Archive for April, 2016

Leadership, Trust, and the SyFy Channel

Sunday, April 17th, 2016

One of the reasons I decided to accept the offer to become the FBI spokesperson in Northern California is because I would be in a leadership position and able to cultivate trust with the public by sharing information about the great investigations being conducted by our agents.

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The public needs to understand how law enforcement agencies like the FBI work. I was not afraid to be transparent about all aspects of our work because I truly believe the FBI is the world’s foremost investigative agency.

I quickly found out that many of my fellow agents did not feel the same way about developing trust with the public. They wanted to keep investigations and their work shrouded in secrecy. What they could never understand is that when things are kept in the dark, they take on a life of their own and that is never good for an organization like the FBI that depends upon the public’s support and assistance to solve most of their cases.

One of my former colleagues called for an internal investigation after the publication of my first book, “Secrets Of A Strong Mind.” A fellow counterintelligence agent, she accused me of handing over too much information to the “other side.” Never mind that it was 1) unclassified, 2) written about hundreds of times before, and 3) common sense!

She is, of course, extremely paranoid and might have made a better CIA or KGB officer than FBI agent. FBI Headquarters sided with me because they know that if I err, it is on the side of portraying the FBI in too positive of a light! The FBI is not a perfect organization but one that I was very proud to represent for 24 years.

Recently, my good friend James Wedick put me in touch with the SyFy channel. They were creating a backstory trailer about undercover work to promote a new TV series called Hunters. They interviewed me, another former FBI agent, and a retired CIA officer.

Here are four things I kept in mind about developing trust when preparing for the SyFy channel’s video:

1. IT’S NOT WHAT YOU DO, IT’S HOW YOU LOOK DOING IT

I was concerned at first because my first reaction to the SyFy channel’s request was—how will this make the FBI look? Hunters is about alien terrorists, after all!

But the more I talked to the producer of the backstory trailer, the more convinced I was that they had two priorities: 1) producing an interesting series, and 2) leveraging as much reality as possible into a storyline created by the same folks who gave us The Walking Dead (one of my absolute favorite TV shows!)

ACTION POINT: Whether it’s a backstory for a show about alien terrorists, or making a presentation in front of your colleagues, approach each and every project with the same amount of integrity because you never know who is watching or listening.

2. TRUST REQUIRES HONESTY

Unfortunately, I worked with a lot of agents who believed that the best way to get the job done was to act tough, and it’s true that is all some criminals understand. But being a tough guy can only get you so far—as many of those same colleagues can attest after experiencing failed relationships, broken families, and endless child support payments.

ACTION POINT: When you are afraid to be honest with yourself, and others, your ability to create trust is extremely limited. People may be too polite to call you a phoney to your face but your credibility diminishes a little each time you open your disingenuous little mouth.

3. EMOTIONAL COMPETENCE IS THE REAL DIRTY LITTLE SECRET

Believe me, you will never hear touchy-feely words thrown about in the halls of any FBI office. There are still a fair number of agents who believe that brute strength and ignorance will take them wherever they need to go.

The truly successful agents, however, know that developing trust requires emotional competence. This includes:

  • Self-awareness—so they can predict how they will react when confronted with the unknown.
  • Empathy—they are able to relate to others in an honest way.
  • Managing their emotions—if they cannot regulate their response to a variety of situations, they automatically lose the upper hand.

ACTION POINT: If you want to be mentally tough, you must be able to control your emotions, and the only way to do that is to become emotionally aware.

4. WORK WITH WHAT YOU’VE GOT; NOT WHAT YOU WISH YOU HAD

When talking to people, it’s important to be able to admit mistakes and to be smart enough to learn from your failures. No one wants to listen to a smug prig.

It requires mental toughness to take a long, hard look at yourself so you can identify your weaknesses right as well as your strengths. Then, forget about trying to change those weaknesses; instead, learn to manage them. Don’t ignore them, but understand how to mitigate the way they limit your progress.

Spend the rest of your time developing your strengths. Not only will you be happier, you will be more successful.

ACTION POINT: Forget about romanticized versions of who you wish you were—see yourself for who you truly are, and then make that person as fiercely awesome as possible!

Play the trailer below. I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I did making it! 

presented by the SyFy channel

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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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4 Ways Strong Minded Leaders Get Organized

Sunday, April 10th, 2016

As the spokesperson for the FBI in Northern California, I soon recognized the need for strong minded leaders to get organized. The crushing number of emails, meetings, conference calls, and interviews were relentless!

I worked all day only to come home at night and spend several more hours trying to get out from under the workload. My grueling schedule had nothing to do with poor organizational skills; instead, it reflected the way I thought about the tasks before me.

I needed to become a strong minded leader leader to overcome the psychological obstacles that prevented me from getting more organized with my time.

Taking control of your emotions, thoughts, and behavior takes mental toughness because you need to be very intentional about how you overcome the mental obstacles that slow you down.

Leaders, entrepreneurs, and business owners have a lot to get done—and only 24 hours in the day in which to do it!

Here are 4 ways strong minded leaders get organized:

1. ADMIT PROCRASTINATION TRAITS

We tend to shrink from specific tasks for several reasons but there is nothing you can do about it until you become aware of why you are procrastinating. Strong minded leaders ask themselves, “Why do I keep not wanting to do this?”

Perhaps for one of these reasons:

  • Overcoming the learning curve is daunting if it’s a new project
  • Fear of making a poor decision
  • Expectations of perfection
  • Boredom for the task has set in—this one will sink you. If you’re bored with your task, it’s time to be honest about how you can change either your attitude or your assignment.

BOTTOM LINE:  Stop blaming distractions and drill down to uncover the real emotional obstacle that is slowing you down.

2. STOP FOCUSING ON TOO MUCH PROGRESS

Leaders, entrepreneurs, and business owners need to spend an inordinate amount of time mulling over strategy and future steps. This type of thinking is open-ended and involves uncertainty—this is your most important work.

But, many times we get bogged down in relatively unimportant work—stuff that needs to get done but doesn’t move the needle toward where you are headed.

Once you realize that 1) you engage in both types of work, and 2) both are necessary, it’s easier to grasp why some types of work trigger bigger returns than others. When you do, it changes the way you think about how to organize your day.

The important work is what will take you to the next level of performance; the unimportant work will keep you right where you are.

Both have their place in our daily routine. Unimportant work leaves us satisfied—we’ve accomplished something and crossed an item off our to-do list. Important work, however, makes us happier.

We are happier when we’re focused and immersed in something that provides with value and meaning. According to Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling On Happiness, a wandering mind is not a happy mind.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi contends that the concept of flow happens when we are engaged in important work that is very satisfying and our attention is focused on something that is good and concrete. We enter a state where we’re giving full and rapt attention to something that we’re good at and is important to us.

BOTTOM LINE: Schedule time for your important work in each day of your week.

3. NIP MONKEY MIND IN THE BUD

Strong minded leaders do not ignore noise and distractions—that is impossible! But they can control their restless and unsettled “monkey mind” by quieting it as soon as they recognize it.

This is a basic premise of mental toughness: If we are aware of what we are thinking, we can chose our behavior.

Meditation takes a mentally tough mind because it is constantly saying “no” to intrusive thoughts and emotions.

BOTTOM LINE: Identify and eliminate those behaviors and thoughts that mess up your schedule. Conduct a review of how your monkey mind sabotaged your day. The error is not messing up; the error is not fixing it so that you don’t mess up next time.

4. AVOID PEOPLE WHO KIDNAP THEIR TIME

I learned to say “no” to people who had nothing better to do than sit around and talk. As Warren Buffett said, “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say “no” to almost everything.”

I came to work every day focused on what was important for me to accomplish that day.

Dan Ariely aptly points out that saying “no” feels bad and hard because humans are social creatures. Most of us want to be nice and a team player.

BOTTOM LINE: Guard your time carefully by spending it with people who can help you become the person you want to be. It may feel good to say “yes,” but you need to focus on what is important to you.

How do you organize your day so you can be your most productive?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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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4 Ways To Overcome Failure

Sunday, April 3rd, 2016

I was a new agent and had just been given my first surveillance assignment. I sat outside the subject’s house and waited. And waited. For something—anything—to happen. Hours later, I found myself asleep. Actually, it was a supervisor who found me and blew his horn. I jolted awake but I had been caught; I was embarrassed and needed to find a way to overcome failure.

The pain of my failure was so acute that I never wanted to experience it again.

As leaders, entrepreneurs and business owners, you will need to overcome failure and setbacks; and by now, you also probably know that you can learn a lot from them.

Unfortunately, the truly useful failures that change our thoughts and behavior (as opposed to merely stupid decisions) are somewhat rare. But it is possible to treat all failure and setbacks as strategic input on how to improve performance next time.

It didn’t take long for the supervisor who found me asleep on the surveillance assignment to spread the word to my colleagues. I swallowed my pride, kept a positive attitude, found ways to get interested in my assignment, and rewrote the ending by changing the focus from what I did wrong to what I was doing right.

Here are 4 ways you can overcome failure and setbacks: 

1. PUNCTURE THE EGO AND ADMIT YOUR FAILURE

The higher up the chain of command, the harder it is to admit a mistake.

But, the best thing a leader can do is share a few personal stories with other team members of how they have overcome failure.  This is where a big dose of humility and a small ego will serve them well. Mentally tough leaders do not always have to be right.

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When you communicate this to other team members, it does several things:

  1. Assures them you won’t point the finger of blame at someone if something goes wrong
  2. Encourages others to be more open, and honest, about their performance
  3. Creates an environment of innovation and experimentation
  4. Indicates that you truly understand the consequences of creative problem solving
  5. Gives others permission to bring potential problems to leadership’s attention earlier rather than later

Too often, leadership talks about a strategy of “trial and error” but their reaction to failure undermines their message.

2. MAINTAIN THE RIGHT ATTITUDE ABOUT FAILURE

People with strong mind make their emotions obey their logic.

Mental toughness is managing your emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that will set you up for success. Your rational and thinking brain may understand the value of risk and failure, but your emotional, limbic brain system does not!

The only way to take control of your emotions is to focus on what you are actually learning from the experience.

As your brain learns, it adapts. What created fear, initially, is tempered by the thinking brain’s ability to see positive outcomes in the midst of a disappointment, failure, or setback. When you overcome failure, you become less afraid of it. And that is a good thing because it means you’re in control of your emotions.

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If you focus on what you’ve learned, it suppresses the negative emotional reaction.

Remember—the key to success is avoiding the same mistake next time—so fail, but learn the lesson.

3. START ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS ABOUT FAILURE

Rather than having all the answers, ask more questions.

The best questions always start with, “How, when, why, and what?” These are open-ended questions that invite conversation and discussion.

Curiosity is the foundation of life-long growth. If we remain curious, we remain teachable so that our minds and hearts grow larger with each passing day. We can retain our beginner’s mind by always looking forward and discovering new experiences and uncovering new information.

Success seduces us into becoming set in our ways. “It’s working,” we say to ourselves, so we settle into comfort zones that begin to look more and more like ruts as we age.

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Curiosity is important for peak performance because it:

  1. Makes your mind active instead of passive
  2. Encourages you to be more observant of new ideas
  3. Opens up new worlds and possibilities
  4. Creates an adventurous response that leads you in a new direction

4. WRAP FAILURE UP THE RIGHT WAY

Behavioral scientists have indicated that the way in which we predict our future behavior is determined by our past memories.

If team members end a project with a sense of failure and hopelessness, their only memory of the experience will be negative. They will not move on to another project with a sense of growth.

As the leader, entrepreneur, or business owner, you have the power to create an atmosphere of trust and appreciation—whether or not the project was a failure or a success.

In the book, The Other “F” Word, the authors suggest that the best workplaces are formed on a foundation of trust, and trust is not forged when things are going great. Instead, it is formed when things are not going great because this is when team members learn who has their back.

TIP:

There is a difference between failing, and learning from your failure. Learning from failure is an active process that requires you to put as much thought into it as you do how you plan to achieve success.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of complacency when confronted with a failure or setback because it takes more effort to extract the lesson to be learned than it does to shrug, give up, and move on.

The way in which you deal with failure determines how you will achieve success—LaRae Quy

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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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