Posts Tagged ‘entrepreneurs’

8 Powerful Ways To Deal With A Problem Employee

Monday, August 21st, 2017

The problem employee shows up in every aspect of life because they don’t leave their idiosyncrasies at work. They take them with them wherever they go.

I had to learn how to deal with people with irritating personalities as a counterintelligence FBI agent. Walking away just because an informant was unpleasant was not an option. I needed to work with them and bring them onto my team because often they had unique information of value.

As entrepreneurs, business owners, and leaders you will encounter a problem employee at some point. They can waste a lot of your valuable time and sow discord among the other employees.

Don’t get sucked into a vortex of frustration. Sometimes you need mental toughness to understand how to best deal with these types of employees. Here’s a list of the 8 most common problem employees and how to motivate them to improve their behavior:

1. The One Who Expects Perfection

There is always that problem employee who knows the right way to do things and is only too willing to show you. They have a tendency to make you, and others, feel flawed and judged. Their bottom line is often something like, “Let’s get it done right,” not “Let’s all be friends.”

Perfectionists are people who operate by the book and like to follow standard operating procedures. They can be a pain the butt if your work environment is chaotic because they are not comfortable with change.

TIP: Set up a clear chain of command and insist everyone go through proper channels. Start and end meetings on time—a perfectionist likes schedules. Explain exactly how you want things done; this provides the structure that the employee needs.

2. The One Who Wants To Be Your Best Friend

This is the problem employee who feels it’s all about relationships rather than the bottom line. They can take up an inordinate amount of time talking to you, and others, in an attempt to build that relationship.

The insecure ones are suck ups. Their lack of confidence in their skill set is compensated by using flattery and ingratiating behavior. They feel more comfortable leaning into personal relationships than applying their skills to get the job done.

TIP: Be generous with praise, but don’t reward them for fawning. Stick to the facts and never confront them with the problem. Most of them do not realize they have crossed the line.

3. The One Who Is An Overachiever

There is one in every crowd. As a leader, you may not recognize the overachiever as a problem employee. Authority figures tend to respond well to them because—well, they get things done! They go above and beyond what is asked or expected of them.

Overachievers can be impatient, with you and others. They often are not good team players and chafe at following strict rules. Be cautious about putting a perfectionist and an overachiever together on a project.

TIP: Don’t appeal to the warm and fuzzy side of their personality; they may not have one. Don’t micromanage them or ask them to slow down. Pay attention to the tension they may create with your less overachieving employees.

4. The One Who Thrives On Drama

Feelings and emotions are usually fairly close to the surface with this type of problem employee. They spend a lot of time in the depth of their tragedy and are often moody when things are not going well.

Frequently in emotional flux, dramatics tend to be inconsistent because they are mood driven and take things personally.

TIP: Be empathetic; they will feel valued and understood. If they become hysterial or overly dramatic, take a look at what is triggering it in their work environment. This employee does not do well in bureacracies or repetitious work. Instead, put them in work spaces where they can express themselves to others.

5. The One Who Analyzes Everything

Nerds are usually intelligent and thrive on scientific-like methods. They tend to be loners and not good team players. They attain their power from collecting information and knowing more than you do about a project.

Nerdy types like to feel prepared so give them plenty of advance warning if you need something. They’ll love you if you feed them information because knowledge is the currency that gives them the edge.

TIP: Don’t place this employee in a fast-paced environment where there’s no time to think or collect information. They do best in closed door situations where there are fewer interpersonal demands and interruptions.

6. The One Who Is A Worrier

Worrywarts are the ones who fret about everything, from their own abilities to your competence as a leader. They also tend to complain or second guess your decisions as a leader.

Never tell this problem employee to “not worry!” They will mistrust you and worry even more. They can be great strategists because they are always thinking. If you direct their energy toward worrying about how the competition might get a leg up, they can be a great resource.

TIP: They do not do well in environments where change is sudden or without notice. They perform best when there are clear rules to follow and where change is not introduced without preparation, caution, and all questions are answered.

7. The One Who Is A Slacker

We all dislike this problem employee and it’s tempting to eliminate the problem by firing them. If they are lazy and/or incompetent, sooner rather than later is best. Before you do, though, make sure you’ve come to the right conclusion about them. Make sure they are not bored or under-challenged.

Very often what they really need is more structure. Work with them to set goals and make these goals appeal to their emotion. They need to find a way to connect with their interests and strengths.

TIP: Often these are the people who thrive in environments that are in constant flux and change. Ask them lots of questions to get their creative juices flowing and then give them permission to follow through with their ideas.

8. The One Who Is Bossy

You have your very own Attila the Hun—lucky you! They thrive on taking charge and will not hesitate to undermine you if they don’t have ownership in the project. They do not hesitate to talk over people, including you, and use very forceful and blunt language to get their ideas across.

Bossy people don’t like to waste time dithering about what should be done. They respect leaders who say what they mean, so spit your news out fast and straight.

TIP: First, you need to determine whether the employee is a blowhard or whether they really can get in front of a situation, take the heat, and assume responsibility. Second, earn their respect. If they respect you as a leader, you can come together as a team.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Sign Up for my How To Build Confidence on-line training course

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

How Women Leaders Can Use This Secret Weapon

Monday, March 13th, 2017

Women leaders have a secret weapon at their disposal. It’s called emotional intelligence. 

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.

FBI counterintelligence agents like myself rely heavily upon emotional intelligence. It helps us to be successful as we identify foreign spies so we can stop them from stealing proprietary information from the U.S. Emotional intelligence 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 that relies 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 people get these two voices confused. Many entrepreneurs and business owners are men who follow a formula of aggression and intimidation to get to the top. Now many women leaders use that same formula to see where it can take them.

And here is how well it’s working: women die 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.

In my law enforcement career, I had a choice. 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 and develop my natural skills and not worry whether or not I fit in with others who rely upon intimidation.

Here are 4 reasons emotional intelligence can be a secret weapon for women leaders:

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

Women leaders in the workforce need to grab success however they can, but too many of them throw away their advantages because they try to be like men.

Society gives little girls permission to be empathetic. They use language that express emotions and place priorities on ways to develop deep and meaningful relationships. It starts 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, society encourages women to develop these softer skills.

The good news is that we can learn these essential skills as we 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, which includes 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, explore words to describe how you feel 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 leaders as having innate advantages that better equips them to move into top level positions. In today’s competitive environment, leaders need to possess the collaborative traits that are the by-product of emotional intelligence.

The Hay Group produced an interesting study. They found that women leaders were most successful when they were required to lead by influence rather than by 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 the same barriers throughout their careers. Their work environment requires them to develop the emotional intelligence skills they need to advance in their organizations.

TIP: Scrappy women leaders 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’s not much 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.

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. These are the areas of the brain 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.

A woman’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 leaders who seek 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.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

Sign Up for my How To Build Confidence on-line training course

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

Why 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 who had clawed her way through college sat in front of a panel of polished FBI agents and interviewed for a job as a special agent.

Grit Up!

My working class background was worn like a badge of honor. There was pride in 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. Educated elitists I met at universities ridiculed me because I wasn’t as enlightened as them.

Each curveball thrown my way was met with determination and persistence. Grit was needed to make sacrifices and keep my eye on the larger goal.

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

Entrepreneurs wake up every day to new challenges in their business. Startups are faced with new competition and unstable markets. Leadership can get blindsided by investors. 

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 slick professionals in the cities discussed whether schools should teach bi-lingual classes, we were more interested in keeping our livestock alive.

I had no friends and started to stack hay bales when I was 8 years old. Believe me when I say that I thought it terribly unfair that life had dealt me this crappy hand.

Later, researchers noticed 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 to play with 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 deal with them now.

2. GRIT UP & LEAN INTO THE STRUGGLE

persistence

As I worked counterintelligence cases, I learned that grit meant I had to lean 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 reared its ugly head year after year.

There is a difference between persistence and stubbornness. 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 can’t anticipate. 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. 

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. Keep an eye on 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 into which we are born. 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. It’s important to choose what makes us significant so we live according to our most deeply felt values.

Don’t whine, point fingers, or blame others for your predicament. You be the hero of your own life and choose your destiny.

What It Means For You:

Take time to find out your core values because they drive your behavior. They move and inspire you. Identify what is wrong, but don’t waste time talking about it. Instead, find ways you’ll make it better.

© 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.

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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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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. Entrepreneurs need to be psychologically prepared to do battle with their competitors. They need to deal with stress, recover from mistakes quickly, and adjust strategies with each new innovation. On top of that, they need to 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. They learn how to anticipate their responses and correct them if needed.

Stretch past your comfort zone and learn how to be flexible in your approach when something doesn’t turn out as expected. You can quickly decide to change course or look for new ways to solve the problem.

FBI arrests require flexibility because they rarely go according to plan. This is especially important in tense and dangerous situations. Constant training helps them uncover their go-to reflexes and evaluate whether they are helpful or harmful, before they find themselves in an unexpected situation.

TIP:

  • Constantly re-educate yourself, even in the basics
  • Resist the temptation to fall 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. It can also cause heart attacks and other health hazards. Non-stop stress can be harmful. However, 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. Recent studies show 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. They also experience 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. They die 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.

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. 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 can experience too little cortisol, and their performance withers, too.

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

The Journal of Experimental Psychology reported that people who told themselves that they were excited about the challenge ahead of them performed well. They did 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. Move them 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.

I created stories around FBI best practices and shared them with others. The audience benefited 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.

You can follow me on Twitter

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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 in my career. While there risks because I carried a weapon every day, the biggest risk came from friendly fire. That is, a supervisor 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 means survival, it was essential to land on my feet when confronted with the unknown. Over time, I learned to look at risks as opportunities to be exploited. It could be a messy investigation or new squad assignment.

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

In today’s competitive marketplace, we find ourselves in uncomfortable situations all the time. As we move out of our comfort zone, we also move closer to risk. We don’t know how far into the unknown our risks will take us.

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 “Grit-up” mentality can make all the difference.

Research finds that men and women use different strategies. They also use 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. On the other hand, female risk taking tends to decrease under stress. The researchers discovered that there are gender differences in brain activity. It revolves around the different ways men and women compute risk and prepare for action. This is important given the stressful nature of our work lives today.

CAUTION TIP: Don’t stereotype men as too reckless and women too cautious. It makes good sense for men and women to work together to create 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. Meanwhile, 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. Remember his brain engages the top, dorsal area of the orbitofrontal cortex which focuses on long term rewards. In addition, most male brains seek out irregular patterns of behavior which will provide them with a competitive advantage. This will help them set goals that will produce long-term rewards.

CAUTION TIP: Women may appear to be feckless and unable to stick with a strategy. Remember 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. This is difficult for men because they 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. Remember her brain takes 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 find it more difficult to abandon a project, course of action, or strategy. Remember his brain tends to focus on big rewards later. This is 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. We do need to understand how these differences can turn into advantages through collaborative efforts that involves both sexes.

It too simplistic to assume that all men and women react the same way to risk, stress, 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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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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