Archive for August, 2016

5 Bullet Proof Confidence Strategies, From A Former FBI Agent

Monday, August 29th, 2016

As an FBI agent making an arrest, success wasn’t an option—it was an absolute necessity if I wanted to stay alive. I couldn’t wait for success to show up before I became confident in my abilities. The confidence was there first; the successful arrest came afterwards.

Confident woman

Confidence is a critical building block for a successful career because it is the one mindset that will take you where you want to go. The good news is that confidence is a set of learned skills and beliefs.

No one is immune to bouts of insecurity at work, but they don’t have to hold you back. For entrepreneurs, leaders, and business owners, it means having the grit you need to get through those times of doubt and the presence of mind to learn the lessons they can teach you about yourself and others.

Here are 5 bulletproof confidence strategies to get you where you want to be:

1. TAKE RISKS

Risk - mouse in mug

Most of us don’t know what we’re capable of until we’re truly challenged. And most of do not want to be truly challenged because we don’t want to fail.

But failure can be very beneficial for building confidence because it allows you a perfect opportunity to 1) learn why things went wrong, and 2) see how you can make adjustments next time.

When learning how to make an arrest or interview a terrorist I needed to take risks, fail, and learn from my mistakes as much as possible before I found myself in the actual situation.

If you think you never make mistakes, you are a narcissist—either that or stupid. But if you are humble and self-aware, you recognize that taking risks, making mistakes, and failing will help you understand that there is always something you can do to be better.

What It Means For You

Stressing yourself is the only way to grow, both mentally and physically. This means you will fail, but this is OK as long as you are willing to learn from the mistakes you made.

2. ASK FOR FEEDBACK

Communication - 2 people

Research by Leadership IQ shows that people who are good at managing negative feedback tend to be more successful than those who are not. The study further indicates that of those who fail, 26% do so because they are unwilling to accept feedback as they are afraid it might be negative.

In another study, it was found that people who ask for feedback are the most effective leaders. According to Joseph Folkman, leaders who are in the top 10% are those who are willing to ask for feedback—both positive and negative.

This study suggests that the worse you are as a leader, the less likely you are to be willing to ask for feedback because you’re afraid you will hear the truth!

After every major FBI operation, everyone involved gathers for a “hotwash” which is a critical analysis of the event. What went right, and why, is discussed as vigorously as what went wrong, and why. Everyone left the hotwash with a clear understanding of their performance in the operation.

What It Means For You

Pick people whose feedback will be honest and constructive. Feedback can be viewed as one more piece of data to analyze, digest, reject, or accept as information to make a better decision.

3. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE

Persistence - runner tying shoe

The best way to build confidence in a given area is to invest energy in it and work hard at it. Throw out preconceived ideas of what you can, and cannot do. If you put your shoulder to it, you will find that grit trumps talent every time!

Life-long training is a fact of life for FBI agents. It starts the day we arrive at the FBI Academy and ends the day we sign our retirement papers.

This constant training creates the sort of mentality that prepares for the worst and practices ahead of time to overcome it. We’ve either gathered the evidence, slapped on the handcuffs, or run the drills so we know what to do in case the sh*t hits the fan.

What It Means For You

Start by trying out your new skills in a safe setting. Practice a dry run before actually launching a product, negotiating with a tough customer, or making a presentation. Not only will it boost your confidence, but it can help you improve the quality of your performance.

4. LINK UP

Teamwork - ants

It’s important to surround yourself with people who believe in you. Having a solid network of people who understand you and your situation can help pave the way to confidence and success.

When your talent or skill set is reinforced by someone you respect, it resonates at a deeper level. If you believe you can do it, you work harder. When others believe in you, they push you harder.

The FBI encourages camaraderie amongst the agents because there is an intrinsic belief that together, we can all do better. And this keeps producing confidence in our own abilities.

What It Means For You

Find ways to link up with others in your area of expertise. There is something very powerful about seeing someone like yourself show you how to do the impossible.

5. GRIT UP

Grit Up!

Grit is the passion and perseverance for long-term goals.

Great athletes are not always young and fresh; instead, they are the ones who have prepared for the game and have the desire, grit, and will to succeed.

Researcher & psychologist Angela Duckworth has found that grit is the best predictor of success

Grit is unrelated to talent. When working with West Point cadets, she found that the high score on grit surpassed other tests such as SAT scores, IQ, class rank, leadership, and physical aptitude when it came to predicting success.

The most successful FBI agents were those with intrinsic goals like “I want to serve my country” or “I want to test my abilities” as opposed to those with extrinsic goals like “It’s a prestigious position” or “I will be in a powerful job.”

What It Means For You

If you are pursuing work that has meaning for you, it is easier to put your shoulder into it.

These tried-and-true strategies will help you build the confidence you will need to be ultimately successful in business and life.

What strategies have you used to gain more confidence?

This article was first published on Smartblog.

© 2016 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 Emotional Competence Helps Leaders Make Tough Decisions

Monday, August 22nd, 2016

Most of the FBI agents I worked alongside would never sputter the phrase emotional competence—much less attribute their success to it. While they considered themselves mentally tough, they preferred words like awareness and alertness to describe the skills they carefully honed over the years.

Tough Decisions

So what is mental toughness? It is being alert and aware of our emotions, thoughts, and behavior so we can manage them in ways that set us up for success.

Learning how to push through difficult situations while maintaining peak performance requires the ability to predict our responses so we can land on our feet—an impossible task unless we possess both self-awareness and self-management, two core components of emotional intelligence. Taking it one step further, emotional competency is knowing how to apply the intelligence to your situation.

Recent research points to emotional competence as being a critical factor that sets star performers apart from the rest of the pack. Smart leaders, entrepreneurs, and other professionals can be mentally tough by utilizing emotional competence to make better decisions and achieve positive results.

Here is why:

1. You Will Know What Fuels You

Grit - Man jumping blog

I am not talking about fluffy ideals or stuff that gives you the warm fuzzies.

Training at the FBI Academy at Quantico is constructed to filter out those who do not feel deeply attached to upholding our federal judicial system.

To be mentally tough, you must know what you feel down deep in your bones. If you are not pursuing something that really holds value and meaning for you, you will not have what it takes to keep going when the going gets tough.

If you are self-aware, you know how you go after the things in life that are hard-wired to give you a purpose.

2. You Will Have A Plan B. And Plan C

Success - wall climbing

Most arrests do not go according to plan! In fact, every arrest op takes into account all that could go wrong so there is not only plan A, but C and sometimes D or more.

If mental toughness is being able to manage your emotions, thoughts, and behavior, then you must be prepared for what is next. Being a reactionary is never a good strategy, so start planning different outcomes and different scenarios.

You will not be caught off guard if plan A is not successful. This will also help you learn how to think on the fly and respond when confronted with a crisis rather than simply reacting in ways that may not be in your best interest.

3. You Will Have Self-Control

Trust - cat & parrot

In stressful situations we often say or do things we regret later.

Whether an FBI agent, leader, or entrepreneur, losing self-control can significant negative consequences. The best place to begin is by recognizing the emotions that surface in ordinary situations during your day, Now name those emotions with one word.

Now that you’ve practiced identifying emotions, try this when in a stressful situation:

  • Identify the first emotion to surface
  • Stop for a moment
  • See your best self
  • Create a strategy to effectively deal with the situation and the negative emotion
  • Move on to the second emotion that arises, and so on.

Emotional competence is essential for your success because once you have self-control, you find ways to prevent derailment when confronted with obstacles and roadblocks. Self-control is the ability to step back, evaluate, and regroup so you can choose your response.

4. You Will Not Let Fear Take Over

Positive Thinking - sleeping on a beam

Fear is often our first response because our limbic brain system is programmed to protect us when we confront the unknown. Since the caveman days, our brain has helped us to “get lunch” not “be lunch.”

The only ones who look forward to change are babies, and that’s because they know what to expect. Most of us are not comfortable with change and it’s natural to run from things that frighten us, but not everything that is new or different is a threat to our safety.

Fear of change is paralyzing; if you have emotional competence you know that change is inevitable and you form a plan of action for each change that comes your way.

Now your turn. What has emotional competence taught you?

This article first appeared in Smartbrief.

© 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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Are You Mentally Tough Enough to Be An Entrepreneur?

Monday, August 15th, 2016

The FBI Academy engages their new agents by teaching them psychological readiness. At the root of all the mental training was the answer to this question: are you mentally tough enough to beat the opponent?

Complexity and turbulence in the business creates opponents and tough competition. Entrepreneurs need to be psychologically prepared to do battle with their competitors. They need to deal with stress, recover from mistakes quickly, and adjust strategies with each new innovation. On top of that, they need to stay positive about their chances of success.

Yes, you do need to compete if you want to run a successful business. You also need to be mentally tough enough to make it happen.

Here’s how:

1. CREATE THE RIGHT ATTITUDE

Mentally tough entrepreneurs do not rely on knowledge, skills, ability or past success to break through roadblocks. Instead, they draw on an attitude of toughness that allows them to push through hard situations and face adversity with confidence.

FBI agents are trained how to conduct complex and sophisticated investigations, but they are also trained in mental toughness. This does not mean they bulldoze their way through people or problems. Instead, they are trained to be aware of their own emotions and reactions when they are being pushed into their discomfort zones.

You can only be game-ready when you can predict your response when confronted with the unknown.

TIP:

  • Be curious about the things you do not know.
  • Let your grasp exceed your reach.
  • Place yourself in situations where you are a beginner

2. STRETCH TO BE MORE FLEXIBLE

Struggles - tiger in water

When mentally tough entrepreneurs move past their comfort zone, they learn how to absorb the unexpected. This makes them more self aware and in the process they become mentally stronger. They learn how to anticipate their responses and correct them if needed.

Stretch past your comfort zone and learn how to be flexible in your approach when something doesn’t turn out as expected. You can quickly decide to change course or look for new ways to solve the problem.

FBI arrests require flexibility because they rarely go according to plan. This is especially important in tense and dangerous situations. Constant training helps them uncover their go-to reflexes and evaluate whether they are helpful or harmful, before they find themselves in an unexpected situation.

TIP:

  • Constantly re-educate yourself, even in the basics
  • Resist the temptation to fall back on ideas simply because they are comfortable
  • Always look for new ways to do business

3. MANAGE RELATIONSHIPS

Successful financial plans

Mentally tough entrepreneurs are emotionally competent enough to manage the relationships that affect them and their ability to be effective.

If they experience a setback, they know how to keep their emotions in check so they can set the tone for the rest of the organization. Mentally tough leaders do the right thing for the organization and suppress the temptation to cut corners. They know how to make the right decisions for their team.

Teamwork is essential for all law enforcement, and communication must be clear and concise. In addition, FBI agents use interviews more than any other investigative tool in their arsenal which requires them to respond appropriately and effectively to the emotional reactions of their audience.

TIP:

  • Work on communicating in ways that cultivate healthy, enduring, and valuable relationships
  • Cut loose relationships that weigh you down or are negative
  • Recognize that collaboration is actually a back-and-forth flow of ideas, words, and actions

4. DEVELOP A CHAMPION MINDSET

Success - biker

Mentally tough entrepreneurs have a champion mindset that remains engaged when they are under pressure. They are constantly identifying the opportunities, challenges, and threats to their environment.

A champion mindset looks for new ways to think about adversity, and most importantly, looks for fresh ways to look at problems and roadblocks. Champions look at life with a sense of urgency and respond to the challenges of the changing face of business with innovation and curiosity.

FBI Cases are not given to agents with directions on how to solve them. Each one is a mystery to be explored, which means setbacks and false assumptions are encountered along the way. The champion mindset continues to chip away at a mystery, or problem, until a solution can be found.

TIP:

  • Pay attention to what is going on in the world around you
  • Jettison old assumptions about how business operates
  • Assume holding onto yesterday’s trend, or solution,  is dangerous

In what other ways do entrepreneurs need to be mentally tough?

© 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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7 Ways Coaches Train Athletes To Manage Emotions

Monday, August 8th, 2016

Athletic success is not dictated by body shape and movement alone. Elite performers learn how to manage emotions so they can keep moving forward when faced with tough competition.

Coaching sports

Entrepreneurs, business owners, and leaders face tough competition as well. Emotional competency is one of the core principles of mental toughness. Successful people learn how to manage emotions if they want to be confident, resilient, and persistent.

Coaches know how to build people up. This can have a permanent impact on the mind-set of their athletes that reaches far beyond the playing field. Here are 7 ways coaches train athletes to manage emotions—that can apply to everyone:

1. LOOK WHERE YOU ARE HEADED

Coaches will tell you to never look down at the ground. Instead, keep your sights on where you want to go. Keeping a vision of where you want to end up is critical when you come up against a roadblock or obstacle.

I was a slow long distance runner. But in the FBI Academy I needed to up my game and run 2 miles in 10 minutes to qualify—and ultimately, graduate. My coach told me to keep my eye on the back of a runner who was faster than me and focus on keeping up.

TIP: Whether you play on the field or in the boardroom, you need persistence. It will allow you to live the vision you have for yourself everyday. Manage emotions so you remain positive. Determination will help you plan how to accelerate the timeframe and reach your goal.

2. DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS

Self aware - dog

Coaches encourage personal best, not competitiveness. Whether you are on the playing field or in a boardroom, focus on your performance and development.

While at the FBI Academy it was hard not to compare myself with agents who were buff and premium athletes. I had to focus on my own strengths/weaknesses and improve in increments. This would eventually lead to my success.

TIP: Comparing yourself to others will only create frustration and resentment. Instead of looking at how the rest of the team is doing, focus on your own performance. Ask how you can make your contribution even stronger.

3. STRESS YOURSELF REGULARLY

Michael Phelps’s coach writes that he once cracked the swimmer’s goggles before a routine race to see how he would cope. Fast forward to the 2008 Olympics when water began to seep into Phelps’s goggles at the start of the 200-meter butterfly. By midpoint in the race Phelps could hardly see, but unflustered, he broke his own world record.

FBI agents train throughout their entire career so we were regularly exposed to performance pressure where we were required to manage emotions. Our firearms and defensive tactics coaches placed us in situations where we were intentionally stressed. We would know how the pressure felt when we actually encountered it.

TIP: You should never be surprised by your emotional reaction to a stressful situation. If you are, you will not be able to land on your feet when confronted with the unknown.

4. SKIP THE OVERTRAINING TRAP

Missing the deadlines. Thoughtful young woman in suit looking at the stack of paperwork and holding head on chin while sitting at her working place

It’s not surprising that many athletes burnout once they’ve finished competing. Progress is the byproduct of grit, not glamour.

However, a coach who has your best interests at heart will keep tabs on you. They stop you from overtraining. If you push yourself too hard, you can fall into a physiological and mental abyss.

TIP: Pursue a hobby to give yourself an emotional and physical break. Spend more time with friends and family, or take a vacation. Create a bucket list of things you want to do in the next year, next 5 years, and the next 10 years.

5. BUILD RELATIONSHIPS

There is no one set of attributes that makes a great leader. Instead, what seems to matter most is the kind of relationship both leaders and coaches develop with others.

Despite the time-honored tradition of coaching like a drill sergeant, the disciplinarian approach is gradually shifting toward a more psychologically balanced approach.

TIP: The coaches that motivated me the most were the ones that uncovered what motivated me to become an FBI agent. They referred to those motives when giving me a pep talk or used related external cues when I felt emotionally exhausted or defeated so I could better manage emotions.

6. BELIEVE IN YOURSELF TO MANAGE EMOTIONS

Heart eye

Whether you are in the locker room, board room, or class room, the key to building relationships with others is by focusing on the positives.

Many coaches use the sandwich approach in which constructive criticism is bookended with praise. This increases motivation, the development of specific skills, and lessens anxiety.

TIP: Start by saying something positive to your team. People need to feel as though you are on their side if they are to accept what you are trying to tell them.

7. TEACH AUTONOMY

Studies have confirmed that coaches who deliver information in an interactive and relationship-based manner have the most success.

Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks was voted in 2014 as the most popular coach in the National Football League. Carroll is known for being supportive of other players’ opinions, encourages loud music in the locker room, and focuses on wins and not losses when reviewing past games with his players.

TIP: When your team feels that you listen to them and their input, you are giving them confidence in themselves. It is this confidence that will lead them to greater autonomy as they move forward in business and life.

How do you manage emotions?

© 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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9 Habits Of Incredibly Charming People

Monday, August 1st, 2016

We are more likely to build personal and professional relationships with people we like. In doing so, we are drawn to people who are charming, polite, and modest.

Charm

Charm is the power of pleasing or attracting others through our personality. There are arguments that social media is damaging our people skills, but I disagree. The charm of manners and personality is as important in social media and news outlets as it is in face-to-face conversations.

A lot of people know how to be rude, blunt, and offensive but a lot of people also know how to be charming. In the world of sales, business, and startups, it’s impossible to change people’s minds unless you change their hearts, too.

Here are 9 habits of incredibly charming people:

1. CHARMING PEOPLE USE THE RIGHT BODY LANGUAGE

They step forward, with a genuine smile, eyebrows arched, head tilted, and a slight bow—a clear sign of deference in every culture—and offer a firm handshake.

This body language signals that we have put aside all pretense of power and self-importance to indicate we are honored by the introduction. Our body language is often the first thing others notice about us, so we need to be certain we are sending the right message.

Not everyone is excited about meeting an FBI agent, so the initial messages I sent with my body language went a long way to opening the other person up to a genuine conversation.

2. CHARMING PEOPLE KEEP THEIR EGO IN CHECK

They look for points of agreement; sometimes the search is hard but they find ways to understand the other person’s point of view. 

This doesn’t mean they are afraid to voice their own opinion—when asked and when appropriate! Our ego often insists that we demand our right to express our own opinion; charming people know how to keep the ego in check so someone else can have the main floor.

My job in the FBI was to recruit foreign spies to work for the U.S. government. Often, I wanted to spout off about why America was a better place to live than their country. I learned, however, that what is right for me might not be right for them, even if that meant swallowing my pride and admitting defeat.

3. CHARMING PEOPLE NEVER NAME DROP

Very little is more annoying that meeting someone who constantly name drops about all the important people they know. Or, brags about their points of contacts.

Charming people may know lots of fascinating people, but they don’t talk about it.

When interviewing people, I always made it a habit to treat the person in front of me as the most important person in the world to me at that moment. And they were important, either to me or my investigation—they key was letting them know it.

4. CHARMING PEOPLE REMEMBER FACES AND/OR NAMES

They work hard to remember names, faces, or even small details of the other person’s life. The fact that they remember those specifics always makes the other person feel better about themselves.

If they remember something about us, we will remember something about them.

I am very bad with names and repeating the name 3 times does not help me to remember at all. I am much better with faces, though, so I try to link something about the person’s past history to the face. That way, even if forget their name I can create rapport by mentioning the factoid that I do remember.

5. CHARMING PEOPLE LISTEN TO WHAT OTHERS HAVE TO SAY

They focus on the person in front of them—whether they are knee-to-knee and nose-to-nose with a person or in front of a computer screen answering emails. They don’t lapse into planning tomorrow or checking items off their to-do list.

Deep listening means being present with both sides of the conversation—not just your side.

Many times the individuals I was trying to recruit for the FBI spoke such poor English that I really did have truly concentrate to understand what they were trying to say. The more I focused on listening to them, the more they opened up.

6. CHARMING PEOPLE ADAPT THEIR PERSONALITY TO THE OTHER PERSON

They know how to match their personality to their employees, prospects, and clients. This means they must quickly assess whether the other person was an introvert or extrovert, analytical or a visionary, purpose-driven or security-driven, goal-oriented or people-oriented.

If you’ve been a good listener, you will be able to make these distinctions.

When listening to one particular foreign spy talk, I quickly determined that he was not a risk taker so I immediately re-framed the conversation. Instead of making a single suggestion, I offered a series of smaller, bite-sized ones he could take time to consider, and get comfortable with, before we moved onto the larger goal (that is, working for the U.S. government).

7. CHARMING PEOPLE ARE SINCERE

They take the time to develop relationships so they can accurately understand people’s needs, desires, and fears. Until this happens, it’s very difficult to engage people in any meaningful way.

Sometimes it’s not all about the money. The days of hard pitches to close sales are over. Customers are getting too sophisticated for this approach; they use mass media to educate themselves about a product and make their decisions right then and there.

If we’re on the losing end of this decision, our job is to change their mind by changing their heart.

The foreign spies I tried to recruit were suspicious of me and professed loyalty to their government. Understanding that, I could couch my conversations with them in ways that would not impugn their loyalty or trustworthiness.

8. CHARMING PEOPLE ARE RESPECTFUL OF OTHERS

They know how to give others the respect that is due to them without trying to belittle them in the process.

In a culture that at times seems to be losing its ability to have respect for the opposing point of view, this is an extremely important habit to cultivate.

When a suspect in one of my investigations understood that the FBI had no intention of bullying them or resorting to extortion (despite how the FBI is portrayed in TV and movies), I always sensed their gratitude for the respect that was shown to them.

9. CHARMING PEOPLE HAVE TACT WHEN IN DISAGREEMENT

They know what to say or do to avoid giving offense. Tact is essential when dealing with difficult or delicate situations.

Do not ask embarrassing questions that put people on the defensive. If you’re uncertain how to move forward with a difficult conversation, try role-playing with a friend and ask for their input. Are you coming across the way you want?

One foreign spy expected to be blackmailed (for what, I don’t know—it made me think I hadn’t watched him closely enough!) It was important that he walk away from our conversation with his dignity because I wanted to leave the door open for future conversations with him. Over time, he felt comfortable enough with me to provide valuable assessment on his fellow intelligence officers.

The charm had worked!

How have you charmed people?

© 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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