Posts Tagged ‘entrepreneurs’

How Emotional Intelligence Is A Woman Leader’s Secret Weapon

Monday, March 13th, 2017

FBI counterintelligence agents like myself rely heavily upon emotional intelligence. It helps us to be successful in identifying foreign spies so we can recruit them to work for the U.S. government.

Emotional intelligence is your ability to 1) identify and manage your own emotions; 2) pick up on the emotions of others and manage them; and 3) in so doing, build trust and grow influence.

It is not necessarily a skill that people associate with FBI agents. Loud, boisterous, and pushy behavior may get attention, but it certainly does not get respect.

Meanwhile, a softer skill like emotional intelligence often goes unnoticed. It is not related to book smarts or a formula that includes aggressive behavior relying upon intimidation to be effective.

I have never had a loud voice, but I’ve always had a strong one.

There is lots of bewilderment when either men or women get these two voices confused. Many leaders, entrepreneurs, and business owners have traditionally been men who followed a formula of aggression and intimidation to get to the top. Now many women are using that same formula to see where it can take them.

And here is how well it’s working: women are dying of heart disease at the same rate as men. Yet they still struggle not only rise to top level positions, but to stay there as well.

I had a choice in my law enforcement career—I could try to be someone I am not and swagger around the FBI hallways with a gun strapped to my hip. Or, I could be the best version of me by developing my natural skills and talents without worrying whether or not I fit in with others who relied upon intimidation.

Here are 4 reasons emotional intelligence is a woman leader’s secret weapon:

1. MEN DON’T HAVE PERMISSION TO BE EMOTIONALLY INTELLIGENT

Women in the workforce need to grab success however they can, but too many of them are throwing away their advantages by trying to be like men.

Little girls are given permission by society to be empathetic, use language that expresses emotions, and place priorities on developing deep and meaningful relationships (starting with dolls).

Both girls and boys may develop mental toughness through sports activities. However, many boys tend to grow into men who rely on harder skills like aggression as their default reaction to stress. They don’t pay as much attention to softer skills like empathy and self-awareness.

Conversely, women are encouraged to develop these softer skills. The good news is that these essential skills can be learned as they climb up the career ladder.

I’ve known a few touchy-feely men, and they were incredibly successful FBI agents. But they ran against the grain of the macho stereotype that people have of the FBI, including most new agents who show up at Quantico.

TIP: As a parent, encourage your child to develop a good vocabulary to describe their emotional state of mind at any given time. As an adult, start exploring words to describe what you are feeling in times of stress, joy, and relaxation. You may find this hard at first because we are simply not groomed to be fluent in the language of emotions.

2. USE EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE TO INCREASE INFLUENCE

It is too simplistic to describe men or women as having innate advantages that will better equip them to move into top level positions. In today’s competitive environment, leaders need to be seen as having the collaborative traits that are the by-product of emotional intelligence.

In an intriguing study by the Hay Group, it was found that high levels of emotional intelligence were found in work situations where women executives were required to lead by influence rather than direct authority.

In this study, emotional intelligence skills were more prevalent in executive-level women than their male counterparts. It is believed that women often face barriers throughout their careers that require them to develop emotional intelligence skills they need to advance in their organizations.

TIP: Scrappy women will develop the skills necessary to move into the executive suite—success in the future is going to depend a great deal upon a leader’s ability to leverage a variety of skills and approaches in order to grow their business.

3. WOMEN ARE NOT NATURALLY BETTER AT EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE THAN MEN

There is not a lot of research or science to back up the common belief that women are naturally better at emotional intelligence than men. What matters most is the level of motivation of both men and women.

For example, this same Hay Group study indicated that among women and men below the executive level, differences between men and women were less pronounced.

And when you look at the stars—leaders in the top ten percent of business performance—gender differences in emotional intelligence abilities wash out. The men are as good as the women, the women as good as the men, across the board.

TIP: If you have the mental toughness and grit to stick with it, you can acquire the emotional intelligence skills you need to be a top performer—male or female.

4. BRAINS ARE DIFFERENT, THOUGH

Women are considered to be more empathetic, however. According to neuroscientists, empathy is found in a region called the insula, which senses signals from our whole body. When we empathize with someone, our brain mimics what that person feels. The insula reads that pattern and identifies the feeling.

This is where women are different from men. If the other person is upset, women’s brains tend to stay with those feelings. Men’s brains do something else; they sense the feelings for a moment. And then tune out of the emotions and switch to other brain areas that try to solve the problem that’s creating the disturbance.

So when a woman complains that a man has tuned out emotionally, it usually means their brains are processing the information differently. 

When men tune-out, it can insulate them from distress so they remain calm while others are in a state of high drama. They focus on finding a solution to the urgent problem.

Women’s tendency to stay tuned-in helps them nurture and support others when emotions are running high.

TIP: It’s important to remember that neither is better and both have advantages.

Women seeking top level executive positions need to improve their emotional competency. It enlarges their ability to: cope with pressure, build trust, negotiate, influence others, navigate workplace politics, and take smart risks.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. 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.”

Why You Need Grit When Life Throws You A Curveball

Monday, November 14th, 2016

When I interviewed with the FBI, they liked my grit and scrappiness—a hillbilly from a cattle ranch in Wyoming had clawed her way through college, and was now sitting in front of a panel of polished FBI agents interviewing for a job as a special agent.

Grit Up!

I wore my working class background like a badge of honor. I was proud of the fact that my family took showers at the end of a hard day instead of stepping out of a shower smelling like a petunia each morning.

I grew up an unsophisticated ranch girl, and believe me, it takes a while to put a shine on a sneaker. I spent years being ridiculed because the educated elitists I met at universities and in business didn’t feel I was as enlightened as them.

Each curveball thrown my way was met with determination and persistence. I grew up with the grit it takes to make sacrifices in order to keep my eye on the larger goal.

The FBI liked that; when I was hired it was not because I was a female, it was because I was the best person for the job who happened to be female.

Voters feel they’ve been handed a curveball; entrepreneurs wake up every day to new challenges in their business; and startups are faced with new competition and unstable markets.

Here is why you need grit when life throws you a curveball:

1. GRIT UP & MANAGE YOUR EMOTIONS

body language

Growing up on a remote cattle ranch presented different types of adversity—rattlesnakes in the summer and deadly snowstorms in the winter. Both presented life and death situations.

At an elevation of 7,000 feet, we were frequently snowed in for months at a time during the winter. My brother and I had a private tutor who lived on the ranch with us because we were hours from the nearest town. When I was in first grade, our first tutor’s vehicle got stuck in a snowdrift and she froze to death while trying to walk back to our house.

We worked hard and lived in poverty. While the educated elitists and slick professionals in the cities were discussing whether schools should teach bi-lingual classes, we were more interested in keeping our livestock alive.

I had no friends and I started stacking hay bales when I was 8. I thought it terribly unfair that life had dealt me this crappy hand.

I also had no idea that years later researchers would notice a connection between grit, success, and early adversity in life. Why would adversity when I was young give me an advantage?

The answer in this study suggests that adversity at a young age teaches us early in life how to deal with our emotions. The ability to regulate our emotions gives us an advantage in both business and life.

Emotional competence is one of the cornerstones of mental toughness. If we are emotionally intelligent and aware of our innermost emotions, we have a much better chance of dealing with them when a curveball comes our way as an adult.

What This Means For You:

No one gets through childhood without a few scrapes. We don’t all get the red ball in the playground. Mine the significance of your own stories and experiences to uncover the way in which you dealt with blows in the past. They are an accurate predictor of how you’re dealing with them now.

If you don’t like what you see, start working on changing your response.

Teach your children how to get in touch with all of their emotions now, even the negative ones. Pretending they don’t exist or protecting them from adversity will not prepare them for the inevitable ones that will show up. There are no safe zones in life.

Throwing tantrums and blaming others is not a strategy for success in either business or life.

2. GRIT UP & LEAN INTO THE STRUGGLE

persistence

In working counterintelligence cases, I learned that grit meant leaning into the struggle when hit with a curveball or roadblock. I had one case that lasted 7 years before I was able to successfully close it. While I had other cases assigned to me during that time, this one case just kept rearing its ugly head.

There is a difference between being persistent and being stubborn. The case demanded that I change my behavior, tactics, and mindset if I planned on solving it.

Sometimes productive behavior means leaning into a struggle in ways that you don’t feel like doing but mental toughness is knowing when to change your behavior or when to change your environment. There will be times when you do need to change the environment so you can be your best self, but grit can help you respond to hardship in a more efficient manner.

Positive thinking is another cornerstone of mental toughness; FBI agents survive because they are always prepared for the worst-case scenario. We don’t go into arrest situations assuming everything will work out OK.

What It Means For You:

Don’t run from adversity or struggles if they are lying in the path of what you want to do in life. That means you will need to adapt and be flexible with micro quotas as you move toward your macro goal. Anticipate what could go wrong so you are better able to predict your response and land on your feet when confronted with the unknown.

3. GRIT UP & STOP WHINING

 

whining-kid

The quickest way to be ostracized from an FBI squad is to whine, point fingers, or blame others.

Whining about your problems always makes you feel worse, not better, because your words have power, both over yourself and others.

If something is wrong, save your mental energy for finding ways to make the situation better.

There are so many things over which we have no control—our parents, the country of our birth, the time in history. Most of us do not have a choice of when or where we die, nor can we control the time and manner of our death.

But we can choose how to live—either with purpose and joy or adrift and hopeless. We can choose what makes us significant, we can choose to be creative, and we can choose whether or not we live according to our most deeply felt values.

When you stop whining, pointing fingers, and blaming others you are able to choose your destiny.

What It Means For You:

If you don’t know your core values, take time to find out what they are because they are what drive your behavior, move you, and inspire you.

Identify what is wrong, but don’t waste time talking about it. Instead, talk only about how you’ll make it better.

Everyone goes through the school of hard knocks in different ways and at different times in their life. The questions for you:

  • If you’ve already experienced those hard knocks, how did you pull yourself through?
  • If you are currently experiencing them, how are you doing?
  • If they lie in the future for you, what will you do?

© 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.”

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What You Should Know About Following Your Passion

Monday, October 31st, 2016

When I graduated from Business school I knew how I would follow my passion —I loved clothes and shopping so I went into the executive management program at a department store. Surely, being around beautiful clothes all day would be my dream job!

passion

But I soon learned the reason work is not called fun or a hobby—it is hard and there was nothing fun about my long days working retail. Even after I became a buyer, I found it more suited to the talents of an accountant because I worked with numbers all day. Every day. Day after day.

I truly hated the job.

“Follow your passion” was the worst advice I’d ever received. I thought about my epitaph: LaRae’s goal in life was to persuade women to buy striped blouses instead of polka dots. That would be the sum of my contribution to society.

Like all bad advice, “Follow Your Passion” rears its ugly head regularly—most notably at the Oscars when movie stars spew out the inevitable cliche. I learned the hard way that just because I was passionate about something didn’t mean I wouldn’t suck at it.

If you are passionate about something, of course you should pursue it; but here is the question: to what end? Because at some point in life you will need to see yourself in the flow of history. What did you put back into your community to help other people? It’s not about having a passion, it’s about doing something with your life that will benefit others.

Entrepreneurs and startups must be passionate about their customers and the business opportunity, but they do not need their’s life passion to be the starting point. Tony Hsieh did not have to be passionate about shoes to start Zappos, but he did need to be passionate about customer service.

For startups to be successful, entrepreneurs need to think about opportunities from their customers’ perspective as much as from their own perspective.

Passions are magical; business is grounded in reality.

Mental toughness starts with the “why” because if you are not on the right course for you, all the persistence, grit, attitude, and willpower in the world will get you nowhere. Always bring your passion with you, but cultivate enough self-awareness so that big dreams do not harden into pockets of resentment, entitlement, and unrealistic expectations.

We are living in a world where everyone expects a trophy just for showing up. Mental toughness is being strong enough to take the blame when things go wrong and accept responsibility for our actions.

You want to follow your passion? Here are some things you should know:

FOLLOWING YOUR PASSION #1: Pursue A Career That Fits Your Personal Interests

Frustration

If you enjoy thinking about abstract ideas, you will not be happy in a job managing minutia and logistics. If you are a person who likes being around people, you will not be happy sitting behind a computer all day.

Develop enough self-awareness to know which jobs to avoid and which ones to pursue. As a general rule, people whose jobs match their personal interests are happier with their lives.

FOLLOWING YOUR PASSION #2: Pursue Work That Interests You

Missing the deadlines. Thoughtful young woman in suit looking at the stack of paperwork and holding head on chin while sitting at her working place

If you like being around people, try sales or HR. Once you’ve found a career that matches your personal interests, drill down to pursue which aspects of that career are most interesting to you.

There are no boring jobs, only boring  ways to look at them. You may look at a job as a way to pay the bills or as a path toward something better—it’s your choice.

Passion for your work is like an FBI investigation: there is a bit of discovery, a follow up on leads uncovered, a lot of development, and then a deepening of understanding the truth.

FOLLOWING YOUR PASSION #3: Experiment With Your Interests

Success - wall climbing

Your interests in life are not discovered by introspection and meditation. They are sparked by getting out in the real world and trying different things. This part can be messy—only by spending 3 years in retail did I truly see why this was not the right job for me.

It is difficult to predict what will catch your attention. Trial and error is often the best way and this can take time. Without experimenting you won’t know what catches your interests and matches your talents.

FOLLOWING YOUR PASSION #4: Adopt A Craftsman’s Mindset

Women leaders

In his book So Good They Can’t Ignore You, Cal Newport warns that a passion mindset is always asking, ”What do I really want?” which can be harmful because it breeds an obsession with whether or not a job is “right” for them.

When you focus on everything you dislike about your work, your job satisfaction level drops. By contrast, the craftsman’s mindset acknowledges that no matter what field you’re in, success is always about quality. Once you start focusing on the quality of work you’re doing, rather than whether or not it’s right for you, you won’t hesitate to do what is necessary to improve it.

Make the quality of what you do become your primary focus.

You absolutely need to be passionate about making your business or carer a success, so find the opportunities that ignite that passion in you—and you will be successful!

© 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.” 

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How To Read People Like An FBI Agent

Monday, September 26th, 2016

Wouldn’t it be great if we could tell if someone was lying to us?

body-language

Research shows that within five minutes of meeting someone, we can often evaluate them with 70 percent accuracy. Although that seems effective, the remaining 30 percent can be costly.

Entrepreneurs and leaders need to be game-ready when they approach a prospective client, walk into a board meeting, or chat with co-workers. If they know how to read people they will notice when inconsistencies arise so they can get insight into what is really going on.

To be a successful undercover FBI agent, I had to learn how to read people within minutes—and failing to accurately evaluate the person in front of me could jeopardize an entire assignment.

Detecting lies is hard work, and there is no single magic indicator, but here are two things you should know:

  1. Accurately reading body language is important if you want to avoid being scammed or deceived. Approximately 55% of what we convey when we speak comes from body language.
  2. Conversations are a string of words and gestures put together to create meaning. One word or gesture, by itself, can mean many things, or nothing. 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 constant gestures and movement while others are relatively still. They key is to notice how these gestures change during a conversation.

Here are 3 areas to pay particular attention to if you want to read people like an FBI agent:

1. Hands Are A Gold Mine

There are more nerve connections between the hands and the brain than between any other parts of the body.

Our brain is hardwired to engage our hands to accurately communicate our emotions, thoughts, and feelings.

TIPS on how to read people:

  • Hand steepling (placing the tips of your fingers together similar to praying) indicates that you are confident of your thoughts or situation.
  • Clenching hands is a universal way of showing stress or concern.
  • Stroking the neck with one finger is a sign of less than normal confidence and is a subconscious way of relieving stress (the common number of strokes with a single finger is 5).

2. Always Believe The Feet

body-language-feet

As unglamorous as it sounds, feet are the most honest part of the bodyChildren and adults alike bounce up and down when they see someone, or something, that makes them happy.

I once met with an individual whom I suspected had contact with a Russian spy. Initially, his answers were forthcoming and his body language was relaxed. However, when I moved the conversation toward the Russian spy, he uncrossed his legs and sat with his feet flat on floor with ankles locked. Again, this didn’t mean he was lying, but it did indicate he became stressed at the point in the conversation when we started talking about the Russian.

In general, when in a negotiation or intense conversation, pay attention to crossed legs. Researchers have found that contract settlements increased greatly when both negotiators uncross their legs.

TIPS on how to read people:

  • Jiggling of a leg once seated indicates that the person is uncomfortable or stressed with something that was said.
  • Note: Some people always jiggle their leg, so notice when they start kicking—they are being asked something they don’t like.
  • Locking ankles, one over the other, indicates the individual is mentally “biting their lip” and holding back a negative emotion, uncertainty, or fear.
  • Note: In ankle locks, men tend to open their legs in a crotch display while women tend to hold their knees together
  • Pointing feet toward the door or elevator is a sign they are looking for a way to end the conversation. Many times the body will be angled in the direction of the feet even though the person has turned their face toward us.

3. Be Wary Of Facial Expressions

Confident woman

A lot has been written about reading facial micro-expressions, and while they can be accurate, they can also be very deceiving.

I never relied on interpretation micro-expressions when working undercover to accurately assess what a person was thinking or saying. From our childhood we are told to “wipe that look off your face” and so we learn at a very early age to control our expressions.

TIPS on how to read people:

  • Covering our mouth as children indicated we were being deceitful, but when adults are being deceitful, the hand is placed on the face in a nose-touch gesture. It can also mean they are being very careful in how they word their next response.
  • Raising eyebrows is a sign that we are excited to see someone or are full of positive emotions we can’t hold back.
  • Tilting our head is a powerful way of saying I am comfortable, receptive, and friendly. It’s very hard to do if we are around people we don’t like.
  • Hand touching, face touching, crossing arms, and leaning away are all clues that, by themselves, mean nothing, but together they are a highly accurate signal of deceit.

This article first appeared on Success.com.

© 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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Why Self-Talk Is The Most Powerful Hack In The World

Monday, September 19th, 2016

I listened as one of my fellow FBI agents gave a briefing on the next steps he planned to take in his investigation. I thought he was headed in the wrong direction, and when he asked for our opinions, I told him what I thought.

self-talk

Unfortunately, I was the only one in the room who thought he was headed for trouble because everyone disagreed with me. I felt I had made a huge faux pas—I didn’t like the agent’s idea while everyone else thought it was brilliant!

The negative self-talk chatter started to build. “You should have kept your mouth shut. That was stupid. You came across as argumentative, etc.” My self-talk was nothing more than self-criticism. I couldn’t wait to get out of that room.

The internal conversations we have with ourselves, called self-talk, can go on for days, and sometimes through our nights as well. My self-talk was negative and destructive because it made me question myself, and soon I was second-guessing myself.

Many of us know how vicious that inner critic can be. Often, we are harder on ourselves than we are on others. It’s not because we want to be, it’s because we don’t know how to manage our negative self-talk.

Energy follows attention—wherever your attention is focused, your energy will follow. If your inner critic is beating you up about a failure, your failing will be the one thing you focus on.

However, there are ways you can harness the power of self-talk so it can help you. Here are 8 ways you can make self-talk the most powerful hack in the world:

1. Nip It In The Bud

stress

Notice when you begin negative self-talk: who are the people that trigger it? and the situations or circumstances?

Do a post-mortem on when you’ve unleashed the inner critic and then ask yourself some basic questions:

  1. Are my thoughts factual, or are they just my interpretations?
  2. Am I jumping to negative conclusions?
  3. What is the evidence for and against my thinking?
  4. How can I find out if my thoughts are actually true?

Once you get in the habit of observing your self-talk, noting whether or not it’s constructive, you’ll find it that much easier to nip the negative thoughts in the bud.

2. Reverse The Negative Spiral

Successful financial plans

In the Rogelberg study, researchers discovered that the more you use negative self-talk and second-guess yourself, the less free your mind will be to roam through creative solutions of the problems that you face. These outcomes will only further cause you to doubt yourself, leading to a negative, downward spiral.

Turn the situation around and counter your inner critic with positive and constructive self-talk. For example, in my situation I could say to myself, “I don’t always agree with my colleagues. I’m glad I stuck to my guns and pointed out where the investigation could trip over itself. At least the agent understands that there are potential problems if he continues in that direction, etc.”

3. Be Specific

When I say, “Don’t look at the pink elephant,” a pink elephant immediately comes to mind. In the same way, when you criticize yourself, you see a stupid person who constantly makes mistakes.

If your self-talk is “I don’t want—,” all you will be thinking about are the things you don’t want—which will probably be what you end up with because that is where your energy will be focused.

However, if your self talk is “I want—,“ you will be thinking about all the specific things you do want—which is probably what you’ll end up with!

4. Change Self-Limiting Beliefs

Adversity - ducks

Many times it is our self-limiting beliefs that create the negative self-talk. As long as you are talking to yourself anyway, ask “Why do I have this self-limiting belief?”

Most self-limiting beliefs start in childhood and can be pointed to a parent or teacher telling us we couldn’t do something.

Those memories stick with us, even when circumstances change.

5. Respect Yourself

Adversity - shining through

One litmus test to stop destructive or negative self-talk dead in its track is to ask yourself this simple question: Would I talk to a child like this?

If the answer is no, you can be certain you are wasting precious energy on denigrating yourself in a destructive way. Often, we treat ourselves much worse than we would treat strangers; in fact, we would have no friends if we talked to them like we talked to ourselves!

6. Watch Your Language

Scientists estimate that we have between 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts every day. Whenever you think about something, it is a form of self-talk so you can see how important it is to control your thoughts.

Resilient people do not whine, complain, or blame others; instead, they have the mental toughness to take responsibility for their actions. Since you are not perfect, there will be mistakes and failures; instead of responding with negative self-talk, accept responsibility and turn your attention, and energy, toward learning from your mistakes and failures.

7. Embrace Your Imperfections

Success - mountains

Many CEO’s, entrepreneurs, and business owners are both overachievers and perfectionists. It’s a double whammy of a curse because they often end up holding themselves to an impossible standard of performance.

But no one will tell you they are a success because they’re a perfectionist or an overachiever.  Instead, they will tell you they are a success because they are willing to mess up, learn, and move on. They don’t give up on themselves.

8. Give Your Inner Critic A Name

Researcher David Rock believes that labeling our negative emotions is an effective way of short circuiting their hold over us. So give your inner critic a name or call it out for what it really is—jealousy, insecurity, fear, etc.

You can keep the name in your head, but Rock believes that when you speak it, it activates a more robust short circuit to help break the emotional hold.

If you think you can, or can’t, do something, you’re right—Henry Ford

How do you control your self-talk?

© 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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How Emotional Competence Helps Leaders Make Tough Decisions

Monday, August 22nd, 2016

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

Tough Decisions

So what is mental toughness? It is being alert and aware of our emotions, thoughts, and behavior so we can manage them in ways that set us up for success.

Learning how to push through difficult situations while maintaining peak performance requires the ability to predict our responses so we can land on our feet—an impossible task unless we possess both self-awareness and self-management, two core components of emotional intelligence. Taking it one step further, emotional competency is knowing how to apply the intelligence to your situation.

Recent research points to emotional competence as being a critical factor that sets star performers apart from the rest of the pack. Smart leaders, entrepreneurs, and other professionals can be mentally tough by utilizing emotional competence to make better decisions and achieve positive results.

Here is why:

1. You Will Know What Fuels You

Grit - Man jumping blog

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 know how you go after the things in life that are hard-wired to give you a purpose.

2. You Will Have A Plan B. And Plan C

Success - wall climbing

Most arrests do not go according to plan! In fact, every arrest op takes into account all that could go wrong so there is not only plan A, but C and sometimes D or more.

If mental toughness is being able to manage your emotions, thoughts, and behavior, then you must be prepared for what is next. Being a reactionary is never a good strategy, so start planning different outcomes and different scenarios.

You will not be caught off guard if plan A is not successful. This will also help you learn how to think on the fly and respond when confronted with a crisis rather than simply reacting in ways that may not be in your best interest.

3. You Will Have Self-Control

Trust - cat & parrot

In stressful situations we often say or do things we regret later.

Whether an FBI agent, leader, or entrepreneur, losing self-control can significant negative consequences. The best place to begin is by recognizing the emotions that surface in ordinary situations during your day, Now name those emotions with one word.

Now that you’ve practiced identifying emotions, try this when in a stressful situation:

  • Identify the first emotion to surface
  • Stop for a moment
  • See your best self
  • Create a strategy to effectively deal with the situation and the negative emotion
  • Move on to the second emotion that arises, and so on.

Emotional competence is essential for your success because once you have self-control, you find ways to prevent derailment when confronted with obstacles and roadblocks. Self-control is the ability to step back, evaluate, and regroup so you can choose your response.

4. You Will Not Let Fear Take Over

Positive Thinking - sleeping on a beam

Fear is often our first response because our limbic brain system is programmed to protect us when we confront the unknown. Since the caveman days, our brain has helped us to “get lunch” not “be lunch.”

The only ones who look forward to change are babies, and that’s because they know what to expect. Most of us are not comfortable with change and it’s natural to run from things that frighten us, but not everything that is new or different is a threat to our safety.

Fear of change is paralyzing; if you have emotional competence you know that change is inevitable and you form a plan of action for each change that comes your way.

Now your turn. What has emotional competence taught you?

This article first appeared in Smartbrief.

© 2016 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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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.

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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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4 Tips On How To Handle Stress

Monday, June 13th, 2016

As the spokesperson for the FBI in Northern California, I learned more about how to handle stress in those four years than at any other time in my life. The constant demand from the media for information that was timely, on-message, and accurate was relentless.

stress

Interestingly enough, it was also the period in my life when I felt the most energized and invigorated. After twenty years as an investigator, I needed the boost of adrenaline that a fast-paced environment gave me.

As entrepreneurs, sales executives, and leaders, you are stressed by deadlines, responsibilities, and your ever-increasing workload. You may be wondering how to handle stress and worried that it is interfering with your job performance and even your health.

The conventional wisdom about stress warns that too much of it can cause high blood pressure, heart attacks, and other health hazards. Although non-stop stress can be harmful, recent research is providing new insight into how measured doses of stress can actually enhance our performance.

Our brains are hard-wired so that it is difficult for us to take action until we feel stress or anxiety. Mentally strong people are able to manage their emotions, thoughts, and behavior in optimal levels to achieve top performance.

Here are 4 tips to help you handle stress and keep stress levels in check:

1. DEVELOP THE RIGHT MINDSET

In the past, psychologists believed that it was the amount of stress that was bad for a person’s health. But in recent studies it’s become clear that the amount of stress is a surprisingly poor predictor of whether it will leave you better, or worse, off.

New research from Yale University and Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, reveal that people can be divided into two groups:

  1. those who believe that stress-is-debilitating, and
  2. those who believe that stress-is-enhancing.

The Yale Study found that people who had stress-is-enhancing mindsets reported having better health, greater life satisfaction, and superior work performance.

Stress produces cortisol—too much or too little cortisol release in response to a stressor can have negative physiological consequences.

The Yale research, in combination with Achor’s findings, paint a very clear picture:

Stress is killing you if you believe it is. Studies confirm that people who die from stress do not die from stress itself, but from the belief that stress was bad for them. Those who do not believe it is harmful experience no negative side effects on their health.

If you can use mental toughness to manage your mindset and handle stress, you will see challenges you face as opportunities to grow and learn. In addition, you will be both happier and more productive.

2. USE SELF-TALK TO HANDLE STRESS

We all know that anxiety can hurt performance and most of us have been in situations when we were anxious, couldn’t think straight, and experienced temporary lapses in memory.

Too much cortisol and our performance withers, but people who are calm experience too little cortisol and their performance also withers.

The key is learning how to manage your emotions with self-talk and using the right words when controlling your thoughts.

In a study published by the Journal of Experimental Psychology, people who told themselves that they were excited about the challenge ahead of them performed significantly better than those who told themselves that they were calm.

If you are excited about your job or task, you will be more persuasive, competent, confident, and persistent. You will grit-up with the mental toughness to change the way you label your feelings and emotions—from stressful to exciting. This helps create a shift toward a more positive mindset.

3. BE GRATEFUL

Taking the time to be grateful lessens anxiety because it reduces the stress hormone cortisol. Professor Robert Emmons conducted a study at the University of California, Davis, of over 1,000 people, from ages 8 to 80. They found that those who cultivate an attitude of gratitude experienced a host of benefits:

  • Stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure
  • Higher levels of positive emotions
  • More joy, optimism, and happiness
  • Acting with more generosity and compassion
  • Feeling less lonely and isolated

4. REIGNITE THE INNER FIRE

The higher levels of stress that I experienced as the FBI spokesperson brought me closer to understanding what fired up my heart. Because of the constant deadlines, I found myself doing two things:

1) Focusing on what I liked to do, and 2) delaying until later or delegating to others the things I didn’t like to do.

One of the things I loved to do was gather stories from other agents and then work with reporters on getting those stories out to the public. I delayed as long as possible doing the record checks and going through files for details of an investigation.

When I created stories around FBI best practices and shared them with others, I knew that the audience would benefit from the life lessons that twirled all around me.

The stress imposed upon me by my job forced me to prioritize, and in those priorities I found where my heart was leading: I wanted to write and share the lessons I learned from my time as an FBI agent with others.

For stress to be beneficial, it’s important to find meaning in your work . Research has shown that workers in high-stress jobs like air-traffic controllers and intensive-care nurses thrive under heavy stress if they are positive about the future and find their work meaningful.

You cannot be stressed out and empowered at the same time! Be mentally strong and keep your anxiety from taking over.

When has stress enabled you to perform at your best?

© 2016 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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Science-Based Reasons Men And Women Look At Risk Differently

Sunday, May 8th, 2016

FBI agents are trained to take risk seriously. Every arrest is planned from many angles with emphasis given to what can go wrong when agents are faced with the unexpected.

pablo

I took part in several arrests, and while there was always a risk associated with carrying a weapon every day, the biggest risk came from friendly fire—that is, the supervisors who could change your life with a single stroke of their pen and transfer you, without warning, to another squad.

I lived in fear of this risk because agents have no choice in their assignment. From day one this message was hammered into our thinking—the needs of the Bureau come first. Always.

When success also meant survival, landing on my feet when confronted with the unknown was essential. Over time, I learned to look at risks as opportunities to be exploited, whether it was a messy investigation or new squad assignment.

Real success was walking away from uncomfortable situations with more savvy and skill than when I started.

Every successful entrepreneur and leader understands that risk involves change and moving outside their comfort zone. In today’s competitive and fast changing workplace, they can never hope to achieve success unless they’re willing to embrace change and risk the discomfort of failure.

Conventional wisdom says that women take fewer risks than men, but is it true? Much of the difference can be attributed to the way boys and girls are socialized as children. In general, boys are reared to shoot from the hip early on. Girls learn about risk differently. Risky behavior, girls are told, is dangerous.

If conditioning is partly to blame, then reconditioning is part of the answer. Adopting a “Gritup” mentality can make all the difference.

Research finds that men and women use different strategies, and different parts of their brain, when making choices on how to keep moving toward goals.

Here are 3 science-based reasons men and women look at risk differently:

1. Risk: Stress Makes A Difference

A recent study by Mara Mather and Nichole R. Lighthall found that male risk-taking tends to increase under stress, while female risk taking tends to decrease under stress. The researchers discovered that there are gender differences in brain activity involved in computing risk and preparing for action. This is important given the stressful nature of our work lives today.

CAUTION TIP: Beware of stereotyping men as too reckless and women too cautious. Instead, when in stressful situations it might make more sense for men and women to work together to make smarter risk-taking decisions.

2. Risk: Immediate vs Long-Term Rewards

A review published in Behavioral Brain Research discovered that the majority of women in the study tended to focus on immediate rewards while the majority of men in the study tended to focus on long-term rewards.

CAUTION TIP: Men may appear to be stubborn and unwilling to change course once a strategy is put into action, but his brain engages the top, dorsal area of the orbitofrontal cortex which focuses on long term rewards. Most male brains seek out irregular patterns of behavior that will provide them with the competitive advantage they need to set goals that will produce long-term rewards.

CAUTION TIP: Women may appear to be feckless and unable to stick with a strategy, but her brain engages the medial part of this region which is involved in identifying regular patterns and immediate rewards. Her brain is able to assimilate new information that enables her to make adjustments to strategies that will lead to rewards accordingly.

3. Risk: Bait-And-Switch

An article published in Scientific American Mind explains why women are more comfortable with switching strategies mid-task, something that is difficult for men because men tend to engage the part of their brain linked to long-term rewards.

CAUTION TIP: Women may appear to uncertain or worried about making errors, but her brain is taking the time to gather more information. In fact, it is a woman’s detailed exploration that makes them more attuned to change. They can clue into changes quicker than their male counterparts.

CAUTION TIP: Men may have a harder time abandoning a project, course of action, or strategy because their brains tend to focus on big rewards later, unlike female brains that are often satisfied with small gains now.

Researchers caution that neither approach is better; both are necessary and useful in daily life. What is key is understanding how these differences can be turned into advantages through collaborative efforts involving both sexes.

It too simplistic to assume that all men and women react the same way to risk, stress, information gathering, and goal setting. And it’s dangerous to stereotype behavior by gender. Of primary significance is that these studies elucidate how different brains each bring unique strengths to the table. Working together will create a stronger collaborative product in the end.

What differences in risk taking have you noticed between men and women?   

© 2016 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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4 Ways Strong Minded Leaders Get Organized

Sunday, April 10th, 2016

As the spokesperson for the FBI in Northern California, I soon recognized the need for strong minded leaders to get organized. The crushing number of emails, meetings, conference calls, and interviews were relentless!

I worked all day only to come home at night and spend several more hours trying to get out from under the workload. My grueling schedule had nothing to do with poor organizational skills; instead, it reflected the way I thought about the tasks before me.

I needed to become a strong minded leader leader to overcome the psychological obstacles that prevented me from getting more organized with my time.

Taking control of your emotions, thoughts, and behavior takes mental toughness because you need to be very intentional about how you overcome the mental obstacles that slow you down.

Leaders, entrepreneurs, and business owners have a lot to get done—and only 24 hours in the day in which to do it!

Here are 4 ways strong minded leaders get organized:

1. ADMIT PROCRASTINATION TRAITS

We tend to shrink from specific tasks for several reasons but there is nothing you can do about it until you become aware of why you are procrastinating. Strong minded leaders ask themselves, “Why do I keep not wanting to do this?”

Perhaps for one of these reasons:

  • Overcoming the learning curve is daunting if it’s a new project
  • Fear of making a poor decision
  • Expectations of perfection
  • Boredom for the task has set in—this one will sink you. If you’re bored with your task, it’s time to be honest about how you can change either your attitude or your assignment.

BOTTOM LINE:  Stop blaming distractions and drill down to uncover the real emotional obstacle that is slowing you down.

2. STOP FOCUSING ON TOO MUCH PROGRESS

Leaders, entrepreneurs, and business owners need to spend an inordinate amount of time mulling over strategy and future steps. This type of thinking is open-ended and involves uncertainty—this is your most important work.

But, many times we get bogged down in relatively unimportant work—stuff that needs to get done but doesn’t move the needle toward where you are headed.

Once you realize that 1) you engage in both types of work, and 2) both are necessary, it’s easier to grasp why some types of work trigger bigger returns than others. When you do, it changes the way you think about how to organize your day.

The important work is what will take you to the next level of performance; the unimportant work will keep you right where you are.

Both have their place in our daily routine. Unimportant work leaves us satisfied—we’ve accomplished something and crossed an item off our to-do list. Important work, however, makes us happier.

We are happier when we’re focused and immersed in something that provides with value and meaning. According to Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling On Happiness, a wandering mind is not a happy mind.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi contends that the concept of flow happens when we are engaged in important work that is very satisfying and our attention is focused on something that is good and concrete. We enter a state where we’re giving full and rapt attention to something that we’re good at and is important to us.

BOTTOM LINE: Schedule time for your important work in each day of your week.

3. NIP MONKEY MIND IN THE BUD

Strong minded leaders do not ignore noise and distractions—that is impossible! But they can control their restless and unsettled “monkey mind” by quieting it as soon as they recognize it.

This is a basic premise of mental toughness: If we are aware of what we are thinking, we can chose our behavior.

Meditation takes a mentally tough mind because it is constantly saying “no” to intrusive thoughts and emotions.

BOTTOM LINE: Identify and eliminate those behaviors and thoughts that mess up your schedule. Conduct a review of how your monkey mind sabotaged your day. The error is not messing up; the error is not fixing it so that you don’t mess up next time.

4. AVOID PEOPLE WHO KIDNAP THEIR TIME

I learned to say “no” to people who had nothing better to do than sit around and talk. As Warren Buffett said, “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say “no” to almost everything.”

I came to work every day focused on what was important for me to accomplish that day.

Dan Ariely aptly points out that saying “no” feels bad and hard because humans are social creatures. Most of us want to be nice and a team player.

BOTTOM LINE: Guard your time carefully by spending it with people who can help you become the person you want to be. It may feel good to say “yes,” but you need to focus on what is important to you.

How do you organize your day so you can be your most productive?

© 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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