall Tim Tidbit:

A resort was in the midst of a multi-million dollar renovation that was extremely intrusive to both guests and employees.

The intensity of guest relations, typically part of the Front Office landscape, would multiply due to the complex nature of the project. We partnered with Guest Facing staff to help ease anxiety around temporary processes and prepare them for anticipated guest reactions.

Sessions were energetic and fun, each one featuring a passionate message from their Department Leader, “Just know that you are empowered to take care of our guests. Use your best judgement, I trust you to do the right thing. This is going to be a bumpy ride, but we’ll have a beautiful new product in the end.”

To me, that was key . . . establish perspective, the end of the rainbow in a sense.

A disturbing trend surfaced a few weeks into the project. While a slight drop in Guest Satisfaction was anticipated, these scores qualified as ‘plummeting’. To make matters worse, the comments were not directed at the inconvenience or displacement resulting from the renovation.

Instead, they were directed at the behavior of the Front Desk: “She told me there was nothing she could do, then walked away”, “rude and indifferent”, “the way I was treated, I wouldn’t come back here if you paid me to” were some of the, um, friendlier offerings.

Everything we had worked toward seemed lost. I was asked to meet with individuals and determine a proper course of action.

To a person, they identified one of the Assistant Leaders as the cause for concern. He had opened each shift with an ominous message, “Now remember, you’re empowered to do what ever it takes to satisfy our guests. Just check with me for approval before doing anything.”

Empowered Overview:

We had discovered our root cause.

Not only did the Assistant Leader require advance notice, he routinely disagreed with the recommendations of the staff. This resulted in a carousel delivery of disheartening news that went against their better judgement.

The team had stopped thinking for themselves, stopped feeling and sensing as they became increasingly indifferent to the needs of the guest. They were no longer Emotionally Invested in the outcome of their performance.

The leader in question falls into that category, as well. He was reassigned to duties more aligned with his skill set, separate from overseeing the guest experience.

With the promise of Empathic Empowerment and Trust restored, the staff was re-energized, performing in a manner that truly reflected their potential.

VB III: Desire

Does your team possess the Desire to perform?

The third of our Vital Behaviors is often the most challenging to influence.

A person’s tendencies to think and respond, the motivational actions of Desire, portray a willingness to truly engage with the outcome of a project, assignment, endeavor. ‘Hope’ and ‘longing’ are descriptors more typically affiliated with this source of behavior.

It’s tough . . . I would suggest an exercise to create awareness, one that highlights an aspect of self-discovery to rekindle Desire.

Tall Tim Tidbit:

A team had been performing the functions of their roles but seemed to stop short of embracing the essence of the brand, the purpose behind it’s culture and services.

Working in table groups, participants were asked to draw a line down the middle of a flip chart, creating two columns, and record responses to the question:

Why would someone choose our product or services?”

Once complete, they were asked to indicate which responses matched similar reasons why they chose the Brand for employment. Most, if not all, of the reasons received a checkmark. Good.

Groups were then asked to record their responses to the following question in the right column:

“How do we deliver on the expectations of our customers?”

Once complete, they were asked to indicate responses they could influence, or that existed within their area of responsibility, execution, production, etc.

This set the table for learning. Many of the responses remained on the surface, reciting general statements such as “High Standards” and “Attention to Detail”. Furthermore, fewer of the responses were checked for influence . . .

A final question was posed to the group:

“What would make someone come back or choose us again?”

Vital Breakdown:

A person may walk through the door with a strong emotional connection to your higher purpose. If knowledge, trust and empathic empowerment are in question, maintaining a proprietary desire or sense of ownership becomes increasingly difficult.

Our hope is that individuals are more connected than they realize.

The first two questions represented a connection between Expectations and Execution. Responses confirmed a level of awareness related to the “How?” behind standards and processes, then described the participant’s perceived level of ownership.

The third question is when the magic happens.

Having worked through what it takes to attract a new client or customer, participants were now asked to consider what it takes to bring someone back, to create a sense of loyalty, a connection to the purpose behind the product.

A follow-up question within the spirit of the exercise was: “What brings you back?”

The resulting dialogue promoted an awareness of how much energy was invested in engaging employees, and how that approach should be mirrored with customers. Participants admitted being comfortable with established standards, but not as familiar with the purpose or intent behind their delivery.

Another takeaway was the shared responsibility of creating loyalty. Buckets of service execution had formed, preventing a connection among elements within an experience. This shared energy is a critical component of Desire . . . a common hope or belief in the outcome of an endeavor.

Breaking down those barriers released the essence of Vital Behavior.

Embracing Vitality

While our Vital Behaviors of Knowledge, Emotion and Desire are inter-connected, there is not a structure or hierarchy placing one of higher importance than the others. It depends on the needs of the individual or group.

The perspective offered is a sage, simplified approach to common performance issues, whether corrective or aspirational. A lack of interest, a hesitancy to extend, poor attendance, a sense of ambition . . . can all be traced back to a root cause, providing clarity along a path to performance improvement.

Perhaps a final word would be Vitality, the capacity to live, grow and develop. We all possess a will to live life to the fullest . . . sometimes we just need to find the right place to do it.

Viva la Vital Behaviors!

Thank you for spending your Tuesday with Tall Tim Talks!

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