Archive for March, 2015

6 Habits Smart Leaders Never Forget

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

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!

Habits - learn

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, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Sign Up for my How To Build Confidence on-line training 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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How Women Can Find The Perfect Mentor To Guide Them To Success

Friday, March 6th, 2015

As a female FBI agent, there were very few other women in my office—or in the building, for that matter. The closest thing to a mentor I had was my male training agent, who viewed me as more of a burden than an opportunity.

Woman leader

But it had been to my advantage to be raised on a cattle ranch in the middle of Wyoming. It was a tough environment—fast food was hitting a deer at 60 miles an hour. My grandmother wrote down ammo for her Christmas list. And there is one thing you never say to a grandmother who is a crack shot with a rifle—“It’s not my fault.”

This was exactly the type of mental toughness I needed when I found myself as a new agent in an FBI squad with few allies. No obvious mentor stood by to take me under their wing. I could have blamed my fellow agents, but I knew that I would need to find my own way to move forward if I wanted to be successful.

On my first squad, my desk was next to a hardened older agent named Leo who looked at me with suspicion—could a woman be relied upon to have his back if we found ourselves in a shootout? He thought not, or at least had his doubts. I could tell by the way he treated me—with quiet disdain.

Not all mentoring relationships need to be a formal arrangement. Leo was an unwitting mentor who would be horrified to think that I considered him as one! But I watched how he worked his cases. He was a thorough investigator who pursued any and all leads. And when he didn’t have any, he still kept at it.

Mentors teach, coach, guide, and motivate. Leo did all of these things for me, although he didn’t know it. I used the information I learned from him, about how to read body language and listen for verbal cues, for the rest of my career! I never liked Leo, and we never so much as sat together over a cup of coffee, but he was one of the best mentors I ever had.

Why is it important for you to have a mentor to guide you toward success? Even more importantly, what characteristics make a good mentor for you?

The term mentor has been watered-down in the last few years. It can encompass anything from self-help books, to touchy-feely therapy sessions when times get tough, to a wise and trusted guide through business and life.

I want to share with you some of the lessons I’ve learned about how women can find the perfect mentor to guide them toward success:

1. Be Wary—Very Wary, Of Praise

Like most overachievers, I look for praise in almost everything I do. 

As a first grade student, I was never satisfied with anything less than an A. My teacher, Mrs. Archie, was very stingy with praise, so you can imagine how much I disliked her. She let me know right away that I was not the smartest person in the room, so when I did get an A she responded with, “You’ve worked very hard to get this grade.” I didn’t realize it at the time, but she had created a growth mindset in the way that I looked at my obstacles. 

Researcher Carol Dweck discovered that our mindset affects our ability to fulfill our potential—to grow and learn, take risks, bounce back from adversity, and to build healthy relationships.   

If we have a “fixed mindset,” we believe our qualities, and that includes our intelligence, are something we were born with and cannot be changed.  If we have a “growth mindset,” we believe that we can cultivate and grow our basic qualities, including our intelligence.

Some of the brightest people avoid challenges, don’t work hard, and wilt in the face of difficulty. In other words, it’s not always the people who start out the smartest in the room who end up the smartest.

A perfect mentor will challenge you to create a growth mindset.

2. Create A Strong Mind

My grandmother was a larger-than-life force in my life. When things didn’t work out the way I expected, she taught me how to be mentally tough. She had no time for people who would not take responsibility for their situation.

I didn’t sweat it when I found no females to mentor me as an FBI agent. I knew that if I wanted to be treated as an equal, I needed to act as an equal. It wouldn’t help to whine, complain, and blame others. I needed to take responsibility. 

If women plan to use the excuse that they can’t make their way up the corporate ladder because there aren’t other women to mentor them, then they haven’t taken their careers very seriously. Take responsibility and find the best person to inspire you to be the best you can be.

Here are the questions I ask myself when I look for a mentor from among the people around me:

  • How can they help me be better at my job?
  • Are they respected by subordinates, peers, and superiors?
  • What skills do they have that I need to develop?
  • How much more do they know more about (this project) than I do?
  • In what ways are they willing to share that knowledge?
  • Will they give me the honest feedback I need?
  • Why do I admire them?
  • How will working with them make me a better person?

A perfect mentor will show you how to develop the mental toughness needed to get you through the roadblocks that are in the way of your success. 

3. Play Big

In the FBI, power meetings among male leaders were held during happy hour—the ones I was never invited to attend. In many larger corporations, power meetings are held in the men’s bathroom during bio-breaks. Either way, the opportunity for women to participate is limited.

When I was tempted to play the victim, I thought about Leo. He was awkward, ugly and had a quirky personality. He wasn’t invited to happy hour, either. And yet, the truth is this: Leo was a big player in the world of FBI counterintelligence investigations. As my unofficial mentor, he reminded me that people will do things to let you down, and even screw you over—that is life!

So get over it.

Leo refused to think small. He’d never start a sentence with, “I’m not an expert but…“ and then apologize. He taught me that leaders, both men and women, need to play big and take control of how they react to a situation. When the going gets tough, roll up your sleeves and get even tougher. 

He taught me how to recognize self-doubt and not let it dictate my actions. If you look for discrimination in business, you will find it. Leo’s advice to me? Just don’t. Don’t look for it or it will pull you down with it. Instead, assume the best of everyone around you. Remember—trust, but verify. Only a fool takes what she hears at face value. 

A perfect mentor helps you to develop confidence in yourself and your abilities.

 

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Sign Up for my How To Build Confidence on-line training 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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10 Differences Between High Performers And Overachievers

Sunday, March 1st, 2015

As a new FBI agent, I couldn’t wait to work undercover. John le Carre novels and James Bond movies filled my head, so I jumped at chance when the opportunity came up for me to start an undercover operation against foreign spies in the Silicon Valley.

Overachiever

This was my first time out of the gate as an undercover agent and it was exhilarating. It was necessary that I move immediately from idea to action with very little time between thinking and doing. I loved performing and I was good at approaching the targets of my investigation. As a result, I gained attention, made good progress, and received a lot of praise.

Overachievers are high performers. We. Get. It. Done! Whatever the cost. As an overachiever, I know that I can outlast my competition, wear down opposition, and annihilate critics. 

And while we do accomplish our goals, if we don’t get a handle on what is driving us, it can eventually take it’s toll on our health and leave a trail of devastated relationships.

Here are 10 ways you can tamp down your need to be an overachiever and channel your considerable talent and ambition into the longer lasting results of a high performer.

1. Love Yourself As You Love Others

It turns out that there are a fair number of people like me—overachievers who thrive on being successful. In their book, The Wisdom of the Enneagram, Don Riso and Russ Hudson, have this to say about people who are driven to succeed:

“Overachievers fear they will have no value apart from their achievements; they are motivated to perform so they will be loved, accepted, and desirable.”

The idea is to work hard for recognition, to take on leadership roles, and to win. It’s also very important to avoid failure because only winners are worthy of love.

Bill Clinton, Madonna, and John F. Kennedy are famous examples of overachievers.

2. Quiet the Mind that Travels at High Speed

Take time out and allow space for your true emotions to surface. Your emotions are housed in the survival-driven limbic brain system so you “feel” before you “think.” This is why tapping into your gut instinct is so valuable for you as a leader.

Gut thinking is faster than logical thinking. But, until you have mastered gut instinct, give your slower logical, cerebral brain time to process your emotions. 

Taking deep breaths is a good idea, but the reason for breathing is that you’re actually stalling for your logical brain to catch up.

3. Notice When Actions Become Mechanical

Overachievers need to constantly be in motion, and as a result, they are not always leading from their heart. When they aren’t, they lose interest and move on to another project.

High performance leaders stop to reflect and observe before moving on.

 4. Identify When Your Accomplishments Make You Feel More Desirable And Lovable To Others

Stop believing that you’re OK only if others think well of you. Ask whether what you are doing is something that truly has value and meaning for you, or is it just a way to feel valuable and loved?

High performers do not operate from the need to feel valued and loved. They are more interested in building teams and achieving a sense of community in the process.

5. Veer Away From Problems By Introducing New Projects

Stop trying to reframe your failure into a success. Overachievers always look for the winning solution—but high performance leaders look for the optimal solution.

6. Stop Discrediting Sources Of Criticisms

No one is perfect—not even you. 

As Riso and Hudson point out:

Overachievers suffer self-doubt because they believe they need to meet the expectations of others to be accepted. 

As an overachiever, life for you is a competitive struggle; it’s always a question of winning or losing. High performers have the mental toughness to embrace failure because they know they will learn from it.

7. Recognize The Differences Between The Public Self And The Private Self

Differentiate between the image you project and the real person you are. As an overachiever, you are tempted by the trappings of success because they are proof that, “You won the game.” At least this one. 

High performers can listen to their own voice for validation instead of relying on recognition from the outside.

8. Note When You’re Putting On A Show

Stop being a fraud—you’ll love yourself in the morning.

As an overachiever, I could slip on almost any mask and act the part to perfection. The role both protected and motivated me.

High performance leaders are not afraid to be transparent, authentic, and honest.

9. Learn To Tell The Difference Between Doing And Feeling

Shift attention away from the activities surrounding the task to how you feel about the task.

Of all personality types, overachievers have the greatest difficulty perceiving their emotions and understanding their emotions. Instead, they focus on, “Am I successful?”

High performers are mentally tough leaders who are in touch with their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. They know how to manage them in ways that set themselves up for success.

10. Start Meditation

American culture promotes youth, energy, and a competitive life. It can be difficult to create a quiet mind if we’re always running at high speed. 

Do not stress out about this—notice when meditation becomes yet another activity in which you want to excel!

“The toughest thing about success is that you’ve got to keep on being a success.” Irving Berlin

What advice do you have for an overachiever?

© 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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