Archive for May, 2016

4 Effective Ways To Develop Your Emotional Intelligence

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

Popular movies and TV shows depict FBI agents swaggering into a room, taking control of the situation by intimidation or force, and knocking the sh*t out of anyone who doesn’t want to play by their rules. Only Hallmark channel movies feature moms who understand that emotional intelligence can be more effective than brawn and fists.

pablo

The first thing I learned as an FBI agent was that “reading other people” would be essential if I hoped to live long enough to retire from my job. The second thing I learned was that “understanding myself” would be critical if I wanted to predict my response when confronted with the unknown.

Ignorance of your competition makes you vulnerable; ignorance of yourself makes you stupid—LaRae Quy

Fine-tuning self-awareness skills is the essence of emotional intelligence—recognizing, understanding, and managing the emotions of ourselves and of others.

Decades of research now point to emotional intelligence as the critical factor that sets star performers apart from the rest of the pack. Entrepreneurs, leaders, and business owners who need a winning edge in negotiations, understanding competitive behavior, and managing people rely on their emotional intelligence skills to be successful.

Neuroscience is showing us that we can rewire our brain. With that good news, here are 4 ways you can enhance your emotional intelligence skills:

1. KICK YOURSELF INTO HIGH GEAR

The first place to start in enhancing your emotional intelligence skills is become enthusiastic about achieving your goal. When you are motivated, you activate the left prefrontal cortex.

A good way to become motivated is to reflect upon your dreams and what you want to be in the future. Once you define that goal, take a closer look at where you are now and what you need to do in order to get there.

If you are unsure about the areas in which you are emotionally competent, ask people whom you know and trust.

ACTION POINTS:

  • Which specific behaviors reflect your strengths?
  • What behaviors do you see in star performers?
  • Which of your competencies need to be strengthened?

2. TAKE IT ONE STEP AT A TIME

Refrain from taking on more than one behavior at a time. Otherwise, you’ll become overwhelmed and frustrated.

Emotionally competent people are very intentional in the way they communicate to others. This will require you to pay full attention to each specific behavior.

Developing emotional intelligence will also require you to spend time with yourself to better understand what makes you tick—you will need to pinpoint which words, situations, or people trigger favorable and unfavorable reactions.

Mental toughness is not being afraid to address your weaknesses with the same enthusiasm and vigor as your explore your strengths.

ACTION POINTS:

  • Identify one specific behavior to change or enhance.
  • Give this goal your full attention.
  • Construct a plan of action on how you intend to take your goal to the next level in specific steps.

3. DEVELOP NEW HABITS

The neural connectivity of old habits is strong; their circuitry has become so connected and thick that they have become the brain’s default response.

But, when you start to form new habits that will help you be more emotionally intelligent, these new behaviors create new circuitry that will eventually compete with your old habits.  Over time, the new habit will become your brain’s default response.

The length of time to replace an old habit depends on how strong it is, and the new one will need to develop the same strength of connectivity.

ACTION POINTS:

  • Habits begin to be hardwired the very first time you practice them.
  • Continual practice creates more connectivity.
  • 3-6 months of continually practicing the new habit is usually about average for it to replace the old one.

4. FLEX YOUR MENTAL MUSCLES

Mental toughness is controlling your mind instead of letting your mind control you! That is why meditation is a great tool in developing mental toughness. It requires you to continually observe where your mind has gone and bringing it back to where you want it.

Mental rehearsal activates the same neural circuitry as the real activity. Mental exercises will increase your ability to perform when the real moment comes.

ACTION POINTS:

  • Take charge of your emotional competencies by mentally rehearsing how you want a meeting to unfold, your response to anticipated questions, or a conversation with a competitor.

The important thing to remember is that you can develop and enhance your emotional intelligence skills by following these 4 effective suggestions.

How have you developed your emotional intelligence over time?

© 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 Essential Elements of Grit

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

New FBI agents are assigned either assigned cases so old that witnesses have died or cases with such quick turnaround leads that the new agent is left spinning.

pablo

It didn’t take me long to figure out what I needed to do to move as quickly as possible out of the rut of Team B and into the ranks of Team A—comprised of agents who not only worked hard, but had the grit to keep moving ahead when faced with failure or adversity.

But new agents were not the only ones stuck on Team B.

Older agents who did not have the grit to consistently do what they needed to do to succeed often found themselves run over by other agents who possessed resolve, willpower, and the perseverance to stick to their long-term goals.

Grit is your ability to persevere over the long-run and thrive despite all kinds of unplanned events.

As leaders, entrepreneurs and business owners, grit is an essential skill because it is the one thing you will need to succeed. If you give up when the going gets tough, you’re done.

Here are 4 essential elements of grit that you should know:

1. Feel The Fire In Your Belly

I knew I wanted to be the type of FBI Agent who could make a difference. In other words, I was passionate about my work.

Passion is the linchpin of grit. It is doing something and following a dream that gives you both value and meaning.

Passion gives people a single-mindedness that we do not see in others. It is a combination of ambition, willpower, and grit that keeps long-term goals in focus at all times.

TIP:

  • When you feel your determination begin to waver, remember the reason you want to accomplish your goal.
  • If you surrender and give up, ask yourself if it’s because there is no fire in your belly and you are not really following your dream.

All dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous, for they may act their dream with open eyes to make it possible—T.E. Lawrence

2. Maintain Clarity of Goals

When I first started working counterintelligence and espionage, my goal was to be assigned a foreign intelligence officer.

Later, though, my goal had shifted. Now it wasn’t enough to be working cases—I felt drawn to tell others about how a huge organization like the FBI could be nimble and flexible enough to react to the demands of terrorism in the aftermath of 9/11.

My vision had not changed—I still wanted to be an FBI agent, but my goal had. I became the spokesperson for the FBI in Northern California for four years. I’m glad I made the move because my long-term goals had shifted.

TIP:

  • Revisit your goals annually to make certain that something hasn’t changed over the past year. Your mind is constantly adapting to new information coming your way.
  • Even a slight shift calls for a re-alignment in your priorities. Like myself, it may not require you to throw up your hands and quit, but it may suggest that you re-think where you fit in the larger picture.

3. Follow Up With Self-Discipline

There were many times when it was tempting to give up on an investigation when the leads got cold and there was no easy path forward.

Mental toughness was required to persevere and be agile enough in my thinking that I could approach a roadblock or obstacle from many different angles—always looking for the soft underbelly and refusing to give up.

Self-discipline is important because while grit is the ability to keep doing something, self-discipline often implies the ability to refrain from doing something.

TIP:

  • Face your problems head on. It isn’t your problems that define you—it’s how you react and recover from them. Your problems are not going away unless you do something about them.
  • Be honest with yourself about what you want to achieve, who you want to become, and the obstacles that are preventing you from achieving your goals.
  • Define your goal as behavior. Identify the specific steps you need to take to achieve your goal. Define your goal in terms of behavior.
  • Organize your day. Once you’ve set your goal, it must become a priority.
  • Watch for excuses. Self-discipline means doing something you don’t necessary want to do.
  • Remember the reasons you want to reach your goal. When you feel your determination begin to waver, remember the reason you want to accomplish your goal.

4. Learn From Your Misses

Training in the FBI starts on your first day at the FBI Academy in Quantico and ends on your last day as an agent. If FBI instructors are not pushing you beyond your comfort zone, they aren’t doing their job.

Moving out of our comfort zone is hard because it usually means a trial and error approach as we find new footing. It’s important to take mistakes in stride and use the opportunity to learn from them. Only idiots don’t learn from their mistakes.

People with grit shrug off failure, focus on immediate recovery, and move on. The attitude determines the outcome, so it’s important to focus on lessons learned and how to keep moving forward.

TIP:

  • Seek feedback about how you can make your best performance even better. Research indicates that leaders who are in the top 10% are those who are willing to ask for feedback—both positive and negative.
  • Celebrate the small wins. Learn to appreciate the smaller steps that lead to success.
  • Learn from your challenges and become better because of them.

Grit is the mental toughness to continue to move ahead even when life hasn’t thrown you a perfect hand. It is the deliberate action of doing something again and again until you get it right. And then maybe doing it again after that, too.

Talent does not trump determination. Nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Grit, persistence, and determination will keep you moving ahead when your circumstances and environment has changed.

How have you developed grit?

© 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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Women Can Grit-Up And Do The Right Thing

Sunday, May 15th, 2016

You may think that, as a female FBI agent, I manned-up to be accepted as one of the guys. It’s true that there was no place for a delicate prima donna on the squad, but my feminine traits and qualities were never discouraged. They were simply put in perspective.

Grit Up!

I trained alongside male agents as an equal. There was neither the time nor the inclination to play the gender game. We all had a job to do and we did it.  We found ourselves in life and death situations where the meaning of man-up simply meant digging down to find the strength and mental toughness to face the situation in front of us with courage.

This not about being a man or a woman—it’s about being fiercely awesome in whatever we are doing so we can be successful.

A challenge to man-up assumes the speaker is tougher than the other person. It suggests manliness and strength. After all, it would be hard to imagine a man telling a woman that she needed to be more ladylike to be qualified for her position.

Women are starting to shelve polite sensitivities, and this is a trend among women of all ages who are post-feminists. They’re not afraid of losing their feminine qualities by being tough and resilient, traits that have been mostly associated with masculinity.

The phrase grit-up implies a woman who prides herself on being strong, irreverent, and post-feminist. It suggests courage, and empowers those who use it.

Instead of trying to man-up, entrepreneurs, leaders, and business owners need to learn how to grit-up because grit is a quality that doesn’t belong to any specific gender.

It means that you have the mental toughness to do what needs to be done without making excuses for yourself or blaming others for your situation. You take the burden of your responsibilities, whatever they happen to be, with a will and perseverance that is unbreakable. It is the ability to fight against extreme odds.

Grit is what women leaders rely on when they feel as though they have nothing left.

Let me share with you ways the FBI taught me to grit-up:

1. STAY SOFT TO BE STRONG

Strong people do not need to be aggressive because they know they have the power and skills to take over a situation and bring it to a close. Naked aggression can hide cowardice and be a sign of weakness. In many situations, mental toughness and gentleness of spirit need be mixed to be most effective.

For example, in an arrest situation, FBI agents need to be strong to slap handcuffs on a criminal. They also need to be gentle and treat the person with dignity—only a jerk kicks a person when they’re down.

TIP:

To be strong does not mean you need to be aggressive.

2. COMPETENCE IS YOUR TRUMP CARD

We are competent in those areas in which we’ve spent time in training. I’m a competent shot because I’ve spent hours on the firing range and shot over 3,000 bullets before leaving the FBI Academy. My scores went up because of my training, and my repeated experiences led to success. Otherwise, I would just have a well-used weapon in my hands.

I had the training to lean back on when confronted with an arrest situation and I knew I had the competence to shoot my weapon with accuracy so that fewer people were endangered.

TIP:

Training leads to competence.

3. BUILD CONFIDENCE WITH A STRONG MIND

I had many doubts about my abilities during my first few years as an FBI Agent. I’d hear this nagging voice that told me I couldn’t do it, and it took me a few years to realize that these unhelpful ideas and thoughts only lived in my head. Do the right thing for yourself so that you can do the right thing for others.

It takes courage and a strong mind to try new strategies that will make you feel uncomfortable—at first, but this is how you over-power those negative voices. After all, if someone else can do it, why not you?

TIP:

Monitor internal voices that cause you to doubt yourself so you can nip them in the bud—before they become powerful.

“Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.” Mark Twain

When have you had to grit-up and do the right thing?

© 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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Science-Based Reasons Men And Women Look At Risk Differently

Sunday, May 8th, 2016

FBI agents are trained to take risk seriously. Every arrest is planned from many angles with emphasis given to what can go wrong when agents are faced with the unexpected.

pablo

I took part in several arrests, and while there was always a risk associated with carrying a weapon every day, the biggest risk came from friendly fire—that is, the supervisors who could change your life with a single stroke of their pen and transfer you, without warning, to another squad.

I lived in fear of this risk because agents have no choice in their assignment. From day one this message was hammered into our thinking—the needs of the Bureau come first. Always.

When success also meant survival, landing on my feet when confronted with the unknown was essential. Over time, I learned to look at risks as opportunities to be exploited, whether it was a messy investigation or new squad assignment.

Real success was walking away from uncomfortable situations with more savvy and skill than when I started.

Every successful entrepreneur and leader understands that risk involves change and moving outside their comfort zone. In today’s competitive and fast changing workplace, they can never hope to achieve success unless they’re willing to embrace change and risk the discomfort of failure.

Conventional wisdom says that women take fewer risks than men, but is it true? Much of the difference can be attributed to the way boys and girls are socialized as children. In general, boys are reared to shoot from the hip early on. Girls learn about risk differently. Risky behavior, girls are told, is dangerous.

If conditioning is partly to blame, then reconditioning is part of the answer. Adopting a “Gritup” mentality can make all the difference.

Research finds that men and women use different strategies, and different parts of their brain, when making choices on how to keep moving toward goals.

Here are 3 science-based reasons men and women look at risk differently:

1. Risk: Stress Makes A Difference

A recent study by Mara Mather and Nichole R. Lighthall found that male risk-taking tends to increase under stress, while female risk taking tends to decrease under stress. The researchers discovered that there are gender differences in brain activity involved in computing risk and preparing for action. This is important given the stressful nature of our work lives today.

CAUTION TIP: Beware of stereotyping men as too reckless and women too cautious. Instead, when in stressful situations it might make more sense for men and women to work together to make smarter risk-taking decisions.

2. Risk: Immediate vs Long-Term Rewards

A review published in Behavioral Brain Research discovered that the majority of women in the study tended to focus on immediate rewards while the majority of men in the study tended to focus on long-term rewards.

CAUTION TIP: Men may appear to be stubborn and unwilling to change course once a strategy is put into action, but his brain engages the top, dorsal area of the orbitofrontal cortex which focuses on long term rewards. Most male brains seek out irregular patterns of behavior that will provide them with the competitive advantage they need to set goals that will produce long-term rewards.

CAUTION TIP: Women may appear to be feckless and unable to stick with a strategy, but her brain engages the medial part of this region which is involved in identifying regular patterns and immediate rewards. Her brain is able to assimilate new information that enables her to make adjustments to strategies that will lead to rewards accordingly.

3. Risk: Bait-And-Switch

An article published in Scientific American Mind explains why women are more comfortable with switching strategies mid-task, something that is difficult for men because men tend to engage the part of their brain linked to long-term rewards.

CAUTION TIP: Women may appear to uncertain or worried about making errors, but her brain is taking the time to gather more information. In fact, it is a woman’s detailed exploration that makes them more attuned to change. They can clue into changes quicker than their male counterparts.

CAUTION TIP: Men may have a harder time abandoning a project, course of action, or strategy because their brains tend to focus on big rewards later, unlike female brains that are often satisfied with small gains now.

Researchers caution that neither approach is better; both are necessary and useful in daily life. What is key is understanding how these differences can be turned into advantages through collaborative efforts involving both sexes.

It too simplistic to assume that all men and women react the same way to risk, stress, information gathering, and goal setting. And it’s dangerous to stereotype behavior by gender. Of primary significance is that these studies elucidate how different brains each bring unique strengths to the table. Working together will create a stronger collaborative product in the end.

What differences in risk taking have you noticed between men and women?   

© 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 Simple Hacks To Sharpen Your Emotional Competence

Sunday, May 1st, 2016

There are times when emotional competence trumps emotional intelligence.

pablo

A few years ago I called an individual whom the FBI suspected of having contact with a hostile intelligence officer. His voice had the warbly sound of an older man and he was clearly rattled by the phone call. My job was twofold: to determine whether he knew the real identity of the foreign spy, and 2) determine whether his contact was legitimate.

He agreed to meet me the next day for coffee. He was very wary at first, but I firmly shook his hand and gently encouraged him to tell me his story.

By taking the time to empathize with his emotions, I gained his trust , respect, and eventually, his cooperation.

Emotional competence is having the savvy to recognize, understand, express, and manage emotions effectively. It has far greater application for executives and entrepreneurs than emotional intelligence, which is the starting point.

A recent article in the Economist reminded anyone who has negotiated a major deal, managed a team, or delivered unpleasant news that emotion is an integral aspect of daily corporate life.

Let’s take a look at 4 simple hacks to sharpen your emotional competence:

1. SHARPEN EMOTIONAL COMPETENCE BY RECOGNIZING YOUR EMOTIONS

The gentleman that I called was scared—he grew up in a country where a visit from the secret police usually meant death or imprisonment.

I recognized where his fear was coming from; I was in a position of power so instead of compounding the negative emotion by threatening him, I allayed his fear by speaking gently and with compassion.

Recognizing an emotion (whether our own or that of others) may sound simple but it is not because our emotional intelligence abilities were not naturally developed as children. We were not born knowing the names of our emotions.

Emotions are not consciously controlled—the part of the brain that deals with emotions is the limbic system which is survival driven. This explains why an emotional response can be straightforward and very powerful.

TIP:

  • Recognize that your initial reaction may often be the honest emotion you are feeling.
  • Recognize it may be a survival-driven response related to a memory where you either felt threatened or safe.
  • Recognize your emotional responses may not have anything to do with your current situation, but you can overcome them with logic and being aware of your reactions.

2. SHARPEN EMOTIONAL COMPETENCE BY UNDERSTANDING YOUR EMOTIONS

Mental toughness is the ability to control your emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that will set you up for success.

One of the most highly developed skills of an FBI agent is the ability to understand our emotions because they drive our thinking and behavior.

Emotional competence is the ability to predict your response so you are not surprised by your reaction to a wrinkle in a major deal, a team reorganization, or an unplanned event. If you can predict your response, you can plan how to land on your feet when confronted with the unknown.

TIP:

  • Understand how and why you reacted to a similar situation in the past.
  • Understand what worked, and what did not—be honest with yourself.
  • Understand how you can replicate the positive outcomes and minimize the negative ones.
  • Understand when similar situations can arise so you can prepare for your response.

3. SHARPEN EMOTIONAL COMPETENCE BY LABELING YOUR EMOTIONS

In his book, Your Brain at Work, David Rock explains that honestly labeling your emotion is a great way to control it, whether its good and bad. It’s stupid to pretend a negative emotion doesn’t exist, or attempt to avoid it.

Instead, be mentally tough and learn how to control it.

Labeling is being able to accurately identify an emotion when it arises. This prevents it from taking over because when you name it, you move out of the emotional limbic brain system and into the thinking, cerebral brain.

TIP:

  • Describe an emotion in a word or two, and it will help to reduce the emotion.
  • However, if you open up a dialogue about an emotion, it will only increase its intensity.

4. SHARPEN EMOTIONAL COMPETENCE BY MANAGING YOUR EMOTIONS

There is stress that motivates, promotes well-being, and enables you to perform well. Even though it is positive, you can’t stay in that state forever because you will eventually feel burnout.

Negative emotions produce a uncomfortable feeling because it feels like you’re fighting for survival all the time. Eventually you’ll experience health problems.

Learning to manage your emotions is the magic bullet in emotional competence. If you can name the emotion you are experiencing, you can contain it.

TIP:

Ask yourself these questions:

  • When I am stressed or anxious, what is my go-to strategy?
  • Is my go-to strategy effective?
  • If so, why? If not, why not?
  • How can I develop a wider set of strategies when stressed or anxious?

Emotional competence is an incredibly important skill across all aspects of business and life. How do you sharpen up yours?

© 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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