Archive for January, 2017

What Brain Science Says About Getting More Organized

Monday, January 30th, 2017

When I was deeply involved in an investigation, I had a hard time getting more organized. My workouts and journal writing would be among the first victims of my busy schedule. Then time for maintaining friendships was the next to go, and finally, no time for reading either.

I spent years thinking this was a normal reaction if I wanted to do everything in my power to stop the activities of criminals. I accepted the fact that a demanding job required trade-offs in the rest of my life.

Randi Zuckerberg called it the entrepreneur’s dilemma: “Maintaining friendships. Building a great company. Spending time w/family. Staying fit. Getting sleep. Pick 3.” To be successful, you must make sacrifices. Big ones.

As a business owner and entrepreneur, you wear multiple hats to get everything done. This means you must efficiently manage your time so you won’t get distracted, lose focus, and waste precious energy.

We have all struggled with maintaining a life-work balance because we really do want to have both a healthy private life and a successful professional career. We’ve tried all of those time-management tips about how to structure a to-do list, but it still doesn’t eliminate the problem.

And this is why:

Time management is more than just work-life balance. The way you successfully manage your time is less about a packed schedule and more about a clear and organized mind.

Here is what brain science says about getting more organized:

1. MANAGE YOUR TIME BY PRIORITIZING INFORMATION SO YOU CAN MAKE BETTER DECISIONS

We’ve all experienced a barrage of information coming at us all at once. We get paralyzed and can’t move ahead with any decision! This is a normal reaction because your brain is experiencing an overload of information that is queuing up for attention.

Just like a computer can get constipated with too many jobs coming in at once, our brain reacts in much the same way.

Your brain uses energy like every other part of your body: a typical person’s brain uses approximately 10.8 calories every hour. Since your brain is drained of power as you use it, this explains why it’s easy to get distracted when you’re tired or hungry.

Your best thinking lasts for a limited time. It’s good for a sprint but it cannot take you through the day at the same pace.

 What this means for you:

When confronted with chaos or bottlenecks, prioritize the information. This simple act actually frees up your brain’s energy so it has more space for other information and getting more organized. Otherwise, you will end feeling overwhelmed when you cannot see a way to get through your day’s work.

2. MANAGE YOUR TIME BY BEING WISE IN HOW YOU SPLIT YOUR ATTENTION

It is possible to juggle several things at once, but remember, the only way to do multiple mental tasks, if accuracy is important, is by doing them one at a time.

If you’re speaking during a meeting and you observe that people are splitting their attention by texting or checking email, announce that the next point you are going to make is important so you get their full attention.

What this means for you:

When you feel pressured by several things at once, make a conscious decision as to whether you should split your focus. Place a time limit on how long you will spend spitting your attention. And then go back to focusing on your first priority.

If a thought should enter your mind about another matter, jot a quick note to remind yourself at a later time and resume focusing on your priority.

3. MANAGE YOUR TIME BY RECOGNIZING YOUR BRAIN LOVES VISUALS

Visuals are a great way to activate the mind. That’s why storytelling, pictures, and metaphors work so well—they generate an image.

Visuals are laden with information. They provide color, shape, size, context, etc. Since they take less energy than words, they are efficient ways for the brain to process information.

What this means for you:

Use visuals to represent each priority so you can see how it will look as you approach your goal and again as you tick it off your list. There is a reason check lists are so useful when getting more organized.

Grab a pen and paper and write down your prioritized projects for the day. This saves your brain from the need to recall and review each one. Save your energy for getting those task done!

4. MANAGE YOUR TIME BY WORKING IN SPRINTS

Physiologist Nathaniel Kleitman has discovered that we operate in a 90-minute rhythm throughout the day by moving progressively through periods of higher and lower alertness. After working at high intensity for more than 90 minutes, we begin relying on stress hormones for energy.

The result is that our prefrontal cortex starts to shut down; we begin to lose our ability to think clearly and move into a physiological state commonly referred to as “fight or flight.”

This research confirms that we have a need for rhythmic pulses of rest and renewal throughout our day. Many of us rely on willpower to bulldoze through lengthy projects or meet deadlines, but taking regular breaks is just what our brain needs.

What this means for you:

Instead of overriding a period of low alertness with caffeine, start getting more organized by working hard for 90 minutes and then take a 20 minute break. Make it a priority each morning to focus single-mindedly on your most challenging and important task for 60 to 90 minutes. And then take a break. Even better, encourage those who work for you to do the same.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

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.” 

6 Ways To Become A Charismatic Leader

Monday, January 23rd, 2017

The most charismatic leader I have ever met was an FBI supervisor who had a powerful personality, a powerful sense of humor, and a powerful ability to motivate the agents who worked for him.

Many of our most effective leaders are labeled charismatic and yet it was not something they were born with. They acquired it through knowledge and practice.

Like learning effective leadership skills, charisma is a process of learning how to motivate others to help achieve group goals. We are not born with a natural ability to win the hearts and minds of others.

Many people confuse charisma with likability and while likable people can be persuasive, charismatic leaders have thoughtfully fine-tuned their public image into one where they are seen to be advancing the interests of the group they are representing.

Charisma is not something possessed by a leader; it is foisted upon the leader by followers. It is a gift bestowed by the group because the leader has conveyed to the group that they all share the same sense of worth, vision, and goals.

German sociologist Max Weber did not believe charisma was a rare quality possessed by certain lucky individuals. Instead, he said that what is important is how the individual is regarded by his/her followers. In other words, followers distinguish the leader from others and confer charisma on him or her.

A charismatic leader is someone who is emotionally competent—a core component of mental toughness.

Here are 6 ways to become a charismatic leader:

1. Win The Hearts Of Followers

Charisma centers on the capacity for a leader to be seen by followers as advancing the interests of the group. We trust the leader to take us in the right direction and believe he/she is one of us.

It’s important, however, that the group feels on equal footing with the leader, so find ways to confirm in their minds that you are all in it together and that your self-worth is tied to their best interests.

The inaugural addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy represent charismatic leadership. FDR spins a tale of overcoming adversity while JFK reminds us of youth and opportunity. In neither case was the charisma that flowed from their speeches self-evident. Rather, both were constructed to win over their followers.

2. Make People Feel Special

No matter who you are, take the time to make the person across from you feel important and fascinating. Make them feel as though you are completely with them and following their conversation.

  1. Nod occasionally, not frequently.
  2. Ask questions, even if it means interrupting them. It shows you are genuinely interested in what they are saying.
  3. Don’t let your eyes wander; stay fixed on their face.

3. Use The Right Pronouns

Solidarity in vision and direction of the company inspires people and increases group optimism for the future. When group identity is strong, there is more likelihood of referring to the group as “us.” Use words like us and we rather than me and I.

When you’re dealing with diverse groups, divide and conquer. Find ways to use the words us and we when talking to each group separately. Each group needs to be left with the impression that you are on their side.

But here is where charisma becomes more of an art than a science—never let others feel that you are not genuine in the way you reach out. Show diverse groups that you understand the unique struggles they face, and that by advocating for one it does not imply you are abandoning the other.

4. Tell Our Story

A charismatic leader is someone who clarifies what we believe rather than telling people what they believe. They are able to lead their audience to draw the conclusions one desires rather than spelling out those ideas for them.

When President Reagan was asked what voters saw in him, he responded, “I think they see themselves and that I am one of them.”

5. Conceal Your Craft

The act of charisma is subtle and not obvious. It is rarely productive to bluntly say, “This is who we are” because it can often be met with a “No, we’re not” retort. Instead, a charismatic leader allows their story to unfold rather than issue an order or proclamation. This allows followers to make up their own mind.

In doing so, you’ve implied that you rely on your followers to use their own intelligence and experience to draw the right conclusions.

6. Create A Strong Persona

A strong persona does not require great physical strength or ego; however, it does require two things:

1) full display of core competencies such as intelligence, kindness, empathy, etc.

mixed with

2) warmth of personality

A strong persona means that you are confident in your abilities but not puffed up because of them. It also means that you have no self-doubt about your talents and skill sets.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

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.”

5 Ways To Persuade Resistant People

Monday, January 16th, 2017

I frequently needed to persuade resistant people that it was in their best interests to work with the FBI. As an FBI counterintelligence agent, my job was to recruit a foreign spy to work for the U.S.

I asked them to betray their country. Needless to say, I took copious notes when this topic was taught at the FBI Academy.

When we persuade resistant people, we appeal to their logic or emotions. We don’t try to prove them wrong. Instead, we try to open their mind up to something new or different.

As a leader, entrepreneur, or business owner, you are looking to persuade others. You recruit employees, customers, or investors to buy into your solution or idea. To be successful, you need more than a title or position to persuade them to accept your agenda.

Much like recruiting foreign spies to work with the U.S. Government, persuasion is more of an art than a science. There is no one equation that will produce predictable results because people are unique.

Nonetheless, here are 5 ways to persuade resistant people: 

1. START WITH OPEN-ENDED QUESTIONS

The first step in any recruitment process is to ask open-ended questions of the person you aim to recruit. This enables you to gain a better perspective of their thought process. Otherwise, you have no idea of what truly matters to them or what will push their emotional panic button.

When you ask open-ended questions, it encourages people to give you long form answers instead of simple Yes or No response. This is where the buy-in begins. Rather than being told what to do, they provide at least part of the solution.

You may already know the answer you need—without input from others. But when you ask their opinion, you give people a sense of ownership of where the idea is going.

Tip: The right kind of questions help people to persuade themselves to come around to your way of thinking.

2. FOLLOW UP WITH SMALL STEPS

If I simply walk up to a spy and ask them to work for the FBI, a huge barrier would spring up. Small steps were the secret sauce I used. Each step was so small that it did not alert the spy to changes in their environment. The best way to persuade resistant people is to present a message that is gradual, intentional, consistent, and not intimidating.

Small steps does not mean you move slowly—you can still move very quickly. Take small steps instead of giant leaps when you’re trying to persuade others. It will give you time to gage emotional reactions before you press forward.

Slower moves can also be smarter ones because they give you the opportunity to take the problem by the “soft handle.” This is the approach that is easiest to grasp as you look right at it. It allows you to reduce the element of uncertainty as much as possible.

Tip: Recruitment and persuasion follow the same principles as a seduction. Take the time to interpret what is going on with the other person. Remember, look for ways to appeal to their logic or emotions.

3. MAINTAIN A NIMBLE MINDSET

Arrest plans follow a set protocol that can adapt to almost every situation. However, the plan is always flexible enough to change or tweak as new information becomes available.

Objections to your idea may be unavoidable, but your approach to them can be strategic if you continually re-evaluate your situation so you can change your game plan.

To persuade others, you want them to be able to answer this question: What’s in it for me? The answer to this question is the great unknown.

You ask open-ended questions and follow up with small steps. You may think you know what the answer will be, but prepare to pivot and come at it from another angle if need be.

Tip: Look at the objection like an opponent—bring it down and attack it from a variety of angles, some of which will not make themselves known until you are closer to the person.

4. THROW OUT AN EXTREME SUGGESTION

Igor was a diplomat and his wife had been caught shoplifting. Foreign diplomats (and spouses) have immunity so she was not arrested. I could embarrass him, though, and report the incident to the Consulate’s Security Officer. Most likely, Igor would be sent back home in shame and his career ended.

Department store security detained Igor (and his wife) and notified the FBI. When I met Igor, he shook with fear. He was afraid I would ask him to betray his country. I let him go on thinking this was my objective for quite a while.

Little beads of perspiration burst on his bald head as he waited for my next move. He pulled a grayed handkerchief from his back pocket and wiped his brow. I sat across from him and asked him questions about his grandchildren. He spoke good enough English that we had a nice little conversation.

I made an offer of a sum of money right then and there to answer a few questions. He knew about some individuals of interest to the FBI. Nothing too intrusive, but important information for us.

His relief was palpable. He gave me the answers. I handed over the money, and we never saw each other again.

Igor was jolted out of complacency by my extreme suggestion that he betray his country. In truth, we didn’t want him; he just wasn’t that valuable. But he didn’t know that. His attitude shifted when I offered him a desirable alternative. This is a technique used with great success by retailers, ex-spouses, and terrorists.

5. Stir Anxiety

The truth is that people cannot be persuaded if they are content. The following letter is a perfect example of how to stir anxiety to go about changing people’s minds:

Dear Mom and Dad,

Since I left for college, many things have happened. I apologize for not writing sooner, but you’ve been in my thoughts. Please, do not cry until you’ve read my entire letter but you had better prepare yourself by sitting down.

First, my jail sentence went by faster than I expected. The food wasn’t that bad, really, and I felt lucky that I lost only 50 pounds. Being female, I didn’t know what to expect but my cellmate was a businesswoman named Sugar and she’s offered me a regular job with her escort service. She assures me that I’ll be escorting very nice gentlemen to innocent parties and not to worry about the nasty rumors. I’m not sure what she means, but she says she’s got a great lawyer.

While in jail I met the man of my dreams. He’s out on parole now and we’ve found a wonderful little cubbyhole under the Golden Gate Bridge to live in until he finds a proper job. He’s an enterprising young man and I know you’ll like him. For example, he’s up and going through the trash bins before anyone else in the area! Yes, I’m homeless right now and although my boyfriend thinks I should take up Sugar’s offer on employment, I’m worried that my pregnancy will not make me a desirable escort.

Yes, I’m going to have a baby! And as soon as my boyfriend’s infection clears up, we’ll get our blood tests and have a real wedding. I know you’ll welcome him with open arms and perhaps even help him find a job. You should also know that although he never graduated from high school, he has high ambitions.

Now that you have all the news worth telling, I want to tell you that I didn’t get arrested, I didn’t lose 50 pounds, I’m not thinking of going to work for Sugar, I didn’t meet a boyfriend in jail, I’m not homeless, and I’m not pregnant. I am, however, getting a D in economics, which wouldn’t be so bad but it is, unfortunately, my major. I wanted you to see this in proper perspective.

Your loving daughter, Lori

Tip: Sell yourself when you stir up anxiety and then show how you can make up for the deficiency.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

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.” 

5 Effective FBI Tips To Boost Your Willpower

Monday, January 9th, 2017

Willpower is that thing that pushes you to the next level despite obstacles and setbacks. It’s the grit that keeps FBI agents on a case when there is no easy answer in sight. Sometimes, in order to find a kidnapping victim or arrest a terrorist, agents need to rely not on their skills and training, but on their sheer will and determination to cross the finish line.

Willpower is the force of will that drives entrepreneurs and business owners to overcome seemingly impossible circumstances. It drives change and creates opportunity.

Many people could improve their lives if only they had more of that mysterious thing called willpower but most of us do not believe we have enough of it. In the American Psychological Association’s annual survey on stress, people cited lack of willpower as the #1 barrier to following through with changes that would improve their lives.

Willpower is something that can be learned and can be strengthened with practice. It’s also a vital component of mental toughness.

Let’s take a look at 5 effective FBI tips on how to boost your willpower:

1) TACKLE TOUGH TASKS EARLY IN THE MORNING

FBI arrests occur bright and early in the morning—when agents’ their willpower is strongest and they are able to land on their feet when confronted with the unexpected.

If you start your day reading emails and scheduling meetings, you are making a big mistake. Research shows that between 2 and 4 hours after waking your brain is at its sharpest. Don’t waste that precious energy first thing in the morning on a conference call or staff meeting.

There is a reason things usually go bad in the evening, when you’re tired and easily distracted.

TIP: It’s hard to do real work at work. Most workplaces are an endless stream of interruptions. If possible, get to work before the crowd or work from home during those first productive hours in the morning.

2) KEEP THE JUICES FLOWING

The agents with whom I worked alongside for 24 years were motivated because they had jobs that provided them with value and meaning. They were committed to upholding the federal laws of the United States and bringing criminals to justice.

To activate your willpower, you must be able to remind yourself why it’s important for you to do something. Meaningless tasks will not activate your willpower. When you keep the juices flowing you are reminded that you have a purpose and are committed to your goal.

Successful entrepreneurs and business owners are passionate enough to take on the world and are able to do so because they know willpower drives innovation and success.

TIP: Monitor your behavior toward your goal by using your willpower to prepare for the roadblocks and bumps that are undoubtedly ahead of you. If your job provides you with value and meaning, you will be motivated to do whatever it takes to reach your goal and make a positive difference over the long haul.

3) FOCUS THE RIGHT WAY

FBI agents do not focus on what they are up against; they focus on their goal of solving a case and ignore the rest. That doesn’t mean they don’t pay attention to valuable information that comes their way, but they do not lose focus on what is truly important.

Entrepreneurs and business owners need to do the same thing. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself on a merry-go-round of constant worry. You will never get anywhere if your mind is always focused on the difficulties ahead.

TIP: It’s easier to regain the feeling of control if you break down your big projects into little chunks and put all of your mental energy into completing them. Always keep the big picture and ultimate goal in mind, but dedicate yourself to the little victories that will take you further down the line.

4) SIMPLIFY WHEN YOU CAN

Every night I laid out what I was going to wear to the office the next day. I always wore a suit with flats. It was easy, predictable, and I didn’t have to worry about how I would chase a suspect down the street in a pair of ridiculous heels.

President Obama wears only gray or blue suits to pare down his number of decisions. In an interview with Vanity Fair he said, “I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing because I have too many other decisions to make.”

We have a finite amount of mental energy and the more choices we make during the day, the harder each one is on our brain. We start to look for shortcuts, we get impulsive, and then we get reckless.

Successful people tap into their willpower reserves by limiting the number of decisions they have to make during the day.

TIP: Focus your decision-making energy by creating routines around those activities that are performed every day. Don’t go through your day being distracted by trivia.

5) BUILD A BIGGER BRAIN

FBI agents are not the only ones who resort to running and other forms of exercise to clear their mind so it can focus on important matters. Training our mind to focus clearly strengthens our willpower.

According to Kelly McGonigal, your brain actually has a willpower center, a clump of cerebral cells called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Neuroscientists have discovered that you can make your willpower center denser and better connected by meditating. After 11 hours of meditation, MRI scans show that meditators have increased neural connections and gray matter in brain regions responsible for impulse control.

TIP: Spend five minutes a day meditating. Focus on your breath and when your mind wanders, bring it back to the breath. Being “bad” at meditation—constantly needing to push away intrusive thoughts—is exactly what trains the brain and strengthens willpower.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

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.” 

4 Reasons You Need A Tribe When Things Go Wrong

Monday, January 2nd, 2017

During my first 3 weeks of the FBI Academy, new agents like myself were not allowed to leave the Marine Corp base. We spent 24 hours a day with each other—building the trust and familiarity that creates a tribe.

Our tribe trained together for the entire 4 months. We shot over each other’s heads in firearms, punched each other in boxing, and arrested each other in Hogan’s Ally. In a tribe, the survival of the individual depends upon the survival of the group. By the time we received our badge and gun, we knew we could rely on each other to watch our backs when things went wrong.

The importance of tribe building is so important that the FBI recently started allowing intelligence analysts to train next to new agents for the initial few weeks at the Academy. This type of tribe building enables the two groups to work together more easily to gather information when things go wrong—like terrorist attacks, espionage, or cyber warfare.

When you are a member of a tribe, you have an acute sense of belonging—you feel accepted and safe when things go wrong.

Many of us are lucky enough to feel that our biological families are our tribe, but usually tribes are founded around groups of people with shared values, ideas, and experiences.

In the competitive world of business, it is not always easy to feel safe and accepted. When things go wrong, you fear losing your company, your job, and maybe even your health.

It’s at times like this when it’s important to focus on finding what unites you with others rather than your differences. To be a strong and effective leader, find your tribe.

Here are 4 reasons you need a tribe when things go wrong;

1. FIND A SAFE SHOULDER

Tribes are more than fulfilling friendships and the comfortable exchange of ideas. Although trust is essential, good tribes do not mean warm hugs and unconditional love. Instead, tribes hold us accountable and provide honest, constructive feedback—even when it’s not what we want to hear.

Core to tribe building is the acceptance of others who are different but whom you respect.

Tip:

Look for people who will help show you how to honestly evaluate yourself and your performance when things go wrong. The healthiest tribes are those that can hold the tension of both competition and cooperation.

2. SHARE YOUR FEELINGS

Hand in suit holds pen, writing on lined paper in spiral bound notebook – could be business or student

Avoiding negative emotions may feel like a good strategy at the time, but it does nothing but postpone the flood of emotions that will erupt at some point in the future. The only way to be free of the anxiety and angst you feel when things go wrong is to stop and face what you are feeling.

Don’t wallow in your negativity but do acknowledge it. If you are overcome by a negative emotion in the middle of your working day, identify the emotion you are feeling and use one or two words to describe it. Don’t get into a dialogue about it; if you do, they will grow legs and start running away with you.

Tip:

Grab a member of your tribe and talk about the emotion you experienced earlier without judging it as good or bad. When things go wrong, talking about it with others helps you better understand your own fears and get valuable feedback.

Write down what you were feeling and why you were experiencing those emotions.

3. FIND THOSE WHO LIFT YOU UP

Tribes, like families, are not perfect. There will be times when you need to avoid those who are negative and suck the life out of you.

It has been said that people are like dirt—they can either nourish you and help you grow as a person, or they can stunt your growth and make you wilt and die.

Pick the people you hang around with care—they create the environment in which you will either thrive or wilt. Give everyone the opportunity to be a friend, but share your dreams and goals only with those members of your tribe and/or community who value them as much as you do.

Tip:

Establish a benchmark test for choosing people to hang around with. Ask yourself whether spending time with this person will lift you up or drag you down? Will spending time with this person help you to become your best self? Will you be happier after spending time with this person? Will this person help you achieve your most important goals? If not, find people who will.

4. SEEK OUT COMPANIONSHIP

In his book, “Tribes,” Sebastian Junger suggests that the lack of tribal brotherhood is what makes it so hard for returning combat veterans to reintegrate into contemporary, fragmented societies.

Above all else, people need to feel connected with others. Disasters create instant communities because when things go wrong, people seek out the companionship of others. Furthermore, we are driven to put our own interests aside for the good of the group.

For those in poor inner city situations, gangs provide a tribal sense of belonging and relevancy. It’s the companionship that makes them feel both safe and connected to others.

Tip:

In times of stress, it’s easy to feel neglected. It’s impossible to instantly create deep bonds of familiarity and trust. Don’t wait until things go wrong to start finding your tribe. Start now.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

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.”