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Second Nature Mentality

Over time, people have approached me and asked “Tim, isn’t Second Nature Mentality just another way to describe trusting your instinct?”

That’s when I get excited, because the subtle difference between the two may decide whether your team is successful, or not.

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.

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

I reminded the group, subtly but firmly, that we were learning to perform, forming habits, not acting. Again, it is your responsibility to hold your team accountable for improvement.

Second Nature Mentality – Moving Forward

Consider the value of Second Nature Mentality to your work or service environment. 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.

Maintain your Simplified Perspective – You are not telling your team how to behave. You are building performance behaviors. Big difference.


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