Vital behaviors are the smallest set of actions that lead to your desired results. They are the few high-leverage actions that, if you keep doing them, produce the outcomes you’re after.
Vital Behaviors are a key to change efforts, whether you are trying to change yourself or something more significant (your team, your organization, or the world.)
Change efforts often fail because they either focus on the results but don’t identify the specific actions to get there, or they spend time and energy on a bunch of activities that are good ideas but aren’t the vital few.
The Vital Few
Consider the 80/20 rule for a while. The twenty percent brings in 80 percent of the results. Therefore, most people will continue doing the 80 percent of actions that bring in 20 percent of the results.
Why? Because they’ve been doing that for a long time. And I admit that not knowing the difference between our actions will make us do the same things repeatedly.
So those who make breakthroughs look for the vital few. They look for 20 percent or the twenty percent of twenty percent, then focus their actions on them. I call this twenty percent of twenty percent the 4 Percent Rule.
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How to Find Vital Behaviors
The vital few aren’t difficult to identify. But you have to do it deliberately.
For example, if you want to become a better leader, you can google some of these behaviors. You can buy books on how to be a good leader. You become a student.
But when you study, don’t look for 100 things to do. Instead, if everything remains equal, identify the three actions that will make the most remarkable difference.
Ask Successful People
I once asked a friend, an executive of a large bank in the Philippines, her secret to success. I wanted to know what got her promoted to the VP position.
“That’s easy, Jef. When I see people, I smile and greet them.”
She then explained that when she was fresh from college, she had to show that she deserved to be in the same building as those from the famous universities in Metro Manila.
“I am a promdi. Unfortunately, I didn’t have connections. But I knew how to smile and greet people as if all of them were VIPs. I greeted them when they entered the elevators and when I saw them in the corridors.”
I wondered how smiling at people and greeting them like VIPs can get someone promoted.
” I learned that people at the top notice me. They thought I was a people person. And when they look for managers, they want someone who is a people person. Most employees of my age didn’t greet the executives when they met them in the elevator. I didn’t know, but I greeted people like they’re VIPs.”
My friend is a very competent person. But she did something that distinguished her from others. She knew how to smile and greet people as if they are important. That’s a vital behavior.
Since that day, it has been my habit to ask successful people for their secrets when they do X. X is the object of my study.
That’s my shortcut. I don’t have to study or ask a thousand people to find the vital behaviors to success. Instead, I go directly to successful ones to discover what made them succeed.
Not all people know what makes them successful. But their answers are clues. Many of what I share on this website, in my workshops, and in casual conversations with friends are from the successful people I met.
Learn From Mistakes
I also asked successful people for their greatest mistakes or failures. And then, I encourage them to tell how they bounced forward.
We can learn from our experiences. We can learn from our successes and mistakes. Although, I find that most people are more eager to know when they make mistakes.
When I was in the seminary, we played chess a lot. I win most time. I quietly celebrate. And that’s it.
But when I made a wrong move and lost, I found time to study how things happen. I was very eager to know what I could have done to win.
My competitive spirit makes me want to know how to do better next time.
Imagine what would happen if we find time to think about the winning moves in our lives each day.
Find the Winning Moves
When I started my speaking career, I thought it would be easy to get clients. That to be handsome or a great speaker is enough. And I was not handsome.
But later, I discovered some moves that separate professional speakers from amateurs. I also learned the faster and simpler ways to make a prospective client say, “Yes!”
Tsamba lang, I often said. I was just lucky, I thought.
But those lucky moments reveal winning moves that bring great results when practiced and mastered. So, I explored how to recreate my tsamba moments.
Are you learning?
I have shared the method to my madness.
- I look for vital behaviors in works of literature (Google, mostly!)
- I ask successful people.
- I learn from mistakes.
- I replicate my tsamba moments.
Examples of Vital Behaviors
I have given you simple steps to find vital behaviors. I took some time to explore some vital behaviors related to improving work. I came up with the following examples.
How to Learn Better
Leaders need to Keep learning.
- Study something you don’t know well, then teach it to others.
- Commit to a tight time frame when studying something.
- Do something on gut feel.
Action is the antidote to procrastination.
- Start early.
- Do the first 10% first.
- Break tasks into small pieces.
Be the leader who makes it easy for people to approach and communicate with you.
- Be the first to approach; put out your hand first.
- Listen without interrupting; ask clarifying questions.
- Share information that improves others’ lives.
Build relationships with bosses
Respectful and trusting relationships with your bosses will help you perform better.
- Know the boss.
- Find the problems of your boss you can solve.
- Learn from your boss.
Improve business acumen
You need to know how the business will grow.
- Figure out the rules of the game.
- Get closer to customers.
- Try some broader tasks.
Develop your career.
Manage your career to help yourself get what you want.
- Build up your confidence.
- Master an essential skill.
- Prepare for a meeting better than anyone else does.
Resources to Learn Vital Behaviors
Use the following resources to learn to help you focus on what really matters and the actions that bring extraordinary results.
Best Articles on Vital Behaviors
- One Thing Only. You can do many things – and to do them, you must find your one thing.
- Boldest Personal Development Plan. Are you looking for some guidance on how to design your personal development plan? I have written this piece for you.
- 80/20 Rule in Marketing. Perry Marshall has been teaching marketers to become more strategic in marketing. If you are a marketer, this is a good read.
Good Books to Read
If you want to dive deep and explore how vital behaviors can help you, I recommend the following books.
- Influencer: The Power to Change Anything. I learned from this book that those winning moves that I discovered are called vital behaviors. I learned a lot from the Influencer Model which I used in designing my course. Even my Breakthrough Leadership Workshop is designed after this framework.
- The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth About Extraordinary Results. This book was popular for some time. You can find simple ways to set goals and keep at them. You will learn how to pick one thing in every facet of your personal development.
- Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t. You learn that the enemy of great is good. But more than that, you’ll discover that leaders of great companies do something which the leaders of the good companies are not doing. I call those vital behaviors too.
- “To focus means to bring your attention to the center, to concentrate on one thing intently in order to gain clarity.” Cheryl Richardson, Life Makeovers
- “Take five minutes to center yourself in the morning – set your intention every day.” Oprah Winfrey
- So rather than trying to do too many things at once, switch over to a mindset of focusing on just one thing while you are working. Timo Kiander, Work Smarter Not Harder
- Getting rid of the things in your life that are not adding value will allow you to take the time and focus you have put on those things and place it on the things that are adding value. Kathy Stanton, Minimalist Living And Loving It
- Not taking breaks from a big task may also lead us to become burned out. The constant stress from one task may overwhelm your mind. Mental fatigue will affect our ability to focus and solve problems. John Morgan, 100% Focused [mfn] Taking breaks is a vital behavior too.[/mfn]
- The Secret to Becoming the Best in the World at Absolutely Anything. Bo Eason is a motivational speaker. In this video, he encourages us to focus on our dreams.
- Morning Success Habits. Eduard Reformina is a Filipino vlogger who shares ideas on motivation and success. Discover his five habits. One of the habits Eduard shared is that of being an early bird. Most Filipinos wake up early, but this habit has something to do with traffic situations in Metro Manila. Also, your situation may not be the same for most of us. You don’t have to wake up early when your “best time” to work is in the evenings.
Our vital behaviors are not always the same. So, it helps to study which behaviors work for you.