Archive for December, 2017

Why Most CEO’s Lack Emotional Intelligence

Monday, December 18th, 2017

As I looked into Igor’s face, it was imperative that I accurately interpret his reaction to my words. Emotional intelligence is not taught at the FBI Academy, but it was essential for me to understand the difference between anxiety and sadness when interviewing people like Igor. I needed to know whether I could trust him to help me in my investigation.

You may never need to interview an individual whom you suspect of being a foreign spy. It is possible, however, that you will need to impress a new client or calm down an frustrated customer.

Emotional intelligence allows you to recognize and accurately interpret what is going on with colleagues, employees and clients. As a leader, you need to excel at handling conflict, and the need for this skill grows more important as you climb the ladder of success.

Can you tell if a team member is frustrated? Or, if they angry? It’s an important distinction because frustration happens when people feel blocked from achieving a goal. Whereas anger is a response to a perceived wrong done to them or to another. Yet too often leaders, managers, and supervisors cannot tell the difference.

Top level executives lead the pack when it comes to being direct and assertive, but research suggests that emotional intelligence diminishes as they move up the corporate ladder. Emotional intelligence scores from this study indicate a decline as people move above middle management—with CEOs having the lowest emotional intelligence scores in the workplace!

Emotional competency is a major component of mental toughness. Leaders who are mentally tough are able to manage their emotions so negative ones don’t control their behavior and thoughts. While mentally tough leaders experience bad moods and impulses like everyone else, they do not act upon them without thinking them through.

People feel before they think, so leaders who constantly react to their emotional states never develop the discipline to allow their thoughts to moderate their emotions.

Here’s a closer look at why CEOs lack emotional intelligence and what can be done to enhance it.

1. Workaholism Has Become A Desirable Lifestyle

A new prosperity gospel has sprung up that believes there is no higher calling than starting your own business. The catch is this: To succeed, you must be willing to give up everything. This charge is led by entrepreneurs like Gary Vaynerchuk, who tells his followers they shouldn’t avoid working 18-hour days.

I was brought up to believe in the virtue of hard work. It’s got me to where I am today, but to create a lifestyle based on values like money and success is shallow. It is devoid of meaningful relationships or family life. It’s a madness that permeates the C-suite—“I’ll become rich and successful or die trying.”

Because of our focus on tasks, entrepreneurs often don’t have the time to develop the emotional intelligence they need take their success to the next level.

How to make it work for you: Find a trusted friend or family member and have them ask you this question: Are you are willing to give up your youth, sleep, vacations, health, family, or morals for this job? Think long and hard about your answers because it is possible to succeed without working yourself to death.

2. Outsized Ego

As we climb the ladder of success, egos can grow. We are proud of the strides we’ve made, and we should be. While ego may be part of what drives us, we should never give it more than what it deserves.

Ego traps talented professionals. Executive leaders reach a point where the only opinion that matters is their own. They stop listening. They stop learning and this is where ego becomes a trap for suckers. Once you stop being curious about yourself and others, you stop seeing the world as it really is.

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.

Emotionally competent leaders do not let their ego keep them from recognizing their weaknesses. In fact, they know it’s essential to find ways to manage these weaknesses so they can focus on building upon their strengths.

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

How to make it work for you: If you’ve made it to the top, you should be too smart to fall into the ego trap so there is no one to blame but yourself. The good news is it’s easy to get out of this trap. All you need to do is suck up a little humility and start to be as concerned about the needs of others as you are with your own.

3. Pressure To Have All The Answers

Executive leaders are paid the big bucks to have all the answers. When the stakes are high, successful people maintain their poise and perform. But pressure situations can either empower or imprison; we all know what it’s like to have the perfect answer pop into our head 20 minutes after an important conversation.

There are people who can face all kinds of conflict and seem to know exactly what to say. Faced with an uncooperative employee, an angry customer or a tense negotiation with a competitor, they are confident in their response. They remain calm and don’t get upset.

Leaders with high emotional intelligence have the ability to wait until their emotions pass so they can chose their response rather than react with gut feelings.

How to make it work for you: Train yourself to perform while under pressure. Mental toughness is the ability to be resilient in uncomfortable conditions:

Experiment

Always have a petri dish in your life that is full of experiences and situations where you are experimenting with the answer.

Welcome failure

When you are constantly confronting situations where you don’t know the answer, the chances are greater that you will fail. Learn to fail well so you can approach the situation in smarter ways the next time.

Reframe

Interpret your pressure in a positive way by reframing the way you look at it. Instead of saying “I don’t know the answer,” replace it with “I may not know the answer right now, but I will find it.” Your brain will interpret pressure in a new way if you reframe the question and use positive words.

Move into your discomfort zone

Too often we fine tune our skills in non-pressure situations. We don’t know how we’ll respond when placed in a real pressure situation, so seek out opportunities—yes, it will be unpleasant—where you are out of your comfort zone.

Practice under less-than-perfect conditions

You know by now that the world is not perfect so stop pretending that it is. Practice in imperfect conditions where there are lots of interruptions, disturbances, and surprises. This will help you land on your feet when in real situations where you are confronted with the unknown and the unexpected.

4. Lack Of Feedback

It’s true that it’s lonely at the top. Executive leaders have fewer opportunities for honest and constructive feedback. Managers and staff further down the food chain are hesitant to give feedback to senior colleagues.

As a result, many executive leaders find themselves confused about their performance and how to develop the skills they need. They are often isolated from constructive criticism because subordinates do not want to risk offending the boss.

Emotionally intelligence leaders who are aware of and acknowledge their weaknesses will hire good people to surround them. When the stress is high, they can depend on the people around them to compliment their strengths and counter their weaknesses.

How to make it work for you: To cultivate the feedback you need, interview at least five of your direct reports and others around you. Ask this question: “What advice would you offer to help me improve my effectiveness?” Try to listen with open and ears and a closed mouth.

© 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.”

4 Ways To Get Through Hard Times

Monday, December 11th, 2017

We love stories about underdogs who beat the odds and figure out how to get through hard times. They provide encouragement that, we too, can be victorious and achieve success.

We’d prefer to watch others get through hard times from the safety of our armchair.

A favorite inspirational story of mine is about a ruthless con-artist, liar, thief, and manipulator who was full of fear and anxieties. Divested of all earthly possessions, he runs from his father-in-law and into the waiting arms of a brother who hates him.

Homeless on a riverbank, he is attacked and the violence is so intense that he is left crippled for life. He faces darkness, loneliness, exhaustion, and relentless pain.

The ancient book of the Bible tells us the man’s name was Jacob and his riverbank opponent was an angel. The question that immediately surfaces is: “Why would God create such pain and adversity?”

The question is answered by Jacob himself, who was transformed through this experience. Jacob finally understood that in real life, naive optimism and the desire for glamour is a recipe for despair and discontent.

Jacob’s transformation earned him a new name— Israel, because he prevailed over his struggles and carved out a tranquil existence in the midst of life’s turbulence.

Struggles force us to find our deepest name.

Setbacks are rarely easy. Whether it’s dealing with unemployment, a difficult job, or personal tragedies, we need mental toughness to get through hard times. Like Jacob, we can be transformed but only if we confront our failures, hurts, and pain.

Tough times and adversity have transformational powers. Life’s struggles are essential to developing resilience and generating a sense of accomplishment.

Here are 4 ways to make get through hard times: 

1. Face Adversity Head On

It’s easy to take your good luck for granted. If you are not prepared for adversity when it comes, you have no tools with which to fight back. Not getting what you always want forces you to identify your core character strengths and personal values—information you might have otherwise over looked.

Via Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, And Why, the first thing to do when we are faced with an obstacle is to recognize and accept it as soon as possible. People who get through hard times move through the stages of denial to acceptance at a faster pace. When we live in denial, things only get worse.

How To Make It Work For You: Stay alert for what can go wrong so you can prepare ahead of time. Obstacles can come from any area of your life so don’t take anything for granted. Practice gratitude every day so you’re aware of those special areas that provide joy and peace.

2. Expect the Deepest Pain To Empower You To Your Fullest Potential 

It’s not a pleasant thought, but very often it is the stressful choices that end up being the most worthwhile. Without pain, there would be no change.

When we force ourselves to only look for good things, we deny life’s problems and struggles. When we deny our struggles, we also deny ourselves the opportunity to solve them and generate real satisfaction and joy. Struggles add a layer of meaning and value to our life.

One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful—Sigmund Freud

How To Make It Work For You: Psychologists remind us that “we are not our problems or crisis.” You are not the divorce, illness, trauma, or bank account. Our true self is that deeper entity that is whole and well no matter how hard it is to get through hard times. Just remember to learn from your pain and then release it.

3. Rewrite Your Story

Some of life’s struggles will change our life. When this happens, we can reframe the situation and focus on the opportunity the setback presents us. Once we identify ourselves as a victim, it stays with us.

They way in which we reframe the situation allows us to choose our personal narrative. It’s our point of view that shapes our world and the place we hold in it. If we reframe our struggle as a growth opportunity, we’re less likely to see ourselves as a victim.

A Harvard study found that people who viewed stress as a way to fuel performance managed their stress better than those who ignored their stress.

How To Make It Work For You: Recognize the story you use to explain your life. Can your situation be looked at in a different way that you haven’t considered before? Your current interpretation of your situation will change as you grow and mature. Knowing that, you can have faith and hope that things will be better tomorrow.

4. Seek Out Discomfort Zones 

Don’t be reluctant to accept a new responsibility or challenge because you don’t think you’re ready. It’s OK to acknowledge that you need additional information, skill, or experience but remember that no one is 100% ready when an opportunity present itself. Most opportunities in life force us out of our comfort zone, and so it’s natural for many of them to feel like struggles at first.

That is the best reason to move into your discomfort zone! You won’t be surprised by your response when you need to get through hard times because you’ve already spent time in discomfort zones.

Your stress hormone systems become less responsive to stress the more they are used. So, if you live your life in a way that embraces challenges on a regular basis, you’ll develop the skills that enable you to handle the extra stress.

How To Make It Work For You: Intentionally place yourself in challenging situations. The advantage of this approach is that you get to choose the level of stress involved in each challenge. To develop the skills to get through hard times, you will need to embrace moments of uncertainty even though you don’t feel 100% ready for them.

© 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.”

7 Things Mentally Strong People Never Do

Monday, December 4th, 2017

Mentally tough people have surrounded me my entire life. My Dad picked away at a challenge until he found a way around it.

As an FBI agent, I found even more mentally strong people who worked their way through sticky and complex investigations. They took bold new directions that required grit and spunk. They set themselves apart from the crowd. Where others saw barriers, they saw challenges to overcome.

I learned there is no one secret to success. There is no single habit that will guarantee you’ll make it to the top. There are, however, behaviors that mentally strong people have in common to help them achieve their goals:

1. They Never Spread Negativity

It is tiresome to spend time around negative people. They spread no joy and relish dropping little bits of acid on everyone they meet; just enough to make sure their misery finds ample company. Some of the most negative people come disguised as family and friends.

If you surround yourself with negative people who don’t have dreams of their own, then guess what? You will be just like them.

TIP: You reflect the 5 people with whom you spend the most time. Distance yourself from losers who dwell on negativity.

2. They Don’t Give In To Indifference

Indifferent people find themselves satisfied with the status quo and eventually end up in a comfortable rut. They make excuses, blame others, and usually whine a lot to whoever will listen to them. To sum up: they are lazy, passive, and boring as hell.

When you care about something, you become unstoppable. Mentally strong people learn how to focus and prioritize their thoughts. They pick what is important to them, what they care about. This can be difficult, however, because it takes discipline

TIP: Pinpoint which values are important enough that you will become unstoppable in achieving them. When you care about something, you will do what you feel is right. That is what will make you unstoppable.

3. They Don’t Let Resentment Rear Its Ugly Head

Fear often hides itself in resentment. We fear the future, are angry about the present, and resent something that has happened to us in the past. Resentment rears its ugly head when we can’t let go of a slight or injustice, whether real or perceived. It’s nothing more than feeling sorry for yourself because things didn’t go your way.

Shit happens. It can hurt us and those feelings of anger are real and legitimate. But, if we let emotions simmer beneath the surface, they grow and eat away at us. Mentally strong people don’t waste precious energy on crap emotions like resentment. It sucks up too much of our stamina, the strength we need to achieve our goals.

TIP: The best way to eliminate resentment is not to set yourself up for it. Remember a time when someone asked you to do things for them. Subconsciously, you form expectations of what they’d do for you in return. If there’s a chance of you thinking, “what’s in it for me,” you’re headed for future resentment.

4. They Don’t Avoid Pain

The pursuit of happiness has gotten to be a problem. We are told happiness is something they can work for, achieve, or buy. Pain is nature’s way of inspiring change in our life. Let’s face it—if everything was perfect, would it motivate us to be innovative and survival-driven?

The constant building, conquering, and striving is the product of pain and dissatisfaction. Pain spurs action and mentally strong people understand that pain can show us where and how to take our next step.

TIP: Don’t coddle yourself or your children. Life is difficult. Pain is inevitable. Growth is optional.

5. They Don’t Buy Into Victimhood

It’s become popular these days to be a victim. It’s possible to be offended about anything. We deserve to be outraged and we expect our pathetic little grievances to get attention.

There are legitimate victims out there, but they’re not the anemic gripes that pass themselves off as news these days. Mentally strong people understand infractions happen for many reasons, but to bitch about them to whoever will listen does nothing but take focus away from the real victims.

Rejection is a part of life, so grit-up, and grow up. Feeling offended gives us a sense of self-righteousness and moral superiority.

TIP: Tim Kreider said the following in a New York Times op-ed: “Outrage is like a lot of other things that feel good but over time devour us from the inside out. And it’s even more insidious than most vices because we don’t even consciously acknowledge that it’s a pleasure.”

6. They Don’t Shy Away From Failure

We are programmed at an early age to avoid failure. Both parents and teachers pound into our heads that failing produces losers. Slick ads show us how winners look and live and they reinforce our desire to avoid failure.

Mentally strong people are the ones who continue to improve and innovate their craft. Performance improvement is built around the idea that failure is the best way to move forward. We fail, we evaluate and analyze why we failed, and try another iteration. This is the attitude that helps us weather the “shit storm” when we face a roadblock in business or life.

TIP: You’re only stupid if you don’t stop and learn from each failure. Don’t allow yourself to keep doing the same thing, each time hoping for a different result. You already know that one approach doesn’t work, so be smart and learn the lesson failure teaches you.

7. They Don’t Become Rigid In Their Thinking

When people set out to achieve their dream, they make goals to help them get there. Goals become the focus rather than the dream. That’s fine until they hit a roadblock or obstacle. Then, the goal is the thing to achieve rather than the dream. Our vision, or dream, often takes a back seat because we’ve become so focused on achieving our goals.

Every New Year begins with: what are your goals this year? The real question should be: what goals need to be modified this year to keep you moving toward your dream?

Mentally strong people understand their thinking must remain nimble and flexible. They evaluate the challenges that present themselves and pivot so they can adjust to them.

TIP: Instead of writing a list of goals, revisit your dream or vision. Then write the steps needed to get you there. Those steps are your goals.

© 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.”