Archive for April, 2018

4 Science-Based Ways To Develop A Strong Mind

Monday, April 30th, 2018

My grandmother knew how to develop a strong mind with lots of spunk and grit. She was a crack shot with a shotgun. She never allowed me to say “I can’t” when she told me to do my chores. Come summer, she was the kind of person who would rather burn her front yard than mow it.

My grandmother never had more than an 8th grade education, but she knew something that researchers at world-class universities are just now understanding.

And that is, every time we say the words “I can’t” we are creating a feedback loop in our brain that impacts the way we’re going to behave in the future. We’re reminding ourself of our limitations. What we’re really saying, “I don’t have the confidence to do this.”

Have you ever said to yourself:

  • Public speaking is not my thing, so don’t blame me if it goes badly.
  • I don’t like to perform under pressure so don’t blame me if I screw up.
  • This project is too much, so don’t blame me if it’s not a success.

There are many different regions of the brain, and an MRI scan can show what parts of the brain light up when we think. If you make a fist, your hand would represent the cerebral cortex—the thinking part of the brain. This is the part of the brain that finds new ways to think and generate solutions; it is more logical in it’s approach.

But the moment something creates fear or discomfort, we move into another part of the brain. The thumb underneath your fist would represent the limbic system—the reactive or emotional part of the brain.

The limbic system may be small in size, but it’s powerful because it controls our survival instinct. When we’re confronted with an obstacle that threatens us, we move from the cerebral to the reactive limbic system and it creates the “fight” or “flight” reactions that have kept humans alive for centuries. I describe the limbic system as our feeling brain because it’s the home of our small but powerful gut instinct. It helps us deal with emergencies and threats to our life.

The feeling brain is 100% self-protective and it’s not a good place to be when we need to make decisions as we face adversity. We don’t need to flee from every challenge just because it scares us. The feeling brain can’t discern between anxiety about a threat to our safety, and anxiety we experience when we speak in front of a group of people.

All it knows is that if we’re in discomfort and feel anxious. Instinctively, it tells us to flee or withdraw, so we obey and say, “I can’t.” To develop a strong mind, we have to switch gears to consciously move out of the reactive limbic system and into the thinking cerebral brain. When we face adversity and obstacles, it’s vital for the two parts of our brain to work together so the best decisions can be made.

Here are 4 science-based steps to develop a strong mind:

1. Prioritize Information

You create a strong mind when you prioritize information because it forces the brain to interact with information rather than simply react to it. One excellent way to force the limbic system to interact with the cerebral brain is to create visuals with whiteboards and then list your projects. Visuals help the two parts of the brain sort out the day’s activities together. Otherwise, we risk the chance of them fighting against one another for attention and energy.

After you’ve prioritized, you develop a strong mind when you strip away all the fuss and focus only on the most important projects. Bill Gates said something he learned from Buffett was to keep things simple. “His ability to boil things down, to just work on the things that really count, to think through the basics — it’s so amazing that he can do that. It’s a special form of genius.”

Tip: If possible, assign a theme to each day. When you focus on one specific type of work each day of the week, it helps you stay accountable and monitor progress. It also helps you stay focused on work.

2. Use Your Brain To Manage Stress

As an FBI agent, I had to develop a strong mind because I was frequently confronted with stressful situations.

Research has shown that law enforcement personnel develop a strong mind when they learn how to manage their fear and anxiety. It’s not that they don’t feel discomfort; it’s that they have been trained to manage that discomfort so they are hardier and more resilient.

Tip: Here are two ways to manage stress:

Be grateful. Gratitude emanates from the limbic system, and because of this, we can use gratitude to influence other emotions such as anxiety and fear.

Write down what you feel. When we write down, and then think about those emotions, we can boost our ability to counter the negative emotions we experience at the time. If we keep a journal, it moves us from the limbic system into the cerebral. It’s important not only to think about why we are grateful, but also to focus on the feelings attached to our gratitude.

3. Label All Emotions, Not Just the Good Ones

Now that you’ve written down and identified your emotions, the next step to develop a strong mind is to label them. All of them, not just the nice ones. Many people only want to admit emotions that are warm and fuzzy or ones that make them look good. We’ve all had to learn how to turn shit into sugar so be honest with yourself.

When we label our emotions, it does not increase them. In fact, when you label your fear or anxiety, it lessens your discomfort. It’s very important, however, to keep the label to one or two words because if you open up dialogue about it, you will only stir up the limbic system.

Tip: When you reflect on your feelings and label them, you use your thinking part of the brain to control your emotions instead of allowing them to control you. You move out of the fight/flight mode so you can think about the issue at hand.

4. Train Your Brain To Remain Positive

We develop a strong mind when we change our interpretation of a situation. Since we have an innate bias toward negativity, we process bad news faster than good news. This is because our feeling brain is always survival-driven. This also explains why we’re driven to avoid losses far more than we’re driven to pursue gains. Our emotional responses flow from our appraisals of the world.

My grandmother knew that it was not lack of fear that creates a successful response; it’s how we deal with fear and anxiety. For FBI agents, leaders, or grandmothers everywhere, let your discomfort be a reminder that you need to seek out the positive in your situation. Sometimes you need to look really hard, but it’s always there.

Tip: Social psychologist Barbara Frederickson recommends that when you’re under pressure, you can develop a strong mind if you pause and reflect on five things in life that are truly important to you. Pause after each one to ponder them for several seconds. Ground yourself in the simple reality that no amount of hassle or worry can rob us of what matters most.

© 2018 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.”

Why Mental Toughness Gives You A Competitive Advantage

Monday, April 23rd, 2018

The biggest challenge I had in graduating from the FBI Academy was meeting the physical fitness standards. I was a slow runner and found pushups very difficult. I did not have a competitive advantage. As a result, I failed the interim FIT test and was almost washed out of the Academy.

Instructors and coaches at the FBI Academy expressed concern that I was not athletic enough to become an agent. My first response was, “How is running 2 miles in 10 minutes going to help me be a better investigator?”

This was my reasoning was this: Agents don’t use their physical muscles to puzzle their way through the facts of an investigation. Instead, they use their mental skills. Only later was I able to recognize that brawn would not make me a better agent. My athletic training, however, had created a set of mental skills to give me a competitive advantage that I would utilize throughout my 24 year FBI career.

Research and common sense tell us that top athletes have a competitive advantage because of their physical talents and dedication to training. However, they also succeed because of their ability to deal with the psychological pressures of their sport. Mental toughness is extremely important for any athlete aiming to be the best.

The real question of coaching in sports is this: Are you mentally tough enough to compete?

There was a recent study of athletes who successfully completed sport injury rehabilitation. The study determined that the top 3 mental skills reported were Goal Setting, Positive Thinking, and Imagery.

I was not surprised by this list because these mental toughness tools can produce the right attitude to move everyone toward success. The same mindset is needed by leaders, entrepreneurs, and business owners who need to stay ahead of their competition. Here is a closer look at why mental toughness gives you a competitive advantage:

1. Goal Setting

When you set a goal, you identify something you want, and also something you are willing to pursue in order to achieve.

Setting a specific goal makes you more likely to achieve it. This becomes important when you want a competitive advantage so you can take your sport to the next level, make a change in your career, or overcome an obstacle on your journey toward that goal.

TIP #1 SET GOALS FOR THE RIGHT REASON

Stop fantasizing about winning the lottery or making $10 million. Instead, set goals that align themselves to what really matters to your happiness and future well being. This is what will give you the competitive advantage you need in life.

TIP #2 FOCUS ON A DIRECTION

Set your training in a direction so that the pursuit of it will produce the life you want. If the journey is the right one, don’t worry if goals change or evolve with time.

TIP #3 CHANGE THE GOAL IF NEEDED

You will have a competitive advantage when you use mental skills to focus on the right thing—the direction you want your life to move. Don’t make the mistake of getting married to your goal. Often, goals need to change as our circumstances change. Goals are the steps to reach your vision, what really matters to you. 

2. Positive Thinking

There is a big difference between being an optimist and being a positive thinker. Positive thinkers are not necessarily happy or optimistic. Instead, positive thinkers are blunt realists who look misery right in the eye. They confront the most brutal facts of their day without expecting things to change. They adapt to their circumstances without ever losing hope.

Positive thinking is a mental skill that will give you a competitive advantage and help get you through any setback that comes your way.

TIP #1 FIND 5 POSITIVE THOUGHTS

The brain is naturally wired to pay more attention to negative rather than positive information because negative alerts us to emergencies and threats to our life.

When confronted with something that feels overwhelming, you will need to find 5 positive thoughts to counter each one negative thought that comes to mind. Sometimes it’s hard to find something positive in your situation and you have to look really hard.

TIP # 2 REFLECT ON EACH POSITIVE THOUGHT FOR 20 SECONDS

Take the time to really think about each positive thought. Let it soak in, don’t gloss over it. Negative thoughts are like velcro; they stickPositive thoughts are like teflon; they slide away easily.

TIP #3 STOP USING THE WORD “CAN’T”

This is the only 4 letter word I never heard in the FBI. Every time you say “I CAN’T” you create a negative feedback loop in your brain that keeps getting stronger and stronger. Synaptic connections thicken the brain tissues over time, wiring in that negativity. Negative thinking will never give you a competitive advantage.

3) Imagery

The benefits of using imagery and visualization is an incredible tool to develop mental toughness. This mental skill is based on solid science. By visualizing your successful performance repeatedly, your brain stores that information as a success.

TIP #1 VISUALIZE YOUR SUCCESS

When we give our brain a detailed portrait of our end goal, our brain releases dopamine. Dopamine is a powerful mental toughness tool that can give us a competitive advantage. This is the chemical that becomes active when we encounter situations that are linked to rewards from the past.

Dopamine enables us to feel good about our experiences and gives us confidence to move toward those rewards. To boost this brain response:

  • Imagine how events will unfold.
  • See yourself winning or achieving your goal.
  • Hear yourself being positive about the challenge before you.
  • Form a clear mental picture and do it several times a day.
  • Create a positive frame of mind.
  • Find images that represent your goal and post them where you’ll see them regularly.

Visualizing is not fantasy or wishful thinking. Fantasies can actually lessen your chance for success. Your brain can tell the difference, and looks at fantasies as a threat! If people fantasize about their future performance, they are less prepared and more stressed when things don’t workout. 

TIP#2 MOVE AHEAD WITH FEARLESSNESS

Use imagery and visualize how you will succeed in various situations you might encounter in the future. For example,

  • Visualize how you will react and respond when criticized by a competitor.
  • Prepare for the hard questions from your supervisor.
  • Rehearse your response to conversations that might come up.

This is enough to get that important shot of dopamine. It can give you a competitive advantage so you can move beyond your self-limiting beliefs about yourself and current circumstances.

© 2018 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.” 

6 Ways To Get Through Adversity

Monday, April 16th, 2018

Anything worthwhile will require us to learn how to get through adversity. All of us will experience roadblocks in our careers, relationships, finances, and health at some point in our life.

If we want to get through adversity, we need to develop a mindset of mental toughness so we can keep on the move. Successful people understand that mindset beats strategy every time.

I learned at an early age that the way I thought about the problems before me would be way I would overcome them. When my brother and I were kids, Dad pointed out a still used to brew whiskey on our Wyoming ranch. We were on horseback and rode past a few barrel rings and a wall of rocks. Tucked into a steep draw, it was surrounded by aspen trees and a little cow trail that led to the bottom of the canyon near our house.

At that time, my brother and I collected antique glassware as a hobby. We planned to go back to the whiskey still and look around for old bottles at a later time. It should be easy enough to find, we thought. So after school we told our parents we were going out to play and would be back in time for supper. We walked up the canyon, and when we saw a draw that looked familiar, we started up.

Our ranch was located in the scatterings of the Snowy Mountain Range at an altitude of 7,000 feet. Summers are short in that country. The green aspen trees that looked lush and cozy when we rode past them a few months before, were now barren and cold.

Night fell much earlier in the winter months and dusk had begun to set in. We could not find the whiskey still but continued on until we reached the top of the draw. When we saw Laramie Peak in a distance, we knew we had climbed over 2,000 feet out of the canyon bottom.

We had climbed up the wrong draw, night was coming, and we had no flashlights. The rattlesnakes had hibernated for the winter, but conditions were still adverse. It was dark, the terrain was steep and rocky. The temperature had begun to drop at an alarming rate.

At the ages of ten and eleven, my younger brother and I learned young to how to get through adversity.

Here are 6 ways that will help you get through adversity as well:

1. Keep Your Eye On The Target

This was not the first time my brother and I had to embrace the suck. Winters are harsh on a Wyoming cattle ranch. We leaned into misery and pushed through our discomfort zones on a daily basis. Water in the cattle tanks froze over and we swung axes to break through three-inches of ice. Bales of hay needed to be loaded onto trucks and fed to cattle. The worse the weather, the more our livestock depended upon us for food and water.

Summers were even worse because we fixed fences, greased bailers, trailed cattle, and put up hay instead of playing with the neighborhood kids. Ooops, did I mention there were no neighborhood kids because our ranch was so isolated?

The lessons I learned to get down the mountain stayed with me the rest of my life. I spent four months at the FBI Academy in new agent’s training. We trained hard, day in and day out, no matter the weather conditions—in snow, wind, rain, or heat. Whenever I thought I couldn’t push myself any further, I remembered that cold night climbing back down a mountain when I was eleven years old. I knew I had what it took to get through adversity because I’d done it before.

How To Make It Work For You:  As entrepreneurs and business leaders, you also need ways to keep your team focused and fired up. High-performance companies provide a vision for a brighter future. This vision keeps employees focused and excited about the future. It prepares them to get through adversity because they can see beyond the current roadblock.

2. Grit Up

My brother and I were not sure how to get back home before we found ourselves in complete darkness and freezing temperatures. We decided that if we stayed with the cow trail it would ultimately lead us to our destination. But we’d lost the trail! We hopped over rocks and fallen trees in an attempt to find it.

We developed a strategy: as long we were headed downhill, we were headed in the right direction. The draw had many smaller ones that meandered over the sides of the canyon and we were tempted at times, but time was important and we knew the quickest way down was the way we came up. We persisted and found the cow path again.

As an FBI agent, there were many times when I needed to grit up and remain persistent if I hoped to solve a case. FBI investigations do not come with a set of instructions on how to solve them. It can take many attempts, many failures, many iterations, before the answer is found.

How To Make It Work For You: To get through adversity, attack the problem from a different angle if your first, or tenth, approach doesn’t work. Learn to pivot when needed. Where there is a will, there is a way.

3. Keep A Lid On Emotions

While neither my brother or I panicked, we were scared—but we never let negativity set in. We acknowledged our fears but remained confident in our ability to get home safely.

I have drawn my weapon while making an arrest. I was scared and afraid of what I would need to do if the person resisted.

It’s always important to acknowledge emotions, but to get through adversity you need to remind yourself that you have the mental toughness to manage the negative ones. You may not be able to change the conditions but you can change the way you deal with them. It’s possible to have self-control in an out-of-control environment.

How To Make It Work For You: You can control your team’s emotions when you get their buy-in. As a leader, help everyone connect with the vision you have. This becomes even more important when things look tough.

4. Accept Responsibility

My brother and I had no one to blame but ourselves. This was no game we were playing and we had to have the strength to look at our adversity realistically and take responsibility for getting ourselves back home. Our parents had no idea we had headed out to find the whiskey still because we hadn’t told them.

As an FBI agent, I found that self-examination would be one of the most important ways I could become a more effective leader and achieve my goals. When I confronted obstacles and adversity, I was not afraid to question my thinking. Often, this self-examination uncovered biases or assumptions I had made that either contributed to the obstacle or stood in my way of overcoming it.

How To Make It Work For You: Self-awareness leads to emotional intelligence—a better understanding of yourself and how you interact with others. A self-examination includes a regular review of values, desires, and fears. This honest assessment can lead to a reinvention of goals and beliefs.

5. Pace Yourself

My brother and I both knew that if we stopped, we’d freeze to death before morning. On the other hand, if we depleted our resources, we’d be unable to continue.

I learned it was important to pace myself while running obstacle courses at the FBI Academy. I was not a strong runner, and while I enthusiastically charged out the gate, I knew I’d need to pace myself to last the entire obstacle course.

The same logic applied to my investigations: if I depleted my resources, ran myself to exhaustion, and then needed to respond to a fast-moving break in the case, I was in serious trouble. This can happen in any area of our life; we move so fast that we fail to recognize what goes on around us. Whether we call it alertness or paranoia, it’s always prudent to look to the horizon for both threats and opportunities.

How To Make It Work For You: We can work hard, but we don’t always work smart. To be high-performers, we need to pace ourselves because it allows us the time to prioritize our values and what is important to us. To learn more, read the chapter called The 20 mile March in “Great by Choice” by Jim Collins.

6. Create Community

My brother and I were a team and we worked together to get back down the hill. We provided moral support for one another. We jumped across waterfalls and mucked through inches of mud to follow the meandering cow path.

The personal leadership skill of camaraderie is one of the first lessons taught at the FBI Academy. For the first three weeks, new agents are not allowed to leave the Marine Corp base. Instead, we were expected to develop a supportive community that would be needed during our four months of training.

The concept of total team accountability as part of the culture is a core tenant of SEAL training and life in the “Teams.” From week one they are taught to hold themselves and their classmates to the highest standard. Peer reviews play a pivotal role in a student’s success. And they carry that concept over into the Teams as part of their peer-to-peer learning culture. Failure to execute is not an option.

The ability to relate to others was one of the most effective skills I developed in my career as a counterintelligence agent. Everyone has the need to be heard, and the need for information that can be put into action. The listener is a essential role because even very successful leaders need people who are allied to their cause.

My brother and I made is safely home that night to parents who were very worried.

How To Make It Work For You: If you learn how to get through adversity, it will help you turn underachievement into superior achievement. As long as you can stay alive, you are still in the game.

© 2018 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

Getty Images

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 FBI Traits That Will Make You A Better Leader

Monday, April 9th, 2018

I loved being an FBI agent because there was a sense of meaning and purpose every time I walked into the office. The FBI’s mission is to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution of the United States.

I worked hard to solve complex problems. You might be imagining movies, gun battles, and running down bad guys. In truth, a lot of what I did as an agent wasn’t all that different from many of the challenges you face as entrepreneurs, leaders, and business owners.

I was good with a gun, I admit, but most of my time was spent working with people who had different opinions and a conflict of interest. This created problems I couldn’t just shoot. Instead, they required people skills; I suspect many of you can relate.

Today’s business world is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. If you want to move your career or company forward, you have to learn how to be a better leader:

The FBI does not hire new agents based on their skills. Instead, they hire by the traits and values exhibited by applicants and then train new agents with the skill sets they will need. If an agent has the right values, traits, and abilities, they can learn anything.

This is where most businesses have it backward. Instead of hiring people because of their traits and values, they hire skill sets and then try to backload the company’s culture and values.

If the goal of leadership is to empower people to make their own decisions, then here are 7 FBI traits that will make you a better leader:

1. Confidence

Boosting confidence is the primary goal of the FBI Academy—before they send agents out with a gun and badge.

As a new agent, there were days when my heart raced and my palms sweat just thinking about the new challenges that faced me. But I learned that success would not make me confident—rather, confidence in myself and my abilities would make me successful.

If you don’t believe in yourself, how can others believe in you? It took a bit of acting on my part in the beginning, but the more I acted confident, the more confident I became. Feedback from others was positive, which in turn, gave me more confidence!

TIP: You become a better leader when you cultivate ways to signal your confidence to others, especially using body language.

When our brain receives a clear image of confidence and competence, it takes that good impression and makes a snap judgment. This allows the brain to move on to other issues.

2. Humility

A few years back my squad was set to arrest a fugitive known to be armed and dangerous. Since I was the case agent, everyone assumed I would be the one to make the arrest. The fugitive was a big guy with broad shoulders and sure to resist arrest, and defensive tactics had never been my strong point.

It is humbling to admit to yourself, or others, that you are not the best person for the job. It’s OK to admit it and turn to another person more experienced or better prepared, and ask for their help.

You may not need help in arresting a fugitive, but you may need to surround yourself with people who are more experienced or better prepared, and ask for their help. The best leaders are confident enough to surround themselves with people who are smarter and more talented.

They are also humble enough to learn from these people because they understand they will get a better outcome as a result of their involvement. 

TIP: You become a better leader when you are willing to listen to, but not be dominated by, the talent around you. If you are the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.

3. Good Values

For insiders, FBI stands for Fidelity, Bravery, and Integrity. These are the values that drive the organization.

Leadership is not a skill set; it is rooted in who we are and what matters to us. Our values are defined by what we are willing to struggle for when the chips are down. It’s doing the right thing and doing the best we can because that is who we are.

Ultimately, our values define our struggles. When we choose better values, we get better problems to solve. We need to be motivated by something more important and greater than our own happiness. If we are not driven to take our life to the next level by something more than our own selfish desires, we are the definition of a narcissist.

TIP: When you prioritize good values, you become a better leader because they produces true confidence and genuine humility. Decisions are easier because the answer is always “do the right thing.”

4. Kindness

Not all FBI negotiations involve the barrel of a gun. The most successful agents find ways to get along with people, pure and simple.

It is rare that an agent can dictate how a relationship is going to unfold. In the movies we hear lines like, “OK, this is what you’re going to do for me.” In reality, we need to look for what’s mutually beneficial if we’re looking to cut a deal or negotiate.

The best way to accomplish this is to find common ground, and this is accomplished by being sensitive to the needs of the other person. Exhibiting kindness helps us become a better leader because bullying, extortion, or browbeating rarely gets constructive results.

TIP: Mentally tough leaders who are kind know how to inspire their people in a way that, in turn, creates a commitment for their mission.

5. Tough

It may seem that kindness and toughness are contradictions, but they are actually very compatible. There are times when a leader needs to hold people accountable and draw a clear line that differentiates between acceptable and unacceptable behavior.

Great leaders don’t worry about being unpopular or making everyone happy. They’re always reminding themselves that their job is to improve the organization.

While rules and standards provide structure for people, tough leaders are not afraid to buck the system to get what they want. They know how to interpret the cultural norms of the office or company and are respectful, yet persistent, in presenting new ideas for projects.

It is the mixture of toughness and kindness that opens doors without alienating the standard bearers that have calcified in their corner office desk chair.

TIP: You become a better leader when you stumble and make mistakes but are tough enough to take control of your reputation and manage the way you are perceived.

6. Listening Skills

I didn’t know what to expect when the FBI sent me to a training course on hostage negotiation.  As an unassuming man stood in front of the class and welcomed everyone in dulcet tones, I was looking around for the hard ass who had talked down a terrorist in New York the week before. The man spoke politely but I didn’t listen because I wanted to hear from the hostage negotiator!

Guess what? He was the hard ass hostage negotiator. That week I learned the key to agreements, whether you are negotiating with a kidnapper or a client, is that they happen only when both sides are willing to listen.

This is a skill that will help us become a better leader because when we listen, we get insight into how other people think, feel, and behave. It is counterproductive to be aggressive, pushy, and demanding. Instead, good listeners are likable and create an environment that feels both safe and comfortable. They are secure enough that they are not threatened by listening to someone who may have more talent or experience.

TIP: It’s a good idea to repeat what you think you heard the other person say. It lets them know you really are listening, and gives you an opportunity to let their words soak in.

7. Emotional Intelligence

The FBI is not a touchy-feely organization; agents prefer terms like competence and persistence to explain their success. The words emotional intelligence rarely escape their lips. Yet face-to-face interviews remain the FBI’s top investigative technique.

Emotional intelligence is an ability to walk into a room and understand what others might be feeling, and through that insight, communicate to them in effective ways. Awareness and curiosity about their own emotions, as well as those of others, place leaders in a stronger position to not only recognize the negative ones but to anticipate how they could spin out of control.

TIP: Emotional intelligence helps you become a better leader because it enables you to build on relationships with others and then use those relationships to accomplish your goals.

I actually have come to learn that the way to evaluate leaders is not from skills through abilities to values but to actually start the other way. If a leader has the right values and the right abilities, they can learn anything. If you hire and promote backwards and start with, ‘so what are their skills? What jobs have they had?’—you may miss the fact that they don’t have the abilities you need and the values you need”—James Comey, Former FBI Director

© 2018 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.”

 

6 Ways To Become A Charismatic Leader

Monday, April 2nd, 2018

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.

We can learn effective leadership skills. In the same way, 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 someone who advances the interests of the group they represent.

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 someone who advances 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 how he overcame adversity while JFK reminded people 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.

How To Make It Work For You: Use stories and anecdotes when you speak to others. They help people feel engaged, and as a result, they will feel connected with you.  When you show your team how you’ve worked together with others in the past, it assures them that you’ll do it again. Stories and anecdotes also provide a way for others to visualize how they could have been a valuable team member if they had been there.

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 as you follow their conversation. 

A study conducted by Harvard professor Daniel Gilbert estimated that 46.9% of the time our mind “wanders.” To make a person feel special, focus on what they say and reflect back on what you heard. We are active listeners when we have a moment-to-moment awareness of what’s happening. In the middle of a conversation, if your mind is somewhere else, your eyes will glaze over and your companions will notice. Make an effort to be in the moment.

Most of us wait for someone to finish speaking before we offer our response. Instead, ask them questions. It’s another way to let others know that they are special and you are truly interested in what they have to say.

How To Make It Work For You: 1) Nod occasionally, not frequently; 2) Ask questions, even if it means interrupting them because it shows that you are genuinely interested; 3) Don’t let your eyes wander— stay fixed on their face; and 4) Pause for a couple of seconds before responding. This lets others know that your response will be thoughtful.

3. Use The Right Words

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.

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

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. 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.

How To Make It Work For You: Use words that people can relate to. Charismatic leaders use words that are concrete rather than abstract. “I feel your pain” creates an emotional tie whereas a phrase like “I understand” does not. The most charismatic leader is the one talks to people’s gut rather than their brain.

4. Be Sincere

A charismatic leader watches their body language because they know it’s vital that they give the impression they are open and sincere to the people they meet. Paul Ekman’s research tells us that it takes as little as 17 milliseconds for people to read another person’s face. We may present a primary expression to others when we meet them, but if the micro-expression that we leak is incongruent with the primary expression, people will know in their gut that you’re not sincere.

Studies have shown that our brains do not know the difference between imagination and reality. Visualization is another important mental toughness tool because we can trick our mind into believing we will succeed at a task.

How To Make It Work For You: Think of something pleasant when meeting others. It will show in your face. When you smile, make it sincere. That means your cheeks must push up and create wrinkles around your eyes. Yes, wrinkles can be a good thing.

5. Learn How To Read Body Language

The brain controls all behaviors, both conscious and subconscious. This premise is the cornerstone if you want to understand verbal and non-verbal communication.

The limbic system is that part of the brain that reacts to events around us—in real time and without thought.

These reactions are genuine and are considered to be the “honest” part of our brain. The limbic brain enlists the body to send messages about what it is really feeling. The body will signal stress and discomfort in a variety of ways, and we interpret these behaviors as body language.

How To Make It Work For You: Turn off the volume of your favorite television show and watch without any sound. Figure out what is going on in the scenes. Then watch the scene again, only this time with the volume turned on. This practice will help you become more attuned to verbal and non-verbal cues.

6. Create A Strong Persona

Charismatic leaders communicate with confidence and clarity. People sit up and pay attention. They are clear and articulate with their words and ensure that each statement has a purpose.No matter what the situation, they articulate their goals and vision.

Warren Bennis wrote, “Good leaders make people feel that they’re at the very heart of things, not at the periphery. Everyone feels that he or she makes a difference to the success of the organization. When that happens, people feel centered, and that gives their work meaning.”

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.

How To Make It Work For YouA strong persona does not require great physical strength or ego; however, it does require two things: 1) full display of your core competencies (intelligence, kindness, empathy, etc) mixed with 2) warmth of personality.

© 2018 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.”