Archive for June, 2018

6 Proven Reasons Why Innovative Leaders Are Successful

Monday, June 25th, 2018

I attended a private school until the 8th grade. The only students were my brother and myself because we lived on a remote cattle ranch in Wyoming. The nearest town was 90 minutes, one-way, on a dirt road.

There were no other kids to play with, so I played with trucks and dolls when I was young. As I got older, I spent time with animals. I talked to them and treated them as friends—indeed, the only ones I had!

When we role-play, we imagine ourselves in different situations. One week I would be a veterinarian and patch up all sorts of ills that befall animals on a ranch. Or a John Wayne character who packed a gun and brought justice to the wild west.

I always imagined myself to be someone whom I aspired to become like when I grew up. At that age, my hero was someone very real to me. My imagination gave me permission to walk in the shoes of my hero, if only for a few moments.

Research tells us that children who have a good imagination grow up to be more creative as adults. Imaginative and creative people also tend to be more innovative as well.

Innovation is the secret sauce that can accelerate a company’s profits and growth beyond its competitors. In a recent study, innovation was ranked a long-term challenge for driving business growth. It is a key talent needed at all levels of leadership, starting with the CEO.

Despite its importance, innovation is a difficult quality to cultivate in both leaders and organizations.

As a leader, what if you feel you’re not innovative? You may need to fake it until you make it, but it is possible to create a mindset that will allow you to develop your creativity. Oscar Hammerstein wrote that by whistling a happy tune, “when I fool the people I fear, I fool myself as well.”

Creating an innovative mindset takes work and may require some retraining, but anyone can innovate if they develop these core competencies:

1. Innovative Leaders Surround Themselves With Interesting People

Our environment plays a major part in developing our innovative characteristics. We can’t change the circumstances of our upbringing, but we do have a choice in the kinds of people with whom we associate and surround ourselves.

We tend to take on the same characteristics as the people we spend the most time with, so be picky! It’s fine to spend time with school chums and old acquaintances, but we need to challenge ourselves to develop new friends who will truly nourish our desire to be the person we want to be.

Likewise, spend time with colleagues who possess high levels of innovative traits.

TIP: Create a learning environment or community that generates new knowledge and perspectives. This type of networking will expose you to different perspectives from individuals with diverse backgrounds and experiences.

2. Innovative Leaders Are Curious And Observant

Innovative leaders score high in curiosity. They desire to know more and take the initiative to learn new information. They keep their skills and knowledge current to give them a competitive edge.

Innovative leaders are mentally tough because they believe they will prevail in their circumstances, rather than hope their circumstances will change. If an obstacle pops up, they react with curiosity as they investigate the endless possibilities before them.

Innovative leaders see possibilities everywhere and constantly add new information as they learn more. They are curious about other people and come up with many of their own innovative ideas as they observe others.

TIP: Become an investigator who looks at an obstacle or roadblock from many perspectives. Curiosity and observation are two important traits in innovative people. Look for the possibilties in your situation, not the dead end.

3. Innovative Leaders Stamp Out Self-Limiting Beliefs

We all have self-limiting beliefs about ourselves that often lead to self-fulfilling prophecies about what we can and cannot do in life. Limitations are placed around ourselves when we think we can predict the outcome of a situation. We change our behavior so that the prediction comes true.

If you think you’re going to fail a job interview, that belief may lead to behavior that ensures you do, indeed, fail the job interview.

TIP: The self-fulfilling prophecy can work in the opposite direction as well. Stay positive and rein in self-limiting beliefs that can sabotage your performance.

4. Innovative Leaders Look For Ways To Shake Things Up

The same study cited above also revealed that innovative leaders scored 25% higher than non-innovative counterparts in managing risk.

Risk ignites innovation because it moves us out of our comfort zone. Risk does not partner with complacency because embracing risk is experimenting with the unknown. We try new experiences, take things apart, and test new ideas.

Innovation requires us to make something out of nothing. It requires the grit to keep working at something until you find a solution.

When you shake things up and embrace risk, one of two things will happen: either you will succeed at meeting your goal, or you will succeed in getting an education.

TIP: Seek out new experiences that will stimulate your thinking and avoid the mundane. Habits are the killer of innovation.

5. Innovative Leaders Seize Opportunities

Innovative leaders take risks, and when they do, they seize opportunities. Because they are also careful observers, they change direction when the advantage becomes apparent.

Innovative leaders can anticipate potential obstacles and are not surprised when they pop up. They are prepared for them and are able to pivot and move forward, without losing valuable momentum.

TIP: Rather than accept the learning opportunities when they occur, intentionally broaden activities in strategic areas. Be proactive in moving into those areas where you want to expand.

6. Innovative Leaders Fake It—To A Point

Aristotle once said, “Men acquire a particular quality by constantly acting a certain way.” That is the source of the fake it until you make it mantra.

While you can fake it until you make it when you start out, there is an important caveat: don’t expect it to take you all the way to the top.

Innovation is a mindset. As such, you work to create a mindset that seeks ways to move around obstacles. If you are a talented individual, you can fake your way through the learning process until it becomes a genuine skill you own.

TIP: If you do not have the talent, desire, or confidence to take your career to the next level, no amount of faking it will help. You risk being seen as an imposter.

© 2018 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

6 Easy Steps To Make You More Resilient

Monday, June 18th, 2018

When I joined the FBI, the FBI’s transfer policy stipulated that I could be sent anywhere in the U.S.—the needs of the Bureau would always come before my own. After I told myself that I was resilient and could survive transfer-hell, I learned that every few years the FBI’s transfer policy changed!

My biggest fear was to be transferred to a dead-end outpost in the middle of nowhere. The constant threat of change and upheaval made me doubt whether I was resilient enough to always land on my feet.

Change frightens us because it is a voyage into the unknown. Ironically, since the unknown forces us to adapt to new circumstances, it is also the place where we can develop new talents and strengths. If we are resilient, we can embark on a journey that moves us beyond self-limiting beliefs, boredom, and lack of confidence.

Change is the great dream of every heart because it moves us closer to our full potential. To refuse the challenge that comes with change can be a great act of self-neglect.

If you have mental toughness, you will do anything to break the cycle of behavior that disempowers you. To push beyond your limits takes a resilient mind. It requires you to move into your discomfort zone and cross a threshold that awakens a variety of emotions such as confusion, fear, excitement, sadness—and yes, dreams.

There should always be a healthy tension between the life we have settled for and the potential that still calls us.

Here are 6 easy steps to make you more resilient:

1. Make A Plan

It’s very important that we find ways to feel relaxed with the new direction life is taking us, even if it is unwanted or unexpected. Plans are an easy way to make us feel comfortable and in control.

According to social psychologists, we feel the most comfortable and in control of life when our thoughts and feelings are consistent with our behavior. When we think or feel one way, and then behave in a manner that is inconsistent, it produces cognitive dissonance. This creates the anxiety we experience when we try to justify stressful behavior.

Plans create a roadmap that can help us work through the stress that is produced when we need to be resilient in the face of change. They are a safety net that gives our mind reason to believe that we are in control. Therefore, we’re more comfortable when we need to make a break from the past.

How To Make It Work For You: If you are going to change by moving into your discomfort zone, you need to have a strategy in mind of how you’re going to do it. Keep it simple, and review it often to make sure you’re still on course.

2. Ask Yourself Lots Of Questions

Our brain is uber alert for change of any kind in our environment. When our limbic brain detects an abnormality, our animal instinct takes over. As a result, our first reaction is to fight, flee, or freeze. None of these reactions produce the results you need to be resilient in the face of change.

Instead, rewire your brain. Psychologist Marilee Adams suggests that questions can virtually rewire our emotions, thoughts, and behavior. According to her research, the probing questions that we ask ourselves can open up our mind. We are then receptive to new information and connect it to what we already know. This allows our brain to assimilate new knowledge about our circumstances so we can develop a comfort zone that lessens stress.

How To Make It Work For You: Ask questions that probe the facts surrounding your new situation. Questions are piercing little darts that expose hidden anxiety. Once they elicit an honest answer from us, we are able to name the beast in the room—that is, the fear we are experiencing. It is, however, essential to honestly name what is going on before you can trigger change in emotion, thought, or behavior.

3. Take Small But Steady Steps Forward

When change is foisted upon us, we’re often left with an overwhelming feeling that at the end of the day we can only accept our fate. While that is true to some degree, a resilient mind will find ways to adapt and adjust in a way that will leave it in control.

Small wins are critical because they make the change real. They also create the opportunity to build momentum. Confidence is produced as we move past our self-limiting beliefs and become more resilient.

How To Make It Work For You: The way to adapt to new circumstances is to look for opportunities to improve your situation in small, continuous steps. Continuous improvement is key because it also implies steady movement forward. Small steps allow you to make changes, monitor the results, and then adjust as needed.

4. Get Rid Of Doubters

Whether you chose your new circumstances, or they were foisted upon you, doubters and haters are likely to rear their ugly head. There are people who spew negativity wherever they go, and if you’re smart you’ll turn on your heel and head in the opposite direction.

This is not so easy when the doubters are members of your own family. As they say, “Pick your friends well because you’re stuck with family.” It’s important to realize that most people are negative as a result of their own problems and issues.

Be very intentional about those with whom you share your plans and dreams. Think about how you might connect with people who are wiser and more experienced than yourself. If there are people who will not support you, don’t spend as much time with them, or limit how much you see them.

How To Make It Work For You: Identify two or three (or more) people you admire and respect with whom you can sit down with on a quarterly basis to review your progress. These are the same people you can turn to when times get tough as well.

5. Develop New, Better Habits

New circumstances may require new habits so we can remain diligent and resilient.

Psychologist Wendy Wood suggests that 40% of the time we don’t actually think about what we’re doing. This is because our mind is trained to fall back on habitual behaviors.

Habits are hard to break because they are found in deeper structures of the brain. This leaves much of our working memory available to deal with everyday surprises and situations. Habits don’t need as much of the brain’s energy, so changing them takes a lot of attention.

How To Make It Work For You: A change in your situation is the perfect time to establish new habits because the old ones are more easily disrupted. Immediately replace an old habit with a new one. Stay aware of a change until it becomes a new habit. Don’t push yourself too hard or too fast because this may only cause you to slip up.

6. Grit Up

Wimps are not resilient because they don’t know how to move forward when the going gets tough or uncomfortable. They roll over and play it safe. Grit is your ability to persevere over the long-run and thrive despite all kinds of unplanned events.

As leaders, entrepreneurs and business owners, grit is an essential skill because it is the one thing you will need to succeed. If you give up when the going gets tough, you’re done.

Talent does not trump determination. Nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Grit, persistence, and determination will keep you moving ahead when your circumstances and environment has changed.

How To Make It Work For You: Face your problems head on. It isn’t your problems that define you—it’s how you react and recover from them. Your problems are not going away unless you do something about them. Do not quit when you feel you can no longer deal with a crisis. Have the grit to stay in the game but be flexible with your idea of what is “right” as you approach your new situation.

© 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.”