Posts Tagged ‘leaders’

4 Reasons Why Stoics Make Great Leaders

Monday, May 29th, 2017

When I was 8, my grandfather bought me a quarter horse from the Denver stockyards. A cutting horse, he could pivot on his back legs so fast that I scrambled to stay in the saddle. 

Because the horse was trained to cut cattle from a herd, my dad would regularly send me out to bring in a single cow he wanted to either sell or put in a different pasture. On our Wyoming ranch one pasture was often several thousand acres of rough country.

I found the cow I was to bring in but she did not cooperate. When she tried to turn back to the herd, my horse blocked her. She took off running and we followed. Suddenly, the cow turned right. My horse turned right. I, however, kept moving forward and landed in a barbed wire fence.

Several things went through my mind—Dad would be pissed the cow got away; I’d have to walk several miles back to the ranch house; and how would I find my horse in that big pasture?

Not knowing what would happen, exactly, I held tight to the reins. The barbed wire fence tugged at my clothes in one direction, and my horse dragged me in another. I was in great danger of being trampled under horse hooves so I reached out and grabbed a bush and clung tight. My horse was pulled up abruptly because while I didn’t have the strength to stop him, the bush was big enough to do the job. I got back on my horse, found the cow again, and took her to the corral.

Further obstacles presented themselves while in the FBI Academy as I trained to become an FBI agent, but among the many lessons I learned along the way is this: it’s important that we understand the obstacles that we face and not run from them.

I could have let go of the reins and suffered the consequences, but I choose to work through the obstacles facing me the best way I could. Some obstacles cannot be avoided, not if we want to come out on top.

Stoicism teaches that, before we try to control events, we have to control ourselves first. Leaders like Marcus Aurelius have found a stoic attitude prepares them for failure and guards them against the arrogance of success.

As a leader, entrepreneur, or business owner it is important to find ways to become stronger in the face of adversity, turn obstacles around, and spin problems into opportunities.

Here are 3 reasons why stoics make great leaders:

1. Accept What Is Out Of Your Control

Leaders who are stoics recognize that only their thoughts and attitudes are within their realm of control; everything is ultimately uncontrollable.

Face it—there is a lot of stuff over which you have no control. You cannot control nature, other people, or even your own body at times. You can whine, complain, and pout but in the end you need to make peace with your situation. Only at this point can you start looking for ways to influence the people and things around you and try to change the outcome.

If you cannot identify and accept what is out of your control, you will collapse into a pit of negative emotions like frustration, sadness, and anger. Tantrums may have worked as a kid but they won’t take you very far up the corporate ladder.

The only thing you can totally control is your own thoughts. No one can take them away from you so make the most of them. If someone holds a gun to your head and demands that you run 6 miles, you feel stressed. If you run 6 miles to graduate from the FBI Academy and have colleagues cheering you on, you feel happy. You cannot blame events or situations for your emotions. The same 6 miles were run; what is different is your attitude about them.

“Today I escaped anxiety. Or no, I discarded it, because it was within me, in my own perceptions, not outside.”—Marcus Aurelius

Resilient people are stoics who are mentally tough. They are not disturbed by events because they know how to control their emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that will set them up for success.

TIP: Look for ways to understand the importance of your own efforts, regardless of the outcome. Just as importantly, don’t be afraid to pinpoint where you could have done better in controlling your emotions, thoughts, and behavior.

2. Search For The Worst That Can Happen

“Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness.”—Marcus Aurelius

Marcus was a stoic who did not want to be surprised and caught off guard at what might happen during his day. He knew how it feels to fall flat on his feet when confronted with the unknown or unexpected.

Positive thinking is a cornerstone of mental toughness. However, reminding yourself of what could go wrong is not pessimism. It’s being smart. You will encounter rude bosses, conniving colleagues, and pain-in-the-ass customers. Why not prepare for them?

FBI agents do not prepare for arrests by assuming everything will turn out OK. They prepare for arrests by anticipating all that could go wrong.

Leaders who are stoics are less likely to get frustrated and blow a deal or lose control during a tense negotiation. They imagine every conceivable setback and obstacle and find ways to cope and overcome the adversity before it becomes a reality.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy suggests spending time thinking about the potential downside of a conversation or event in advance can help you avoid an “oh shit” moment.

TIP: Take the time to think through the worst that could happen and allow yourself to feel the negative stuff. When you do, you’ll be able to manage the unproductive drama that these emotions can produce.

3. Stumbles Are Welcome

Stoics do not gaze at their navel to become better leaders. They don’t waste time trying to find themselves to become more authentic leaders. Instead, they turn their focus and energy to look for ways they can turn obstacles into opportunities. Often this means they voluntarily choose the hard path, the road less traveled.

What normal person volunteers to experience pain or discomfort? It’s not a self-inflicted penitence; instead, it’s another way the stoics develop character—they go out of their way to experience failure.

When successful executives are asked to list the top five moments their career took a leap forward, failure is always on that list. It might be the loss of a job or a lost client. It is always a time when failure requires them to step up to the plate.

TIP: If you want to increase your performance, set high goals where you have a 50-70% chance of success. According to Psychologist and Harvard researcher David McClelland, that’s the sweet spot for high achievers. When you fail half the time, it motivates you to figure out what you should do differently and try again. That’s called practice.

4. Develop A Petri Dish

The mindset of a stoic leader is not perverse. There is a method to their madness! After all, we will all fail at something sooner or later, so why not practice failing well? There are several reasons to keep a petri dish on hand full of experiences that can lead to discomfort or failure.

First, failure helps you build up the strength to cope with whatever the future holds for you. Success and comfort does not prepare for the shitstorm that will come at some point in your life. Whether it’s your career, your health, old age, or something unseen, know that you will be able to endure the discomfort.

Second, when you experience stumbles and failures along the way, they will help you mitigate the fear that always comes along with the unexpected. Expose yourself to discomfort and failure so you know how you will respond when a setback rears its ugly head.

Third, regularly embrace the discomfort of the road less traveled because it will create an appreciation for what you do have.

TIP: Do not make failure a stranger. Embrace the stumbles along the way and become smarter because of them. Recovering from failure is a mindset.

“Life is hard. Pain Is Inevitable. Growth is optional.”—LaRae Quy

© 2017 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

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.”

5 Ways Great Leaders Get Through Tough Times

Monday, February 27th, 2017

Great leaders are defined by tough times. This is when they lean into their inner toughness for the grit they need to keep moving ahead. Or, they become victim to circumstances they have not learned to control.

One of the greatest leaders of all time was Genghis Khan. He conquered substantial portions of Central Europe and China to create the largest empire in history.

Temujin was born into a nomadic Mongol tribe in 1162. When Temujin was 12 years old, the tribe killed his father. They left the family left to die in the harsh Mongolian winter. Temujin became a man that winter and kept his family alive. The lessons he learned at the age of 12 turned him into the warrior known as Genghis Khan.

As I read his story, I was struck by how human nature never changes.

The disciplines used by Genghis Khan created a great leader who had mental toughness. He learned how to prepare for the unknown and embrace the unexpected. They are the same disciplines great leaders need today. There are constant unexpected turns in the marketplace, new competition, and changing technology.

Great leaders are effective, no matter the challenges they face. Here are 5 ways they get through tough times:

1. GREAT LEADERS FOCUS ON A CLEAR GOAL

Genghis’s father was the leader of his Mongolian tribe but was assassinated by a rival. Genghis  and his family were then left to starve in the cold winter. Genghis had one goal in mind as he developed the skills necessary to become a great leader in those bleak months and he never lost focus of that goal—to stay alive.

My goal was to become an FBI agent. Albeit very different circumstances, both Genghis and I dug deep to find the passion behind our goals; it’s what kept us going.

How To Make It Work For You: You owe your team a clearly defined goal worthy of dedicating their efforts. You also need to demonstrate that you are willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen. Goals can shift over time so it’s important to measure progress on a regular basis.

2. TIE THAT GOAL TO A PURPOSE

While goals can shift, our purpose never does. Genghis had one purpose in life—to see the enemies who killed his father brought to justice. Even though he amassed the largest empire in history, he never became distracted by a desire for possessions or wealth as he became more powerful.

Genghis’s wounds drove him; most of us have wounds that drive us. What is important is to learn how to channel the passions that run the deepest toward achieving something we never thought possible.

How To Make It Work For You: We all come out of childhood wounded; it’s where we begin to develop the character that shows itself in great moments as adults. You have a choice: you can piss and moan about how life has handed you unfair circumstances, or you can take the bit between your teeth and convert your wounds into strengths. Grit Up and develop mental toughness.

3. BUILD UP ENDURANCE

As a boy, Genghis trained by running up and down a mountain with a mouth full of water. Over time, he got to where he could return to the starting point and spit the entire mouthful on the ground. This was a triumph that signaled he had developed the aerobic strength to run up and down mountains breathing only through his nose.

The FBI Academy had new agents run around a basketball court with a medicine ball in one hand and sweaty towel in the other. At the time, I failed to see how building endurance would make great leaders.

In hindsight, I understand they are inexorably interlinked. For both Genghis and myself, we were pursuing goals that were truly important to us.

How To Make It Work For You: Building endurance requires that you find a purpose that has value and meaning for you; persevere and do not give up, believe that you are giving it your best, and have confidence that you are in control of yourself and what happens to you.

4. STRETCH TOWARD PEAK PERFORMANCE

Genghis Khan used archery to conquer his empire. Drawing a bow and arrow from the back of a galloping horse and accurately hitting the target is not easy. Genghis mastered his art by doing two things:

1)    He developed the power to heave the thick bow back so he could aim his arrow. The Mongolian bow was covered with so many layers of sinew that it had the pull of approximately 160 pounds.

2)    He understood the movements of the horse he was riding. When a horse is galloping, there is a moment when the horse is air-borne and all four hooves are off the ground. In that split-second, as he sat in his saddle and sailed through the air in smooth flight, he could shoot his arrow with enough accuracy to hit the target.

How To Make It Work For You: Genghis Khan honed his skill with the bow and arrow. In the same way, you and I can build our mastery by pushing the boundaries of our skill levels. Experts agree that your grasp should exceed your reach by about 4% if you want to achieve peak performance.

5. DEVELOP A HIGH-FUNCTIONING TEAM

Genghis Khan took the time to understand the thinking and movements of his chosen partner—in his case, a horse. He studied the movements of the animal and synchronized them with his own so they functioned as one fluid and powerful weapon.

In this modern age, you and I work with other partners in business and life, and if we plan to be great leaders, we will need to understand the way they think so we can enable them to perform at optimal levels—especially during tough times. We need to anticipate their reactions as much as we need to anticipate our own.

How To Make It Work For You: Spend time understanding what makes your team members successful and what makes them fail. Don’t stop there; help them understand as well so they can start thinking ahead of time about how they will react in tough times. This will free up both you and team to spend your energy adapting quickly in crucial moments.

© 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.”

6 Ways To Become A Charismatic Leader

Monday, January 23rd, 2017

The most charismatic leader I have ever met was an FBI supervisor who had a powerful personality, a powerful sense of humor, and a powerful ability to motivate the agents who worked for him.

Many of our most effective leaders are labeled charismatic and yet it was not something they were born with. They acquired it through knowledge and practice.

Like learning effective leadership skills, charisma is a process of learning how to motivate others to help achieve group goals. We are not born with a natural ability to win the hearts and minds of others.

Many people confuse charisma with likability and while likable people can be persuasive, charismatic leaders have thoughtfully fine-tuned their public image into one where they are seen to be advancing the interests of the group they are representing.

Charisma is not something possessed by a leader; it is foisted upon the leader by followers. It is a gift bestowed by the group because the leader has conveyed to the group that they all share the same sense of worth, vision, and goals.

German sociologist Max Weber did not believe charisma was a rare quality possessed by certain lucky individuals. Instead, he said that what is important is how the individual is regarded by his/her followers. In other words, followers distinguish the leader from others and confer charisma on him or her.

A charismatic leader is someone who is emotionally competent—a core component of mental toughness.

Here are 6 ways to become a charismatic leader:

1. Win The Hearts Of Followers

Charisma centers on the capacity for a leader to be seen by followers as advancing the interests of the group. We trust the leader to take us in the right direction and believe he/she is one of us.

It’s important, however, that the group feels on equal footing with the leader, so find ways to confirm in their minds that you are all in it together and that your self-worth is tied to their best interests.

The inaugural addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy represent charismatic leadership. FDR spins a tale of overcoming adversity while JFK reminds us of youth and opportunity. In neither case was the charisma that flowed from their speeches self-evident. Rather, both were constructed to win over their followers.

2. Make People Feel Special

No matter who you are, take the time to make the person across from you feel important and fascinating. Make them feel as though you are completely with them and following their conversation.

  1. Nod occasionally, not frequently.
  2. Ask questions, even if it means interrupting them. It shows you are genuinely interested in what they are saying.
  3. Don’t let your eyes wander; stay fixed on their face.

3. Use The Right Pronouns

Solidarity in vision and direction of the company inspires people and increases group optimism for the future. When group identity is strong, there is more likelihood of referring to the group as “us.” Use words like us and we rather than me and I.

When you’re dealing with diverse groups, divide and conquer. Find ways to use the words us and we when talking to each group separately. Each group needs to be left with the impression that you are on their side.

But here is where charisma becomes more of an art than a science—never let others feel that you are not genuine in the way you reach out. Show diverse groups that you understand the unique struggles they face, and that by advocating for one it does not imply you are abandoning the other.

4. Tell Our Story

A charismatic leader is someone who clarifies what we believe rather than telling people what they believe. They are able to lead their audience to draw the conclusions one desires rather than spelling out those ideas for them.

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

5. Conceal Your Craft

The act of charisma is subtle and not obvious. It is rarely productive to bluntly say, “This is who we are” because it can often be met with a “No, we’re not” retort. Instead, a charismatic leader allows their story to unfold rather than issue an order or proclamation. This allows followers to make up their own mind.

In doing so, you’ve implied that you rely on your followers to use their own intelligence and experience to draw the right conclusions.

6. Create A Strong Persona

A strong persona does not require great physical strength or ego; however, it does require two things:

1) full display of core competencies such as intelligence, kindness, empathy, etc.

mixed with

2) warmth of personality

A strong persona means that you are confident in your abilities but not puffed up because of them. It also means that you have no self-doubt about your talents and skill sets.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. 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.”

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.” 

book

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.

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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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Why Leaders Need To Grit Up If They Want To Succeed

Sunday, May 15th, 2016

You may think that, as a female FBI agent, I manned-up to be accepted as one of the guys. It’s true that there was no place for a delicate prima donna on the squad, but my feminine traits and qualities were never discouraged. They were simply put in perspective.

Grit Up!

I trained alongside male agents as an equal. There was neither the time nor the inclination to play the gender game. We all had a job to do and we did it.  We found ourselves in life and death situations where the meaning of man-up simply meant digging down to find the strength and mental toughness to face the situation in front of us with courage.

This not about being a man or a woman—it’s about being fiercely awesome in whatever we are doing so we can be successful.

A challenge to man-up assumes the speaker is tougher than the other person. It suggests manliness and strength. After all, it would be hard to imagine a man telling a woman that she needed to be more ladylike to be qualified for her position.

Women are starting to shelve polite sensitivities, and this is a trend among women of all ages who are post-feminists. They’re not afraid of losing their feminine qualities by being tough and resilient, traits that have been mostly associated with masculinity.

The phrase grit-up implies a woman who prides herself on being strong, irreverent, and post-feminist. It suggests courage, and empowers those who use it.

Instead of trying to man-up, entrepreneurs, leaders, and business owners need to learn how to grit-up because grit is a quality that doesn’t belong to any specific gender.

It means that you have the mental toughness to do what needs to be done without making excuses for yourself or blaming others for your situation. You take the burden of your responsibilities, whatever they happen to be, with a will and perseverance that is unbreakable. It is the ability to fight against extreme odds.

Grit is what leaders rely on when they feel as though they have nothing left.

Let me share with you ways the FBI taught me to grit-up:

1. STAY SOFT TO BE STRONG

Strong people do not need to be aggressive because they know they have the power and skills to take over a situation and bring it to a close. Naked aggression can hide cowardice and be a sign of weakness. In many situations, mental toughness and gentleness of spirit need be mixed to be most effective.

For example, in an arrest situation, FBI agents need to be strong to slap handcuffs on a criminal. They also need to be gentle and treat the person with dignity—only a jerk kicks a person when they’re down.

TIP:

To be strong does not mean you need to be aggressive.

2. COMPETENCE IS YOUR TRUMP CARD

We are competent in those areas in which we’ve spent time in training. I’m a competent shot because I’ve spent hours on the firing range and shot over 3,000 bullets before leaving the FBI Academy. My scores went up because of my training, and my repeated experiences led to success. Otherwise, I would just have a well-used weapon in my hands.

I had the training to lean back on when confronted with an arrest situation and I knew I had the competence to shoot my weapon with accuracy so that fewer people were endangered.

TIP:

Training leads to competence.

3. BUILD CONFIDENCE WITH A STRONG MIND

I had many doubts about my abilities during my first few years as an FBI Agent. I’d hear this nagging voice that told me I couldn’t do it, and it took me a few years to realize that these unhelpful ideas and thoughts only lived in my head. Do the right thing for yourself so that you can do the right thing for others.

It takes courage and a strong mind to try new strategies that will make you feel uncomfortable—at first, but this is how you over-power those negative voices. After all, if someone else can do it, why not you?

TIP:

Monitor internal voices that cause you to doubt yourself so you can nip them in the bud—before they become powerful.

“Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.” Mark Twain

When have you had to grit-up and do the right thing?

© 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

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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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What Successful People Know About Failure

Sunday, February 14th, 2016

When I was ten years old, I was riding my black quarter horse  and helping my grandmother cut a horned bull from the cattle  herd. The bull  suddenly turned, horns first, and charged my  horse. I grabbed the saddle  horn; my horse pivoted on his  back hooves and we got away unharmed.  My first attempt was a failure, but I still needed to  find a way to get the bull corralled….

Success - biker

There is one thing you never say to a grandmother who  has ammo on her  Christmas list: “I can’t.”

My grandmother was a mentally tough woman who never used the word quit or accepted defeat. No matter how difficult the situation, she kept trying.

Nothing grabs our attention like failure. For me, as a ten year old kid, failure meant I was not successful in getting the bull into the corral. Like most people, I defined failure as lack of success.

This attitude is not only antiquated, it is dangerous—because failure is an important learning tool for the brain.

Successful leaders, entrepreneurs, and small business owners all know that understanding how to deal with failure is part of the job. They know they don’t make bad decisions; they just have bad results.

Here are 5 things you need to know about failure and actions you can take:

1. Feed The Brain, It’s Starving

A child learns to walk by falling down; scientists experiment to identify what doesn’t work so it can be eliminated from future experiments. Learning is error-driven.

The limbic brain system has kept us safe for centuries because it pays more attention to negative information that could be perceived as a threat. It taught cavemen to GET lunch, and not BE lunch. This “negativity bias” is what drives learning since negative information gets the brain’s attention faster than positive information.

Failure forces us to integrate new information, and researchers have found the bigger the failure, the more we learn. The brain, you might say, feeds on failure.

2. Whip Back the Monster Called Ego

To the unconscious mind, being successful means being worthy. At the deepest level, success means we are worthy of being loved. And being loved is what matters to us most.

Failure reinforces a belief that we don’t have what it takes to make it in the world. While we don’t welcome them, failures remind us that we are not the center of the universe. If we really think about our experiences, we can see that there are factors beyond our control—indeed, factors that have nothing at all to do with us.

Failure humbles us, and this can be a good thing. Humility:

  • is not thinking less of yourself, but rather thinking about yourself less.
  • reminds us that we’re no more important than anyone else.
  • cautions us to remember that no amount of success we’ve had in the past guarantees success in the future.
  • points out that it’s not about us.
  • makes us more authentic, which breeds trust.
  • produces better professionals, better leaders, and better human beings.

3. Keep Grasping for What is Out of Reach

Since we are imperfect creatures, there will always be a gap between what we are and what we can be. Our fear of failure can help us succeed because it sparks our desire to grasp what is just beyond our reach.

This is great motivation for leaders and businesses because failure can create the spark, the inspiration for great achievements.

Our struggle with our own failings can, ironically, bring out the best in us.

4. Explore the Unknown and Make New Discoveries

Psychologist B.F. Skinner once said that when you try something new and produce a result that was not what you expected (i.e. failure), drop everything and study it further because failure can be the portal for a new discovery.

Roy Plunkett, a chemist at DuPont, set out to invent a new refrigerant. Instead, he created a glob of white waxy material that conducted heat and did not stick to surfaces. Fascinated by this “unexpected” material, he abandoned his original line of research and experimented with this interesting material, which eventually became known by its household name—Teflon.

5. Shed Light on Blind Spots

Psychologists find that we tend to repeat the same mistake, and repeat it in endless variety. That is the definition of a blind spot.

Failures are incredibly valuable because they allow us to analyze our performance, and when we do, we identity those patterns of behavior that do not keep moving us forward. Unfortunately, “teachable moments” are usually accompanied by feelings of frustration, disappointment, and embarrassment.

The leaders at Google know something very important about failure; they not only celebrate failure, they budget for it and it’s potential insight. Employees can spend 20 percent of each workday on their own projects even though 80 percent of Google ventures fail.

If people want big success, failure comes with the territory.

BTW, I knew my horse spooked the bull so, like my grandmother, I refused to accept defeat and tried something different: I got off and stood in front of him. The bull swung his head so hard, snot flung from side to side. He eventually turned around and wandered in the direction of the corral. I followed, leading my horse. I did get the bull corralled in the end.

How has failure made you a better leader, entrepreneur, or small business owner?

© 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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