Posts Tagged ‘leadership’

5 Reasons Why Bold Leaders Are Remarkably Successful

Monday, August 6th, 2018

There are two reasons people separate themselves from the crowd: they are either bold leaders or timid followers. The rest of the herd sticks together.

Bold leaders move toward obstacles and do not let hesitation or doubt impede their progress. Timid followers lurk behind because they are afraid of obstacles and look for ways to avoid them.

As a counterintelligence agent, I looked for both personalities in the targets I attempted to recruit to work for the U.S. government. The blue-flamer often rushed ahead; they could be a good target if they failed to use good judgment. The slackers represented the other end of the spectrum; they were timid souls who always looked for the easy way out. Often, that meant cooperating with the FBI.

Why is bold leadership important? There is a saying in the FBI: no arrest goes according to plan. Agents know better than anyone that circumstances can change without warning. It’s essential that a leader be bold enough to adapt and make effective decisions under pressure.

A leader’s success, in any environment, is based on their ability to manage the risk that presents itself. Simply stated, bold leaders understand how to exploit and mitigate risk; this is why they are more successful.

Bold leaders are not pushy, loud, or bossy. They do voice their opinion, take charge, and energize the rest of the team.

Let’s take a closer look at the 5 reasons why bold leaders are remarkably successful:

1. They Hide Their Weaknesses

Everyone has weaknesses so it’s stupid and counterproductive to not acknowledge them, at least to yourself. It’s also to your advantage to become equally aware of your strengths. An awareness of your strengths and weaknesses allows you the opportunity to approach a volatile situation with a strategy that places your best foot forward.

When you appear as a bold leader, your weaknesses are hidden behind the actions of someone who is confident of their strengths and is making use of them.

How To Make It Work For You:

  • Uncover your weaknesses so you can learn how to manage them.
  • Don’t spend a great amount of time trying to turn them into strengths because it will never happen.
  • Instead, put your time and effort into your strengths so you can continue to build them up.
  • Reassess yourself on a regular basis so you are not surprised when a weakness rears its ugly head.

2. They Know Perception Is Reality

As a kid who grew up on a remote cattle ranch in the middle of Wyoming, I watched as predators snuck up on the hesitant prey. I learned early in life that once you hesitate, you show yourself as weak and expendable.

They way people perceive us, by our actions and the words we use, will guide the way they treat us. If we present ourselves as victims, guess what? That’s how we’ll be treated! It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out: if you indicate a lack of confidence in yourself, it will bring out the tiger in your competition.

How To Make It Work For You:

  • Remember that a bold leader is not someone who is cocky and aggressive.
  • Work on building up your strengths now. When you have confidence in your abilities, there will be no need to go on the defensive when you’re confronted with an obstacle or challenge.
  • Present yourself as a bold leader who is thorough, confident, and authoritative.

3. They Appreciate Stealth

Authors have described the recruitment of foreign spies as an act of seduction. More often, it is the stealth of a snake that has circled his prey long enough to know when to strike.

In the same way, bold leaders learn a great deal when they sit in silence during negotiations and listen to others. They make no sudden move to intimidate or alarm the challenge that sits before them. All the while, however, their mind works to identify the best way to disarm the opposition and sway the negotiation toward a more favorable outcome.

Bold leaders do not make rash decisions. They maximize their chances of success and investigate the challenge before they make a decision.

How To Make It Work For You:

  • Stealth is an art form because it takes its adversary by surprise.
  • Recognize that the loudest voice is not always the smartest one.
  • Conduct due diligence and strike when you’ve gathered enough information to make an effective and successful decision.

4. They Create An Environment Of Continual Improvement

Continual improvement demands that bold leaders feel comfortable holding the tension between failure and risk. They learn how to use risk to their advantage, and at the same time, mitigate catastrophic risk so they can protect their team.

No one is comfortable with failure, but it is the flip side of success. They are two sides of the same coin. Bold leaders do not back away from failure. Instead, they learn from each iteration and apply it to the next challenge.

Continual improvement and innovation challenge existing practices. They also produce energy and adrenaline. They allow each team member to think in fresh ways about ways to accomplish a goal. Bold leaders are not afraid to reward a team’s insightful experiment even if it is a failure. This will help you create partnerships within your team to help them learn and reboot from their failure.

How To Make It Work For You:

  • Distinguish between the areas where risk is encouraged and the areas where it is not.
  • Use words like experiment and exploring to describe a project instead of successful or unsuccessful.
  • Keep risks small so they are fast and nimble.
  • Fund each clearly defined phase of the project so everyone knows the budget.

5. They Balance Risk-Taking

Bold leaders seldom act in extremes; they are not risk-adverse, nor are they careless. They strike a balance between the two. They don’t sit around and wait for the perfect opportunity before they step in because it is seldom that an opportunity has no risk. Instead, they make the most out of their circumstances. They have mental toughness—they believe they will prevail in their circumstances rather than expect their circumstances to change.

Successful people tend to look for the small wins in every situation. The power of positivity leads to consistent small wins. Each small win spells success. Success not only attracts others, it provides momentum.

How To Make It Work For You:

  • Start with a small battle you think you can win.
  • Assess the situation and understand the problem.
  • Communicate your goals to your team.
  • Map out a strategy.
  • Develop a process to gather accurate information in a timely manner.

© 2018 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 Reasons Success Will Not Make You A Happy Person

Monday, July 30th, 2018

As a kid growing up on a remote cattle ranch in Wyoming, it didn’t take much to make me a happy person. I loved to spend time with our animals—horses, cattle, and dogs! I was happy to do my chores and bond with my pets.

In high school, it took something different to make me a happy person. Happiness now depended on the number of people I could count as friends. Lots of friends meant I was looked upon as a success and had become popular.

Out of college, my definition of success changed again. Success was determined by the size of my paycheck and my status in the organization. Friends took on a new role and were now measured in terms of how much value they added to my network.

In my pursuit of a successful career, happiness got watered down to the itemization of things. It was now something external to be bought—like a car. Or, given—like a promotion.

As entrepreneurs and business owners, your success is calibrated as return on investment by your investors and clients. Your pathetic feelings of happiness are none of their concern.

Which is fine, for a while. But if your life fundamentally sucks, it’s going to continue to suck no matter how successful you are. Here are 5 reasons success will not make you a happy person—and how you can change your mindset:

1. It Takes More Than Money To Motivate You To Do Good Work

Businesses commonly use money as a motivator, and it works—to some extent. Studies show that once an individual receives the money, however, it loses its power to motivate.

While money is important, we all want and need more than a good salary. In his book, Payoff, behavioral economist Dan Ariely argues that human motivation is very complex. He states that to motivate ourselves and others successfully, we need to provide a sense of connection and meaning. It’s important to remember, however, that meaning is not always synonymous with personal happiness.

Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose—Viktor E. Frankl

How To Make It Work For You: These are some of the things that you, as a leader, can do to harness the power of intrinsic motivation in your people. An intrinsic motive is the desire to do a good job for the sake of doing a good job:

  • Recognize people as contributing members of a winning team.
  • Remind them that the project is succeeding.
  • Pinpoint where their contributions are making a difference.
  • Celebrate successes.
  • Thank people. Often.

2. If You Lose Sight Of Your Values, Your Life Will Suck

I recruited foreign spies to work for the U.S. Government. To be successful, I exploited their lack of self-awareness. The most vulnerable person was the one too lazy to go deep and prioritize their values. They lived in a shallow world and preferred to blame others rather than acknowledge how their poor values made their life suck. 

Our values are defined by what we are willing to struggle to accomplish. If something holds value for us, we will endure the pain and struggle to make it happen.

Your values define your struggles. If you want better problems, get better values—LaRae Quy.

Success is getting what you want, happiness is wanting what you get–Dale Carnegie

How To Make It Work For You: Identify the values you prioritize above everything else; those values are the ones that influence your decision-making process. Pinpoint the good values that tap into your inner core. They are the ones that will engage you with the world as it is, not how you wish it would be in the future. Bad values rely on external circumstances. You blame others if things don’t turn out the way you planned.

3. Success Is Where People Stop On Their Way To Happiness

Most of us fail over and over at something until we finally get it right. But what we forget is that those failures are the most important lessons in life. Most of us do not embrace our future failures, so we stop at where we find success because we’ve been conditioned to avoid suffering, pain, and discomfort.

We stop at success, regardless of whether that success has led us to something that provides value and meaning for us. We have it backward: instead of looking for success to make us happy, we will be successful where we find our happiness.

When you look for happiness, you need to change how you measure success and failure. Some of the best things that happen to us require effort, pain, and failure. Ask any parent, small business owner, or marathon runner.

One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful—Sigmund Freud

How To Make It Work For You: Be smart about how you work harder and longer hours to be successful. Discover what brings you happiness and focus your energy on those pursuits. Then the longer hours and hard work won’t matter because you’ll love what you do.

4. The Easy Path Does Not Create Strong People

All of this “be happy” shit is creating a generation who don’t understand how to overcome problems. They think an easy path is the yellow brick road to happiness.

But it is in our choices that we either decide to grow, or not, because it is in those choices that we learn to focus. When we do, we become mentally tough so that we can manage our emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that will set us up for happiness. We get to choose what matters to us based on our values.

How To Make It Work For You: Embrace what you have learned in hard times. Some people are stuck with worse problems than others and many people have overcome horrible circumstances. This was their mindset: no matter where I am in life, or my struggle, I still have the power to take responsibility and chose my next step.

5. Making Progress Is Better Than Being Successful

Most of us have worked hard to achieve a goal, only to find emptiness when we reach it. Psychologists explain this is because true happiness is less about when we reach a goal and more about how we reached it. What is most important is the progress we have made in an area of our life.

If we focus on success instead of progress, we become nothing more than a manager of our circumstances. If, however, we focus on making progress in all areas of our life, we empower ourselves to become the person we truly want to be—a person who is fulfilled and happy.

Success without fulfillment is the ultimate failure—Tony Robbins

How To Make It Work For You: Never forget that if you’re not happy with the direction your life has taken so far, you have complete control over who you can become.

  • Identify an opportunity that you know is worthwhile but that you’ve been afraid to pursue, and go for it anyway.
  • Brainstorm a list of 20 new ideas on ways to improve your life.
  • Describe something that you will make you very happy. Be specific.
  • Write down your definition of success.
  • Make a list of causes you are passionate about and then get involved.
  • Identify something you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t done yet.

© 2018 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.” 

 

4 Secrets Of A Strong Mind

Monday, May 14th, 2018

Movies and television depict heroes who have a strong mind. We admire people who push the limits. Heroes and tough guys let us walk in their shoes, if only for a couple of hours. We feel what it’s like to have the mental toughness to break out of a seemingly boring existence, and enter into a much bigger world—one that is full of possibility.

The reality is this: you and I must also be strong-minded if we are to overcome the obstacles we meet every day. We know that it takes more than talent or skill to become a top performer. Research studies indicate that intelligence accounts for 30% of our achievement.

So what does make a good leader, athlete, or parent? The answer is a strong mind that pushes through adversity. It is an inner quality that enables people to work hard and stick to their goals.

The good news is that a strong mind is not something you were born with. It is something that can be developed.

What secret characteristics do heroes with a strong mind possess? They embody these elements:

  • Confidence
  • Persistence
  • Dedication
  • Control

Ok—so maybe the characteristics of a hero are not-so-secret after all. But how can you and I harness their power? How can we create the strong mind that is the trademark of those who live large in a world full of possibilities?

Here are the secrets I learned from my own life:

1. Confidence

When I took the physical fitness (FIT) test at the FBI New Agents Academy, I was the bottom 1% that made the top 99% feel better about themselves. I failed miserably, so my challenge became twofold. First, I needed to maintain confidence in myself. Second, I needed to train so I could pass the rigid FIT test. I worked with a coach at the Academy, who taught me the secret to building confidence.

“When you improve a little each day, eventually bigger things will come. Not tomorrow, not the next day, but eventually a big gain is made. Don’t worry about short, quick improvements. Seek out the small improvements, one day at a time. And when it happens—it lasts.”

Helping new agents boost their confidence is the primary goal of the Academy—before they send agents out with a gun and badge. There were days when my heart raced and my palms sweat just thinking about the new challenges that faced me. But I learned that success would not make me confident—rather, confidence in myself and my abilities would make me successful.

The result? I passed the FIT test and worked as an FBI agent for twenty-four years.

TIP: Confidence is a belief in yourself and your ability to meet your goals. Push out of your comfort zone and expose yourself to different situations. Learn how to push through the uncomfortable. Once you have confidence in yourself, you’ll be amazed what you can accomplish.

2. Persistence

When I interviewed with the FBI, they liked my grit and scrappiness. A hillbilly from a cattle ranch in Wyoming who had clawed her way through college. I sat in front of a panel of polished FBI agents and interviewed for a job as a special agent. If I wanted the job, I’d need to learn how to Grit Up!

I grew up as an unsophisticated ranch girl, and believe me, it takes a while to put a shine on a sneaker. Each curveball thrown my way was met with determination and persistence. Grit was needed to make sacrifices and keep my eye on the larger goal.

Every day at the FBI Academy involved some kind of physical activity. As a trainee, I put in extra training for the FIT test. On top of that, as a class, we boxed each other, engaged in arrest scenarios, and ran around the basketball court holding 5 lb medicine balls. I was tired, depressed, and under pressure. Yet I knew that if I gave up, I would regret it the rest of my life.

So I straightened my back and dug deeper. A strong mind is not built on something slapped together on a shallow foundation. It needs solid rock.

Like a skyscraper, the higher you want to go, the deeper you must go.

TIP: Persistence is the tendency is to see life’s obstacles as challenges to be met, rather than as threats. Don’t whine, point fingers, or blame others for your predicament. You can be the hero of your own life and choose your destiny.

3. Dedication

On my first day at the FBI Academy, I didn’t feel like a superhero. In fact it wasn’t until after four grueling months of being placed in dangerous and awkward situations that I felt I had what it takes to do the job.

In the deepest part of me I knew that I would make the FBI my career. It was not a stepping-stone to something better that might come along. I was a disciple of my own deep values and beliefs. I had the will to subjugate my feelings to those values.

In his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey writes, “If you are an effective manager of your self, your discipline comes from within.”

TIP: Strong-minded people have a dedication that comes from a purpose in alignment with their deepest values.

4. Control

Push-ups were the most difficult aspect of the physical fitness test for me. After several of them failed to be counted, I began to “psyche myself out,” worrying whether I could do it all!

A strong mind shuts out feelings of fear and inadequacy. Instead, it focuses on how to reach the goal. Control your own emotions, thoughts, and behavior, rather than trying to control other people.

The best way to control your situation is to invest energy into it so you understand all aspects. This allows you to pinpoint the soft underbelly of the challenge. 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.

TIP: Control is having a certainty that you are able to shape your destiny and not passively accepting events as fate.

© 2018 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 Get Through Adversity

Monday, April 16th, 2018

Anything worthwhile will require us to learn how to get through adversity. All of us will experience roadblocks in our careers, relationships, finances, and health at some point in our life.

If we want to get through adversity, we need to develop a mindset of mental toughness so we can keep on the move. Successful people understand that mindset beats strategy every time.

I learned at an early age that the way I thought about the problems before me would be way I would overcome them. When my brother and I were kids, Dad pointed out a still used to brew whiskey on our Wyoming ranch. We were on horseback and rode past a few barrel rings and a wall of rocks. Tucked into a steep draw, it was surrounded by aspen trees and a little cow trail that led to the bottom of the canyon near our house.

At that time, my brother and I collected antique glassware as a hobby. We planned to go back to the whiskey still and look around for old bottles at a later time. It should be easy enough to find, we thought. So after school we told our parents we were going out to play and would be back in time for supper. We walked up the canyon, and when we saw a draw that looked familiar, we started up.

Our ranch was located in the scatterings of the Snowy Mountain Range at an altitude of 7,000 feet. Summers are short in that country. The green aspen trees that looked lush and cozy when we rode past them a few months before, were now barren and cold.

Night fell much earlier in the winter months and dusk had begun to set in. We could not find the whiskey still but continued on until we reached the top of the draw. When we saw Laramie Peak in a distance, we knew we had climbed over 2,000 feet out of the canyon bottom.

We had climbed up the wrong draw, night was coming, and we had no flashlights. The rattlesnakes had hibernated for the winter, but conditions were still adverse. It was dark, the terrain was steep and rocky. The temperature had begun to drop at an alarming rate.

At the ages of ten and eleven, my younger brother and I learned young to how to get through adversity.

Here are 6 ways that will help you get through adversity as well:

1. Keep Your Eye On The Target

This was not the first time my brother and I had to embrace the suck. Winters are harsh on a Wyoming cattle ranch. We leaned into misery and pushed through our discomfort zones on a daily basis. Water in the cattle tanks froze over and we swung axes to break through three-inches of ice. Bales of hay needed to be loaded onto trucks and fed to cattle. The worse the weather, the more our livestock depended upon us for food and water.

Summers were even worse because we fixed fences, greased bailers, trailed cattle, and put up hay instead of playing with the neighborhood kids. Ooops, did I mention there were no neighborhood kids because our ranch was so isolated?

The lessons I learned to get down the mountain stayed with me the rest of my life. I spent four months at the FBI Academy in new agent’s training. We trained hard, day in and day out, no matter the weather conditions—in snow, wind, rain, or heat. Whenever I thought I couldn’t push myself any further, I remembered that cold night climbing back down a mountain when I was eleven years old. I knew I had what it took to get through adversity because I’d done it before.

How To Make It Work For You:  As entrepreneurs and business leaders, you also need ways to keep your team focused and fired up. High-performance companies provide a vision for a brighter future. This vision keeps employees focused and excited about the future. It prepares them to get through adversity because they can see beyond the current roadblock.

2. Grit Up

My brother and I were not sure how to get back home before we found ourselves in complete darkness and freezing temperatures. We decided that if we stayed with the cow trail it would ultimately lead us to our destination. But we’d lost the trail! We hopped over rocks and fallen trees in an attempt to find it.

We developed a strategy: as long we were headed downhill, we were headed in the right direction. The draw had many smaller ones that meandered over the sides of the canyon and we were tempted at times, but time was important and we knew the quickest way down was the way we came up. We persisted and found the cow path again.

As an FBI agent, there were many times when I needed to grit up and remain persistent if I hoped to solve a case. FBI investigations do not come with a set of instructions on how to solve them. It can take many attempts, many failures, many iterations, before the answer is found.

How To Make It Work For You: To get through adversity, attack the problem from a different angle if your first, or tenth, approach doesn’t work. Learn to pivot when needed. Where there is a will, there is a way.

3. Keep A Lid On Emotions

While neither my brother or I panicked, we were scared—but we never let negativity set in. We acknowledged our fears but remained confident in our ability to get home safely.

I have drawn my weapon while making an arrest. I was scared and afraid of what I would need to do if the person resisted.

It’s always important to acknowledge emotions, but to get through adversity you need to remind yourself that you have the mental toughness to manage the negative ones. You may not be able to change the conditions but you can change the way you deal with them. It’s possible to have self-control in an out-of-control environment.

How To Make It Work For You: You can control your team’s emotions when you get their buy-in. As a leader, help everyone connect with the vision you have. This becomes even more important when things look tough.

4. Accept Responsibility

My brother and I had no one to blame but ourselves. This was no game we were playing and we had to have the strength to look at our adversity realistically and take responsibility for getting ourselves back home. Our parents had no idea we had headed out to find the whiskey still because we hadn’t told them.

As an FBI agent, I found that self-examination would be one of the most important ways I could become a more effective leader and achieve my goals. When I confronted obstacles and adversity, I was not afraid to question my thinking. Often, this self-examination uncovered biases or assumptions I had made that either contributed to the obstacle or stood in my way of overcoming it.

How To Make It Work For You: Self-awareness leads to emotional intelligence—a better understanding of yourself and how you interact with others. A self-examination includes a regular review of values, desires, and fears. This honest assessment can lead to a reinvention of goals and beliefs.

5. Pace Yourself

My brother and I both knew that if we stopped, we’d freeze to death before morning. On the other hand, if we depleted our resources, we’d be unable to continue.

I learned it was important to pace myself while running obstacle courses at the FBI Academy. I was not a strong runner, and while I enthusiastically charged out the gate, I knew I’d need to pace myself to last the entire obstacle course.

The same logic applied to my investigations: if I depleted my resources, ran myself to exhaustion, and then needed to respond to a fast-moving break in the case, I was in serious trouble. This can happen in any area of our life; we move so fast that we fail to recognize what goes on around us. Whether we call it alertness or paranoia, it’s always prudent to look to the horizon for both threats and opportunities.

How To Make It Work For You: We can work hard, but we don’t always work smart. To be high-performers, we need to pace ourselves because it allows us the time to prioritize our values and what is important to us. To learn more, read the chapter called The 20 mile March in “Great by Choice” by Jim Collins.

6. Create Community

My brother and I were a team and we worked together to get back down the hill. We provided moral support for one another. We jumped across waterfalls and mucked through inches of mud to follow the meandering cow path.

The personal leadership skill of camaraderie is one of the first lessons taught at the FBI Academy. For the first three weeks, new agents are not allowed to leave the Marine Corp base. Instead, we were expected to develop a supportive community that would be needed during our four months of training.

The concept of total team accountability as part of the culture is a core tenant of SEAL training and life in the “Teams.” From week one they are taught to hold themselves and their classmates to the highest standard. Peer reviews play a pivotal role in a student’s success. And they carry that concept over into the Teams as part of their peer-to-peer learning culture. Failure to execute is not an option.

The ability to relate to others was one of the most effective skills I developed in my career as a counterintelligence agent. Everyone has the need to be heard, and the need for information that can be put into action. The listener is a essential role because even very successful leaders need people who are allied to their cause.

My brother and I made is safely home that night to parents who were very worried.

How To Make It Work For You: If you learn how to get through adversity, it will help you turn underachievement into superior achievement. As long as you can stay alive, you are still in the game.

© 2018 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

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

7 FBI Traits That Will Make You A Better Leader

Monday, April 9th, 2018

I loved being an FBI agent because there was a sense of meaning and purpose every time I walked into the office. The FBI’s mission is to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution of the United States.

I worked hard to solve complex problems. You might be imagining movies, gun battles, and running down bad guys. In truth, a lot of what I did as an agent wasn’t all that different from many of the challenges you face as entrepreneurs, leaders, and business owners.

I was good with a gun, I admit, but most of my time was spent working with people who had different opinions and a conflict of interest. This created problems I couldn’t just shoot. Instead, they required people skills; I suspect many of you can relate.

Today’s business world is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. If you want to move your career or company forward, you have to learn how to be a better leader:

The FBI does not hire new agents based on their skills. Instead, they hire by the traits and values exhibited by applicants and then train new agents with the skill sets they will need. If an agent has the right values, traits, and abilities, they can learn anything.

This is where most businesses have it backward. Instead of hiring people because of their traits and values, they hire skill sets and then try to backload the company’s culture and values.

If the goal of leadership is to empower people to make their own decisions, then here are 7 FBI traits that will make you a better leader:

1. Confidence

Boosting confidence is the primary goal of the FBI Academy—before they send agents out with a gun and badge.

As a new agent, there were days when my heart raced and my palms sweat just thinking about the new challenges that faced me. But I learned that success would not make me confident—rather, confidence in myself and my abilities would make me successful.

If you don’t believe in yourself, how can others believe in you? It took a bit of acting on my part in the beginning, but the more I acted confident, the more confident I became. Feedback from others was positive, which in turn, gave me more confidence!

TIP: You become a better leader when you cultivate ways to signal your confidence to others, especially using body language.

When our brain receives a clear image of confidence and competence, it takes that good impression and makes a snap judgment. This allows the brain to move on to other issues.

2. Humility

A few years back my squad was set to arrest a fugitive known to be armed and dangerous. Since I was the case agent, everyone assumed I would be the one to make the arrest. The fugitive was a big guy with broad shoulders and sure to resist arrest, and defensive tactics had never been my strong point.

It is humbling to admit to yourself, or others, that you are not the best person for the job. It’s OK to admit it and turn to another person more experienced or better prepared, and ask for their help.

You may not need help in arresting a fugitive, but you may need to surround yourself with people who are more experienced or better prepared, and ask for their help. The best leaders are confident enough to surround themselves with people who are smarter and more talented.

They are also humble enough to learn from these people because they understand they will get a better outcome as a result of their involvement. 

TIP: You become a better leader when you are willing to listen to, but not be dominated by, the talent around you. If you are the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.

3. Good Values

For insiders, FBI stands for Fidelity, Bravery, and Integrity. These are the values that drive the organization.

Leadership is not a skill set; it is rooted in who we are and what matters to us. Our values are defined by what we are willing to struggle for when the chips are down. It’s doing the right thing and doing the best we can because that is who we are.

Ultimately, our values define our struggles. When we choose better values, we get better problems to solve. We need to be motivated by something more important and greater than our own happiness. If we are not driven to take our life to the next level by something more than our own selfish desires, we are the definition of a narcissist.

TIP: When you prioritize good values, you become a better leader because they produces true confidence and genuine humility. Decisions are easier because the answer is always “do the right thing.”

4. Kindness

Not all FBI negotiations involve the barrel of a gun. The most successful agents find ways to get along with people, pure and simple.

It is rare that an agent can dictate how a relationship is going to unfold. In the movies we hear lines like, “OK, this is what you’re going to do for me.” In reality, we need to look for what’s mutually beneficial if we’re looking to cut a deal or negotiate.

The best way to accomplish this is to find common ground, and this is accomplished by being sensitive to the needs of the other person. Exhibiting kindness helps us become a better leader because bullying, extortion, or browbeating rarely gets constructive results.

TIP: Mentally tough leaders who are kind know how to inspire their people in a way that, in turn, creates a commitment for their mission.

5. Tough

It may seem that kindness and toughness are contradictions, but they are actually very compatible. There are times when a leader needs to hold people accountable and draw a clear line that differentiates between acceptable and unacceptable behavior.

Great leaders don’t worry about being unpopular or making everyone happy. They’re always reminding themselves that their job is to improve the organization.

While rules and standards provide structure for people, tough leaders are not afraid to buck the system to get what they want. They know how to interpret the cultural norms of the office or company and are respectful, yet persistent, in presenting new ideas for projects.

It is the mixture of toughness and kindness that opens doors without alienating the standard bearers that have calcified in their corner office desk chair.

TIP: You become a better leader when you stumble and make mistakes but are tough enough to take control of your reputation and manage the way you are perceived.

6. Listening Skills

I didn’t know what to expect when the FBI sent me to a training course on hostage negotiation.  As an unassuming man stood in front of the class and welcomed everyone in dulcet tones, I was looking around for the hard ass who had talked down a terrorist in New York the week before. The man spoke politely but I didn’t listen because I wanted to hear from the hostage negotiator!

Guess what? He was the hard ass hostage negotiator. That week I learned the key to agreements, whether you are negotiating with a kidnapper or a client, is that they happen only when both sides are willing to listen.

This is a skill that will help us become a better leader because when we listen, we get insight into how other people think, feel, and behave. It is counterproductive to be aggressive, pushy, and demanding. Instead, good listeners are likable and create an environment that feels both safe and comfortable. They are secure enough that they are not threatened by listening to someone who may have more talent or experience.

TIP: It’s a good idea to repeat what you think you heard the other person say. It lets them know you really are listening, and gives you an opportunity to let their words soak in.

7. Emotional Intelligence

The FBI is not a touchy-feely organization; agents prefer terms like competence and persistence to explain their success. The words emotional intelligence rarely escape their lips. Yet face-to-face interviews remain the FBI’s top investigative technique.

Emotional intelligence is an ability to walk into a room and understand what others might be feeling, and through that insight, communicate to them in effective ways. Awareness and curiosity about their own emotions, as well as those of others, place leaders in a stronger position to not only recognize the negative ones but to anticipate how they could spin out of control.

TIP: Emotional intelligence helps you become a better leader because it enables you to build on relationships with others and then use those relationships to accomplish your goals.

I actually have come to learn that the way to evaluate leaders is not from skills through abilities to values but to actually start the other way. If a leader has the right values and the right abilities, they can learn anything. If you hire and promote backwards and start with, ‘so what are their skills? What jobs have they had?’—you may miss the fact that they don’t have the abilities you need and the values you need”—James Comey, Former FBI Director

© 2018 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.”

 

5 Steps To Personal Empowerment

Monday, January 22nd, 2018

As a kid, personal empowerment was a foreign concept. I had no influence over any sphere of my life.

My summer job was to pull fifty-pound bales of hay on our meadow into piles so Dad could scoop them up with his loader tractor. Mom and my brother arranged bales on the haystack as dad dumped them. When I looked around, there was nothing but miles of bales lined up on the meadow for as far as I could see.

Life on a cattle ranch in Wyoming meant I worked alongside my parents to keep our cows fed and watered twelve months a year. I escaped my dreary world by day-dreaming of how I would call all the shots as an adult. All of a sudden, I found myself buried in a cloud of dust as my Grandmother put on the truck brakes and stopped beside me. She had noticed that my mind was elsewhere and I wasn’t paying much attention to my job.

My Grandmother spent the day in the hayfield as well. Her job was to set the irrigation after the hay bales had been picked up. She was a very practical person; she knew how to rebuild engines and her salad bowls all said Cool Whip on the side.

Grandmother was also the epitome of personal empowerment.  She focused on what she could control, which was her attitude, her work ethic, her willingness to hustle, and her commitment to the ranch. In doing so, she also empowered all those around her.

“Don’t monkey around,” she said to me. “You can complain all you want, but those bales of hay aren’t going to pull themselves into piles.” She left me choking in the dust when she spun the back tires getting back onto the road. I never argued with my Grandmother. Her favorite back scratcher was a toilet brush and she never hesitated using it to spank me either.

Her words reminded me that I needed to get the job done. Right now. Not later, after dreams had been explored, questions asked, and distractions dismantled into small pieces. I needed to take responsibility for the next step.

Personal empowerment is often represented as something we feel about ourselves at any given moment, as if it exists only within ourselves. That’s self-esteem. Personal empowerment, however, is something much bigger. It includes self-esteem and self-respect, but also includes our ability to have an impact on relationships and our social surroundings.

This is why my Grandmother had personal empowerment. She knew how to have conversations that led to real changes and improvements. Recent psychological research suggests that personal empowerment is an interactive process that takes action, gets feedback, makes adjustments, takes further action, and attains real results.

Unless leaders, business owners, and entrepreneurs can have discussions that lead to real improvement, they’re not very empowered at all. To have personal empowerment, they need to find ways to increase influence within their social sphere, both in business and life.

Here are 5 step to personal empowerment:

1. SHOW UP FOR LIFE

Either you control your destiny, or it will control you. Life doesn’t stop for uncertainty or fear. It marches right on. Life won’t stop for your birthday even though you might wish it did. Age and wisdom don’t always travel together; sometimes age shows up all by itself. 

While there are many things that lead to personal empowerment, one of the most effective is to have this mindset: I am willing. I am willing to live the life I want. That means I am willing to stop doing the things that don’t produce life the life I want.

I was unwilling to pile the bales of hay; it wasn’t as if I couldn’t do it. I just didn’t want to. My Grandmother’s kick in the butt jolted me back to reality. When I moved back into action, I didn’t see myself as lazy and unmotivated.

TIP: Dreaming of the future is a waste of time and is always an impediment to personal empowerment. Not because we shouldn’t have dreams, but because we need to take responsibility for what is right in front of us. There will be opportunities to think of the future, but always pay attention to what is happening in life right now.

2. SET GOALS SO YOU KNOW WHERE YOU’RE HEADED

A goal is a something that you want and are willing to achieve. This is different from a value, because a value is something we find important. Good goals are related to our values. It’s up to us to set the course of action. For example, healthy living can be a value. Our goals related to healthy living can be a change in our diet or regular exercise.

Bad values are those determined by someone or something else. No amount of goal setting will guarantee you’ll hit your mark. For example, maybe one of your values is to get rich. That goal is not within your control because you are not in control of the stock market, the competition, etc.

Instead, identify a goal that will provide you with personal empowerment. This means your goal will increase your level of influence at many levels of social interaction. For example, if you run a business and face stiff competition, your goal is to win the battle. That is, you need to find ways to maintain satisfied and loyal customers.

TIP: If you run afoul of a relative or friend, your goal is to win that battle as well. Have the awkward conversation that will help you both understand what is going on. Remember, to create personal empowerment, your goal is to have a positive impact on relationships that are meaningful and significant.

3. STOP MONKEYING AROUND

My Grandmother knew I was monkeying around in the meadow instead of doing my job. Personal empowerment happens when we take responsibility for our own life. This is what generates self-esteem. Personal empowerment can be developed, and when it is, self-respect is the result. This requires that we get serious about the pursuit of our goals.

We take action and when we do, it enables us to prove our influence over others. I don’t mean exert our influence because that is akin to manipulation. Remember that personal empowerment is an interactive process where we take action, get feedback, make adjustments, take further action, and attain real results.

Failures are OK. Just remember to fail forward. Each failure should bring you closer to understanding how the setback happened and how you can overcome it next time. Failures often impede personal empowerment at first but they should be welcomed because they contain vital information that will help us fine tune our efforts.

TIP: Answer these questions:

  • How you can measure progress toward your goal?
  • Can you identify specific things you are already doing, or have already achieved, to help you reach your goal?
  • What are the next steps needed to achieve your goal? If the steps are large, you may want to break them into small sub-steps.
  • What do you need to develop, learn, or prepare to take these steps?
  • What can you do today to move forward?

4. ASSESS YOUR IMPACT

Personal empowerment is the ability to make an impact on the lives of other people. Don’t confuse it with being bossy. To have personal empowerment, you must interact with others, not boss them around. Their feedback is essential, so don’t let your ego get in the way of making tweaks and changes to your action plan.

In other words, you’ve got to care about something other than yourself. My Grandmother cared about the ranch and her family.

It’s unrealistic to believe that you will achieve personal empowerment in a few short months. What is realistic is to believe that personal empowerment is a process that might take much longer so you will need the mental toughness to persevere. Once you find yourself able to influence one sphere of your life, expect something to happen that upsets the balance and you find yourself back at square one. Only this time, you’re smarter about how to to proceed; the learning curve is shorter.

TIP: The most accurate way to assess your impact is to ask for feedback from the people with whom you work or associate. They will tell you everything you need to know about how to refine your approach and improve future efforts.

5. EMPOWER FROM WITHIN

Personal empowerment will lead to self-esteem and self-respect, not vice versa. This is what Joan Didion wrote about self-respect: “To live without self-respect is lie awake some night…counting up the sins of commission and omission, the trusts betrayed, the promises more subtle, the gifts irrevocably wasted through sloth or cowardice or carelessness.”

We can be so much better than that.

TIP: Personal empowerment pushes you to be the best person you can be. Ask yourself, “What if…?” It’s a phrase full of promise and anticipation. Or ask yourself, “What’s next…?” When you are empowered from within, you ignite the hunger that knows how to roll with the punches.

© 2018 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 Empathy Makes You A More Effective Leader

Monday, January 8th, 2018

Empathy is one of the most popular topics brought up for discussion by my executive coaching clients. It’s not surprising because empathy is the most important instrument in a leader’s toolbox.

Effective leaders make it a priority to take care of their people. In return, their people give everything to protect and advance the mission of the organization. They know how to inspire and motivate by tapping into what their team truly value and want. And, as the Millennials enter the workplace, this will only become more important.

A recent study by Weber Shandwick found that Millennials, more than any other generation, expect the organization’s core values to be reflected by senior leadership. Their early schooling in social media is changing the way we do business. Companies can no longer get away with simply providing goods or services. They are also expected to deliver their message with honesty and compassion—in other words, empathy.

But here’s the rub: while we crave being heard and valued, we have become so caught up in technology that we are dumbing down our social skills. Psychologist Sara Konrath at Michigan University found that young people are becoming less empathic than ever; American College students showed a 48% decrease in empathic concern and a 34% drop in their ability to see other people’s perspectives.

87% of the same Millennials who expect to be understood and appreciated at work also admit to missing out on a conversation because they were distracted by a phone.

In a world that becomes increasingly automated and computerised, we are losing the very skills that are essential for effective leadership. How can we stop this shipwreck? Let’s take a look:

1. Understand The Meaning Of Empathy

I have always found empathy to be intriguing because it allows you to read minds, something that came in handy as an FBI agent. By listening to another person’s words and reading their body language, you can figure out what they are feeling and thinking.

Empathy is not sympathy, nor is it feeling sorry for others. Instead, it is understanding what others are feeling or thinking. People tend to focus on the touchy-feely aspect of empathy, and indeed it is important to understand where another person is coming from. However, an empathetic leader is also capable of sensing what another person is thinking. This can be extremely helpful in everything from negotiating a salary to planning a social event for the office.

The solution: It’s important to examine your own attitude when dealing with others. Are you more concerned with getting your way, winning, or being right? Put aside your viewpoint, and try to see things from the other person’s point of view. Maybe you aren’t the center of the world after all.

2. Realize That Empathy Is Driven By Our Brain

Neuroscience explains that our brain produces serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is a major contributor to feelings of well-being and happiness.  Other neurotransmitters, like oxytocin, contribute to emotions like pride, trust, and connection with others.

Both serotonin and oxytocin have long term effects that become stronger over time. Research on neuroplasticity shows that our brains can be rewired and that neurotransmitters can actually change the brain. On a deep level, we need to feel that we and our work is valued and appreciated by others.

All of these brain chemicals work together to help us bond with others. It’s why we feel safer when we’re part of a group. Back in the caveman days, our safety literally depended upon a group with whom we felt safe and comfortable.

The Solution: Validate the other person’s perspective. People have different opinions from your own and they may have good reasons for them. If you’re stuck on what to say, try this: “Is everything OK?”

3. Develop Emotionally Literate Geeks

There are more Millennials in the workplace today than Boomers. They are the generation raised on social media, automation, and digitalization. Things that take time or slow are seen as a weakness. A large percentage feel that texting is as effective as one-on-one conversations.

We need to find ways to turn empathetic slobs into empowered leaders who can integrate technical expertise with emotional intelligence.

The Solution: Take the time to embed the skills associated with empathy into every level of your organization. These are the skills that will differentiate automated machines from their human counterparts. Teach your people mental toughness so they will know how to manage their emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that will set them up for success. 

4. Pay Attention

Neuroscientists have discovered that humans are wired to experience empathy through mirror neurons in our brain. These mirror neurons reflect back what we observe in others and cause us to mimic those observations in our own brains.

As it happens, mirror neurons are strongest when we observe a person’s emotions. We see facial expressions, eye movements, body movements, and gestures. Consciously and unconsciously, we mimic many of those same expressions, body movements, and gestures as we talk to others.

The Solution: Do not multi-task when observing another person. Turn off the cellphone and laptop and pay attention to what they are saying and doing.

5. Communicate Empathetically

When interviewing an FBI suspect, I always paid more attention to their body language than to the words they used. When there is a conflict between verbal and non-verbal cues, always trust the non-verbal. They are usually more accurate.

I also noticed the voice tone of politicians, newscasters, and friends to understand how they used their voices to express empathy.

The Solution: Practice on yourself by noticing what you are doing nonverbally when interacting with others. Notice with whom you have difficulty being empathetic. Examine why.

6. Fake It If Nothing Else

I was once put in a situation where I needed to develop rapport with a convicted child molester. The victim was his own daughter. However, it was necessary for me to act empathically to achieve the desired outcome. What is interesting is that after several minutes I actually started to feel some empathy toward the man as a result of “acting” empathic.

The need for you to develop rapport and show empathy with a child molester is remote, but you may need to win over a creep who is also an important client.

The Solution: You can disagree, or even dislike, an individual and still be capable of understanding what they are feeling and thinking. Listening without judgment can also convey empathy. Communicate to them that you understand what they are experiencing. Practice empathy even when you don’t feel like it and it will help you become a more effective leader.

© 2018 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, AND LinkedIn

Get my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment

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

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

Why Most CEO’s Lack Emotional Intelligence

Monday, December 18th, 2017

Emotional intelligence is not taught at the FBI Academy, but it was essential for me to understand the difference between anxiety and sadness when I interviewed people. I needed to know whether I could trust them.

I recruited foreign spies to work for the FBI so it was imperative that I could accurately read the people whom I tried to recruit. You may never need to interview an individual whom you suspect of being a foreign spy. It is possible, however, that you will need to impress a new client or calm down an frustrated customer.

Emotional intelligence allows you to recognize and accurately interpret what is going on with colleagues, employees and clients. As a leader, you need to excel at handling conflict, and the need for this skill grows more important as you climb the ladder of success.

Can you tell if a team member is frustrated? Or, if they angry? It’s an important distinction because frustration happens when people feel blocked from achieving a goal. Whereas anger is a response to a perceived wrong done to them or to another. Yet too often leaders, managers, and supervisors cannot tell the difference.

Top level executives lead the pack when it comes to being direct and assertive, but research suggests that emotional intelligence diminishes as they move up the corporate ladder. Emotional intelligence scores from this study indicate a decline as people move above middle management—with CEOs having the lowest emotional intelligence scores in the workplace!

Emotional competency is a major component of mental toughness. Leaders who are mentally tough are able to manage their emotions so negative ones don’t control their behavior and thoughts. While mentally tough leaders experience bad moods and impulses like everyone else, they do not act upon them without thinking them through.

People feel before they think, so leaders who constantly react to their emotional states never develop the discipline to allow their thoughts to moderate their emotions.

Here’s a closer look at why CEOs lack emotional intelligence and what can be done to enhance it.

1. Workaholism Has Become A Desirable Lifestyle

A new prosperity gospel has sprung up that believes there is no higher calling than starting your own business. The catch is this: To succeed, you must be willing to give up everything. This charge is led by entrepreneurs like Gary Vaynerchuk, who tells his followers they shouldn’t avoid working 18-hour days.

I was brought up to believe in the virtue of hard work. It’s got me to where I am today, but to create a lifestyle based on values like money and success is shallow. It is devoid of meaningful relationships or family life. It’s a madness that permeates the C-suite—“I’ll become rich and successful or die trying.”

Because of our focus on tasks, entrepreneurs often don’t have the time to develop the emotional intelligence they need take their success to the next level.

How to make it work for you: Find a trusted friend or family member and have them ask you this question: Are you are willing to give up your youth, sleep, vacations, health, family, or morals for this job? Think long and hard about your answers because it is possible to succeed without working yourself to death.

2. Outsized Ego

As we climb the ladder of success, egos can grow. We are proud of the strides we’ve made, and we should be. While ego may be part of what drives us, we should never give it more than what it deserves.

Ego traps talented professionals. Executive leaders reach a point where the only opinion that matters is their own. They stop listening. They stop learning and this is where ego becomes a trap for suckers. Once you stop being curious about yourself and others, you stop seeing the world as it really is.

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.

Emotionally competent leaders do not let their ego keep them from recognizing their weaknesses. In fact, they know it’s essential to find ways to manage these weaknesses so they can focus on building upon their strengths.

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

How to make it work for you: If you’ve made it to the top, you should be too smart to fall into the ego trap so there is no one to blame but yourself. The good news is it’s easy to get out of this trap. All you need to do is suck up a little humility and start to be as concerned about the needs of others as you are with your own.

3. Pressure To Have All The Answers

Executive leaders are paid the big bucks to have all the answers. When the stakes are high, successful people maintain their poise and perform. But pressure situations can either empower or imprison; we all know what it’s like to have the perfect answer pop into our head 20 minutes after an important conversation.

There are people who can face all kinds of conflict and seem to know exactly what to say. Faced with an uncooperative employee, an angry customer or a tense negotiation with a competitor, they are confident in their response. They remain calm and don’t get upset.

Leaders with high emotional intelligence have the ability to wait until their emotions pass so they can chose their response rather than react with gut feelings.

How to make it work for you: Train yourself to perform while under pressure. Mental toughness is the ability to be resilient in uncomfortable conditions:

Experiment

Always have a petri dish in your life that is full of experiences and situations where you are experimenting with the answer.

Welcome failure

When you are constantly confronting situations where you don’t know the answer, the chances are greater that you will fail. Learn to fail well so you can approach the situation in smarter ways the next time.

Reframe

Interpret your pressure in a positive way by reframing the way you look at it. Instead of saying “I don’t know the answer,” replace it with “I may not know the answer right now, but I will find it.” Your brain will interpret pressure in a new way if you reframe the question and use positive words.

Move into your discomfort zone

Too often we fine tune our skills in non-pressure situations. We don’t know how we’ll respond when placed in a real pressure situation, so seek out opportunities—yes, it will be unpleasant—where you are out of your comfort zone.

Practice under less-than-perfect conditions

You know by now that the world is not perfect so stop pretending that it is. Practice in imperfect conditions where there are lots of interruptions, disturbances, and surprises. This will help you land on your feet when in real situations where you are confronted with the unknown and the unexpected.

4. Lack Of Feedback

It’s true that it’s lonely at the top. Executive leaders have fewer opportunities for honest and constructive feedback. Managers and staff further down the food chain are hesitant to give feedback to senior colleagues.

As a result, many executive leaders find themselves confused about their performance and how to develop the skills they need. They are often isolated from constructive criticism because subordinates do not want to risk offending the boss.

Emotionally intelligence leaders who are aware of and acknowledge their weaknesses will hire good people to surround them. When the stress is high, they can depend on the people around them to compliment their strengths and counter their weaknesses.

How to make it work for you: To cultivate the feedback you need, interview at least five of your direct reports and others around you. Ask this question: “What advice would you offer to help me improve my effectiveness?” Try to listen with open and ears and a closed mouth.

© 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.”

4 Traits Essential For Success

Monday, November 27th, 2017

When I was 12 years old, I learned a big lesson about some of the traits essential for success.

We got word around noon that my Dad’s father was in the hospital and not expected to live. Earlier that week, 4 feet of thick, wet snow fell on our remote Wyoming cattle ranch, burrowed in the shadow of Laramie Peak. The roads were impassable. The little town where Grandpa was hospitalized was 30 miles away as the crow flies.

They had a testy relationship, but Dad felt it very important to see Grandpa before he died. I suspect he hoped to make amends. Dad saddled his favorite horse, a tall bay with a black mane and tail named Fireball, and started out at 1:00pm.

The Laramie Range of mountains are rough, so my Dad followed a riverbed until he got to an old abandoned road. We had trailed our cattle on that road many times and Fireball sensed he was in familiar territory. At one point, Dad got off to lighten Fireball’s load, but the snow was crotch deep, forcing Dad to get back on his horse.

Darkness hit but they plowed onward. As they moved out of the mountains, bare patches of dead grass showed up through the snow. Dad tried to get Fireball to move beyond a walk but the horse was so tired, the most he could muster was a slow trot.

Wind had created a snowbank around a wire gate. Dad wrapped one end of his rope around the gate post and tied the other end to his saddle horn. As he led Fireball away, the gate post pulled from the ground. Both man and horse rode through the snowbank to the other side.

They arrived at my Grandpa’s ranch house in complete darkness. It had taken them 7 hours non-stop to make the trip. Fireball was so weary his legs shook. Dad found keys to a truck and headed to the hospital. He got there before his father died.

There are many traits essential for success no matter your circumstances or situation. Here are 4 that I learned from this experience:

1. Courage Will Move You Out Of Your Rut

It took courage for Dad to put his life in jeopardy by doing the hard thing. The easy thing would have been to stay at home. He had faith in Fireball to save his life.

Likewise, it takes courage to place your career in jeopardy when moving ahead holds no promises. The future looks bleak and the road will be hard. If things don’t work out, it might mean your career will stall and die. But if you don’t try it, your spirit might be the thing to die.

Courage is one of the traits essential for success because it’s fundamental to propelling change and motivating people—even if the idea sounds crazy. Benjamin Franklin must have looked crazy as he chased after thunderstorms and lightning.

If you want to inspire others to achieve what may look impossible, you need the courage to move into the unknown. Innovative companies such as Uber and Airbnb didn’t wait until tried-and-tested models were developed before they moved ahead. Both companies had the courage to change the way their two industries serviced their clients. 

TIP: Courage is not always easy but its essential if you plan to be successful in both business and life. If it scares you, do it. Every time you do something scary or uncomfortable, you learn so much about yourself and your character. That awareness is something you will take with you wherever you go. Self-awareness is a major part of mental toughness.

2. Take A Risk If You Don’t Know The Answer

About 5 miles after he started, Dad rode by the ranch house of Uncle Stanley. Uncle Stanley took one look at Fireball and said, “That horse will never make it. You’ll die out there.” Dad knew he was taking a risk, but it was a calculated one. He had picked his best horse, and he had lived in the mountains his entire life so he understood the terrain.

The willingness to take a risk is one of the traits essential for success because it requires that you embrace the belief you have what it takes. Belief in yourself, and your team, will take you where you want to go. The smallest amount of doubt can ruin your chances of success.

Assessing risk also relies on knowledge and experience. It makes no sense to take a risk unless you have underlying knowledge that will help in deciding. Whether you add a new item to a menu, test a new product, or add a service, you need to have a deep understanding of the move that is being considered.

TIP: Be smart about your risks, be logical, be rational and calculating, and always improve your skills. But most importantly, always believe in yourself. As Mark Twain said, “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did.”

3. Resilience Is Needed When Life Gets Hard

Dad understood the risk he was taking. He could freeze to death if Fireball broke a leg in the deep snow and couldn’t continue. Dad assessed the risk and decided. He remained positive and focused on what was going right rather than on the negative.

Resilience is one of the traits essential for success because an adaptable and flexible mindset can find ways around obstacles. Resilient people cultivate a strong sense of opportunity during periods of turbulence. They cope well because they see challenges as part of life’s journey; they embrace them rather than fight them.

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from whatever adversity you are facing. Often the only way out—is through the adversity. We must push through a bad situation that faces us. We need to be positive thinkers. The best time to nip negative emotions is when they first appear because this is when they are the weakest.

TIP: A resilient individual is not someone who avoids stress; rather, it is someone who learns how to tame it. Psychologists distinguish between good stress, or “eustress” and bad stress. Positive experiences cause eustress while negative experiences cause bad stress. A new body of research suggests that stress is not bad for you unless you believe it is bad for you. Seeing stressors as challenges rather than threats invites physiological responses that can improve thinking and cause less physical wear and tear.       

4. Confidence Is Needed To Manage Ambiguity

Fireball and Dad stepped into the unknown as they made tracks through the thick, heavy snow. Dad had no way of knowing what to expect but he had confidence in Fireball. He also had confidence in himself because this was not his first rodeo. Although the stakes had never been this high, he well knew of the danger that lay ahead. He was also confident he would make it.

The ability to manage ambiguity is one of the traits essential for success because change is the only certainty in this world today. Ambiguity creates complexity and confusion around the decision-making process.

To deal with ambiguity you must be comfortable with uncertainty. You cannot control everything so make peace with it and prepare as best you can. A great deal of learning how to deal with ambiguity is having confidence in yourself so you can land on your feet when confronted with the unknown.

TIP: Confident people are not afraid to take a stand, even when surrounded by uncertainty. Prepare as best you can. Lean into your own experiences and knowledge, reach out to others with more experience and different ideas, and be a good listener.

P.S. While Fireball lived another 10 years, he was never the same because tendons in his legs had torn. He walked with difficulty so Dad kept him on good feed and never rode him again.

© 2017 LaRae Quy. All rights reserved.

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5 Strategies To Deal With Difficult Colleagues

Monday, September 11th, 2017

It is hard to put difficult colleagues into a one-size-fits-all box. After all, they come in so many shapes and sizes. No workplace is without them.

What about the passive-aggressive who feeds on bullying others? How about the know-it-all corporate climber who walks all over people in her 5 inch stilettos? Or the two-faced backstabber who delights in betraying confidences?

Difficult colleagues create stressful environments and unpleasant working conditions. A survey by the American Psychological Association (APA) found that 65% of Americans cited work as a top source of stress. Only 37% of Americans surveyed said they were doing an excellent or very good job managing stress. In fact, work-related problems significantly outpaced other leading causes of stress such as health concerns or family responsibilities.

Not all stress at work can be blamed on difficult colleagues, but our workplace is a perfect breeding ground for people who push our buttons. A gossip who might not ordinarily get on our nerves becomes toxic when we are forced to work with them on a daily basis.

Unfortunately for entrepreneurs, business owners, and leaders, difficult employees are not always bad employees. They may be highly skilled or very talented. They may add to the bottom line of your company, but they can also create stress for your other team members which reduces overall productivity.

The way your team deals with difficult colleagues will have a major impact on their careers and their well-being. Here are 5 strategies to deal with difficult colleagues:

1. Keep Friends Close, Enemies Even Closer

A difficult colleague may not be your enemy, but the more you know about them, the better you can understand them.

I will admit that, as an FBI agent, there are people out there who considered me to be the difficult colleague. I (sometimes) regret that I left casualties in the squadroom, but I also know I had reasons for taking my stance. I’m not justifying my behavior; I make this point to underscore the importance of trying to understand the difficult colleague.

A Buddhist practice suggests that if someone is causing you to suffer, it’s because they’re suffering as well.

If someone had taken the time to ask me about my behavior, I would have pointed out that I am an overachiever. As such, I put so much pressure on myself to excel that, at times, I had no time for the pettiness of common courtesy! The stress I put on myself to run undercover operations and develop human intelligence (humint) sources caught up with me; I ended up incredibly sick for several months.

TIP: Take the time to understand that your workplace antagonist is an imperfect person, just like you. You don’t have to like them but if you can understand why they act like a jerk, you might be able to prevent yourself from adding fuel to the fire.

2. Know What Pushes Your Buttons

 

 

 

No one escapes childhood without a few bruises and scrapes. We all have flash points that stem from our upbringing, family life, and relationships. Anger or frustration can be triggered when we least expect it. We react to a situation or individual rather than choose our response.

Our buttons are our responsibility to uncover. It’s so much easier to blame the difficult colleague or stupid supervisor rather than admit we have our own flaws.

Instead, take a look at why you react to certain people or situations in a negative way. Mental toughness is managing your emotions, thoughts, and behavior in ways that will set you up for success. You need to be brave enough to look at yourself with honesty and compassion. This might mean going back to childhood hurts to discover the patterns of thinking that are sabotaging you now.

TIP: Don’t be a wimp. Get a handle on what those buttons are and who, or what, pushes them. Rather than seeing difficult colleagues as a burden, they could actually be your ticket to dramatic professional growth.

3. Save The Fight For What Matters

Analyze the person and situation so you can rule out “false triggers” that create unnecessary stress in your environment. If you can’t, you will be at the mercy of the office bullies because they will know how to manipulate you. By pushing one of your buttons, you can be made to look oversensitive, weak, or gullible.

TIP: Be responsive, not reactive when someone pushes your buttons. A knee-jerk reaction is never a good choice.

4. Keep A Lid On Anger

Anger flares up when we feel that we, or another co-worker, have been unjustly treated by the difficult colleague. There are several reasons anger is not a good reaction:

  • An unpleasant emotion
  • Bad for your health
  • Clouds your judgment
  • Makes you look unprofessional

Avoid anger in the workplace. If you are embroiled in a constant conflict at work, you risk being seen as unable to handle the situation like a seasoned professional. Worse yet, you may get labeled as being a difficult colleague as well.

TIP: Don’t flare up in the immediate heat of a confrontation. Instead, allow yourself to observe what is happening without getting caught up in it (meditation can help you with this). If you feel you can’t control your anger, try stalling for time. Here are some suggestions:

“Can I have a little more time to think this through? I’ll get back to you with an answer.”

“This isn’t on today’s agenda. Can we talk about it later?”

“I have a deadline. Can I get back to you on that?”

Bottom line: get out of the situation as quick as you can so you can decide if this is the hill you want to die on. If not, wait until your emotions are under control and then choose your response rather than reacting with negativity.

5. Face Conflict

Conflict avoidance is not always a great idea, either. Staying away from disagreements and conflict creates stress as well.

If you’re faced with a difficult colleague, take some time out to reflect on the situation. Think about what the ideal outcome would be for you. What would you hope to accomplish from a conversation with your colleague?

Talk the situation out with other co-workers to gage their assessment of it. They might be able to offer constructive advice and observations.

Don’t criticize, blame, or judge. Point out what you both agree upon at the beginning of the conversation.

TIP: Things might not change between you and the difficult colleague at first, but it’s worth a try. In a corporate environment that is known for tactics and playing games, develop a reputation of someone who is direct, personal and genuine. You’ll stand out!

© 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.”