Posts Tagged ‘communication’

The Complete Beginner’s Guide To Mental Toughness

Monday, December 19th, 2016

In the 1930’s FBI agents needed mental toughness to hunt bank robbers like John Dillinger and mobsters like Al Capone.

As the world became more complex, FBI agents started working complex and sophisticated cases like terrorism, organized crime, cyber, and counterintelligence to better address the threats to American lives and interests.

It’s no secret that business and life are not as simple as they were, either—even a few years ago. It is no longer just a matter of knowledge, ability, and skill to succeed.

As entrepreneurs and business owners you need to be psychologically prepared to deal with strong competition, recover from mistakes and failure quickly, tackle tough situations, devise strategies, and collaborate with others.

In other words, you need mental toughness to manage the emotions, thoughts, and behavior that will set you up for success in business and life.

People define mental toughness in different ways. Often, they think it is plowing through obstacles and roadblocks. While that mindset might work in football, it is not an effective way to succeed in business and life.

Here is a complete beginner’s guide to mental toughness:

SKILL #1: MENTAL TOUGHNESS REQUIRES EMOTIONAL COMPETENCY

Most of the FBI agents I worked alongside would never sputter the phrase emotional intelligence—much less attribute their success to it. While they considered themselves mentally tough, they preferred words like competence and alertness to describe the skills they carefully honed over the years.

I prefer the term emotional competency rather than emotional intelligence. I know of lots of people who are intelligent but not necessarily competent. Competency requires more than just information; it requires the practical wisdom to put that knowledge to work in real life situations.

Let’s break emotional competency down:

1. Self-Awareness—know what fuels you. I am not talking about fluffy ideals or stuff that gives you the warm fuzzies. Training at the FBI Academy at Quantico is constructed to filter out those who do not feel deeply attached to upholding our federal judicial system.

To be mentally tough, you must know what you feel down deep in your bones. If you are not pursuing something that really holds value and meaning for you, you will not have what it takes to keep going when the going gets tough.

If you are self-aware, you have clarity about your values, operate from a place of authenticity, and go after the things in life that are hard-wired to give you a purpose.

2. Communication—you know how to interpret the words and body language of others. This means you are a good listener and know how to build genuine trust with others. An essential element of mental toughness is the ability to accurately read the emotions of others and then adapt your behavior accordingly.

To be successful, match your personality to your boss, employee, or client. Assess whether they are introverts or extraverts, analytical or a visionary, purpose-driven or security-driven, goal-oriented or people-oriented. If you’ve been a good listener, you will be able to make these distinctions.

3. Empathy—it’s not feeling sorry for the other person; it is feeling their sorrow. If you can understand the emotions of others, it is easier to create empathy.

Sometimes we don’t really want to hear what other people have to say! We love our own opinions and thoughts and would prefer to shut out those of others.

Once we close down, however, we risk becoming judgmental and opinionated. More importantly, we miss out on what others have to share with us.

SKILL #2: RESILIENCE — MENTAL TOUGHNESS MEANS WE ADAPT TO OVERCOME

The ability to pick ourselves up when life knocks us down is called resilience. In today’s competitive culture, resilience has become a critical skill because it takes more than talent to succeed.

Resilient people do not blame others, whine, or complain about how unfair life is. Yes, life can be unfair but that is no excuse to give up.

As a new FBI agent, I learned to be bold, take risks, move into my discomfort zone, and put myself out there, even when scared to death of what I might face. The way in which we adapt to overcome our adversity determines how we will achieve success.

More than talent, more than education, more than experience, the ability to bounce back from setbacks determines who will succeed and who will fail. That is true in the classroom, in sports, and in the boardroom.

Here’s a breakdown of resilience:

1. Confidence—if you don’t believe in yourself, how can others believe in you? When you’re knocked down in life, you must have enough confidence in yourself to get back up, find a way to move forward, and adapt to overcome.

Lack of confidence can rear its ugly head at any time. No one is immune because we are most vulnerable any time we’re out of our comfort zone or experience change in our life. We must face our fears. If we have confidence in ourselves we are not afraid of how others perceive us, afraid of commitment, or afraid of failure.

Confidence is a critical building block for a successful career because it is the one mindset that will take you where you want to go.

2. Take Risksmost of us don’t know what we’re capable of until we’re truly challenged. And most of do not want to be truly challenged because we don’t want to fail.

But failure can be very beneficial for building confidence because it allows you a perfect opportunity to 1) learn why things went wrong, and 2) see how you can make adjustments next time.

When learning how to make an arrest or interview a terrorist I needed to take risks, fail, and learn from my mistakes as much as possible before I found myself in the actual situation.

If you think you never make mistakes, you are a narcissist—either that or stupid. But if you are humble and self-aware, you recognize that taking risks, making mistakes, and failing will help you understand that there is always something you can do to be better.

3. Self-Limiting Beliefs as children we think we can conquer the world, but somewhere between childhood and adulthood, our enthusiasm and natural inclinations to dream big are squashed. Parents and teachers start imposing their own beliefs—about what we can and can’t do in life—upon us.

It’s tempting to give up and not try for anything beyond the predictions and admonitions of others. While many of these people are well-intentioned, they feed negative, limiting, and inaccurate narratives about what it possible once you put your mind to it.

If the instructors at the FBI Academy were not pushing us past our self-limiting beliefs, they weren’t doing their job.

SKILL #3: WILLPOWER — MENTAL TOUGHNESS ENABLES PERSONAL MASTERY

The capacity to say “no” to the call of temptation and desire to quit is called willpower. It is the ability to find the energy, motivation, and enthusiasm to keep going even when you’re tired, anxious, and looking for a way out.

Many people could improve their lives if only they had more of that mysterious thing called willpower, but most of us do not believe we have enough of it. In the American Psychological Association’s annual survey on stress, people cited lack of willpower as the No. 1 barrier to following through with changes that would improve their lives.

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

Here’s a breakdown of willpower:

1. Grit—it keeps FBI agents on a case when there is no easy answer in sight. Sometimes, in order to find a kidnapping victim or arrest a terrorist, agents need to rely not only on their skills and training, but also on their sheer will and determination to cross the finish line.

Jack Dempsey once said, “A champion is someone who gets up when he can’t.” He was talking about perseverance, persistence, and determination—grit.

Researcher Angela Duckworth has found that grit is more predictive of success than IQ in military academies like West Point. In fact, grit is unrelated, or even negatively correlated, with talent. When working with West Point cadets, she found that those who scored higher in grit had the mental toughness to keep going when times got tough.

The high score on grit surpassed other tests such as SAT scores, IQ, class rank, leadership, and physical aptitude when it came to predicting retention rates.

2. Performance Focus—unless you know your limits, you will not be able to prepare either your mind or your body to move past them. To move toward peak performance, you need to stretch your current skill level—but not so hard that you want to give up.

Experts agree that this magic stretch is 4% greater than our skill. For most of us, that’s not much at all. However, it’s important to keep that continual tension between stretch and skill if we want to move toward our peak performance.

Managing time wisely and developing good habits are essential if we want to push our limits and reach peak performance.

Never be content with mediocrity.

3. Mastery—research on elite athletes has found no correlation between innate talent and trainability. Mental traits were just as important as fitness level in differentiating top athletes from amateurs.

Successful people spend their time thinking about what they want to do and how to make it happen. And it doesn’t always take talent; it needs flow to make it happen. Flow is described as a state of deep absorption in the activity during which performance seems to happen effortlessly and automatically.

According to psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, flow happens when a person’s skills are fully involved in overcoming a challenge so it acts as a catalyst for learning new skills and increasing challenges.

SKILL #4: ATTITUDE — CHAMPION MINDSETS ARE THE PRODUCT OF MENTAL TOUGHNESS

There’s a long-standing belief that happiness makes people achieve more. However, a study by sports psychologist Tim Woodman shows that happiness is not the key to success. In fact, it didn’t factor anywhere in the results.

Instead, those who were most successful had experienced a negative, critical event in their life—such as death, the divorce of parents, disease, or some other perceived loss—all fairly early in life.

This is when they kicked into high gear and began to develop their talents and skills, and in the process, changed their life course almost immediately. As a result, they felt valued, important, and inspired—perhaps for the first time.

What stands out in Woodman’s study is that these same individuals also experienced another critical turning point in mid-life. It could have been positive, like finding the right marriage partner, or negative, like the death of a loved one; but it caused these successful people to redouble their efforts.

The study also implies that those who do not experience trauma or tough times earlier in life are less likely to have the drive necessary to achieve peak performance. The mid-life event reminded them of the original loss and motivated them at a deep-seated level.

This is a common finding among successful people; they have a deeper motivation that pushes them toward fame, happiness, or money.

Here’s a breakdown of attitude:

1. Positive Thinking—positive thinkers are not optimists. Positive thinkers believe they will prevail in their circumstances rather than believing their circumstances will change; optimists believe their circumstances will eventually change for the better.

FBI Agents are not optimists who hope or expect an arrest to go without a hitch—instead, they prepare for the worst and practice ahead of time.

When they do come across adversity, they don’t wait and hope things will change for the better. They adapt quickly to the new situation and remain flexible by choosing to remain positive so that they will find a solution.

Visualizing your successful performance is based on solid science. By visualizing your performance repeatedly, your brain stores that information as a success.

The way in which we look at ourselves, and our circumstances, dictates our attitude when faced with adversity. To jettison those negative thoughts, you may find it necessary to express your situation differently. When you rethink, or reframe, your adversity, it helps to move it into a context that is more favorable.

This is not to make light of tragedy. It’s perfectly normal to be sad when we are immersed in a negative situation. That said, we do not need to let the crap moments produced by adversity sabotage our efforts to keep moving toward success.

2. Growth Mindset—mentally strong leaders have a growth mindset that looks at success as hard work, learning, training, and having the grit to keep moving ahead even when faced with obstacles and roadblocks.

When facing uncertainty, you have two choices: You can dread it because you are afraid of failing—you believe that failure sends a negative message about your abilities, or…

You can anticipate it because you interpret failure as an opportunity for learning and improvement.

The first choice describes a fixed mindset that does best when there is a heavy hand running the show. That way of leading may have been efficient years ago, but today’s leaders are learning that the brain power of their workforce is a terrible thing to waste.

The second choice describes a growth mindset that looks at success as hard work, learning, training, and having the grit to keep moving ahead even when faced with obstacles and roadblocks.

3. Gratitude— is a positive emotion that encourages reciprocal altruism, well-being, and appreciation. The strong and unequivocal support of others produces gratitude, and it is powerful because gratitude increases an individual’s self-confidence, provides a safety net for those times when they fall, and enhances their belief that they can overcome obstacles.

As Sebastian Junger wrote in his book, “Tribe”—“We have a strong instinct to belong to small groups defined by clear purpose and understanding–tribes. This tribal connection has been largely lost in modern society, but regaining it may be the key to our psychological survival.”

Bonding strongly with others in a tribe provides greater security than if we strike out on our own.

Emotional competency, resilience, willpower, and attitude are the four essential components of mental toughness. Building mental toughness is a life long task, but here is the good news: Mental toughness is not something we were born with—it is something we can learn.

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

Are You Mentally Tough Enough to Be An Entrepreneur?

Monday, August 15th, 2016

The FBI Academy engages their new agents by teaching them psychological readiness. At the root of all the mental training was the answer to this question: are you mentally tough enough to beat the opponent?

Complexity and turbulence in the business creates opponents and tough competition. Not only do entrepreneurs need to be psychologically prepared to do battle with their competitors, they need to deal with stress, recover from mistakes quickly, adjust strategies with each new innovation, and stay positive about their chances of success.

Yes, you do need to compete if you want to run a successful business; you also need to be mentally tough enough to make it happen.

Here’s how:

1. CREATE THE RIGHT ATTITUDE

Mentally tough entrepreneurs do not rely on knowledge, skills, ability or past success to break through roadblocks. Instead, they draw on an attitude of toughness that allows them to push through hard situations and face adversity with confidence.

FBI agents are trained how to conduct complex and sophisticated investigations, but they are also trained in mental toughness. This does not mean they bulldoze their way through people or problems; instead, they are trained to be aware of their own emotions and reactions when they are being pushed into their discomfort zones.

You can only be game-ready when you can predict your response when confronted with the unknown.

TIP:

  • Be curious about the things you do not know.
  • Let your grasp exceed your reach.
  • Place yourself in situations where you are a beginner

2. STRETCH TO BE MORE FLEXIBLE

Struggles - tiger in water

When mentally tough entrepreneurs move past their comfort zone, they learn how to absorb the unexpected. This makes them more self aware and in the process they become mentally stronger, because they learn how to anticipate their responses and correct them if needed.

Stretching past our comfort zone helps us learn how to be flexible in our approach when something doesn’t turn out as expected. We can quickly decide to change course or look for new ways to solve the problem.

FBI arrests rarely go according to plan so agents are required to be flexible, even in very tense and dangerous situations. Constant training helps them uncover their go-to reflexes and evaluate whether they are helpful or harmful, before actually finding themselves in an unexpected situation.

TIP:

  • Constantly re-educate yourself, even in the basics
  • Resist falling back on ideas simply because they are comfortable
  • Always look for new ways to do business

3. MANAGE RELATIONSHIPS

Successful financial plans

Mentally tough entrepreneurs are emotionally competent enough to manage the relationships that affect them and their ability to be effective.

If they experience a setback, they know how to keep their emotions in check so they can set the tone for the rest of the organization. Mentally tough leaders do the right thing for the organization and suppress the temptation to cut corners. They know how to make the right decisions for their team.

Teamwork is essential for all law enforcement, and communication must be clear and concise. In addition, FBI agents use interviews more than any other investigative tool in their arsenal which requires them to respond appropriately and effectively to the emotional reactions of their audience.

TIP:

  • Work on communicating in ways that cultivate healthy, enduring, and valuable relationships
  • Cut loose relationships that weigh you down or are negative
  • Recognize that collaboration is actually a back-and-forth flow of ideas, words, and actions

4. DEVELOP A CHAMPION MINDSET

Success - biker

Mentally tough entrepreneurs have a champion mindset that remains engaged when they are under pressure. They are constantly identifying the opportunities, challenges, and threats to their environment.

A champion mindset looks for new ways to think about adversity, and most importantly, looks for fresh ways to look at problems and roadblocks. Champions look at life with a sense of urgency and respond to the challenges of the changing face of business with innovation and curiosity.

FBI Cases are not given to agents with directions on how to solve them. Each one is a mystery to be explored, which means setbacks and false assumptions are encountered along the way. The champion mindset continues to chip away at a mystery, or problem, until a solution can be found.

TIP:

  • Pay attention to what is going on in the world around you
  • Jettison old assumptions about how business operates
  • Assume holding onto yesterday’s trend, or solution,  is dangerous

In what other ways do entrepreneurs need to be mentally tough?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

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6 Reasons People Don’t Listen To You

Sunday, September 20th, 2015

Recently, I was talking to an individual whom I truly like, but we were in a crowded room filled with lots of people I knew. I wanted to listen to her but my eye wandered over her shoulder as I mentally prioritized those I needed to contact as soon as our conversation ended.

6 Reasons People Don't Listen To You

My friend tried to catch my eye and drag me back into our conversation. I nodded mechanically while my eye kept sneaking over her shoulder to take in the social patterns developing in the room.

Eventually, she said, “I’ve lost you. Let’s talk later.”

I felt terrible, but I knew she was right. I was pretending to listen as I recited a mental tally of whom I needed to talk to before the evening ended.

Situations like this can range from annoying to destructive. According to Pamela CooperVice President of the International Listening Association, “It takes hard work to really listen and it takes a great deal of concentration.”

If you want people to listen to you, you must have the mental toughness to be brutally honest with yourself.

Think about the way you listen to others,  or better yet, thicken your skin and ask a good friend or your spouse for their honest evaluation. To listen well, and be a good listener, it takes more than just hearing what the person is saying—it requires a conscious desire, conscientiousness, and practice.

People don’t listen to you because you don’t:

1. Stay Engaged

To be a good listener, you have to be present—which means not being preoccupied either physically or mentally. Dump the clutter from your mind and pay attention to what is being communicated to you now.

When you are distracted by other people or technology, it makes the other person feel unimportant.

TIPS:

  • If you’re in a busy room, focus on the person with whom you are talking rather than what is going on around you
  • If you’re talking on the phone, turn your back on the computer and give the person your full attention
  • Stop thinking about arguments, reports to be finished, or where you are going to dinner

2. Open Up Your Body Language

Body language communicates what you are thinking and feeling more accurately than the words you use.

No matter how interested you appear to be, if your feet are turned toward the nearest exit you are signaling that you are anxious to make an escape. Crossing arms or hands in pockets also exhibits nervous behavior. These small physical gestures can discourage others from approaching you.

TIPS:

  • Lean forward and nod occasionally
  • Face the person who is speaking
  • Open up your posture by uncrossing the arms
  • Make eye contact

3. Leave Your Assumptions Behind

If your brain thinks that it knows the answer, it will only accept information that confirms your beliefs.

Making assumptions and generalizations are hard-wired into our thinking. But, if you can generate genuine interest in the topic, or person, you can over-ride this tendency and create an open mind.

When listening to another person, it may help to assume you know nothing about what they are telling you.

TIPS:

  • Check your assumption out loud with the person with whom you are talking
  • Ask a question such as, “So you mean…” and let the person confirm or correct

4. Ask Questions

The two most powerful words in a conversation are: “Tell me.”

Questions are incredibly important in any conversation. People like to be heard, and when you ask a question, it signals that you are not only listening to them but that you are also hearing what they have to say.

If you take an genuine interest in the activities of others, they will return the favor.

Questions allow you to dig deeper and discover more about specific areas on which you are unclear so you can gain a better understanding of a person’s priorities, values, and interests. Because of this, it is easier to connect with others and develop meaningful relationships.

TIPS:

  • Open-ended questions provide great opportunities for people to elaborate on specific topics
  • Questions keep conversations flowing
  • Asking for clarification helps you understand someone’s point of view
  • Asking questions of yourself will keep you from becoming defensive

5. Create Empathy

Sometimes we don’t really want to hear what other people have to say! We love our own opinions and thoughts and would prefer to shut out those of others.

Once we close down, however, we risk becoming judgmental and opinionated. More importantly, we miss out on what others have to share with us.

If you can develop the ability to hunt out shared experiences, it is easier to take in the big picture and create empathy.

TIPS:

  • Suspend judgment—even if you have firm beliefs on the subject
  • Take in the entire message with no interruptions
  • Seek out bits of information with which you agree so you can find some shared ground
  • Place yourself in the other person’s shoes

6. Shut Up And Listen

There is a time to speak and a time to shut up and listen. Effective communication requires reciprocity. If you aren’t a good listener, do not be surprised when others don’t make listening to you a top priority.

TIPS:

  • Shut up if you don’t have something significant to contribute to the conversation
  • Shut up if you can’t find something positive to say
  • Shut up if you don’t intend to hold your part of the bargain
  • Shut up if your only contribution is to whine and complain

How have you become a more effective listener?

© 2015 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

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How To Get Your Voice Heard When Leadership Doesn’t Listen

Sunday, July 20th, 2014

Dean had a tendency to dominate every meeting or briefing he attended. As a supervisor, he surrounded himself with other like-minded male FBI agents who frequently ignored, dismissed, or interrupted others whose opinion they did not respect.

Woman with bullhorn

As a woman I was tired of not getting my voice heard in meetings where louder voices drowned out what I had to say. How could I change the behavior of leadership?

When I looked around the room, I saw that Dean and others of his ilk were also ignoring some of the other male agents who did not stand out as exceptional performers or leaders. While being a female agent may have had some impact on their behavior toward me, it clearly was also a matter of who was perceived to have anything important to say.  Here is how I used mental toughness to get my voice heard:

1. FIND SOMETHING POSITIVE—EVEN IF YOU HAVE TO LOOK REALLY, REALLY HARD

I had my list of complaints about Dean, but now was the time to focus on the positive aspects of his leadership style, not his faults. For every 1 negative trait, I looked for and found, 5 positive traits about him. As a former U.S. Marine, he was:

  1. Disciplined and conscientious
  2. Possessed clarity of purpose
  3. Used humor to defray tension
  4. Relied upon a high standard of integrity to guide his decisions.
  5. Loyal to his friends

2. USE EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE

Emotional intelligence is being savvy about the what is important to not only ourselves, but others as well. Awareness is being alert and honest about my feelings of frustration and disappointment that I felt when ignored by Dean and others like him.

Mental toughness is letting go of our ego after we’ve acknowledged our feelings and focusing our attention on someone else instead of ourselves.

When I focused on Dean, I identified one characteristic that seemed to dominate every decision he ever made—integrity. If I wanted to get my voice heard, I needed to appeal to his sense of integrity, not his sense of equal opportunity.

3. NETWORK STRATEGICALLY

There is a saying: if you can’t beat them, join them. While collaboration is increasingly important, the silo mentality has arisen for a reason: people naturally tend to form safe tribes with colleagues and avoid those they don’t know well. This is because collaboration with people they don’t know is a threat to their brain. 

The emotional limbic brain is survival-driven, and it tends to trust those with whom we’ve developed close ties or have shared experiences. 

I intentionally sought out Dean, and his buddies, to ask for advice about my cases. I buried my pride and made them partners in the direction I took my investigations. Since Dean and his friends had developed deep relationships, I suspected they would talk about me in my absence, and I wanted those conversations to be complimentary and positive.

4. WATCH BODY LANGUAGE

Our emotional limbic brain system leaks all sorts of information through body languageWhen I approached Dean, his eyebrows arched, indicating a genuine feeling of warmth at seeing me. Few people notice this, but an “eyebrow flash” is an automatic reaction when you see someone you like.

Smiling is a sign of submission, which is why many dominant individuals don’t smile. Dean always smiled when he saw me, however, and it was a genuine smile—there were crow’s feet and the cheeks were pushed up.

Perhaps more importantly, is how he didn’t react the same way to others. What was it about them that did not generate warm feelings? It was then that I realized none of them were the first to smile at Dean. They were so focused on being seen by leadership as serious professionals that they lost their ability to smile and have a good time, especially the women who wanted to come across as tough.

Smiling activates our mirror neurons; our brain sees a reaction in someone else and it wants to mirror those same emotions. I always approached Dean with a smile, and he naturally wanted to smile back.

5. MAKE PITHY, STRONG STATEMENTS

Dean was a busy guy and very quick witted. I didn’t dawdle when chatting about a case—I came straight to the point with pithy, strong statements. I didn’t waste his time by trying to ingratiate myself in a way that he would not appreciate. 

In our next meeting, the discussion circled around to a topic that Dean and I had previously discussed. He knew he could rely on me to be succinct and make an impact, so he asked for my opinion. I didn’t let him down—I made my statement and then shut up, not using this opportunity to make sure everyone else in the room knew how competent I was. 

That day was a turning point. While I have never developed a loud voice, I have developed a strong one.

That is something you can do as well. Use it well.

What suggestions do you have to make your voice heard when in a room with louder ones?

© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

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

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6 Ways To Get Through Adversity

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

To get through adversity, many homesteaders sold whiskey illegally during Prohibition in the 1930’s. My Dad had pointed out a still used to brew whiskey to my brother and I when all three of us were on horseback and gathering cattle on our Wyoming ranch. All that was left of the still was a few barrel rings and a wall of rocks. It was tucked into a steep draw surrounded by aspen trees and a little cow trail leading toward the bottom of the canyon near our house.

My brother and I collected antique glassware as a hobby and planned to go back to the whiskey still and look around for old bottles. We figured we could find it again easily enough, so after school we told our parents we were going out to play and would be back in time for supper. We started walking 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, and 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 was starting to set in. We could not find the whiskey still but we 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. It was cold enough that rattlesnakes were hibernating, but conditions were still adverse: it was dark, the terrain was steep and rocky, and the temperature was dropping 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. Develop Confidence To Get Through Adversity

We were too young to rely on pep talks or motivational speeches to give us the stamina to keep moving forward. If we had climbed over 2,000 feet out of the canyon in daylight, we had to be confident enough in our ourselves that we could repeat our performance downhill in the darkness.

The lessons I learned getting down the mountain stayed with me the rest of my life. In my book Secrets of A Strong Mind, I talk about the four months I spent 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. We felt confident of our abilities because of our experiences.

Performing well when facing adversity gave us the self-assurance we could beat the odds. 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, and I was confident I had what it took to keep moving on.

2. Use Persistence To Get Through Adversity

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. We lost the trail once and hopped over rocks and fallen trees to find it. While we knew that as long we were going downhill we were headed in the right direction, the draw had many smaller ones that meandered over the sides of the canyon. 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 remember that dedication and blind persistence are two different things. There are ways to work hard and not smart. If something doesn’t work, pivot and attack the problem from a different angle. Where there is a will, there is a way.

3. Manage Emotions To Get Through Adversity

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. When I leaned into my training, I regained my confidence and managed my emotions.

It’s always important to acknowledge emotions, but the key to getting through adversity is by reminding yourself that you can manage the negative reactions. 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.

4. Accept Blame To Get Through Adversity

We 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 who achieved 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. A merciless review of traits, desires, and fears can lead to a reinvention of goals and beliefs.

5. Pace Yourself To Get Through Adversity

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 the importance of pacing myself while running obstacle courses at the FBI Academy. I was not a strong runner, and while I was enthusiastic about charging 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. Read the chapter on the 20 mile march in Great by Choice by Jim Collins.

6. Create Community To Get Through Adversity

My brother and I were a team and we worked together to get back down the hill. We not only provided moral support for one another, but physical as well as 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 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 to listen 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.

Learning how you can get through adversity will help you turn underachievement into superior achievement. As long as you can stay alive, you are still in the game.

© 2013 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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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.”

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Lead With a Strong Mind and Soft Heart

Sunday, July 15th, 2012

The Letter to the Ephesians in the New Testament is a brilliant summary of what it means to lead with a strong mind and soft heart. The writer tells us that we are most fully alive when we do good to others.

The apostle Paul wrote this almost two thousand years ago, and yet I am surprised at how his exhortation for servant leadership seems to perfectly encapsulate modern thinking. The letter to the Ephesians is a brilliant summary of what it means to lead with a strong mind and soft heart.

The writer tells us that we are most fully alive when we do good to others.

Several times a year the FBI firearms unit requires agents to qualify with their weapon. Our training frequently included various forms of stress tests where we worked in teams to make arrests.

To make the scenarios even more stressful, we frequently were given special guns that shoot paint balls, and then sent out to discover how much control we had over our mental and physical reflexes when making those arrests.

Nothing goes unnoticed with a paint gun shootout. Every mistake is splattered somewhere—the paint bullets can leave bruises and stick to hair for days.

Of more importance, however, were the red splotches that indicated one of our team members had been shot or killed.

We put on goggles and Kevlar helmets; our instructors gave us the arrest scenario and then acted as observers as they watched our every decision and the movements required to carry out our decision.

We entered old houses with attics and blind corners, no obvious plan or path to follow, so we improvised and adapted to our circumstances as we moved along.

When you’re in the thick of it, all you really think about is surviving.

You don’t want to scrub paint off your clothes when you get home or feel the sting of a paint ball hitting your hand or neck.

The trials are physical as well as mental, but in a stress course of this type there are three priorities:

  • The mission
  • Your colleagues
  • And yourself

—in that order.

Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians was right. We are more fully alive and human when we use our talents as leaders to build up our teams and put their needs before our own.

Here are three ways that the paint ball exercises helped me understand how “doing good to others” can create leaders with a strong mind and soft heart:

1. Communication

In our review at the end of the day, the observers talk about what happened and what they saw.

Without fail, the biggest mistakes focused on the lack of communication between the agents.

Many times, one of us could see when another agent was headed for danger or taking too much risk. Rather than warning that person, many of us were too afraid of getting hurt ourselves to find a way to prevent the inevitable paint ball hit.

Our firearms team did not communicate well with one another because we were too caught up in our own dramas. Each was strategizing on what to do next and what to anticipate.

In a hostile and unpredictable environment, it is important to stay in the moment. This may sound easy, but it means staying fully focused on the needs of the people with whom you’re communicating and putting their needs before your own.  This means that you do not come first—and this is why really paying attention to someone else can be so difficult.

Here are a few ways to stay in the moment with another person:

  • Make good eye contact to let them know that your focus is on them.
  • Give them your full attention.
  • Fight the urge to race ahead when they are speaking.
  • Watch for eye movement when speaking because you may have touched a soft spot.
  • Observe their lips when speaking because people compress them when they are stressed.

2. Authenticity

Leadership begins with knowing who we are and what we believe. Authenticity is the need for leaders to be themselves regardless of the situation. For this reason, it is more than self-awareness; it is the ability to share the deepest and truest part of ourselves with others.

In a changing and volatile environment, it’s not how you decide; it’s about why. The why of a decision in the midst of confusion and uncertainty is a fusion of the heart and mind. There is no time for trying to remember business school formats or emergency preparedness plans.

The journey toward authenticity is twofold:

  1. Discovering our personal values and beliefs
  2. Exhibiting behavior that is consistent with those same values and beliefs.

We can be authentic leaders if we are committed to be being true to ourselves—regardless of the situation we are in or the people around us—so we can be real and genuine.

3. Pre-emptive

We should not be unfazed by the failure of a colleague. If we can alert them to a danger that lies ahead, we should do so. If we pushed aside our selfish desire to get ahead, perhaps there would be fewer bodies lying by the side of the road.

Leaders can create a pre-emptive culture in their own environments. This is the true definition of teamwork, where each member watches the back of the others and warns them against making career errors.

Not every master plan is genius. Not every scheme works. As leaders, you know this better than anyone. Circumstances and environments can change quickly, in business and life, and even the best plan is impossible to follow. If you do good to others by building your team up, your world won’t fall apart when the unexpected shows up.

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” ~ Ephesians 4:29

How can you combine a strong mind with a soft heart? 

© 2012 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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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.” 

 

Body Language – What Your Walk Says About You

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

“I could tell you were an FBI agent by the way you walked,” a man once told me. I had arranged to meet him at a restaurant but had failed to describe myself for him. He stood up the moment I approached the hospitality desk and held out his hand in a greeting.

Kicking Heels

Many people think I’m Asian when they hear my last name, Quy. Actually, it’s French Huguenot. I knew what the man I was meeting looked like because I had his driver’s license photo. How could he be so sure I was the FBI agent he was waiting to meet simply by my walk?

As it turns out, our gait is our first golden opportunity to impress others.

1. Body Language Help Us Evaluate Strangers

Our early ancestors relied upon their ability to recognize people from a distance. They could see a lone figure on the horizon and determine whether they were friend or foe. Now, we’re more apt to recognize the car a person is driving.

Our ability to receive messages about other people by their walk and posture has not gone away. It’s an innate skill we were all born with. However, these messages are often stored in our subconscious—still powerful but not tapped into as much they could be.

2. Body Language Conveys Importance

We convey a lot of information through body language, but it’s easy to forget that our walk is sending a message as powerful as any other gesture. If we’re rushed, or deep in thought, we walk differently. When I asked the man I was meeting at the restaurant what it was that tipped him off, he said, “You walked with an inordinate amount of confidence—quickly, like a person who values her time and the time of others.”

In other words, he could tell by my gait that I was serious and arriving for a business meeting.

3. Body Language Communicates Our Thoughts

Recollect a time when you were at a store waiting in a long line to make your purchase. The clerk is slow. You look around and see the other employees also moving a slow pace. They give the impression of dull minds that have no concern for others. Do you look forward to a return visit?

People who give the impression that they don’t care will not be treated the same as those who communicate that they are both eager and capable. Think about how you react to the following:

  • Slouching and slumped shoulders – sends the message that you don’t care, either about your appearance or your job. Instead, stand with shoulders back and chin level.
  • Leaning or swaying – creates the message that you’re not confident and not capable. Keep weight balanced on both feet
  • Slow movements – interpreted by others to be laziness. Speed is interpreted to mean both a good attitude and high energy.

Fast walkers convey a message of well being:

Soldiers in marches walk with an exaggerated gait to portray both youth and vigor. For this reason, politicians often do the same thing to convey their vitality, particularly if they’re older.

Recent research has shown that the pace of our walk is also an indicator of how healthy we are. Speed reflects vitality because so many organs are involved in how we move—heart, lungs, muscles, joints, and the brain.

Our gait is one of the first golden opportunities we have to impress others. At both conscious and subconscious levels, we start evaluating behaviors at a distance. If we give the wrong first impression, that imprint can have lasting results.

What is the first thing you notice about someone?

© 2011 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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Why You Need To Be Likable

Monday, August 15th, 2011

To be likable is more than a popularity contest—it’s to be appreciated for who you are, even when others don’t agree with you.

 

Competitive

There are many good leaders who have prickly personalities, and this makes it difficult for their ideas to be heard. We tend to shut out people we consider to be jerks, even when they are our bosses.

You can be a tremendous leader with a great message, but if your personality is getting in the way of that message being heard by others, you may need to ask yourself how can I become more likable?

Let’s start with defining the sweet spot of likability for a leader. Guy Kawasaki makes the following observation in his book, Enchantment:

For people to like you, they have to accept you. For people to accept you, you have to accept them.

To be likable is simple, but hard. If you want people to like you, you need to make them feel good about themselves. Once you have shown them that you value their acquaintance or friendship, they will feel the need to reciprocate and will try to return that same good feeling toward you.

If it was so easy to be likable, why do we find so many people so . . . unlikable? The simple technique of making friends and being likable is so seldom used because we prefer to focus on ourselves and not others.

We tend to put ourselves before the needs of others. The irony is that, by doing so, we automatically put ourselves at a disadvantage.

As a former FBI counterintelligence Agent, learning how to build rapport was essential in my work. I needed to balance credibility with likability. To do so, I relied upon the following methods of communication to help me become more likable to the people I met.

1. Watch Nonverbal Cues

Nonverbal cues are very important when communicating with other people. Here is a list of the most important.

Raised Eyebrows

The eyebrow flash is a long-distance hello greeting that is universal and also used by monkeys and apes as a greeting signal. The eyebrows rise rapidly for a split second and then drop again. We don’t eyebrow flash strangers on the street or people we don’t like. The only culture that doesn’t use it is the Japanese where is has sexual connotations.

Genuine Smiles

The difference between a true smile and a fake one lies in the recruitment of the eye muscles. In a false smile, the corners of the mouth pull straight back. In a true smile, the muscles around the eyes are engaged and create smile lines around the mouth.

Calm Eyes

Don’t be an eye-darter who is looking around the room while engaged in a conversation. Eyes that rove indicate that you’re bored, looking for an escape, or trying to locate someone more interesting than the person you’re talking to.

2. Focus on Them

People tend to feel good when they are the center of attention. Make empathetic statements that capture the person’s message.

  • Notice an emotion that was conveyed in their conversation and then repeat it by asking a question—such as “So you are happy that you . . .”
  • Rephrase a verbal message they communicated. This accomplishes two things: first, it confirms to them that you correctly heard them, and second, it allows them to talk further about it.
  • Match their body language. If they speak in quiet tones, so should you. If they are intense, ratchet-up your style as well.

3. Be Interesting—and Be Interested

In order to find other people interesting, you must be interesting. Condense your “story” into a succinct but interesting few sentences. While the focus is on the other person, sharing information about yourself will encourage them to do the same thing.

  • Don’t over-share about yourself – the deadly sin of a boorish narcissist.
  • Identify their passion – it’s your job to find out what it is. If they have no passions or interests, then they’re the jerk, not you.
  • People love stories – if you’re stuck with how to engage the person, try telling a story around the product you represent. This helps them to find ways to enter the conversation.

When you make a person feel good about themselves, they will like you. It’s a simple rule to follow. The hard part is putting the interest of others above our own.

 

© 2011 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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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.” 

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Body Language Is Louder Than Words

Sunday, July 17th, 2011

Silence is Golden. Dust tape is Silver.

When there is a conflict between what is said verbally and what is transmitted through body language, the body is always more accurate in revealing true emotions and feelings.

We all know that communication can be difficult. Sometimes the message you intend to get across is misunderstood by others because communication consists of more than just the spoken or written word—body language conveys messages as well.

Babies will pucker their lips when fed food they don’t like, whether they were born in Africa or Norway. These same babies will show delight in their faces when they see their mothers. We may be older but our reactions are still very simple.

We are happy, sad, disgusted, angry, afraid, or surprised—and we show emotions through our body gestures throughout our lives.

A five-year-old child is likely to cover their mouth when they tell a lie. This body language gesture continues to mature throughout their adult life. Instead of covering their whole mouth, they may rub their fingers around their lips.

In the case of president Bill Clinton, one of the most telling body language gesture while answering questions about Monica Lewinsky in front of a grand jury were his two front index fingers pressed together and touching the tip of his nose, effectively covering his mouth in the process.

Here are some things you need to know about accurately interpreting body language:

1. Gestures Come In Clusters

Conversations are a string of words put together to create meaning. One word, by itself, can mean many things, or nothing. A sentence, however, expresses complete thoughts.Similarly, one gesture can mean anything—it’s only when we put them together that they have meaning. Nonverbal gestures come in clusters so it’s important to observe a person’s initial cluster of gestures to establish a norm.

It’s a serious error to interpret a solitary gesture. Scratching the head can mean confusion or it could indicate a serious case of dandruff.

Many people punctuate with body language gestures and movement while others are relatively still. They key is to notice how these gestures change during a conversation.

2. Women’s Intuition or Body Language?

A hunch or gut feeling that someone has not been truthful really means that the spoken word and the body language do not agree. This is the essence of intuition. Are women better at it than men? Here is one very simple explanation:

Women who have raised children are usually better at hunches than others. For the first few years, mothers rely almost exclusively on the nonverbal messages of young children. It is the way they communicate with each other.

3. Tips On How to Read Body Language

As an FBI counterintelligence agent, I worked closely with the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit on several of my cases. Here are some tips I want to share with you on how to recognize and interpret body language:

Head

The head shows the most expressive body language characteristics. There has been a lot of research done on reading facial features and here are some generalizations that you can rely on when trying to read a person’s face to determine whether or not they’re being sincere:

  • Contempt – lip corner tightens and lifts on one side of the face
  • Happy – a real smile will always have crow’s feet wrinkles and pushed up cheeks
  • Surprise – lasts for only a second: eyebrows raised, mouth open, eyes wide open
  • Anger – eyebrows down and together, narrowing of lips

Eyes

As a general rule, breaks in eye contact are the most important non-verbal gesture. If you suspect deception in a conversation, here are some eye clues to watch for at the point at which they tell a lie:

  • Closing the eyes
  • Covering the eyes
  • Glancing at watch
  • Showing intense interest in fingernails
  • Looking out the window or at the floor
  • Avoid looking you in the eye during the moment of deception
  • Rapid eye movement
  • Raising eyebrows

Eye movements can reveal what a person is focusing on during your conversation.

  • Recalling a visual memory—eyes move upward.
  • Recalling something they heard—eyes move to the side
  • Recalling a feeling—eyes look down and to the right
  • Thinking to oneself—eyes look down and to the left

Hands

There are more connections between the brains and the hands than any other body part.

  • Palm up—nonthreatening. Even animals recognize this approach as friendly.
  • Palm down—authority. Think of the Nazi salute.
  • Pointing finger—leaves a negative feeling in most listeners
  • Squeezing thumb against the fingertips—avoids intimidating the audience
  • Shaking with two hands is meant to convey sincerity and trust. Don’t do this unless you and the other person have a strong bond of some sort. Otherwise, you end up coming across like a smarmy politician.
  • Grasping elbow with left hand—communicates depth of feeling and was commonly used by Bill Clinton with everyone.
  • Holding the shoulder with left hand—invades personal space and may result in a hug

People notice and form opinions of you based on your behavior. This includes nonverbal messages. Effective communicators realize that the intangibles we associate with positive character traits are most often expressed nonverbally.

What tips do you have for interpreting body language? 

© 2011 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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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.” 

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