Archive for February, 2017

5 Ways Great Leaders Get Through Tough Times

Monday, February 27th, 2017

Great leaders are defined by tough times; this is when they either lean into their inner toughness for the grit they need to keep moving ahead, or become victim to circumstances they have not learned to control.

One of the greatest leaders of all time was Genghis Khan. He conquered substantial portions of Central Europe and China to create the largest empire in history.

Temujin was born into a nomadic Mongol tribe in 1162. When Temujin was 12 years old, his father was killed and the family left to die in the harsh Mongolian winter. Temujin and his family survived, but the lessons he learned evolving from manhood at the age of 12 into the warrior known as Genghis Khan, are timeless.

As I read his story, I was struck by how human nature never changes.

The disciplines used by Genghis Khan created a great leader who had the mental toughness he needed to prepare for the unknown and embrace the unexpected. They are the same disciplines great leaders need today to face unexpected turns in the marketplace, compete against new competition, and embrace changing technology.

Great leaders are effective, no matter the challenges they face. Here are 5 ways they get through tough times:

1. GREAT LEADERS FOCUS ON A CLEAR GOAL

Genghis’s father was the leader of his Mongolian tribe but was assassinated by a rival. Genghis  and his family were then left to starve in the cold winter. Genghis had one goal in mind as he developed the skills necessary to become a great leader in those bleak months and he never lost focus of that goal—to stay alive.

My goal was to become an FBI agent. Albeit very different circumstances, both Genghis and I dug deep to find the passion behind our goals; it’s what kept us going.

How To Make It Work For You: You owe your team a clearly defined goal worthy of dedicating their efforts. You also need to demonstrate that you are willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen. Goals can shift over time so it’s important to measure progress on a regular basis.

2. TIE THAT GOAL TO A PURPOSE

While goals can shift, our purpose never does. Genghis had one purpose in life—to see the enemies who killed his father brought to justice. Even though he amassed the largest empire in history, he never became distracted by a desire for possessions or wealth as he became more powerful.

Genghis’s wounds drove him; most of us have wounds that drive us. What is important is to learn how to channel the passions that run the deepest toward achieving something we never thought possible.

How To Make It Work For You: We all come out of childhood wounded; it’s where we begin to develop the character that shows itself in great moments as adults. You have a choice: you can piss and moan about how life has handed you unfair circumstances, or you can take the bit between your teeth and convert your wounds into strengths. Grit Up and develop mental toughness.

3. BUILD UP ENDURANCE

As a boy, Genghis trained by running up and down a mountain with a mouth full of water. Over time, he got to where he could return to the starting point and spit the entire mouthful on the ground. This was a triumph that signaled he had developed the aerobic strength to run up and down mountains breathing only through his nose.

The FBI Academy had new agents run around a basketball court with a medicine ball in one hand and sweaty towel in the other. At the time, I failed to see how building endurance would make great leaders.

In hindsight, I understand they are inexorably interlinked. For both Genghis and myself, we were pursuing goals that were truly important to us.

How To Make It Work For You: Building endurance requires that you find a purpose that has value and meaning for you; persevere and do not give up, believe that you are giving it your best, and have confidence that you are in control of yourself and what happens to you.

4. STRETCH TOWARD PEAK PERFORMANCE

Genghis Khan used archery to conquer his empire. Drawing a bow and arrow from the back of a galloping horse and accurately hitting the target is not easy. Genghis mastered his art by doing two things:

1)    He developed the power to heave the thick bow back so he could aim his arrow. The Mongolian bow was covered with so many layers of sinew that it had the pull of approximately 160 pounds.

2)    He understood the movements of the horse he was riding. When a horse is galloping, there is a moment when the horse is air-borne and all four hooves are off the ground. In that split-second, as he sat in his saddle and sailed through the air in smooth flight, he could shoot his arrow with enough accuracy to hit the target.

How To Make It Work For You: Genghis Khan honed his skill with the bow and arrow. In the same way, you and I can build our mastery by pushing the boundaries of our skill levels. Experts agree that your grasp should exceed your reach by about 4% if you want to achieve peak performance.

5. DEVELOP A HIGH-FUNCTIONING TEAM

Genghis Khan took the time to understand the thinking and movements of his chosen partner—in his case, a horse. He studied the movements of the animal and synchronized them with his own so they functioned as one fluid and powerful weapon.

In this modern age, you and I work with other partners in business and life, and if we plan to be great leaders, we will need to understand the way they think so we can enable them to perform at optimal levels—especially during tough times. We need to anticipate their reactions as much as we need to anticipate our own.

How To Make It Work For You: Spend time understanding what makes your team members successful and what makes them fail. Don’t stop there; help them understand as well so they can start thinking ahead of time about how they will react in tough times. This will free up both you and team to spend your energy adapting quickly in crucial moments.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Sign Up for my How To Build Confidence on-line training course

Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.”

A Simple Psychological Shift To Make You Successful

Monday, February 20th, 2017

Before becoming an FBI agent, I thought I could become successful by simply working hard. It got me through school with good grades and into my first job as a fashion buyer.

My thinking shifted, however, when I met my first FBI firearms instructor. He barked out constant reminders that if I wanted to become more successful as a shooter, it would take more than hard work; it would take front-sight focus.

Front-sight focus is the ability to look at the front sight of a weapon after lining it up with the target. A good shooter remains aware of their surroundings and always has their objective in mind, but their attention narrows to that single piece of steel a few inches in front of them.

FBI firearms training prepared me for more than high scores on targets. I used front-sight focus in my investigations to distinguish between what was important and what was a distraction.

Front-sight focus is concentration and single-mindedness in reaching your goal, whether it’s aiming a weapon on the firing range, landing a new client, or taking your business to the next level.

You need front sight-focus to work through distractions so you can become successful when things go wrong in business and life.

Here are 3 tips to help you focus so you can be successful:

1. QUIET THE INNER NAG

Distractions often occur when our inner nag starts fretting about all the things that need to get done. As a result, intrusive thoughts constantly interrupt our productivity, and we end up second-guessing our choices.

Research behind the Zeigarnik Effect proves that the unconscious mind needs the conscious mind to plan how to finish tasks or accomplish goals. That’s why the inner nag keeps fretting about all that needs to be done.

How To Make It Work For You:

Sit down in a quiet place with a pen and paper and let your thoughts ramble.

Whether it’s small or large, important or not, write down every single thing that either needs a decision or has your attention.

Do not take the time to prioritize the items on your To-Do list. First, listen to the voice of that inner nag and write down whatever pops up.

2. IDENTIFY YOUR ACTION STEP

FBI firearms training showed me to how to narrow my focus to the one thing that needs attention immediately (front-sight) while at the same time registering awareness of the bigger picture of other things around me (the target).

In the same way, your conscious mind may now be focused on a new goal, but the unconscious mind still sees everything else that needs to get done. It needs closure and it will continue to create intrusive thoughts that won’t go away until you’ve turned your attention back to those other tasks that also need to be addressed.

In his book, Getting Things Done, David Allen talks about the importance of identifying Action Steps rather than leaving it as a To-Do List.

A To-Do List does not narrow your focus enough when you have lots of priorities clamoring for your attention. You continue to create anxiety for the unconscious mind because it needs more than a goal—it needs a plan! It needs an action step.

How To Make It Work For You:

Prioritize your To-Do list. You’ve addressed all the tasks that your unconscious brain is anxious about, but now you need to prioritize each item according to importance.

Beside each item on the prioritized To-Do list, identify the specific next action step to be taken regarding that item. For example, if you need to buy a birthday present, write down “Drive to Nordstrom.”

3. CLARIFY THE ACTION

The unconscious mind needs specifics like time, place, and opportunity. Once the plan is formed, the unconscious stops nagging with constant reminders.

For example, one of the items on my current To-Do List—“Write an article on why emotional awareness is essential for mental toughness.” Even now, there is a part of me that wants to skip over that item and ignore it.

Why? I experience low-grade anxiety over the fact that it will take a big chunk of time to research the topic and pull together enough information for a decent article.

To avoid the anxiety, I need to break down the task into small steps. This action step as it is written is far too vague and broad. As a result, my brain feels overwhelmed by trying to tease out all the elements that will be needed to finish the article.

If I attack the problem by clarifying the action step I need to take, it will look something like this: “I will spend half an hour Thursday afternoon preparing an outline for the article so I’m ready to start writing it on Friday morning.”

How To Make It Work For You:

The unconscious mind needs specifics like time, place, and opportunity. Once the plan is formed, the unconscious stops nagging with constant reminders.

If you have a presentation to make at 8:00am, your unconscious mind wants to know exactly what needs to be done. You may have 100 other items that also need attention, but you can relax and not worry about the inner nag bothering you again about it if you make a plan to review your notes at 7:00am that morning.

It is human nature to finish what we start, and front-sight focus is how we pay full attention to one goal at a time so we can be successful.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Sign Up for my How To Build Confidence on-line training course

Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

How to Stay Mentally Tough When You Face Difficult Stressors

Monday, February 13th, 2017

Guest post by Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D.

Stress is on the rise! In the latest (2015) version of the American Psychological Association’s Stress in America survey, 78% of respondents reported at least one symptom of stress (like feeling overwhelmed) and 34% reported increases in stress since the previous year. For many stress caused mental health problems like worry or depression, difficulty sleeping, or unhealthy behaviors. One-quarter (25 percent) of those employed report snapping at or being short with co-workers because of stress. If you can’t handle your stress, you are at risk of sabotaging your health and damaging your relationships at work or with customers, which will interfere with your longer-term success.

Calming down your stressed out feelings is only one aspect of managing stress and it may not be the best strategy for every situation.  To most effectively master stress, you need to be self-aware about your own reactions. You also need to be able to focus and think clearly about your values and goals and to sustain attention and motivation in the face of roadblocks and failures. Finally and most importantly, your mindset about stress makes all the difference. Learning how to reframe stress more positively – as a challenge with potential for growth and learning – can help you feel more confident and excited about the possibilities. Building the four qualities of mental toughness: emotional competency, resilience, willpower, and attitude can set you up for success when stress inevitably hits you!

Stress and Emotional Competency

Stress sends your brain into “fight or flight” mode, which sets into play a cascade of neurotransmitters and hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. This response is very rapid and sometimes occurs before the conscious parts of the brain even know what’s going on. “Fight or flight” can trigger impulsive, behaviors like screaming at co-workers because your body is gearing up to fight a threat. This is where emotional competency comes in. You can’t stop “fight or flight,” but you can learn to identify when it’s happening and take a mindful pause before reacting automatically. Being mindful means being able to notice and describe what’s happening in your mind and body – observing rather than absorbing the stress. Mindfulness enhances your emotional competence because, over months and years, it actually changes the parts of the brain involved in the stress response. It also helps you find a more compassionate view of the situation, which helps you feel less stressed. Practicing mindfulness meditation can help strengthen this response.

Stress and Resilience

Resilience is another part of mental toughness that can help you deal more effectively with stress.  One aspect of resilience is “grit,” a concept defined by researcher Angela Duckworth. Grit means being able to tolerate discomfort and setbacks because you are driven by your passion for long-term goals,  Research studies in college students, salespeople, and Westpoint cadets shows that grit is just as or more important than intelligence and mental ability in determining long-term success. To build grit, you have to know what values and goals are most important to you and why. Stress makes you reactive in the moment, but grit can help you step back and take a long-term view. Think about your passion for building your business or your organization’s mission and let that empower you to plough through the difficulties.  In one study (Brooks,2014) subjects who felt anxious about public speaking were told to relabel their anxious feelings as excitement while another group was told to try to calm down.  Those in the “excitement”group felt more excited and actually performed better at the speaking task. The anxiety and adrenaline surges involved in “fight or flight” can actually fuel performance if they are managed effectively.

Stress and Willpower

One of the challenges of the stressors we face these days is that they can be chronic and that the outcomes are often at least partially out of our control. Retaining customers, making sales, and getting promotions involve making consistent effort to work hard and build relationships over long periods of time. This is where willpower comes in. Staying organized and focused on your goals means being able to manage your body’s “fight to flight” response so it doesn’t “hijack” your brain’s attention.  Time spent worrying about things you can’t control can be counterproductive and get in the way of getting things done.  Willpower means that you learn to direct your brain’s focus of attention, rather than letting automatic stress reactivity distract you. Willpower does not occur in a vacuum – you can deliberately organize your environment to sustain willpower (e.g., by programming reminders into your phone, having a vision board,  or putting your running shoes where you’ll see them).

Stress and Attitude

Research shows that your attitude towards your stress can have as much influence as the actual events in determining how well things turn out.  In a study by Crum, Salovey, and Achor (2013) the researchers used a questionnaire to assess whether people saw stress as damaging or as having some benefits.  Those who saw stress as damaging were more likely to focus on avoiding feeling stressed, which led them to miss out on opportunities to learn and grow. In their study, students who saw stress as damaging were less likely to want to hear feedback after they gave a speech. In another study (Keller et al., 2012), people who saw stress as damaging their health and who also experienced a lot of stress had a 43% increase in premature death. In a third study, participants who were able to reframe their stress reactions as functional had an improved cardiovascular response to stress and were less likely to think about negative aspects of the situation (Jamieson, Nock & Mendes, 2012). The take home message is that you need to think of your body’s stressful arousal as gearing yourself up for a challenge you can master, rather than something that threatens to derail you.

Stress is an inevitable part of life but mentally tough people know how to befriend their stress and use it to their advantage.  To learn more about your brain’s stress response and how to develop resilience, read my new book The Stress-Proof Brain, released in February 2017 and available on Amazon.

http://amzn.to/2kNwRqC

Melanie Greenberg is a practicing psychologist in Marin County California and an expert on managing stress in life, work, and relationships using proven strategies from neuroscience, mindfulness, cognitive-behavioral approaches, and positive psychology. She is the author of The Mindful Self-Express blog for Psychology Today (8 million+ page views). Her new book. The Stress-Proof Brain was released last week by New Harbinger. It received a starred positive review from Library Journal and is an Amazon bestseller in Neuropsychology and Stress-Management.

© 2017  All rights reserved.

You can follow LaRae Quy on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get LaRae’s FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Sign Up for LaRae’s How To Build Confidence on-line training course

LaRae Quy is the author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

Determination — 4 Reasons Why It’s Important

Monday, February 6th, 2017

Determination and persistence were a way of life for me growing up as a hillbilly in Wyoming. We were among the poor and rural that make up most of this state—a two-hour drive from the nearest small town.

For this reason, we had a private tutor provided by the state who lived in the house with us. I was in first grade and her name was Mrs. Garrity. A retired school teacher from Chicago, she thought living on a remote cattle ranch in the middle of Wyoming would be an adventure.

It was 10 miles on dirt road from our ranch house to the last gate on our property, and another 60 miles to town. Mrs. Garrrity went home for Christmas and was due back after the New Year. She didn’t arrive on Sunday evening as scheduled, and I was happily playing in the snow by the horse barn when I looked up and saw my grandfather screech his pickup to a halt. He didn’t even bother to open the gate and drive in. Instead, he jumped over it and motioned to my dad to join them. Immediately, both raced to the house.

The only communication available in this remote area was a two-way radio so I followed them. I knew something big was up and I couldn’t wait to find out!

It seems that Mrs. Garrity got her car stuck in a snowdrift just as she passed through that last gate that led onto our property. Perhaps she didn’t realize she was 10 miles from the ranch house, but she started to walk in the cold and dark. She made it 5 miles before she froze to death.

My grandfather had found her body beside a wire fence. He covered her up with an old tarp he had stashed in his pickup and weighed it down with 2 fence posts placed on either side of the body.

Saddened beyond words, our whole family reacted as only stoic and stalwart people can in a situation like this—we kept moving forward. We had no contingency plan for a tragedy like this. We had a body to protect from wolves and coyotes until a coroner arrived, no teacher, and absolutely no idea how I would graduate from first grade without one.

Entrepreneurs, business owners, and leaders all understand how life and business can surprise us. You have plans, and they work fine, until you get sucker punched by new competition, market upheavals, or high employee turnover.

Often, your determination is the glue that holds your organization together when plans go awry or you’re confronted with an unexpected obstacle.

Here are 4 reasons determination is important to your success:

1. DETERMINATION HELPS YOU OVERCOME THE UNEXPECTED

When things do not go according to plan, it’s tempting to give up. We lose our confidence and think about moving on to something that is easier. This is exactly what most people do because we’re afraid of failure and shirk away from things that are hard and necessary.

Plans make us feel safe, but be ready when things spin out of your control so you can still land on your feet. You may need to change course and adapt in some way. Your goal remains the same, but your roadmap to get there may need to be changed.

My parents could never have anticipated Mrs. Garrity’s death, but they drilled into me the dangers of surviving winters at an altitude of 7,000 ft. We always had extra blankets and clothes in our pickup when we traveled in cold weather.

Mrs. Garrity was found wearing nothing but a dress, light jacket, low heels, and a flimsy scarf.

What It Means For You: Develop an agile mindset by trying to anticipate potential setbacks and have a contingency plan for them.

2. DETERMINATION ENABLES YOU TO KEEP FOCUSED

When things go wrong it is hard to maintain motivation and focus. Determination allows you to remain focused on long term goals so you can adjust your behavior accordingly.

Often, this requires you to keep emotions in check to prevent them from sabotaging your efforts to keep moving forward.

We were laden with grief when Mrs. Garrity died. Packing up her things and sending them, along with her body, back to Chicago was emotionally very difficult. Maintaining focus on our duty to her family remained at the forefront of our thinking.

What It Means For You: Visualize yourself accomplishing your goal no matter what it takes. Keep your eye on the goal and see yourself reaching the end.

3. DETERMINATION IS FED BY ENCOURAGEMENT AND SUPPORT

When things spin out of your control, find support and encouragement from those around you whom you trust and admire. Based on their experience and expertise, seek out their advice and suggestions on how to keep moving forward.

Successful people with determination understand that they still need to do the hard work, but it is very encouraging when you are surrounded with positive reinforcement. No one is their own island and we all need other people’s assistance. It might just be a short chat or a few words of support.

Be the person who reaches out when you need support rather than give up.

A former schoolteacher heard about our situation and agreed to replace Mrs. Garrity so I could graduate from first grade. Our predictament was shared by many good friends and neighbors who wanted to reach out and help.

What It Means For You: Do not be afraid to share your situation with others, but be picky about it. Make sure they are people who truly want what is best for you and will give you both constructive and positive feedback. Look for “mirror” friends who will be honest, loving, and objective.

4. DETERMINATION MAKES YOU DIG DEEP DOWN

If you are on a path that has value and meaning for you, you are definitely on the right path, so keep going. If you are not, then a setback or failure will be enough to make you give up and try something else.

Success can be very misleading because often it is where we stay, whether it’s what really fuels us or not. It is a success that is based in complacency because we are too scared of failure to pursue the type of work that would provide value and meaning.

What It Means For You: Don’t take the easy way out. Dig deep down and find the things that you can’t walk away from; that is your true north. When you are pursuing that kind of goal, it won’t matter what other people say because your inner vision is far stronger than any external obstacle you will come up against.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Sign Up for my How To Build Confidence on-line training course

Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.”