Why Self-Compassion Is An Essential Skill For Great Leadership

May 24th, 2015 by LaRae Quy

One of the most difficult things I had to do when working a fraud investigation was look a retired couple sitting across from me in the eye and tell them that the FBI would not be investigating the criminals who had scammed these people out of their life savings.

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It was truly one of the worst days of my life. The old folks had been duped into investing their entire retirement fund into a scam, and while it was all they had to live on, it still did not meet the threshold for an FBI investigation.

How could I tell them that their life’s work was not enough to capture the FBI’s attention?

A negative voice in my head kept saying that somehow I should have been able to tie their case to another scam—anything to make it work! But the truth of the matter was that I had no evidence to take it to the next step.

I criticized my ineptness and lack of creativity; I mercilessly judged myself for shortcomings when that voice in my head would not shut up. Ironically, while I felt compassion toward the retired couple, I could not extend that same kindness toward myself.

Leadership training courses and workshops on emotional intelligence spit out quotes and inspirational messages on how to be empathic, collaborative, and self-aware. But they rarely delve into the stickier issue of self-compassion. Why not?

Because self-compassion is seen by many as being too self-centric. As leaders, we are exhorted to be servant leaders, lead by example, put others before ourselves, and nurture the well-being of the team.

Meanwhile, leaders like Elon Musk and Donald Trump thrive as bullies in the work environment because they surround themselves with suck-ups who feed their ego.

Where is the healthy balance? No one wants the personal life of either Musk or Trump—losers when it comes to a relationship with self. And based on divorce rates, with others as well.

Try these 4 tips to dampen the voice of your inner critic and express more self-compassion:

1. Remember You Are Not Perfect

Stop lying to yourself that you are awesome and perfect. Because you are not. You are human. When you remember this, it is easier to forgive yourself, and when you do, you also feel less anxiety about your performance.

2. Differentiate Between Self-Esteem And Self-Compassion

There is a big difference between self-esteem and self-compassion. There’s been an explosion of literature and workshops on how to build self-esteem but the unintended result has been an epidemic of narcissism.

In Jean Twenge’s book, Generation Me, she shares the results of a study that examined the narcissism levels of over 15,000 U.S. college students between 1987 and 2006. During that 20-year period, narcissism scores soared, with 65 percent of modern-day students scoring higher in narcissism than previous generations.

Ironically, as we try to see ourselves as better than others, our sense of worthiness takes a dive. This emotional rollercoaster can lead to depression and anxiety—a reminder that we are not perfect.

In fact, a striking finding of Twenge’s study was that people with high self-esteem were much more narcissistic than those with low self-esteem. In contrast, self-compassion was completely unassociated with narcissism.

3. Reframe Negative Thoughts

Negative thoughts are horrible things that are really tough to beat into submission. When we succumb to them, we automatically think the cause is permanent, pervasive, and personal.

It’s going to last forever, it’s going to undermine everything, and it’s my fault.

Martin Seligman is the author of Learned Optimism and he is quoted as saying, “I am a dyed-in-the-wool pessimist. The techniques that I write about are ones that I use every day.”

So what are those techniques to ward off negative thoughts? He has a three-step process:

  • Recognize that the thought is there.
  • Treat that thought as if it were said by some third person whose job in life was to make your life miserable.
  • Learn to dispute it, to marshal evidence against it. With practice, you will get better and better at neutralizing it.

4. Talk To Yourself In A Nice Way

Experts in The Brain documentary made the claim that we say between 300 to 1000 words to ourselves a minute. The Navy SEALS and Special Forces use the power of positive self-talk as a way of getting through tough times.

For example, by instructing recruits to be mentally tough and speak positively to themselves, they could learn how to override fears resulting from the limbic brain system (amygdala), a primal part of the brain that helps us deal with anxiety.

Positive self-talk is self-compassion. You can also visualize a compassionate person saying positive things to you such as someone who loves you saying kind words, or a supportive supervisor affirming a job well done.

As a leader, you need to cultivate self-compassion. When you have self-compassion, you have feelings of self-worth, will be less embarrassed when you screw up, and less likely to take things personally.

And that is the type of leadership we all need.

How are you self-compassionate when things are not going according to plan?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

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11 FBI Tactics To Win An Argument

May 17th, 2015 by LaRae Quy

I was the agent on duty and the woman in front of me was livid, accusing the FBI of harassment and invasion of privacy. As the duty agent, it was my responsibility to listen to her claims and determine whether they had merit or not.

Argument

It quickly became evident that she was working for an individual who had recently been indicted for money laundering and racketeering. So yes, the FBI was interviewing people to get a better idea of who else might be involved. Logically, that net would be cast wide.

Too wide for the likes of the woman determined to battle it out with me in the interview room.

FBI agents are rarely described as warm and fluffy, but neither are they the snarly, snarky shoot-from-the-hip of investigators often depicted on TV and in the movies. The reason is simple: there is a technique to winning an argument or calming down an individual to the point where they not only see reason, but agree to cooperate with an FBI investigation.

There are many types of warfare, and all of them involve some type of escalation between opposing opinions and points of view. Sun Tzu wrote an ancient Chinese treatise called “The Art of War.” His strategies could also be applied to business tactics today:

  • “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”
  • “To fight and conquer in all our battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.”
  • “He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot will be victorious.”

An argument usually includes heated conversation, but in the business world it can also be a set of reasons aimed at persuading others to take a particular action or adopt an idea.

Either way, here are 10 FBI tactics on how to win an argument and get your point across:

1. Do Not Attack

Attacking someone else’s idea puts them into a fight-or-flight mindset.

Remember the advice of Sun Tzu—break down the enemy’s resistance without fighting.

2. Start Off Friendly

When you make your point in a very friendly manner, you automatically disarm others. It also keeps them from going for a defensive stance or position.

3. Show Respect

Make an effort to respect the other person’s point of view, no matter how ridiculous it sounds to you.

4. Ask Open-Ended Questions

These type of questions allow the other person to explain themselves and not box them into a “right or wrong” answer. It encourages interaction and discussions.

5. Argue The Facts

The single worst thing you can do during an argument is base your conversation around your feelings alone. Present the facts but use mental toughness to control your emotions.

Strong minds have emotional intelligence. This means they can control their emotions instead of letting their emotions control them.

6. Ask How, Not Why

Asking “how” their statement is right is not freighted with as much emotion as asking them “why” it is right. When someone tells you why they are right and you are wrong, it will make them more confident in their convictions. Asking them how will force them out of their emotional, limbic brain system and into their thinking, cerebral brain.

7. Concede

One of the most effective ways to defang an argument in its tracks is to say, “You are right.” This does not mean you are forfeiting your point of view, but it does mean that you are acknowledging that they have a valid point.

8. Stay on Point

When emotions are high, logic is thrown out the window. Do not be that person! Do not respond to irrational and/or emotional appeals of the other person, either, especially if they threaten to derail the main point of the conversation.

If needed, you can say, “Interesting point and we can talk about that later, but right now we’re discussing…”

9. Use Data

When talking, writing, or consulting about how to develop a mentally tough mind that can create breakthroughs, I back up my assertions with neuroscience data. This is not just me peddling a bunch of bullsh*t to pay my mortgage.

If you want to be taken seriously, use information that has credibility and backed by research.

10. Do Not Let It Escalate

In his book, The Political Brain, Drew Westen writes that when people see or hear information that conflicts with their worldview, the parts of the brain that handle reason and logic go dormant. And the parts of the brain that regulate hostile attacks light up.

When an arguments start, persuasion stops. It devolves into a fight, and that brings another frame of mind to the situation. Suddenly, no one cares who is right or wrong and that is a sure way to fail.

11. Appeal To Higher Logic

Try appealing to worthy motives or universal truths that are hard to dispute.

This is what ultimately worked with the irate woman in the FBI interview room. I agreed that it was unpleasant to have the FBI snooping around and asking questions about her. But, once I explained the higher logic of how the FBI was trying to identify accomplices involved in her boss’s racketeering scheme, she agreed that only by interviewing people “in the know” would law enforcement be able to gather the evidence needed.

She eventually became an FBI informant.

How do you win arguments at home and work?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

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Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

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How You Can Stand Out As A Breakthrough Leader

May 10th, 2015 by LaRae Quy

A mentally tough leader is someone who creates breakthroughs in both business and life.

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In her new book, Stand Out, Author Dorie Clark argues that breakthrough leaders not only need mental toughness, but they also need to stand out from the crowd to get their voice heard so they can make their unique contribution to the world.

Here is what is interesting about what Clark’s says in her book—anyone can have a big idea. Big ideas are not the intellectual property of Silicon Valley or big business. She encourages entrepreneurs to claim uncharted territory around those ideas that create value and meaning for them.

We all have a contribution to make, according to Clark. We all have something to say to the world.

Clark interviewed hundreds of successful people to glean wisdom from their experiences and she shares their stories with you. This is a quick and easy read—in a very good way. She doesn’t bog the reader down with minute details of the stories she shares; instead, she skims the essence of their wisdom and passes it down to the reader.

That is my kind of book!

Stand Out offers succinct and practical tips for breakthrough leaders who are struggling with how to develop their best ideas and ensure they spread. Here are 5 of my favorites:

Tip #1 Find Your Breakthrough Idea

Breakthrough leaders are always asking questions that others have not, and questioning assumptions that others may take for granted. Is there a better way?

“You do not succeed by following the rules and thinking exactly like everyone else.”—Dorie Clark

Start by pinpointing areas in which you are interested and qualified to talk about. What have you been pursuing since childhood? Sometimes you have to experiment with lots of ideas to see which one sticks.

You may not always know in advance what will work, so Clark advises that you start out with a variety and in the process learn which one people care about.

Tip #2 Develop Your Expert Niche

Clark suggests building a narrow base of knowledge in a narrow subject in order to get noticed and move past the competition. It may seem a career-limiting at first, but by doing this you can quickly become known as the expert in that field.

The goal is to move from being an expert, to the expert.

The secret to expanding your niche is to think through related areas where you can add value. Leverage your core knowledge into connections and collaborations that make sense.

Tip #3 Create A Framework

When you create a framework around your big idea, you enable others to understand how it applies to their life.

To make a mark in your field, spell out the fundamental principles behind your idea. By codifying a system, you create a set of touchstones that people can return to for every new situation they face.

A framework automatically creates a delivery system for your big idea to spread.

Tip #4 Build A Network

Spread the word about your big idea by building a strategic network. Blogging is a great way to get your idea out into the world.

Podcasts and interviews are other ways to develop relationships with other breakthrough leaders in the community. Create a hit list of people you want to get to know in your field and then interview them.

Face-to-face is always more effective, and with modern technology such as Skype and Google+ hangouts, it’s accessible to everyone.

Write a book—it’s the biggest business card in the world!

I love this piece of advice offered by Clark: “Challenge yourself to take one piece of content from your big idea and distribute it to five or even ten different channels. Watch how it scales so you can learn where your audience is located and how they are finding you.”

Tip #5 Make The Effort

“Work hard and never give up. No one ever drowned in a pool of sweat.”—LaRae Quy

Clark reminds us that top performers exponentially outwork everyone else. Write articles to get noticed, make YouTube videos, answer emails personally, read every book and article written by the person whom you are interviewing. Be willing to make the sacrifices you need to make in order to get to the top.

Finally, Clark encourages you to find ways to make your big idea sustainable. She warns that you will need space to think and reflect and make new connections.

Don’t be the person who never speaks up or shares their idea with the world.

What is holding you back?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

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Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

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11 Toxic Habits That Keep You From Success

May 3rd, 2015 by LaRae Quy

Even though I did not appreciate the discipline imposed upon me by my 4 months at the FBI Academy, it did teach me to master and maintain good habits. I realize now that what I did on a daily basis for those 4 months taught me how to direct my time and energy into habits that would lead to my success as an FBI agent.

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The definition of habit is an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary.

Success needs more than inspiration—it requires good habits that lead to concrete action steps.

You may possess many skills and traits, but if you let toxic habits undermine your efforts, breaking the bad habit could be the game-changer for success you need.

Here are the 11 worst habits holding you back from success:

1. Fritter Away The Morning

If you waste your morning, you’ve lost your day. If you’re not a morning person, find a way to give yourself a kick in the butt so you get started. Create a routine that is easy to remember and even easier to follow. Give yourself tasks and deadlines to get you started; and then never leave anything that you started in the morning unfinished at the end of the day.

2. Cry When Criticized

This club has a lot of members because no one wants to be criticized, but accept the fact that there is a huge difference between constructive criticism and vicious words spoken by petty critics.

You’re confident enough to walk away from small minds that only want to tear you down.

3. Blame Others

When I started whining about how unfair life was as a kid, my grandmother would look me in the eye and tell me to grow up. And that is my advice to you as well. Always take responsibility for your own actions. If you have any doubts about how ugly it looks and sounds to blame others and make excuses for yourself, take a closer look at our politicians.

Suck it up, admit your mistake, and move on.

Thanks, Grandma.

4. Confuse Money With Success

America has become so obsessed with money and all the stuff it will buy that it’s hard to have an intelligent conversation about what success should really mean to each one of us. Success is doing something with your life that gives you value and meaning.

Success is not just about making more money or going home with the most toys.

5. Refuse To Sacrifice

There are some who might consider the Marine Corp Base in Quantico, VA a great place to spend 4 months—however, I am not one of them. But, during my time at the Academy, because of the starkness of my surroundings, I did get into the habit of sacrificing things that I wanted in the short term to achieve the more important goal—to become an FBI agent.

The road to success is not one of excess. You will need to focus, sacrifice, and set priorities.

6. Complacency Will Kill You

One thing FBI agents learn early on in training is it’s not the streets or guns that will kill you—complacency is what will put you in harm’s way! Aways be alert and aware of what is going on in your environment. Opportunities are where your luck will hide, so always be searching for ways to make own your luck.

Complacency is where you go to wither up and die.

7. Complain About Working Hard

My grandmother told me, “You’ll never get to the top if you sit on your bottom,” and then she’d hand me a shovel to clean out the horse barn. If you work harder than everyone else, you will achieve the success you are looking for.

No one has ever drowned in a pool of sweat.

8. Permit Negative Thoughts To Take Over

I came very close to being washed out of the Academy because I wasn’t a good athlete. The FIT test was hard for me, and I was tempted to let the spiral of negativity keep me from achieving my goal. Our survival-driven brain is wired to pay more attention to negative thoughts than positive ones, so we really do need to work harder at remaining positive when things get tough.

Mental toughness is positivity on steroids—LaRae Quy

9. Neglect Your Family

Family looks different for everyone. Sometimes it’s our children and the people to whom we are related, but just as often it also includes those we love and hold close to us.

You need to spend quality time with them and not neglect those relationships if you want true success in life.

10. Maintain Mediocre Friendships

Since you don’t have choice in who you’re related to, be very careful in picking friends that will support you—in both good and bad times. My husband is an introvert who only counts a couple of buddies as close friends. I throw a much wider net and count lots of wonderful people as friends. The number doesn’t matter, but you don’t have either the time or the energy to surround yourself with mediocrity. That goes for friends, too.

11. Forget To Be Grateful

When you stop being grateful, you have the worst kind of heart trouble. It’s impossible to be negative or depressed when there is gratitude in your heart.

What bad habit have you broken lately?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

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Author of “Mental Toughness For Women Leaders” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

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10 FBI Tips On How To Spot A Liar

April 26th, 2015 by LaRae Quy

FBI agents are trained to read other people and uncover what is hidden so they can get to the truth of a situation. Their job is to recognize language inconsistencies and other verbal cues to spot liars and deceptive behavior.

10 FBI Tips To Spot A Liar

It would be nice if every job candidate, negotiating partner, and supplier told the truth—but they do not. In addition, many business owners and entrepreneurs get embezzled by the employees they trust.

In the world of business, being successful often means being able to spot liars and people who are deceptive. How do you know when someone is telling you the truth? And if you do believe something you are told, how can you be sure it’s not because you want it to be true?

Here are 10 FBI tips on how to spot the liar:

1. Build Rapport

Coming across as empathetic in a conversation gets the person to open up more than when the interviewer is cold and accusatory. Developing rapport is the place to start.

2. Fill In The Blanks

Instead of asking direct questions, tell the person the story as if you already know all the facts. Make it a statement—the guilty party will supply details and make corrections.

3. Surprise Them

The person knows they are guilty and will be prepared for your questions. If you ask them something they do not expect, they will usually stumble when put on the spot.

4. Ask For The Story Backward

Truthful people tend to add details and remember facts the more they repeat their story. Liars, on the other hand, memorize their stories and keep them the same. Ask the person to recall events backward rather than forward in time.

For example, start at the end and then ask them to explain what happened right before that point. And so on…

For truthful people, this makes recall easier. For liars, they tend to simplify the story so they don’t contradict themselves.

5. Withhold Evidence

If confronted with evidence of guilt too early, the person will either clam up or become hostile. Instead, give them the opportunity to make a confession. If they don’t, allude to evidence in such a way that they realize you know the facts.

6. Listen More Than You Talk

Liars tend to talk more than truthful people in an attempt to sound legitimate and win over their audience. Liars also tend to use more complex sentences to hide the truth. Here are some other things to look for:

  • Stress usually increases the speed of speech.
  • A stressed person may also talk louder.
  • Cracking in the natural tone of the voice often occurs at the point of deception.
  • Coughing and clearing the throat are good signs of tension at the point when they occur.

7. NO Is A Key Word

A person is most likely showing deceptive behavior when they:

  • Say “no” and look in a different direction (upward, downward, etc)
  • Say “no” and close their eyes
  • Say “no” after a hesitation
  • Say “noooooooo” stretched over a long period of time
  • Say “no” in a singsong manner

8. Be Wary Of Compliments

Watch out for someone who is trying too hard to make a good impression:

  • Emphasizing respect for your qualities and talents
  • Forming a mutual bond by reminding you of common friends and activities you share
  • Offering lots of praise and pleasantries
  • Laughing at all your jokes (a sure give-away)

9. Watch for Changes in Behavior

Take the time to notice subtle changes in behavior when you are interviewing them:

  • Exhibiting lapses in memory at critical times even though they’ve been alert in earlier conversation
  • Providing small crumbs of information to questions asked
  • Moving into a more formal way of speaking indicates that the conversation is hitting a point of stress
  • Using extreme superlatives or exaggerated responses, such as saying awesome instead of good

10. Ask follow-up questions

If the person exhibits uneasiness with a specific question, take the time to explore further. For example, “Explain this gap in your résumé” may lead to an answer such as, “I was recuperating from hip surgery.” Often, the deception that you’ve uncovered may be related to a personal embarrassment or a desire to be “the perfect candidate.”

What ways have you found to spot liars?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

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Author of “Mental Toughness For Women Leaders” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

Co-author of Energize Your Leadership

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Why Highly Successful People Have A Plan B

April 19th, 2015 by LaRae Quy

Excerpt from my “Energize Your Leadership” chapter.

For me, becoming an FBI agent was Plan B.

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Why HIghly Successful People Have A Plan

Growing up on a cattle ranch in the middle of Wyoming, I yearned for a life of excitement. I graduated with a Business Degree because I thought it would open doors in the world of fast-moving finance. It didn’t take long for me to find the routine of an office job terribly boring—there was no adventure, no excitement, no real challenges to keep my mind alert and creative. 

After a bit of research, I decided that the U.S. Foreign Service was the answer to my dilemma. Lots of travel to exotic lands and immersion in foreign cultures—it sounded like my dream job. I carefully ticked off all the requirements needed to apply, filled out a background form and sent off my application.

I did very well on the personality test, but I failed miserably on the language aptitude test so my application was thrown out.

The word “failure” hung over my head: I did not get into the Foreign Service. I didn’t know where to go or what to do next.

Yet, growing up on a cattle ranch had instilled in me a strong sense of persistence and determination. If something didn’t work out right the first time, Plan B was quickly called into action. If cattle needed to be fed or watered (which usually meant life or death for them) I would keep at it until I found a way to move forward and get the job done, no matter how long it took.

After failing the Foreign Service, I realized that I needed to put Plan B into action in my own life and refocus on what other options were out there for me. I wasn’t going to wallow in self-pity. Since I had already researched U.S. Government jobs, I knew I also qualified for the FBI. I submitted the application. Six months later, I was in the FBI New Agents Training Academy at Quantico, VA.

I have never looked back.   

Successful people are those who are good at Plan B. Why? Because by trying and failing, we learn what doesn’t work—and with that comes the knowledge we need to understand what will work.

1. Find Gratitude And Redefine “Failure”

Succesful people, from whatever organization or walk of life, tend to repeatedly cite one specific personal failure when explaining their success. Usually, the failure was one that was traumatic and difficult to transcend. Filled with desperation, they felt as though they’d hit rock bottom.

As Warren Bennis said, “It’s as if that moment the iron entered their soul; that moment created the resilience that leaders need.”

Too often, “success” is simply mediocrity. It’s where we stop on our way to being the person we really wanted to be. We are smart, talented, and full of untapped potential—and too afraid to move into the discomfort of the unknown and push our boundaries.

Why?

  • We’re afraid of failure.
  • We’ve not learned what will work, and what won’t.
  • We have no Plan B to implement what we’ve learned.

2. Become Your Own Hero

The key is to not linger too long on anything that clearly isn’t working. This means failing frequently.

Only by trying many different things will you find the one way that points to the best future. But when you do, you become your own hero!

Repeated failure will build mental toughness and show you with absolute clarity how you must move forward if you are to succeed. It’s actually a curse to have everything go right when you first start out because you will start to believe you have the golden touch . . . and when you do inevitably fail, you’ll be demoralized.

3. Lose The Shame

We are afraid of failure because, essentially, we have a fear of shame.

Most of us are motivated to avoid failing because we cannot manage the basic emotions of disappointment or frustration that may emerge; instead, we feel deep shame that we are imperfect—and vulnerable.

Failure offers the gift of bringing priorities into focus. If something doesn’t hold value for you, then giving up and moving on to something different does no more than prick your pride.

If, however, you risk losing something important, you will work hard and do what it takes to tackle the obstacle that stands between you and success.

When has Plan B inspired your success?

This article is an except from my chapter in “Energize Your Leadership,” a collaborative book project with 16 experts advice on how to ignite, discover, and breakthrough. Pick up your copy now!

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE Mental Toughness Assessment

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Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.”

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8 Powerful Secrets For Self-Improvement

April 12th, 2015 by LaRae Quy

After a brief hiatus, the FBI has reinstated the annual FIT test so they can assess the overall health and fitness level of field agents. On a yearly basis, the continued maintenance and development of each agent’s physical fitness will be placed into their personnel file.

8 Powerful Secrets For Self-Improvement

The FBI is concerned about the breakdown of their most precious asset—the agents.

The inevitable fact of deterioration is true not only for FBI agents, but for you as well. You need to continually refresh, renew, and stretch past your comfort zone if you want to invest in yourself.

Because this is the thing: continued growth is essential for safety. I’m not just talking about physical well-being; I’m also talking about your relevance in your business and job.

Self-improvement means staying professionally and personally fit. It often requires lifestyle changes that will necessitate adjustments in the way we think.

Self-improvement is not a course in miracles. It is something that takes hard work. Perhaps the real secret to becoming a better person is coming to grips with the fact that everyone has to work hard—very hard, to become the person they know they can be.

It also takes a positive attitude because we all have demons, baggage, anxieties, worries, and fears. The trick is controlling them—and that takes mental toughness.

Here are 8 Secret Steps To A Better Self:

1. Go Ahead And Talk To Yourself

Special Forces and Navy SEALS use self-talk as a powerful mental toughness tool when confronted with obstacles and adversity. Research estimates that we say 300-1,000 words to ourselves per minute.

  • Teach yourself to react positively to your circumstances so you can override the emotional part of your limbic brain system that regulates anxiety.
  • Positive self-talk can shift the way you see your stressors.
  • Mental toughness is recognizing that even in the roughest circumstances, we are never helpless.

2. Formulate Action Plans

Lasting change ultimately requires you to make the new behavior automatic.

  • Prepare yourself for specific situations. “If I am offered a glass of wine, I will say “no”.”
  • Frame your intentions as positive actions: “I will not speak in derogatory terms about my supervisor behind her back.”
  • Picture yourself carrying out your plans.

3. Launch A Personal Research and Development Program

Every good company spends time and resources on R&D. If you are planning to invest in yourself, you should do the same. Take a closer look at how you can discover hidden talents, interests, and skills. Your personal R&D might look something like this:

  • Buy 5 new magazines every month.
  • Visit 5 new websites every week.
  • Every time you meet someone interesting, ask them what they’re reading.
  • Take a vacation to somewhere new.

4. Try Out A New Pair Of Training Wheels

As long as we’re talking personal R&D, do something at which you are a beginner. Like any newbie, you will fear failure and rely upon training wheels to keep you upright. That’s OK. If you wobble and fall down, you’ll already know how it feels when you get knocked down by the competition. The sting won’t come as a shock and you won’t waste precious time whining about it.

  • Come out swinging.
  • Live by your wits.
  • Let your ego get bruised.
  • Be stronger when you finish than when you started.

5. Recruit A Board Of Personal Advisors

As Plato said, “The people we hang around are like dirt; they either help us grow and thrive, or they make us wither and wilt.”

  • Look around the conference room.
  • Who do you admire? Who do you know the least?
  • Invite them to lunch.
  • Stay in touch with the people who believe in you.
  • Cultivate people who will challenge you to be your best self.

6. Learn a New Habit

This requires you to choose between something pleasant and familiar or something much less so.

  • Think about how this goal will help you become the person you want to be.
  • Even if the goal originated from an external source, such as doctor’s warning to lose weight, you can still make it your own by finding your personal reasons to pursue it.
  • Try to come up with fun ways to learn your new habit.

7. Believe It To Be True

Studies have shown that people with unrealistic expectations are the ones mostly likely to give in to temptation and stick with old habits. Long-term lifestyle changes require you to control your impulses and stop making excuses for why you’re not changing your behavior.

  • Visualize your success along with the specific obstacles you will face.
  • Avoid situations that will trigger a bad habit that you want to break.
  • Forgive yourself if you slip up; keep moving forward.

8. Find Out Your “Why”

A powerful motivator for self-improvement is to figure out exactly why you are pursuing a particular goal or course of action in the first place.

  • Find your personal motivation to change a negative habit.
  • Listen politely to advice, but stick to your guns and choose your own goals.
  • At the end of each day ask yourself, how would you would rate each conversation, interaction, and decision you made on a scale of 1 to 10?
  • Now, ask yourself what it would take to make it a 10?

As seasoned FBI agents know, successful people never stop learning how to continually refresh, renew, and stretch past their comfort zones.

What powerful tip for self-improvement can you share?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE Mental Toughness Assessment

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Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

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9 Body Language Signals Successful Business Owners Never Ignore

April 5th, 2015 by LaRae Quy

A young man recently asked me what I considered to be the most important skill he would need to develop if he wanted to become a successful FBI agent. I told him that emotional intelligence—being able to pick up on the moods of others—would be one of the most essential skills he would need.

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The reason?

The ability to accurately pick up on the stress and vulnerability of people gives you an immediate advantage in how to move forward most successfully. It varies from, “Maybe this is not the right time to pitch a new deal” to “This is the perfect time to push harder on this issue.”

Empathy.

It’s the one thing that allows you, as a business owner, to speak to the needs and desires of others. 

Most business owners understand what empathy is, and some are good at reading other people’s needs and desires. When people feel they are understood, they respond in positive ways.

FBI agents need people to cooperate with them in their investigations. Forget what you see in movies and read in books—the tough guy approach of blackmail and coercion works best in fantasy, and not real life.

When we reach people in a way that touches them deeply, we help them tap into their best selves and achieve amazing results. Successful business owners understand the importance of engaging their talent, and they are savvy about how to read body language to gage the emotions of others.

If you are looking to grow your business, here are 9 things you should look for when reading the body language of others:

1. Smile First

Very few people are actually happy to see an FBI agent. But, a fake smile can be seen a mile away so I knew I needed to proceed cautiously no matter how glad they sounded about meeting me.

TIP: Dump the botox and live with creases around the eyes—those lines are essential if you want to give a real smile and signal that you are genuinely happy about seeing them. If you don’t see crinkle lines around their eyes when they are smiling, watch your step.

2. Eyebrow Flash

The second body language message that alerted me to the real emotions of the person I was meeting was a lack of eyebrow flash. We subconsciously raise our eyebrows a bit when we’re genuinely pleased to see someone. This is especially true for people whom you know or have met before.

TIP: Think twice if the person does not raise their eyebrows when they see you, even if they verbally indicate everything is OK.

3. Mouthy Movements

When people are stressed, their lips start to disappear! Paul Ekman has produced a lot of information on micro-expressions, but my rule of thumb is to watch the mouth as a conversation unfolds because it will subconsciously signal what the person is feeling.

TIP: When lips disappear, the person is stressed. When lips purse, they are disagreeing with what you said or are considering another idea.

4. Nervous Hands

When hands cover the mouth, the brain is trying to suppress the deceitful words that are being said. Professional liars and politicians train themselves to lie without exhibiting the tell-tale gestures that goes with it.

TIP: When the hand touches the face at any time during your conversation, pay attention to what was said and how often the gesture is repeated.

5. Head Tilt

Most FBI interviews begin like this: the other person answers questions while sitting in a rigid position and holding their head straight. After they become comfortable, they will usually tilt their head as they engage in conversation.

TIP: A head tilt is a powerful way to convey that you are comfortable with the conversation. It is incredibly hard to tilt your head when you’re experiencing negative emotions.

The face is used more than any other part of the body to cover up lies. The more ambiguous the expression, however, the more difficult to look for accurate body language.  Then, it’s important to look for clusters of gestures. For example:

6. Clenched Hands

I’ve been in many meetings where the person speaking is clenching their hands in raised position (usually elbows on the table or hands resting on the table) and smiling while they’re speaking.

TIP: This is a sign of frustration and the person speaking is holding back a negative attitude.

7. Neck Scratch

Many times a person who is being deceptive in their answers will scratch their neck with their index finger.

TIP: The average number of scratches is about five and it is a signal of doubt or uncertainty.

8. Chin Stroking

When you’re making a suggestion or sharing an idea, many times the listener will bring one hand to their face—this is called an evaluation gesture. The most common form of evaluation gesture is a chin stroke.

TIP: The chin stroke is a signal that the listener is going through the decision-making process. Watch for the body language that follows: arms and legs crossed means they are not favorably impressed, while leaning forward and open arms means they’re open to your idea.

9. Restless Feet

My former FBI colleague, Joe Navarro, is an expert on body language.  He says that our feet, along with legs, are the most honest parts of the body. Most of us are trained to control our facial expressions. How many of us heard, “Get that look off your face” while growing up? But no one pays attention to what the feet are doing—except skeptical FBI agents.

When we are happy and content, our feet will bounce or move. In the same way, when the other person’s foot is turned toward the door when you’re talking to them, it signals they want to leave.

TIP: Pay attention to what a person is doing with their feet. If they are bouncing, chances are good that they have happy feet, and all is going well.

Successful business owners know that to get the most from their teams, they must learn how to read body language accurately so they can reach team members on an emotional level.

What other body language signals would you add?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE Mental Toughness Assessment

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Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

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6 Habits Smart Leaders Never Forget

March 29th, 2015 by LaRae Quy

Over a 24 year career, FBI Firearms instructors made us repeat the same series of actions on the firing range. After awhile, it got so repetitive that I wondered how I would fare in a shootout if I didn’t have my firearms instructor barking out orders on what to do next!

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In fact, our repeated behavior patterns became involuntary. In short, they became a habit.

I no longer needed to think about what to do when pulling my gun and aiming it at a target. My actions were involuntary so my mind could be used for something more productive—like assessing the crisis unfolding in front of me.

Good habits are the product of mental toughness—managing your emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that set you up for success in business and life. Smart leaders use good habits to direct their time and energy into activities that are important to them as they move toward reaching their goals.

Here are 6 habits that smart leaders never forget:

1. Look for Happiness, Not Success

Smart leaders pursue the things in life that brings them happiness. 

They are not seduced into thinking that success and happiness are the same things. When they hit tough times, they use mental toughness to keep moving forward because their heart and passion are hitched to a cause—failure or adversity is not enough to compel them to quit and move on and settle for something that provides less value and meaning in their life.

TIP: Ask yourself these two questions: “What will make me happy?” and “What will make me successful?” Do not mistakenly assume these two questions are one in the same.

2. Examine Every Mistake For Lessons Learned

Smart leaders know that mistakes teach you some of the most important lessons in life. 

They understand that the only real mistake they can make in life is not learning from their misstep, or choosing to do nothing because they were too afraid of making another one. 

TIP: Become a smart leader by taking chances—opportunities are where luck hides. It’s not about something falling into your lap; it’s about taking chances and finding your luck.

3. Explore All Opportunities, Whether You Feel Prepared Or Not

Smart leaders do not need to feel 100% ready when an opportunity arises.

They understand that all great opportunities will stretch them beyond their comfort zone. They will be stretched emotionally, intellectually, and philosophically. 

TIP: Since luck hides in opportunities, move forward with mental toughness so you can manage your emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that will set you up for growth. These opportunities will continue to show up throughout your life, so make the most of them—even if you don’t feel 100% ready!

4. Focus On Priorities And Say “NO” To The Rest

Smart leaders know how to say no, both to themselves and others.

They have learned that self-control helps them avoid impulsive decisions, stress, and burnout. Saying “no” is very different from saying, “I don’t think I can.” Saying NO to things, people, and opportunities that are not a priority for them is a powerful way to exert self-control.

TIP: Saying NO is a way you can honor your goals and priorities so you can find the time to successfully achieve them.

5. Pursue Peak Performance, Not Perfection

Smart leaders focus on developing peak performance by continually moving into their discomfort zone.

They know that they will never reach their full potential if they become complacent and comfortable, so their grasp is always a bit beyond their reach.

TIP: Researchers agree that the gap between your skill level and your peak performance should hover around 4%. Anything more will discourage you from trying harder; anything less will not push you hard enough to move forward.

6. Cultivate A Culture of Flexibility

Smart leaders have an agile mind so they adapt to changes in their environment.

They know that fear of change is paralyzing and a major roadblock to their happiness. They learn how to embrace changes by continually placing themselves in situations where they are uncomfortable and change can be expected. And then, when they are confronted with the unknown in business and life, they are better able to predict their response. 

TIP: Intentionally place yourself in situations where the outcome is not known. These situations will create new ways of thinking about obstacles and roadblocks that show up unexpectedly in your life. You will have the confidence to keep moving forward instead of reacting with fear and paralysis.

While success and happiness can be defined in many different ways, learn how to make these 6 habits your own. 

What habits have helped make you successful?

 

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE Mental Toughness Assessment

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Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.”

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5 Powerful Ways A Strong Mind Breaks Through Barriers

March 22nd, 2015 by LaRae Quy

As an FBI agent working counterintelligence cases, I learned that ignoring problems in investigations will not make them go away. They must be worked through and not allowed to become a barrier in finding the answer.

Overcoming Obstacles - sword

Working through problems is not limited to FBI investigations. Breaking through the barriers that show up in life and business takes mental toughness to face them so you can manage your emotions, behavior, and thoughts in a way that will set you up for success.

In our country, barriers are synonymous with failure and shame. Barriers are things to be avoided so we can keep moving toward our goal. Contrary to how we think about problems and barriers, they are not the problem—it is the way in which we respond to them that holds us back. 

The way in which we look at barriers is as important to living a full life as is how we pursue meaningful activities and build healthy relationships. No matter our age, our mental toughness is created by our ability to cope with the challenges of life.

Here are 5 powerful ways strong minds use mental toughness to break through your barriers:

1. Create The Will To Move Forward

Strong minds use mental toughness to light a fire in their belly—and fight back!

How you handle your fears will ultimately determine where you go and what you do with your life. It is your choice to live fully—or be incapacitated by the fear of the challenges and barriers that are inevitable if you plan to move forward. 

A desire to fight back keeps you in control. The key is to acknowledge your fear by confronting it face to face. This tactic robs fear of its power. 

2. Stop Pretending It Doesn’t Matter

Strong minds acknowledge that moving through a barrier to reach a goal is important to them!

Admitting defeat to a barrier means we are acknowledging limitations, but more often than not, barriers are those things in life we come across that are simply self-limiting beliefs about what we can or cannot do. 

Our first reaction is to pretend crashing through the barrier isn’t important—we make up excuses for our failure. We maintain the illusion that the walls surrounding us are not really keeping us imprisoned or in a rut. 

Remember, the only difference between a coffin and a rut are the dimensions.

3. Learn To Kick Butt

Strong minds create the confidence they need to kick butt!

Many people never break through barriers to live a fuller life because they lack the confidence to do so. Lack of confidence holds many people back simply because they don’t think they’re ready. The truth is that nobody ever feels 100% ready when an opportunity arises. 

Opportunities and barriers are two sides of the same coin: they force us to stretch ourselves and our comfort zones, which means we may not always feel confident at first. 

Confidence is the difference between feeling unstoppable or being too scared to move forward. The more confidence you have in yourself, the more likely you are to succeed.

4. Embrace The Life That God Has Given You

Strong minds find the positive aspects of their situation!

  • Sometimes things must change so you can change. 
  • Sometimes you must break a little so you can peek inside to see the power of your own life and story.
  • Sometimes mistakes must be made so wisdom can be earned.
  • Sometimes rejecting barriers and obstacles is to reject life itself.

5. Push Through

Strong minds push through the problems, obstacles, and barriers in their life.

Every aspect of growth arrives outside of your comfort zone. Have the courage to move forward if the risks feel right. Stretch yourself even if it means feeling uncomfortable. 

Barriers are things to push against to grow stronger. 

If you’re not a little bit uncomfortable on a daily basis it means you’re not growing. If you’re not a little bit scared everyday, you’re not learning. And when you’re not learning, you’re done.

If you expect life to be easy, challenges will seem difficult. If you accept that challenges may occur, life will be easier.

How have you broken through your barriers?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE Mental Toughness Assessment

Get my FREE Mental Toughness Mini-Course

Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.”

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