Posts Tagged ‘leadership’

How Emotional Intelligence Is A Woman Leader’s Secret Weapon

Monday, March 13th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. USE EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE TO INCREASE INFLUENCE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. BRAINS ARE DIFFERENT, THOUGH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2017 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

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.”

4 Characteristics That Set Successful People Apart

Monday, November 7th, 2016

The FBI only hires successful people because investigations often involve life and death situations where our mindset dictated the choices we make every day. As an FBI agent, being successful was not an option—it was a requirement. 

successful

The average age of a new agent is 32 because the FBI only hires people who have proven themselves to be successful in a previous career.

As successful leaders, entrepreneurs, and business owners, your ability to make decisions and execute is the lifeblood of your organization. As such, you need a mindset that says, “Grit up and make it happen.”

You need to have intense focus under pressure. Research suggests that it takes just the right mix of innate talent, personality traits, and life experiences to be successful and reach the top of the ladder.

Here are 4 characteristics that set successful people apart:

1. SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE GRIT UP

Grit Up!

Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “Press On” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race—Calvin Coolidge

No matter how talented someone is, success demands psychological traits like grit and persistence if they expect to keep moving forward when confronted with an obstacle or roadblock.

A grit up and make it happen attitude requires confidence, competitiveness, positivity, and mental toughness. It also requires that you are able to relish your accomplishment while at the same time tolerating mistakes that you make along the way—self-criticism can be very destructive since it brings your focus on the negative instead of the positive.

TIP:

To sharpen this grit up mindset, place yourself in situations where you have ample opportunities to experience it. You can recognize when this mindset occurs when you are doing something excellent and you perceive you are close to your best performance.

2. SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE LOOK IN THE MIRROR

thinking

The way you view yourself predicts your level of effectiveness in every area of your life. It explains why the brain has such a powerful effect on your performance. If you see yourself as someone who cannot organize effective meetings, you won’t.

No matter where you are in business and life, you need to uncover and develop your skill sets. What you can glean from coaching and mentoring depends a great deal on how you see yourself.

Coaches and mentors can make you smarter, but they cannot make you smart.

Success demands that we identify our innate talents and skill sets, apply mental toughness to keep moving toward our goals, and train to develop and expand our talents.

TIP:

Most of what you think about yourself and your abilities were programmed in early childhood. This will play a decisive role in the way you approach challenges, and successes, in life.

Take the time to trace back the origins of many of the self-limiting beliefs you have about yourself. Ask yourself whether they are still true because you can use mental toughness to change your self-concept when new information is shown to you.

3. SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE FIND THE FLOW

Woman thinking

Successful people spend their time thinking about what they want to do and how to make it happen. And it doesn’t always take talent; it needs flow to make it happen.

Claude Bouchard’s research on elite athletes found no correlation between innate talent and trainability. Mental traits were just as important as fitness level in differentiating top athletes from amateurs.

Whether it’s an elite athlete, entrepreneur, business owner, or leader, the most successful people are those who have experiences described as flow—a state of deep absorption in the activity during which performance seems to happen effortlessly and automatically.

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

TIP:

If challenges are too low, one gets back to flow by increasing them. If challenges are too great, one can return to the flow state by learning new skills.

4. SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE DON’T EXPECT A BED OF ROSES

grit-training

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

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

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

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

The study also implies that those who do not experience trauma or tough times earlier in life are less likely to have the drive necessary to achieve peak performance. 

The mid-life event reminded them of the original loss and motivated them at a deep-seated level.

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

TIP:

Successful people are not content with beating their competition; they are just as interested in beating themselves. Personal best is very important because they believe they can always do better, no matter how well they perform.

They are always striving toward peak performance.

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

Monday, September 19th, 2016

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

self-talk

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Nip It In The Bud

stress

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

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

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

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

2. Reverse The Negative Spiral

Successful financial plans

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

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

3. Be Specific

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

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

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

4. Change Self-Limiting Beliefs

Adversity - ducks

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

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

Those memories stick with us, even when circumstances change.

5. Respect Yourself

Adversity - shining through

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

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

6. Watch Your Language

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

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

7. Embrace Your Imperfections

Success - mountains

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

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

8. Give Your Inner Critic A Name

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

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

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

How do you control your self-talk?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

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5 Evidence-Based Tips To Develop Stronger Minds

Monday, September 5th, 2016

Growing up on a cattle ranch in Wyoming, I learned to survive by being scrappy enough to make-do and hungry enough to keep moving. Department stores were big buildings in places 100 miles away, and if a rattle snake came between me and where I wanted to go, guess who came out on top?

Willpower - Getty image

As a kid I learned a lot about mental toughness. When I joined the FBI, I learned even more. My defensive tactics and firearms training drilled one thing into me: never choke when faced with an obstacle that looks bigger, meaner, or uglier than you.

In other words, always be game-ready so you can have the mental toughness to rebound from disappointments and missed opportunities. Our coaches trained us to have a hardiness for enduring the downside of a situation.

Entrepreneurs, leaders, and business owners have tough situations to face in today’s competitive environment. They need to be game-ready meet those challenges with their best mental game.

Here are 5 evidence-based tips on how to develop strong minds:

DEVELOP STRONGER MINDS #1 Set A Super Clear Goal

Research confirms that the more specific your goal, the better you will perform. General goals are too vague so take the time at the very beginning to think it through so it will become more clear to you.

The goal must be real and important for you to achieve. Do not speculate—that will do nothing but waste your time and valuable energy.

TIPS:

  • Define your need and really mean it.
  • Describe in detail exactly what you want.
  • List what you want—it will help you visualize your success.
  • Define what will interfere in achieving your goal.
  • Determine the starting point.
  • Establish a time frame for achieving your goal.
  • Break down the tasks necessary for completion.
  • Tell others what you plan to do.

DEVELOP STRONGER MINDS #2 Learn To Be OK With Pain

soldiers

We all know we are most motivated just before a deadline—our pulse quickens and our focus narrows. We can use the same principles of neurobiology to help us be mentally tough when it comes to meeting our goals.

Handling tough negotiations, dealing with competitors, and climbing the corporate ladder are not easy achievements, but if you are pursuing something that holds both value and meaning for you, you will embrace the discomfort that comes from pushing yourself past self-limiting barriers.

Whether it’s physical, psychological, or emotional discomfort, pushing past the pain of exertion will require you to suck it up. Leaders who have mental toughness are able to function when they hit their pain threshold because their minds are trained to ease their way through it.

My defensive tactics coach used to shout out, “No pain, no gain!” It captures the idea that we need to move past the point of comfort to achieve professional excellence.

TIPS:

  • When you feel you are starting to hit the wall, stay in the moment and concentrate on the task in front of you. When you focus and concentrate on the task, it is easier to see where small steps can be taken to keep you moving through the wall you are facing. If you lose your concentration, all you will see is the wall! Your mind takes over and tells you that the task is impossible, so you crumble and wilt.
  • Craft your goals as a target you are moving toward. Athletes are rarely thinking how far they are from the starting line but rather how much closer they are to the finish line.

DEVELOP STRONGER MINDS #3 Get Competitive

Runner

As badly as I hate to admit this, I was passed in a 6K run by a woman pushing a baby carriage. My pride took a real nosedive at that sorry moment, but it prompted a real competitive spirit within me.

I made sure the woman never got more than a few paces ahead of me for the rest of the race. I focused my eyes on her back and kept her pace until we crossed the finish line.

Inch by inch, life’s a cinch; yard by yard, life is hard.

TIPS:

  • Identify your competitors.
  • Gage where you stand against them.
  • Pick out one competitor who is slightly ahead of you in terms of talent and skill set.
  • Find the scrappiness to stay up with them, and eventually, move past.
  • Throw your lasso around the next competitor ahead of you and do the same thing.

DEVELOP STRONGER MINDS #4 Talk To Yourself

suspicious

The way in which we talk to ourselves can influence our behavior in both positive and negative ways.

Self-talk used by FBI agents and Navy Seals is not just a motivational message like “You can do it!” In studies published by Perspectives on Psychological Science, it was determined that the most useful mental message is the “instructional self-talk.”

This is the kind of running commentary we engage in when we’re carrying out a difficult task, especially one that’s unfamiliar to us, to keep us focused on what we are learning and what we need to do next.

Learning forces us to focus our attention on the task before us so we can screen out distractions. It also helps us regulate our effort so we can make better decisions about what to do, how to do it, and when.

TIPS:

  • Recent studies have found that self-talk is most effective when incorporated into a series of thoughts and actions.
  • First, comes a thought where you set a goal for yourself and make a plan on how to get there.
  • Second, your performance follows where you enact the plan to the best of your ability.
  • Third, spend time in self-reflection when you carefully evaluate what you’ve done and adjust your plan to be even better next time.

DEVELOP STRONGER MINDS #5 Picture It

Beautiful mountain at nz

Visualizing your success is based on solid science. When you imagine yourself doing something before you do it, you are programming your mind to think you can. By visualizing your performance repeatedly, your brain will store that information as a success.

With each success, our brain releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine. This is the chemical that becomes active when we encounter situations that are linked to rewards from the past. Dopamine enables us to not only see rewards, but to move toward those rewards.

TIPS:

Mental toughness is the ability to manage our emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in ways that will set us up for success. It’s truly about mind over matter.

What additional tips would you add?

© 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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5 Bullet Proof Confidence Strategies, From A Former FBI Agent

Monday, August 29th, 2016

As an FBI agent making an arrest, success wasn’t an option—it was an absolute necessity if I wanted to stay alive. I couldn’t wait for success to show up before I became confident in my abilities. The confidence was there first; the successful arrest came afterwards.

Confident woman

Confidence is a critical building block for a successful career because it is the one mindset that will take you where you want to go. The good news is that confidence is a set of learned skills and beliefs.

No one is immune to bouts of insecurity at work, but they don’t have to hold you back. For entrepreneurs, leaders, and business owners, it means having the grit you need to get through those times of doubt and the presence of mind to learn the lessons they can teach you about yourself and others.

Here are 5 bulletproof confidence strategies to get you where you want to be:

1. TAKE RISKS

Risk - mouse in mug

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

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

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

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

What It Means For You

Stressing yourself is the only way to grow, both mentally and physically. This means you will fail, but this is OK as long as you are willing to learn from the mistakes you made.

2. ASK FOR FEEDBACK

Communication - 2 people

Research by Leadership IQ shows that people who are good at managing negative feedback tend to be more successful than those who are not. The study further indicates that of those who fail, 26% do so because they are unwilling to accept feedback as they are afraid it might be negative.

In another study, it was found that people who ask for feedback are the most effective leaders. According to Joseph Folkman, leaders who are in the top 10% are those who are willing to ask for feedback—both positive and negative.

This study suggests that the worse you are as a leader, the less likely you are to be willing to ask for feedback because you’re afraid you will hear the truth!

After every major FBI operation, everyone involved gathers for a “hotwash” which is a critical analysis of the event. What went right, and why, is discussed as vigorously as what went wrong, and why. Everyone left the hotwash with a clear understanding of their performance in the operation.

What It Means For You

Pick people whose feedback will be honest and constructive. Feedback can be viewed as one more piece of data to analyze, digest, reject, or accept as information to make a better decision.

3. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE

Persistence - runner tying shoe

The best way to build confidence in a given area is to invest energy in it and work hard at it. Throw out preconceived ideas of what you can, and cannot do. If you put your shoulder to it, you will find that grit trumps talent every time!

Life-long training is a fact of life for FBI agents. It starts the day we arrive at the FBI Academy and ends the day we sign our retirement papers.

This constant training creates the sort of mentality that prepares for the worst and practices ahead of time to overcome it. We’ve either gathered the evidence, slapped on the handcuffs, or run the drills so we know what to do in case the sh*t hits the fan.

What It Means For You

Start by trying out your new skills in a safe setting. Practice a dry run before actually launching a product, negotiating with a tough customer, or making a presentation. Not only will it boost your confidence, but it can help you improve the quality of your performance.

4. LINK UP

Teamwork - ants

It’s important to surround yourself with people who believe in you. Having a solid network of people who understand you and your situation can help pave the way to confidence and success.

When your talent or skill set is reinforced by someone you respect, it resonates at a deeper level. When you believe you can do it, you work harder. When others believe in you, they push you harder.

The FBI encourages camaraderie amongst the agents because there is an intrinsic belief that together, we can all do better. And this keeps producing confidence in our own abilities.

What It Means For You

Find ways to link up with others in your area of expertise. There is something very powerful about seeing someone like yourself show you how to do the impossible.

5. GRIT UP

Grit Up!

Grit is the passion and perseverance for long-term goals.

Great athletes are not always young and fresh; instead, they are the ones who have prepared for the game and have the desire, grit, and will to succeed.

Researcher & psychologist Angela Duckworth has found that grit is the best predictor of success

Grit is unrelated to talent. When working with West Point cadets, she found that the high score on grit surpassed other tests such as SAT scores, IQ, class rank, leadership, and physical aptitude when it came to predicting success.

The most successful FBI agents were those with intrinsic goals like “I want to serve my country” or “I want to test my abilities” as opposed to those with extrinsic goals like “It’s a prestigious position” or “I will be in a powerful job.”

What It Means For You

If you are pursuing work that has meaning for you, it is easier to put your shoulder into it.

These tried-and-true strategies will help you build the confidence you will need to be ultimately successful in business and life.

What strategies have you used to gain more confidence?

This article was first published on Smartblog.

© 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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9 Habits Of Incredibly Charming People

Monday, August 1st, 2016

We are more likely to build personal and professional relationships with people we like. In doing so, we are drawn to people who are charming, polite, and modest.

Charm

Charm is the power of pleasing or attracting others through our personality. There are arguments that social media is damaging our people skills, but I disagree. The charm of manners and personality is as important in social media and news outlets as it is in face-to-face conversations.

A lot of people know how to be rude, blunt, and offensive but a lot of people also know how to be charming. In the world of sales, business, and startups, it’s impossible to change people’s minds unless you change their hearts, too.

Here are 9 habits of incredibly charming people:

1. CHARMING PEOPLE USE THE RIGHT BODY LANGUAGE

They step forward, with a genuine smile, eyebrows arched, head tilted, and a slight bow—a clear sign of deference in every culture—and offer a firm handshake.

This body language signals that we have put aside all pretense of power and self-importance to indicate we are honored by the introduction. Our body language is often the first thing others notice about us, so we need to be certain we are sending the right message.

Not everyone is excited about meeting an FBI agent, so the initial messages I sent with my body language went a long way to opening the other person up to a genuine conversation.

2. CHARMING PEOPLE KEEP THEIR EGO IN CHECK

They look for points of agreement; sometimes the search is hard but they find ways to understand the other person’s point of view. 

This doesn’t mean they are afraid to voice their own opinion—when asked and when appropriate! Our ego often insists that we demand our right to express our own opinion; charming people know how to keep the ego in check so someone else can have the main floor.

My job in the FBI was to recruit foreign spies to work for the U.S. government. Often, I wanted to spout off about why America was a better place to live than their country. I learned, however, that what is right for me might not be right for them, even if that meant swallowing my pride and admitting defeat.

3. CHARMING PEOPLE NEVER NAME DROP

Very little is more annoying that meeting someone who constantly name drops about all the important people they know. Or, brags about their points of contacts.

Charming people may know lots of fascinating people, but they don’t talk about it.

When interviewing people, I always made it a habit to treat the person in front of me as the most important person in the world to me at that moment. And they were important, either to me or my investigation—they key was letting them know it.

4. CHARMING PEOPLE REMEMBER FACES AND/OR NAMES

They work hard to remember names, faces, or even small details of the other person’s life. The fact that they remember those specifics always makes the other person feel better about themselves.

If they remember something about us, we will remember something about them.

I am very bad with names and repeating the name 3 times does not help me to remember at all. I am much better with faces, though, so I try to link something about the person’s past history to the face. That way, even if forget their name I can create rapport by mentioning the factoid that I do remember.

5. CHARMING PEOPLE LISTEN TO WHAT OTHERS HAVE TO SAY

They focus on the person in front of them—whether they are knee-to-knee and nose-to-nose with a person or in front of a computer screen answering emails. They don’t lapse into planning tomorrow or checking items off their to-do list.

Deep listening means being present with both sides of the conversation—not just your side.

Many times the individuals I was trying to recruit for the FBI spoke such poor English that I really did have truly concentrate to understand what they were trying to say. The more I focused on listening to them, the more they opened up.

6. CHARMING PEOPLE ADAPT THEIR PERSONALITY TO THE OTHER PERSON

They know how to match their personality to their employees, prospects, and clients. This means they must quickly assess whether the other person was an introvert or extrovert, analytical or a visionary, purpose-driven or security-driven, goal-oriented or people-oriented.

If you’ve been a good listener, you will be able to make these distinctions.

When listening to one particular foreign spy talk, I quickly determined that he was not a risk taker so I immediately re-framed the conversation. Instead of making a single suggestion, I offered a series of smaller, bite-sized ones he could take time to consider, and get comfortable with, before we moved onto the larger goal (that is, working for the U.S. government).

7. CHARMING PEOPLE ARE SINCERE

They take the time to develop relationships so they can accurately understand people’s needs, desires, and fears. Until this happens, it’s very difficult to engage people in any meaningful way.

Sometimes it’s not all about the money. The days of hard pitches to close sales are over. Customers are getting too sophisticated for this approach; they use mass media to educate themselves about a product and make their decisions right then and there.

If we’re on the losing end of this decision, our job is to change their mind by changing their heart.

The foreign spies I tried to recruit were suspicious of me and professed loyalty to their government. Understanding that, I could couch my conversations with them in ways that would not impugn their loyalty or trustworthiness.

8. CHARMING PEOPLE ARE RESPECTFUL OF OTHERS

They know how to give others the respect that is due to them without trying to belittle them in the process.

In a culture that at times seems to be losing its ability to have respect for the opposing point of view, this is an extremely important habit to cultivate.

When a suspect in one of my investigations understood that the FBI had no intention of bullying them or resorting to extortion (despite how the FBI is portrayed in TV and movies), I always sensed their gratitude for the respect that was shown to them.

9. CHARMING PEOPLE HAVE TACT WHEN IN DISAGREEMENT

They know what to say or do to avoid giving offense. Tact is essential when dealing with difficult or delicate situations.

Do not ask embarrassing questions that put people on the defensive. If you’re uncertain how to move forward with a difficult conversation, try role-playing with a friend and ask for their input. Are you coming across the way you want?

One foreign spy expected to be blackmailed (for what, I don’t know—it made me think I hadn’t watched him closely enough!) It was important that he walk away from our conversation with his dignity because I wanted to leave the door open for future conversations with him. Over time, he felt comfortable enough with me to provide valuable assessment on his fellow intelligence officers.

The charm had worked!

How have you charmed people?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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

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4 Tips On How To Handle Stress

Monday, June 13th, 2016

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

stress

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

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

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

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

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

1. DEVELOP THE RIGHT MINDSET

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. USE SELF-TALK TO HANDLE STRESS

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

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

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

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

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

3. BE GRATEFUL

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

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

4. REIGNITE THE INNER FIRE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When has stress enabled you to perform at your best?

© 2016 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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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4 Effective Ways To Develop Your Emotional Intelligence

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

Popular movies and TV shows depict FBI agents swaggering into a room, taking control of the situation by intimidation or force, and knocking the sh*t out of anyone who doesn’t want to play by their rules. Only Hallmark channel movies feature moms who understand that emotional intelligence can be more effective than brawn and fists.

pablo

The first thing I learned as an FBI agent was that “reading other people” would be essential if I hoped to live long enough to retire from my job. The second thing I learned was that “understanding myself” would be critical if I wanted to predict my response when confronted with the unknown.

Ignorance of your competition makes you vulnerable; ignorance of yourself makes you stupid—LaRae Quy

Fine-tuning self-awareness skills is the essence of emotional intelligence—recognizing, understanding, and managing the emotions of ourselves and of others.

Decades of research now point to emotional intelligence as the critical factor that sets star performers apart from the rest of the pack. Entrepreneurs, leaders, and business owners who need a winning edge in negotiations, understanding competitive behavior, and managing people rely on their emotional intelligence skills to be successful.

Neuroscience is showing us that we can rewire our brain. With that good news, here are 4 ways you can enhance your emotional intelligence skills:

1. KICK YOURSELF INTO HIGH GEAR

The first place to start in enhancing your emotional intelligence skills is become enthusiastic about achieving your goal. When you are motivated, you activate the left prefrontal cortex.

A good way to become motivated is to reflect upon your dreams and what you want to be in the future. Once you define that goal, take a closer look at where you are now and what you need to do in order to get there.

If you are unsure about the areas in which you are emotionally competent, ask people whom you know and trust.

ACTION POINTS:

  • Which specific behaviors reflect your strengths?
  • What behaviors do you see in star performers?
  • Which of your competencies need to be strengthened?

2. TAKE IT ONE STEP AT A TIME

Refrain from taking on more than one behavior at a time. Otherwise, you’ll become overwhelmed and frustrated.

Emotionally competent people are very intentional in the way they communicate to others. This will require you to pay full attention to each specific behavior.

Developing emotional intelligence will also require you to spend time with yourself to better understand what makes you tick—you will need to pinpoint which words, situations, or people trigger favorable and unfavorable reactions.

Mental toughness is not being afraid to address your weaknesses with the same enthusiasm and vigor as your explore your strengths.

ACTION POINTS:

  • Identify one specific behavior to change or enhance.
  • Give this goal your full attention.
  • Construct a plan of action on how you intend to take your goal to the next level in specific steps.

3. DEVELOP NEW HABITS

The neural connectivity of old habits is strong; their circuitry has become so connected and thick that they have become the brain’s default response.

But, when you start to form new habits that will help you be more emotionally intelligent, these new behaviors create new circuitry that will eventually compete with your old habits.  Over time, the new habit will become your brain’s default response.

The length of time to replace an old habit depends on how strong it is, and the new one will need to develop the same strength of connectivity.

ACTION POINTS:

  • Habits begin to be hardwired the very first time you practice them.
  • Continual practice creates more connectivity.
  • 3-6 months of continually practicing the new habit is usually about average for it to replace the old one.

4. FLEX YOUR MENTAL MUSCLES

Mental toughness is controlling your mind instead of letting your mind control you! That is why meditation is a great tool in developing mental toughness. It requires you to continually observe where your mind has gone and bringing it back to where you want it.

Mental rehearsal activates the same neural circuitry as the real activity. Mental exercises will increase your ability to perform when the real moment comes.

ACTION POINTS:

  • Take charge of your emotional competencies by mentally rehearsing how you want a meeting to unfold, your response to anticipated questions, or a conversation with a competitor.

The important thing to remember is that you can develop and enhance your emotional intelligence skills by following these 4 effective suggestions.

How have you developed your emotional intelligence over time?

© 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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4 Essential Elements of Grit

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

New FBI agents are assigned either assigned cases so old that witnesses have died or cases with such quick turnaround leads that the new agent is left spinning.

pablo

It didn’t take me long to figure out what I needed to do to move as quickly as possible out of the rut of Team B and into the ranks of Team A—comprised of agents who not only worked hard, but had the grit to keep moving ahead when faced with failure or adversity.

But new agents were not the only ones stuck on Team B.

Older agents who did not have the grit to consistently do what they needed to do to succeed often found themselves run over by other agents who possessed resolve, willpower, and the perseverance to stick to their long-term goals.

Grit is your ability to persevere over the long-run and thrive despite all kinds of unplanned events.

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

Here are 4 essential elements of grit that you should know:

1. Feel The Fire In Your Belly

I knew I wanted to be the type of FBI Agent who could make a difference. In other words, I was passionate about my work.

Passion is the linchpin of grit. It is doing something and following a dream that gives you both value and meaning.

Passion gives people a single-mindedness that we do not see in others. It is a combination of ambition, willpower, and grit that keeps long-term goals in focus at all times.

TIP:

  • When you feel your determination begin to waver, remember the reason you want to accomplish your goal.
  • If you surrender and give up, ask yourself if it’s because there is no fire in your belly and you are not really following your dream.

All dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous, for they may act their dream with open eyes to make it possible—T.E. Lawrence

2. Maintain Clarity of Goals

When I first started working counterintelligence and espionage, my goal was to be assigned a foreign intelligence officer.

Later, though, my goal had shifted. Now it wasn’t enough to be working cases—I felt drawn to tell others about how a huge organization like the FBI could be nimble and flexible enough to react to the demands of terrorism in the aftermath of 9/11.

My vision had not changed—I still wanted to be an FBI agent, but my goal had. I became the spokesperson for the FBI in Northern California for four years. I’m glad I made the move because my long-term goals had shifted.

TIP:

  • Revisit your goals annually to make certain that something hasn’t changed over the past year. Your mind is constantly adapting to new information coming your way.
  • Even a slight shift calls for a re-alignment in your priorities. Like myself, it may not require you to throw up your hands and quit, but it may suggest that you re-think where you fit in the larger picture.

3. Follow Up With Self-Discipline

There were many times when it was tempting to give up on an investigation when the leads got cold and there was no easy path forward.

Mental toughness was required to persevere and be agile enough in my thinking that I could approach a roadblock or obstacle from many different angles—always looking for the soft underbelly and refusing to give up.

Self-discipline is important because while grit is the ability to keep doing something, self-discipline often implies the ability to refrain from doing something.

TIP:

  • Face your problems head on. It isn’t your problems that define you—it’s how you react and recover from them. Your problems are not going away unless you do something about them.
  • Be honest with yourself about what you want to achieve, who you want to become, and the obstacles that are preventing you from achieving your goals.
  • Define your goal as behavior. Identify the specific steps you need to take to achieve your goal. Define your goal in terms of behavior.
  • Organize your day. Once you’ve set your goal, it must become a priority.
  • Watch for excuses. Self-discipline means doing something you don’t necessary want to do.
  • Remember the reasons you want to reach your goal. When you feel your determination begin to waver, remember the reason you want to accomplish your goal.

4. Learn From Your Misses

Training in the FBI starts on your first day at the FBI Academy in Quantico and ends on your last day as an agent. If FBI instructors are not pushing you beyond your comfort zone, they aren’t doing their job.

Moving out of our comfort zone is hard because it usually means a trial and error approach as we find new footing. It’s important to take mistakes in stride and use the opportunity to learn from them. Only idiots don’t learn from their mistakes.

People with grit shrug off failure, focus on immediate recovery, and move on. The attitude determines the outcome, so it’s important to focus on lessons learned and how to keep moving forward.

TIP:

  • Seek feedback about how you can make your best performance even better. Research indicates that leaders who are in the top 10% are those who are willing to ask for feedback—both positive and negative.
  • Celebrate the small wins. Learn to appreciate the smaller steps that lead to success.
  • Learn from your challenges and become better because of them.

Grit is the mental toughness to continue to move ahead even when life hasn’t thrown you a perfect hand. It is the deliberate action of doing something again and again until you get it right. And then maybe doing it again after that, too.

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

How have you developed grit?

© 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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